Thursday, 15/11/2001 through Friday, 16/11/2001
Miami Florida and the Everglades

After a monotonous day spent in transit from Portland to Miami (with a stop at Dallas) we made our way out of the domestic terminal around 1:00 AM to meet my sister, who despite our last minute call from Dallas to inform her how late we'd be, had insisted on staying up and driving us from the airport to our hotel. Some time around 2:00 we stumbled into our hotel room and crashed for what would be the first in a series of nights with little sleep. Early the next morning Lois ferried us over to her place where we met her significant other, Joe, and Sarah ferret, her pet. After a relaxing breakfast we were once again off, heading westward and skirting along the northern boundary of the Everglades. Florida is flat. I knew that, having been there back in the early 1970s on a family trip, but the land stretched away in an unyielding plane in every direction nearly to the point of distraction. There was a channel just to the north of the road, where birds and turtles dwelt and small alligators lurked. The vegetation ranged from rows of palms, to thickets of dense shrubs, expanses of grasslands, and forests of deciduous trees (naked in November). The trip was pleasant and relaxed as Lois and Joe described the land we were passing through.

A short while later we were at our hotel, and after dropping of our luggage in the rooms, we were back outside getting ready to kayak through the interconnected channels and lakes of the Everglades. We paddled along the road, beneath an overpass and into a large channel. As the banks closed in so too did the vegetation, and with it, the mosquitoes. The day was clear and warm, but not too warm for paddling, and the insect repellent proved more than equal to the challenge, and so we were quite comfortable working our way through the interconnected water ways.

Further and further in we glided, as the mangroves and trees on either side reached overhead, joining branches above us and forming long watery hallways. Despite the clear sky and bright sun, the light was dim beneath the canopy. It became very quite, with only the sound of our paddles dipping in the water to break the stillness.

After a while the sounds of birds began to build and become noisy:
great flocks of herons and egrets gathered about large pools that appeared before us, where breaks in the canopy allowed the sunlight to reach the water's surface. As we approached the birds would take flight in an amazing cacophony of cries and wing beats.

Eventually we broke out from the twisting maze of channels onto a large lake, with small mangrove islands dotting its shore. We relaxed languidly in our kayaks as the current pushed us slowly along, and ate lunch as the sun crossed the meridian and began its downward path to the west. After paddling around the lake for a while we turned south through a much wider waterway, which then turned west and followed the sun.

This channel was obviously a main thoroughfare for boat traffic in the area, and we passed by others who were out on the water for the day. The day stretched on, like the long paddle back to shore, and we were happy to pull the kayaks out and head back to the hotel for showers, dinner, and finally bed.

The next day we drove back to Miami, pausing long enough at a scenic wayside to snap a few photos of the incredible wild life, and to find that our car would not start again. We were miles from anywhere, and had to be at the airport that evening, and we were stranded. A decade earlier this would not bode well, but a short cell phone call later, and a less short wait, a tow truck arrived and hauled us back to the city. There was only room in the cab for two passengers, so Lois and I crouched down in the back of the towed car illegally for the trip.

That afternoon we visited the animal rehabilitation center where Lois volunteered for a tour of the facilities. It was quite an impressive place, and obviously very expensive to operate. Like many such places, inconsiderate irresponsible people (morons) drop of unwanted pets in the false belief that they would be given a better home there. Inky the albino skunk was one such animal, and watching her cry as she paced her cage was heart breaking. The memory of Inky would haunt us for the rest of the trip, and before we returned home (in fact from our hotel room in Buenos Aires, via the Internet) we had found a nearby skunk rescue group (the Florida chapter of the American Domestic Skunk Association). The day we returned to Portland we sent email to the skunk rescue organization and notified them about Inky. Lois arranged the pickup, and Inky found herself in a new home with proper care. We made a donation to pay for Inky's much needed vet visits, and a few months later we received email with photos of Inky, now named Fiona, telling us she was doing well in her new home.

Early that evening we watched Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and then relaxed over dinner at a nearby restaurant. After a too short a farewell we soon found ourselves at the airport again, facing the daunting security check for international travelers. An hour or so later we were checked in for our flight, and managed to meet some of our fellow Audubon members who would accompany us on the rest of our journey south.


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