(This has been sent to the e-mail list; if you got the e-mail, read no further.)
I'm sitting on the bench outside the Trail Lakes Campground office, being closely watched by a gorgeous peacock perched on the fence 3 feet from my left elbow. Y'all are going to love this place! Unless you have a phobia about heirloom chickens wandering past your campsite. Or a floppy-eared rabbit that thinks he's a cat.
In this post:
Bikes and Route 41
The paddling scene
Everglades City and Chokoloskee are tailor-made for biking. Unfortunately, you can't bike there from here, without serious risk to life and limb. TLC is on route 41, a 60-mile-per-hour, 2-lane truck-and-tourist route (a lethal combination), with NO shoulder. The grass grows right up to the driving lanes. There have been 2 serious crashes, 2 human fatalities, and one panther fatality in the 2+ weeks I've been here, just in the 20-mile stretch from the Everglades City turnoff to the Big Cypress Visitor Center. If you turn on your blinker and slow down to make a left turn, you may be passed. Yep, you read that right. It's crazy out here. Locals don't say good-bye, they say, "Watch yourself on 41".
There may not be quite enough for each of us to have a private picnic table in the group tent area. If you can easily bring a table along, you might want to do that. Or -- say -- we could share!
I told you there is no coverage at TLC. I lied. Cingular gets 5 bars. Verizon gets none, but can still connect from time to time.
THE SEAFOOD FESTIVAL:
From talking to locals, it sounds like it may not be as big a problem for us as it seemed from a distance. Since Paul has had to curtail his attendance, we won't have the use of a rental house in EC. (But thanks for the offer, Paul!!!) But I'm told the town of 800 souls readily deals with the parking demands of 20,000 visitors. Locals just go early and park at the first lot they find, and walk to town. Churches and homeowners open their lots to visitors, for a fee. It'a a major fund-raiser for the local churches. There is limited free parking along the Chokoloskee causeway, but that puts you at the end of the line when it's time to leave. The savvy festival-goers pick the church lots. The festival itself is free!
THE PADDLING SCENE:
For those who want to do some pre-flotilla dreaming, here's the scoop on Chokoloskee Bay and the 10,000 Islands. Standing at the launch ramp at the EC ranger station, you see the expanse of Chokoloskee Bay, ringed by solid green. Paddle across the Bay (2 feet deep at best at low tide) and approach the green, and it resolves into keys, through which several passes run. Indian Key Pass, Sandfly Pass, Chokoloskee Pass, Rabbit Pass. The passes lead to the outer keys, 4 or so miles away, some of which have campsites and/or sandy beaches perfect for a lunchtime picnic. The tidal current can boil through these passes. Lucky for us, during much of the flotilla, we'll have mid-day low tides. The timing is best on Tuesday, Wed., Thurs, and Friday. So you can just ride the ebb out to your picnic spot, take your ease until the tide turns, and ride the flood back in. It's a hoot!
There are also several sheltered places to paddle on windy days. The upper Turner River is a gem. I won't give any hints -- you have to discover its charms for yourself.
That's it for now. My peacock has wandered off to check on his harem. A tourist couple are having their photo taken snuggled up to the 6-foot swamp ape statue. Jack, one of the owners, just came back with his rifle, having shot a blackbird to feed his pet pythons.... And a confederate flag snaps in the breeze, over a rusting swamp buggy. Y'all are totally going to love this place!
GIIs Gilbert, Mudlark and Barney
and hardshells Mathilda and Cliffy-Bob