Sometimes everything just goes right. The kids and I just returned from a week in and around Cape Sable. It was a total gas.
  After the fiasco we had last Thanksgiving, when the truck broke down, I felt like we deserved to have a great time. We did.
  I had been planning and gathering supplies for months. We had lots of provisions, charts, tide tables, satellite images and a plan., I knew where I wanted to go and hoped conditions would be favorable.
  The drive down had been nice. I took highway 27 over the turnpike. The turnpike is faster but my last drive down had been kinda nerve racking , keeping one eye on the canoe and hoping it didn't fly off at 80mph in traffic. Besides Highway 27 is more scenic anyway.
  The first order of business was to stop at the visitor center and get our back country pass. The rangers seemed to like my plan. I asked them if one certain section was doable at high tide. They said they weren't sure but that they thought so and wished us luck.
  The master plan involved a long days paddle down the coast so we spent the first night at the Flamingo campground. They gave us our usual campsite #51 ( aka area 51) a not to impressive site but one near the water and one we keep getting assigned to over and over. It felt like home
 I set up camp while the kids ran around. Drake and I took the canoe down to the bay side and tested it out real quick. No leaks. I ended up just leaving the boat near the waters edge over night. It would be one less thing to do in the morning.
 It was nice to be in the park. The kids and I played Frisbee for awhile and they were impressed with my skill. I guess all those teenage hippie days  in the park weren't a total waste. 
 One thing I noticed right off was the almost complete lack of mosquitoes. On my mosquito meter of 1-10, with 10 being the absolute worst, this was maybe a 1 or 2. It was very pleasant the whole trip.
We had a quick dinner of hot dogs and the kids retired to the tent, laughing and carrying on. I took advantage of the time to repack and organize some stuff and then took a quick walk down to the bay side. It's beautiful in the early evening. 

It was up at dawn (almost) and a quick breakfast of Cheerios.
Our day would start with an Everglades portage. What is that? It's basically slogging through a hundred yards of muck at low tide to get to the water. Drake and I both lost our shoes early on and decided it was easier just shuffling stuff out to the boat in our socks. Tabby was on shore having a good laugh and snapped a few photos.
It's all part of the experience and if you mind getting a little muddy your in the wrong place. 

We had a great paddle down the coast with the wind at our back. With the tide out the water was shallow even well off shore and we bottomed out a few times. No problem ,Dad would jump out of the boat and push it a few yards into deeper water. The fish were jumping and birds were everywhere. I had given us the whole day to make it to the first campsite but with conditions so favorable we were there by early afternoon.
The kids had gotten out and walked for a stretch down the beach. Tabby found some bones washed up in the surf. I believe they are manatee rib bones. The mystic manatee bones, along with a huge sack of sea shells would accompany us the whole way.

All the sun and activity took it's toll on the kids and they took a nap in the shade while I set up camp.

Much of the coast here is lined with a plant called Saltwort. Not much of a name, I know, but it's and interesting plant and at times can almost glow in a florescent green. The first time I saw it it really impressed me and I had to do some research to even find out what it's name was. My pics don't do it justice.

Anyway, It makes for an interesting landscape. I took a hike while the kids were resting and found a path through the tangle of Saltwort. It lead me to a very barren and haunting  area with large areas of zero vegetation .It seemed like a great place to shoot a spaghetti western. Low Plains Drifter, or something to that effect. I would eventually come to a small foot path leading into  a forest of buttonwood trees. I believe I was on the Coastal Prairie Trail, a long 10 mile path that leads from the Flamingo campground out to Lake Ingraham. I followed it for quite a ways and wanted to go to the end but my dad instincts were telling me it was time to get back to the kids.
They were fine. Tabby was feeling a little under the weather so I made her a comfortable place to rest. Drake and I took a short walk down the beach and discovered some old rusted car parts along with broken pottery and glass. It all suggested that this small point of land had some history to it and I hope to come back and look around more someday.

I wanted to capture the sunset so we went back to the camp and grabbed the camera. I ended up with some nice photos of Drake.

Tabby perked up after dinner and the kids ended up in the tent laughing and carrying on. I love Cape Sable at night. It seems a very peaceful place. With the mosquito situation so good I thought I might try sleeping out under the stars. I grabbed the wool blanket and slipped a bug net over my head just to be safe. I settled down on the beach near the dieing fire. Five minutes later the kids came stumbling out of the tent asking me what I was doing. It sounded like more fun hanging with them in the I changed my mind.

 I wouldn't sleep much the whole week. I just kinda ran on espresso and adrenaline. I was just too keyed up and excited about being  here. When I did sleep I would dream strange dreams, the images in my head strongly influenced by the the scenic landscape of mangrove and exotic plants surrounding me.  So I was up early the next morning.

