Thursday, January 08, 2009

FL Pics: Hell's Bay & Florida Bay

Ever since our last canoe trip in the Everglades -- on the Turner River, through mangrove tunnels so close we had to put down our paddles and pull our way through -- Matt had been thinking we should check out Hell's Bay. "Hell to get into and hell to get out of," the saying goes, because of the mangroves. Instead of following a single river, though, it's a path that has been marked through an estuarial area that is miles and miles of mangrove islands. There truly is no way you could find your way through the maze without following the posts that have been laid out. There were many quick 90 degree turns that we learned about only once we could see around the corner to see the next marker. And thank goodness someone warned us about a missing marker, or we might have been going around in circles for hours.

After 5 miles of twists and turns, we made it to the Hells Bay chickee: our home for the night.

Before we set out, a ranger warned us we might hear very sporadic breathing noises in the night: dolphins coming up for air. Sure enough, we heard quite a bit of splashing and breathing and even got out of the tent at one point to shine our headlamps around, but saw nothing. The next day, though, we made several dolphin sightings.

At dawn and dusk, the mosquitoes were abundant, noisy, and hungry. Thus, this picture of the sunrise through the tent window. If you zoom in you can probably see the dozens of bugs on the screen.

We also made a bonus canoe trip out on the Florida Bay, which is more open. We saw many more birds than we had seen in Hell's Bay, including huge white pelicans. They were a special treat because we had also seen them in their summer home up in Montana.

And then, after we had pulled the canoe out of the water, someone spotted a couple of manatees from the dock. We watched them play for quite a while until some boats came through and scared them away.