Florida Everglades Canoeing - The Wilderness Waterway - Part 4


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       Canoeing - Part 4

 

 

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 At twilight, the sky overhead buzzes like a bee swarm. The mosquitoes that have been so kind to us during the day are announcing their presence felt.

A night spent out in the open, under the stars, in the Glades is reputed to be one of the most hellish things a person can experience. It's been compared to being mauled by swarms of miniature vampire bats. It's these mosquitoes that keep savvy canoeists off the Waterway except for the coolest, driest winter months.

  

Bill and I retreat to our separate tents, a nightly ritual we will follow throughout the trip. We are virtual prisoners in our tents from dusk until dawn. In January, it's dark for almost 12 hours. The amazing this is I sleep away most of that first night.

  

Our second day is foggy with a strong wind blowing against us from the south. We have a makeshift sail to power the boat if the wind ever blows in our favor.

It doesn't, not this day or any other day and perhaps that's just as well. We always have wondered how well we'd be able to steer wiothout a center board and a single paddle for our rudder.

  

Later in the morning we see dolphin in two widely separated places. I hope they'll race beside our bow as they do with power boats, but they do not. We must be too slow to offer a challenge.

  

Our second camp is at a place called Watson's, a 40-acre shell mound and site of a small sugar plantation in the early 1900s. It's a good high, dry site. Concrete pillars mark the location of the old buildings. An old syrup kettle and steam boiler remain in relatively good condition.

  

Ed Watson was always one of the Everglade's most notorious residents, and thanks to Peter Mathiessen's novel Killing Mr. Watson he's become world famous. Watson reputedly shot outlaw Belle Starr in the back while in Texas.

In Florida, he quickly gained a fearsome reputation for killing anyone who crossed him. Residents of the town of Chokoloskee on the edge of the Glades became so afraid of him that one day practically the entire town decided to drill Watson full of bullet holes.

Although the water is cold, the river bottom at Watson's slopes off gently, which makes it possible to bathe. I do not know it, but this is the first and last bath of the trip.

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