This was an important day for me. We would be venturing into unknown territory ( for us anyway) and I was itching to get going. Part of my plan  required that we cut through a back water channel at high tide and with the tide on it's way up I felt like it was time to hit the water. However, the kids had a different plan. Knowing Tabby hadn't been feeling well the night before I vowed to let them sleep as long as they wanted.The hours ticked off and I was crazy to get going. I would check on the kids every so often and since they were sleeping soundly I just let them be. I finally had to resign myself to maybe having to change the plan and even told myself that if Tabby still wasn't feeling well prudence dictated we return to Flamingo and civilization.
The sun was high in the sky when the kids finally stirred. They were all bright eyed and bushy tailed and Tabby felt fine. I made a breakfast of scrambled eggs and bagels and quickly broke camp while the kids ate.
On the water at last. As we continued along the coast I weighed my options. The tide seem to be still on the rise and we made good time. I passed the main Channel for entering Lake Ingraham and opted to continue on to the secret hidden channel. 
A 1/2 mile later we stumbled upon the entrance and started to make our way in land. A fisherman asked us if we knew where we were going. I told him we were heading into Lake Ingraham. "Your going the wrong way" he said. " You need to go back to the main channel". I said thanks but thought I could make it and continued on.

The tide was absolutely ripping in and we traveled down the channel like it was a fast moving river. It was very scenic and pristine and I felt like I was entering a doorway into another world. The channel wound this way and that and I referenced my satellite image hoping to know were I was. I would take two wrong turns while up in this confusing back water but I managed to correct my mistake each time and finally found the little creek that would give us passage into Lake Ingraham.

I was feeling pretty smug as we entered the lake. Ha...tell me I'm going the wrong way. We stopped in the shade of some mangrove and had a floating lunch.
Lake Ingraham is a large shallow lake behind the coast. At low tide it can be almost unnavigable.With the tide up though traveling was good and the wind was directly behind us all the way down the lake.

 At the far end of the Lake is a broad outlet back to the ocean side. We didn't make it that far. I thought I was on the right track but I failed to round that one final point and instead entered a small channel. It didn't take me long to realize this was not were we were meant to be but I stayed with it, twisting and turning until it finally dead ended. I ran the canoe up in the muck and said "Son, run up over that hill and tell me if you see the Gulf of Mexico" He did. In fact we were only a
few hundred yards down the beach from were I had planned on camping that night.

What a great spot. The gulf was beautiful.
The kids started running up and down the beach and playing in the water while I started shuffling our supplies the 50 yards to the Gulf side. It was then to my horror that I realized the water jug had tipped over and our water supply was slowly leaking out. We lost about two gallons which only left us with about two gallons. We were two days from Flamingo and fresh water and although that would be enough drinking water it didn't leave us any for cooking and what not.

The first order of business was to load up the stuff in the canoe and paddle the short way down the coast to our campsite

The kids were having a great time on the beach. I swear they would spend all their time in the water if they could.
After I unloaded our stuff and looked around a bit I paddled the empty canoe out into the gulf to a small sailboat anchored just off shore. "Hello on board" I said. A lady stuck her head up from the cabin and said hi. " Hi how are you?" I explained our water situation to her and she was like sure how much water do you need. She ended up giving us two gallons and that was more than enough. 
I had a great time at this campsite. Sunset was absolutely beautiful and I even got some ok pics.

 I cooked dinner on the beach and then built the fire high. I had enough sense to move all our stuff up off the beach to avoid it getting swept out to sea. The kids and I enjoyed the fire until the tide came in and doused it. Then it was off to bed.
  Our third day out proved to be an adventurous one. I was up early but again let the kids sleep late. I wasn't as concerned  with timing and a little more agreeable to just letting things flow. I tried my hand at pancakes. That didn't go so well and I ended up making my famous scrambled eggs again.
 With miles of nice sandy beach I suggested to the kids that they take a walk while I paddled the canoe and all the gear down the coast. We traveled that way for quite awhile. The kids ended up  kinda spread out on the beach with Drake leading the way. I shadowed them down the coast, just off shore, like a shepherd minding his flock.
As I approached Middle Cape I could see a distinct visible line in the water were the rough water of the Florida bay side met the calmer water of the gulf side. I gestured to the kids to meet me down the beach aways and prepared for a bit of a rough ride.  Things got crazy fast as I hit the rough water and the wind hit me square on as I rounded the Cape. I did my best to keep the boat half pointed into the breaking waves and half pointed towards shore. It was a bit of a wild ride but finally I reached a little protection from the wind and surfed the giant barge of a canoe up close to shore. The kids were tired of walking but I told them that it would be easier walking than trying to paddle into this wind and begged them to keep on. East Cape lay off in the distance and I suggested we make it there and then stop for lunch. 
The wind sucked. This was not a surprise to me. We were in a very stable weather pattern and during the day strong winds out of the East were to be expected. It's one of the reasons the first two days had been so nice and we had made such good time.It was now time to pay the price though and I struggled against the wind to make progress. Drake had moved on ahead and I was chatting with Tabby on shore. She waded out into the water and collapsed face down on top of all the gear. It was her comic way of saying I'm tired. can one little girl weigh so much. Tabbys 90 lbs increased the struggle but I kept on. We finally reached East Cape and took a much deserved break near the pilings.

