Monday, July 27, 2020

Noble Hammock - A Letter to My Daughter

Everglades National Park

To Monica

While cleaning out boxes of old photos and I came across these. I didn't know if my daughter had copies of the photos, or remembered the trip, so I put it in writing.


The Noble Hammock canoe trail-marker was difficult to see as we drove toward Flamingo on the two-lane road from the main entrance. We did a three-point u-turn after we passed it, came back and parked on the shoulder of Flamingo Highway. Dean and I carried the canoe the short distance to the short, flimsy, wooden dock that stuck into the mass of indistinguishable, seemingly impenetrable mangroves. We really didn’t know what to expect as we launched our old fourteen foot, fiberglass canoe just a few feet from the side of the road.

Dean sat in the front, you sat on a cushion in the middle, and I sat in the stern, each of us with a paddle. You were nine or ten years old and had the short, emergency paddle. It was too short to push us through the sloughs when we were in the shallow parts, but you helped paddle when we had deeper water. We were in shallow water a lot as it hadn’t rained in quite a while. The trail was so shallow in parts we almost turned around, but we pushed the canoe through the mud with our paddles and made it further and further into the mangrove jungle.

The mangrove hammocks lay scattered in a saw-grass prairie, and the canoe trail connecting the hammocks was marked with PVC pipes and a few wooden markers. As soon as we were out of earshot of the highway, there was no other reference to where we were. It turned out to be a monotonous, boring paddle and we were getting tired of shoving the paddles into the mud to push us along most of the trail. While the water was deeper in and around the hammocks, we could hear the mud and saw grass crunch along the bottom of the canoe as we pushed along the shallow parts. We certainly weren’t paddling between the hammocks.

You and Dean shoving off from Noble Hammock

Somewhere along the trail, after we were all tired and looking forward to completing the seemingly endless trail when I hit something hard on the bottom with my paddle. You turned to look back just as I leaned into the paddle with all my might, trying to get as much pressure as possible on what I thought was a rock or a log, when the object I was pushing on objected wildly and erupted four of five feet into the air right alongside the canoe.

You saw the alligator spin vertically in mid-air and fall back into the water. All I saw was its white underbelly as I lurched unexpectedly forward, looking backward over my shoulder trying to hold on to my paddle as the alligator twisted and fell away from us. Dean jerked around to look just as it crashed heavily back into the murky water. The canoe rocked from the swell then slowly returned to the almost boring silence and tranquility of before. We all sat stunned by the surrealistic event that had just happened. I don’t remember all the comments we made but I know you got to hear words you weren’t familiar with.

And you wonder why I think Disney World is boring.

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