Punta de Tancha (Tancha Point) is the old Spanish name for Cape Sable. Ponce de Leon first sighted this coast in 1513 and slave raiders may have been there even earlier. It can be an inhospitable place. Even the Caloosa Indians avoided using it for there permanent settlements except along the coast. The land immediately behind the cape was an unforgiving place full of crocodiles, alligators, and mosquitos. It still is. When you consider it's long history it is astounding how little it has changed. It's remoteness, fierce Caloosa warriors and harsh conditions kept it somewhat pristine right up to the 20th century. Just long enough for it to be declared part of Everglades National Park.
  In April 2011 I decided to take 5 days and do a little exploring. I wanted to cover some territory I hadn't seen before, a small voyage of discovery so to speak. It would turn into great, if not epic adventure.

    The drive down from fort lauderdale had been fun. Violent thunder storms and torrents of rain followed me all the way. A wiring issue forced me to open the door to my truck to get the windshield wipers to work (ford) . That and keeping an eye on the canoe kept me busy.
  By the time I got to Flamingo things had cleared out. Everything was fresh and clean and a beautiful day lay ahead.
  I step into the visitor center and got my back country pass and then unloaded all my gear from the truck and got ready to head out.

I zipped down Buttonwood canal to Coot Bay (love the name) and headed for Whitewater Bay and the Joe River. I expected to see a lot of boat traffic. It was a holiday weekend with zero mosquitoes. I was pleasantly surprised. I would see only a dozen or so boats over the entire four days. Some with little 15hp outboards scooting along others rocketing down the coast at 80mph +. In general though it felt like I had the world to myself. It's not always like that.
 My introduction to Whitewater Bay was interesting. A strong headwind greeted me but it was not unmanageable. A powerful tidal current met me as I entered the channel between Coot Bay and the big Lake. That's were I snapped this pic.
It was fortunate for me that the park rangers had not been able to give me the campsite I had originally asked for. It was a good 5 miles or more past the one I ended up with. With the late start and having to work against wind and tide It was
 only an hour before sunset when I got to the Joe River Chickee 

Chickees are raised platforms in the water. Dry ground is at a premium here and being away from the mangrove trees and shore line is a good way to avoid mosquitoes. As I canoed across the bay, the sun directly in my eyes, I could see that others were already at the Chickee. Crap, I didn't envision having to share my space with anyone. Josh and Joe turned out to be pretty cool.They were on vacation from Tampa, just out fishing and camping in a small runabout.We shared some rum and cigars and they fed me some excellent Italian marinade chicken which was great and saved me from having to cook dinner.
After dark the bay we were in became alive. Something big, perhaps tarpon, where hunting and when a fish broke the surface the water would shimmer in an almost neon green light. I stuck my paddle into the water and swished it around and the same effect occurred, it was beautiful and I took the canoe for a short nighttime paddle just to see the water shine around the canoe. I've been back to that same spot since and have yet to see it happen again. I suspect it's biological and want to get back there in April.

Day two was  going to be  big. I had planned to cover 22 miles. I would end up doing 28. No small feat in the giant red barge of a canoe which always seemed to slice through the water like a  bucket.
 I woke up at 4:59 AM. I know because I looked at my cell phone. The phone that was great for telling time but useless as a phone since there was no service out there at that time.
 It was still dark and fairly cool, a very pleasant time of day. I made a quick espresso and quickly broke camp, trying to do so quietly as not to disturb my neighbors.
With everything packed in tight and lashed down I struck out in the dark heading up the Joe River. It was a bit spooky navigating in the dark but i new I had several miles  before I could really screw up to badly and by then it would be light out.
I had struggled yesterday against the wind so i wanted to take full advantage of the morning calm and put some distance behind me.
 It wasn't long before light shown in the east and soon the Sun broke the horizon.

  It wasn't long before I came to a bend in the river. A switch back of sorts. Two Dolphins rolled just in front of me and a Bald Eagle watched like a sentinel high up in a majestic old Mangrove. I knew I was on sacred ground.
 I pushed on wanting to make good time and it wasn't long before I covered the 5 miles to the chickee at the north end of Joe river. I had been told that the site was closed but two small skiffs were pulled up and tents were set up.  I stopped paddling and let the current take me slowly past the campsite. It was still early morning and apparently people were still asleep. I stood to stretch my legs and lit a cigar. The campsite was nestled up near the mangrove and I made a mental note to avoid it in the off season. It was bound to be a mosquito nightmare so close to shore.
  Soon I passed Mud bay and The north end of Whitewater Bay opened up in front of me. It was a good mile across open water and I scanned the distant shore looking for any suggestion of a channel leading to the Shark River. There was none. Looking at my map I noticed that one of the small mangrove islands near by pointed like a long finger in the general direction I needed to go so I used that as a marker and set out across the expanse of water.
 The wind and waves were pushing me hard to the west yet my coarse lay to the Northwest. Each wave would give a bit of a sickening roll to the canoe as it slid under it. Still I was grateful for any help and happy not to be fighting into the wind. Half way across the open water I could begin to see a hint of a possible channel right were it should be and I made for it. 
  What passes for rivers in the southern Everglades are really just narrow channels or bays of the associated lakes. So close to the ocean you never know which way the river will be flowing. With the tide on it's way in it was like paddling upstream even though I was heading down river towards the Gulf of Mexico. I struggled along  content in my progress and excited to be transitioning into the Gulf.  The Shark River is broken up into several channels as it nears the Gulf and i had my choice of paths to take. Heeding my wise brother's advice I stayed close to the near shore and took the most southern route. As i approached the the opening into the Gulf I passed a handful of boats. Inlets are favorite haunt of Tarpon and other fish and seem most popular among fishermen.

Ahhh!! the open sea! The Gulf was placid and I was eager to leave the boats behind and get back to my sense of isolation. It didn't take long.  Ponce de Leon bay lay just to the North of me but I headed south following the coast. I crossed the open water of a few bays staying well off shore but in general I hugged the coast weaving in and out of the drift wood.

    It struck me that this coast line must look very similar to what it looked like for Ponce de Leon 500 years ago. For this I was very thankful. Can you imagine Manhattan sharing this same fate?

 The day had turned hot. I paddled on and by mid afternoon I wasn't far from Northwest Cape, the northern most of the three Capes. Feeling a bit exhausted with my arms like rubber bands I slide into a little alcove of sorts and got out to stretch my legs and rest.

 The red arrow points to a bag of trail mix that wandered into the picture. It wasn't a bad spot. Perhaps a little low and boggy but there was enough high and dry land to pitch a tent. I filed it away as a possible future campsite. 
  The sun was hot so I found a nice spot of shade and rested for awhile. once I recovered the use of my arms I made a quick espresso, ate a light lunch and had a smoke.Feeling rejuvenated I stuck out again feeling a bit smug knowing I had twenty miles behind me and only a few more to go. The universe had something else in mind though.
Just north of Northwest Cape is the inlet of Little Sable Creek. It's something I wanted to explore but was not on my agenda for this trip, especially after paddling Old Red twenty miles. A small line in the map suggested ( to me) that there was a small  short channel behind a small point of land at the mouth of little sable creek. Interested I decided to cut through and maybe save myself 5 minutes of paddling. Two miles later I had come to the dawning realization that I had in fact committed myself to traveling the full length of Little Sable Creek, A distance of perhaps 6 miles.