 The kids enjoyed swimming and I took a break in the shade.
We had a long way to travel today if we hoped to make Flamingo the following day, so after awhile it was time to push on.
The kids continued walking as I slid the canoe back in the water. I noticed a young couple ahead off me getting in their canoe also. Together we rounded East Cape.......holy cow, were not in Kansas anymore! The wind doubled in strength and it was driving the waves straight up on shore. I was struggling to keep it together. The young couple gave up and beached their canoe. I kept at it a bit more but than noticed the coconuts on the beach were making better time than me and feeling kinda wiped out I headed for shore. It took the kids five minutes to realize I'd givin up and they came back to meet me.
After gathering my strength. I suggested we continue on but I'd walk the canoe through the water.any progress was good and maybe we would find shelter from the wind further along. The sandy beach the kids had been walking on gave way to a shore line of tangled drift wood and forest. I strongly commanded the kids to put their shoes on as we waded through water.

Perhaps a thousand yards or so further on we came to a most interesting spot. It was an isolated sandy beach. On one side it was bordered by a tidal creek that was dumping into the bay. Tabby and Drake had a great time playing in the shallow water with it's strong current. . the sandy beach was maybe the size of a football field but completely isolated. There where small stands of buttonwood trees and some nice tent sites but behind the beach was a low lying mangrove swamp. It would have to be a very intrepid person to get out of here other than by sea. The tide was now way out and had revealed some sand bars out in the bay. Wading birds were taking advantage of the low tide. Drake waded far out in the bay and was chasing the birds  back and forth. they didn't seem all that bothered with his being there and never flew far from him.

So here we were with a 20 knot wind and a tide fully out (way out). With so far to go today I was feeling a bit like this:

It was a beautiful spot though and the kids had no problem with our not being on schedule. So I decided to go with the flow. "Kids what do you say we spend the afternoon here and head out this evening when the wind dies down and tide comes back up?" They looked at me like I was crazy. "You mean paddle at night?" they asked. "Yes" I said. I don't think the thought had ever occurred to them and frankly I had not envisioned doing it either. "SURE"  was their response.
With that settled I relaxed a little bit. Drake asked if we could take the canoe up the tidal creek and explore. That sounded fun so he and I  paddled up  stream for about 15 minutes It was all covered in a mangrove canopy and we had to work our way around and over several dead branches, finally, the way forward seemed difficult so we turned around and headed back. I would look for this creek on the satellite maps when I got home. In places its barely discernible  but I believe that the creek goes all the way to Lake Ingraham. The right person might be able to find their way through .

It was dinner time. I decided to build a fire. I had built fires for every meal so far and it hadn't been much of a problem. Sometimes it took awhile in the morning because the tender would be a little damp. Shamefully I had had to resort to notebook paper to start every fire. Yes I know , how pathetic.
Out here on the wind swept beach it was proving difficult to get one going. Five times I  thought everything was fine only to see my paper flame out and the fire die. After what seemed like forever the twigs all burst in flames and everything was good.
   We had a sausage and rice dinner complete with Kool-Aid and yes another bagel.

The sun was down and I could see a distant fire on East Cape. I could see the silhouette  of a person peering down the coast. I imagine they were seeing much the same view as me.
The tide was starting to creep back in and , thankfully , the wind was easing off. I carefully loaded up the canoe. I tied our $3.00 solar lawn light to the stern of the canoe. It's not exactly proper navigation lights but I thought it would do. I made sure everybody put on their life jacket. The water was shallow but you never know and night time was no time for surprises.
  We still had to wait about ten minutes for the lowest channel to fill with just enough water to float the canoe. Then we took a walk , pushing the canoe far out through ankle deep water  until we reached something a bit deeper.

It was like a dream. The current of the incoming tide was sweeping us along the coast in the right direction. Each paddle stroke felt like a monster one when gaged against the  drift wood and coastal mangrove sliding by. The canoe Gods were smiling down upon us and we went with it.The moon was bright on the bay but the grayish chocolate  water and the haunting  tree lined shore was a bit spooky. I hadn't realized how tired Drake was. At one point he started to nod off than woke with a sudden jerk that rocked the canoe. Tabby laughed loudly with no mercy but I felt bad for the little guy way out front by himself. Further down the coast we pulled over and the kids switched places. 

  Even in the darkness I could recognize a few landmarks. There was the hidden channel into the Lake. A little further on and we passed the big canal that goes to the Lake. The coast kept sliding by and soon we were near the campsite of  two nights ago. I wanted to keep on going as far as possible. We finally came to the last stretch of camp site area. It was only four more miles to Flamingo and with conditions so nice I thought about just continuing on but the kids were tired and I really wanted to spend another night in the wild. We made several quick stops searching for a decent tent site. The tide was extreme max up and we would be camping just feet from the waters edge. I finally found a decent area and with the kids help quickly set up the tent. With all of the rough conditions today much of our stuff ended up a little damp and the night air was a bit cool. Tabby and Drake climbed in their sleeping bags to warm up and were quickly asleep.
I stayed up late again. I knew this would be my last night out here for awhile and I missed it already. I also wanted to keep an eye on the tide. With only inches to spare I wanted to make sure it had turned and was on the way out. A flooded tent with soaking wet children did not sound fun.

The night canoeing move had been a stroke of genius. It was exciting and productive. I see myself using this technique in

  the future.