The water finds many ways across the morass and into the Gulf of Mexico. I'd heard mention of one small river that covered the 5 miles from Highway 41 through the marsh land and mangrove and on down to a bay in the 10,000 Islands .
 On a whim, I decided a weekend exploring was just what I needed, and with my canoe and gear loaded on the pickup, I headed for Florida's west coast.
 The landing isn't marked along the highway and, even though I'd taken a close look on Google, I blew past it the first time.
A quick three point turn around and I was soon on a short side road that led to a small lake hidden from the main road. This was the start. 
There wasn't much in the way of parking so I did my best to make room for others and backed the truck up close to the forest and in among the weeds.
 Daylight was just breaking. 
 I took a moment to  look about and then began to untie my canoe. Soon headlights appeared coming down the muddy road. It was Juan, my good friend and fellow photographer. He had said he would drive out to see me off but I hadn't quite believed him until now. It was good to see him and we shared a quick espresso, He scolded me for not buying Cafe Pilon but some off brand instead. We shared a good laugh. A few other people showed up. One older man stopped to fish and another to kayak. I asked the kayaker how difficult it was to find the way down river. I'd read it could be tricky. He didn't want to commit but suggested  "following the water"  might be a good idea. I appreciated where he was coming from. The kayaker quickly disappeared. I always wondered where he went. I know he didn't go down river ahead of me. The spiders  webs I encountered told me that.
 Juan and I shook hands and I was off. Across the small lake to the sw corner.There I faced a decision, go left or go right. Nether way looked promising. The warrior goes right, the sage goes left ...left it is. I squeezed through the narrow opening between some tall grass and cattails and and entered a short narrow channel that then lead to a wider, apparently man-made canal. For a quarter of a mile I lazily paddled ,enjoying the morning sun. Soon the canal ended and the slight flow of water narrowed into a small channel leading to a narrow opening in a wall of mangrove. I felt this was the beginning of the river proper. I spied an alligator guarding the entrance and stopped to take a few photos but then pushed head long into the mangrove.
 Shadows and flickering light. The water ran black and was as deep as I am tall. Large buttonwood and mangrove overhung everything and fallen trees lay across the full width, always with just enough room to maneuver  carefully under or around. Spider webs drapped every branch and avoiding all of them was not possible.