I had not planned on swimming in the Everglades, or losing my phone, car and trailer keys. Excited to learn the National Park Service offers a FREE guided canoe trip, we gathered at 7:45 a.m. at Nine Mile Pond to meet our Park Ranger guide John Paul. 12 of us, an even number we listened as John Paul gave a brief demonstration of paddling and steering.
Bertram the other single, a young physics student from Israel, had no canoeing experience. Apparently, Bertram had not learned the physics of canoeing in his studies. So, why would I suggest he be in the back and steer? You all know how much I love to be “in control”.
We were doing just fine half-way into the trip, having just stop for a short break to drink water, eat snacks, and enjoy the quiet of nature. I shared apple slices and granola bars with my canoeing companion. He hadn’t been great at steering, running us into the low hanging mangroves, but the trip was taking us through very narrow mangrove tunnels.
The next thing I knew we were tipping over and I was in the water. Thankfully, we had only seen one alligator earlier, but waist deep in Everglades water was not a comforting feeling. I had carefully packed a sack with 2 bottles of water, apple slices, granola bars, a bug stick, and $20 bill. I had put my iPhone in a zip-lock bag, my car keys were also in the sack, (a Christmas gift from Michelle).
Why did I let Bertram steer, in back where I could not see him? Why didn’t I zip the sack, why didn’t I put my phone back in the zip-lock after taking pictures?
I lost my keys and iPhone, but the bug stick, bottles of water and $20 bill stayed afloat. No point in kicking myself. Now I had to get back into the canoe in waist deep water before the alligators discovered us. I am grateful I still have good upper-body strength, because boarding a canoe isn’t easy. I did it, with fear of alligators fueling me.
My cheap Timex watch is still ticking, after a rice dry out.
I am most grateful for the kindness of strangers. The night before I had a conversation with a woman in the next shower stall, we spoke of our pending canoe adventure, and neglected to introduce ourselves. Lucy and husband Paul would become my new best friends. They gave me a lift back to the Flamingo Campground and the use Paul’s cell (AT&T) phone to call my insurance company. Needless to say, locksmiths weren’t jumping at the prospect of driving 40 miles one-way to pop-a-lock.
Thank you, Katherine. I bought the Airstream from Katherine and she had the foresight and presence of mind to duck tape a key behind the front panel. And, best of all it was the door lock, I had locked – not the deadbolt, which I thought I had locked. I was back in the trailer where my extra set of keys hung on the hook. No insurance or locksmith needed. And, Maggie was happy to see me.
Visiting with Lucy and Paul later that evening, they both mentioned how Bertram was not paddling, and leaning over the water. After we had our swim, I had heard Paul give Bertram a few paddling tips. Paul told me, “he wasn’t really paddling and you were doing all the work”. Paul was impressed that I could paddle as fast as I did…no consolation. I wish my friend Marilyn Park had been with me, we would have been a great paddling team.
I look forward to visiting my new-found friends Lucy and Paul, when I visit Bellingham, WA on my next west coast journey possibly summer of 2020.
Here is the really funny ending to this story.
Waving good-bye to Lucy and Paul as we pulled out of the Flamingo Campground the next morning, I drove east two hours to Florida City and stopped at a Starbucks before entering the Ronald Reagan Turnpike & Toll Road for Ft. Lauderdale. Waiting for my triple shot latte, I heard a lovely Englishman say, “Glad to see you have recovered from your swim!” You have got to be kidding! Barry and his companion Rebecca were sitting at a nearby table. Karma, Kismet, or just plain luck, what an encounter. Our National Parks attract visitors from all over the world. In addition to Bertram from Israel, there were four people from the UK on our canoe trip. Nearly half, five out of 12 people were from aboard. Our National Parks are a global treasure.
Since my iPhone is swimming with the alligators, I asked Barry and Rebecca if they could share a few photos from our trip, which are posted here. Rebecca also writes a blog on hiking, Wild Pilgrims. I hope our paths cross again. Thanks Rebecca for the snaps.
I hope to see all my new-found friends Lucy and Paul, Rebecca and Barry somewhere again.
Tomorrow, I visit the AT&T store.