Monday, February 9, 2009

The Big Trip pt.II

Changes, changes, much to see and so little time will make us do crazy things...So after several "meetings" Flex and I have finally chosen a set route, well two set routes: Plan A and Plan B. Its always best to start at the beginning...and when you get to the end, stop:

02/15 - Day 1 - Coot Bay Pond to Osyter Bay Chickee - 15 miles. Whitewater Bay can get nasty with a little wind, thus its name, hopefully we'll have a good day as the kayaks will be at their heaviest on the first day, the tide is unimportant on this particular day.

02/16 - Day 2 - Oyster Bay Chickee to Highland Beach - 16 miles. This day will be one of the larger open water crossings, anything but a NW wind is okay but if it does blow hard out of the NW then we will have to lose a day taking the sheltered route via the Harney River.

02/17 - Day 3 - Highland Beach to Willy Willy - 17 miles. This is the whole reason for the trip: The Lostmans River, no other place in the Everglades holds as much appeal as this, the most remote area of the park. The water by Willy Willy is completely fresh so we are expecting gators galore as well as big snook wintering in the deep backcountry. Willy Willy is a Calusa mound and the surroundings of the campsite resemble a rainforest more than a swamp...very cool.

02/18 - Day 4 - Willy Willy to Camp Lonesome - 10 miles. A nice relaxed day, no tides to worry about, short mileage, and beautiful surroundings. Camp Lonesome is well known for having big Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes so we will have to be on guard...which reminds me I need a cockpit cover for the kayak to keep unwanted travelers from trying to hitch a free ride.

02/19 - Day 5 - Camp Lonesome Exploration - ? - There is no passage from Camp Lonesome to Canepatch (Shark River Terimus) but there are some "holes in the wall" that look like interesting places to go rippin' into. We are going to initially try and bushwhack our way into Canepatch but most likely we won't make it so we'll probably just try and break into the freshwater marshes behind the wall of mangroves for some pictures. If we do make it through to Canepatch we will have successfully have blazed a trail closed for decades and the whole trip will have to be worries.

02/20 - Day 6A - Camp Lonesome to Highland Beach via Wood River- 14 miles. The Wood River is quite infamous, it is one of the routes more prone to closure after storms as the already tight confines become blocked by deadfallen trees. The Wood River is a very constriciting route and it is never used by motorboats and still not so often by paddle-craft, definately something we must see for oursevles but once we have commited we will have to finish as there may not be room to turn around a 19' sea kayak. This route will be taken if the weather is crappy and will be crappy for the rest of the trip...otherwise we will take the "plan B" route along the outside of Cape Sable. We love the backcountry but both me and Flex will always prefer the beach in the end because...well, because life is a beach. Staying at Highland Beach again will set us up to re-enter the backcountry via the Harney River on our way to Canepatch.

02/20 - Day 6B - Camp Lonesome to Graveyard Creek - 18 miles. If the weather is nice we will push down the Graveyard Creek (supposedly haunted between the hours of 3-4am) as that will set us up perfectly for rounding the Cape the next day. This would require good weather for three days in a row as it will be three days of open water paddling in some of the more notorious waters in South last experience here was in 8'-10' seas off NW Cape Sable, not fun for me.

02/21 - Day 7A - Highland Beach to Canepatch - 18 miles. Half open water and half Shark River, it will be a long day and we will have to start early as the tide starts incoming at the mouth of the Shark River at 6:50am and then slacks at 12:45pm...a very short window to paddle up into the tidally-unaffected backcountry. Canepatch is, along with Willy Willy and Camp Lonesome, one of the most remote campsites in the park. At one point it was a backwoods agricultural center and thus the name, Canepatch, sure enough you can find wild coffee, bananas, Sugarcane, and wild corn growing in the surrounding area. There is talk of a big and aggressive gator hanging out there so both and Flex will have our gator-fighting sticks at the ready!

02/21 - Day 7B - Graveyard Creek to NW Cape Sable - 15 miles - All open water, this is where I got beat to all hell last year and I'm not looking to repeat it. There is not one safe landing in that 15 miles so basically once you start you are commited to finishing, I'm praying for good weather.

02/22 - Day 8A - Canepatch to Watson River Chickee via "The Labyrinth" - 15 miles. Should be an easy day, the only thing to watch out for is paddling through the labyrinth, it is a maze but it will cut significant mileage from the trip.

02/22 - Day 8B - NW Cape Sable to East Cape Sable via Little Sable Creek/Lake Ingraham/East Cape Canal - 16 miles. I've always wanted to explore the inside of Lake Ingraham and until recently there was no way to know if these little unmarked creeks actually lead somewhere: - This is best site for those of us who enjoy going completely off the map and blazing our trail. The guys who run this site are very helpful fellows and through conversing with them we decided on our final trip. Without this site I would have never chanced paddling into Little Sable Creek or The Wood River as there is just no information out there regarding these little off-the-map areas. This should be the day we see crocodiles as Lake Ingraham is home to the largest population in Florida besides the Turkey Creek cooling canals.

02/23 - Day 9A - East Cape Sable to Flamingo - 11 miles. A good closure to a great trip, this paddle is a breeze as we've done this more than anything else in Everglades National of us will have to hitch/walk the 5 miles to Coot Bay Pond to get the truck though.

02/23 - Day 9B - Watsons River Chickee to Coot Bay Pond - 12 miles. Finally an easy day...but I know I just jinxed myself though.

Total mileage will be anywhere from 115-130 miles, I can't wait to get the hell out of this concrete jungle.

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