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Lost in the Everglades.

February 24, 2011

Gator Hook Trail.

If anyone is wondering where I was the last two days, let me tell you the story of my unscheduled adventure. While hiking in the Big Cypress National Preserve on Tuesday with my daughter Alexis, I got lost. We were forced to sleep under the stars, on cold, wet ground, with no provisions.

There will be a literary component to this blog at the end, where I’ll link you up with some excellent books about the Everglades. Oh, and don’t accuse me of child abuse. My daughter is 29 years old, a science teacher at LaSalle High School in Miami, and a few weeks ago she ran a half-marathon.

In fact, Alexis is the hero of the story. She led me out of what seemed the deepest jungle with an unerring sense of direction and a sound knowledge of the various ecosystems we passed through. At one point, as we moved into a dense, wet thicket, she said, “This looks like snake habitat.” Three steps later she pointed to a large brown snake coiled and alert directly in our path. It didn’t look poisonous but we gave it due respect. As Alexis remarked as we altered course, even nonvenomous water snakes will bite if disturbed.

The day started innocently enough, with homemade granola and blueberries at Alexis’ apartment in Coral Gables. By 10 a.m. we turned onto Loop Road, a 25-mile scenic drive through some of the wildest terrain in Big Cypress. Alexis has been here many times since she studied environmental science at Florida International University — where, among other things, she learned the best way to see the Everglades is overland, on foot.

We frequently stopped, splashing through a slough with crystal clear waters that came up to our knees, or trekking a  cypress forest while she explained the difference between hardwood hammocks and cypress domes. We saw alligators everywhere, and birds big as dinosaurs.

After a noon picnic — subs and Diet Dr. Pepper, eaten off the dusty trunk of my car–we reached Sweetwater Strand, Alexis’s favorite stop along Loop Road. We looked down into the water at a three-legged alligator, at least eight-feet long, and– careful to give the big guy room –walked out into the water to get a close look at the bromeliads, the water striders, and the birds.

Alexis had planned to stop for lunch at Gator Hook Strand, where there’s picnic tables and a restroom, but we were too hungry to wait. But when we got there we stopped anyway, just to look around. Signs for the Gator Hook Trail got my attention. Described as a six-mile hike through difficult terrain, it warned: “Expect to get wet.” We were already wet.

I convinced Alexis, who normally disdains trails, to give it a try. At Christmas I had taken long hikes in the Virginia mountains — through snow — with her sister Rachel, and I wanted a little more exercise. The trail started off as well-marked as a Roman road, gradually becoming narrower and narrower, but always a clear path leading deeper into the swamp.

After a couple of hours,we passed a spot where gas cans were neatly stacked alongside a chain saw, a ladder and other tools, which led me to think workers were in the process of clearing the trail of seasonal growth. Soon the path disappeared, but orange plastic strips, tied to trees and branches led us dependably onward –until they completely gave way.

Soon we decided our best option was to turn back and retrace our steps, but though we found a few of the orange blazes, they led us in circles. With the sun ever lower in the sky, I warned Alexis we might have to sleep in the woods. Even if we found the trail, it would be impossible to navigate once darkness fell.

After a frustrating hour trying to  follow the orange ribbons back to a recognizable trail, we gave up. Alexis suggested we strike out overland. “If we go south, we will have to run into Loop Road,” she reasoned. Remembering stories I’d read about people lost in the woods, I argued we should stop where we were and wait for rescue. But Alexis seemed so sure of herself, I agreed with her plan. Besides, Rachel was the only person who knew even vaguely where we were, and she likely wouldn’t get seriously worried until late the next day.

Orienting herself by the sun, Alexis struck off in what I agreed was a southerly direction, but after only a minute or two we found ourselves up to our hips in a slough, or pond, or creek — I couldn’t tell. It was too deep, Alexis said, the danger of alligators too great.

We backtracked and fought our way east out of an incredibly dense thicket, emerging into an almost park-like prairie, with dry ground underfoot and widely spaced trees. For the next three hours we marched south through every kind of habitat the Everglades has to offer, each with its particular beauty, challenge, dangers –and agony for the poorly prepared.

Did I mention I was wearing gym shorts? After an hour my legs were bruised and striped, ankle to hip, from vines, branches and cypress knees. We fought our way through a thicket I thought would never end. It was especially brutal on my legs. Then came a swamp, followed by a long saw grass prairie, each passing blade like a nail file running up and down my shins.

Alexis, younger and fitter, ranged far ahead, stopping to call out “Marco” whenever she lost sight of me, waiting for my answering “Polo.” The desolate beauty of each new ecosystem made me think of dinosaurs, or Tequesta Indians, or Sam and Frodo slogging their way toward Mordor.

I pushed aside thoughts of cottonmouths or coral snakes or alligators or skunk apes or whatever other dangerous creatures shared the primordial landscape with us. I concentrated on walking, amazed at how much farther the human body can go after reaching a point that feels like exhaustion. Especially when you don’t want to sleep in a swamp.

Eventually we emerged from a saw grass prairie into what seemed an endless plain of dwarf cypress. We were certain that each new stand of tress marked the road, and we were disappointed again and again. Finally, the light failed utterly, just as the earth grew wetter and I arrived, all of a sudden, at a point of physical collapse.

“I don’t mind wading and getting wet, but I do not want to go into water I can’t see,” Alexsis said, adding: “Alligators are nocturnal.”

I was past caring. I’d never been thirstier in my life. I leaned against a tree, like a drunk at a lamp post. Alexis collected vegetation, stripping it out of the ground with her hands, to make a bed so we could lie on the damp ground. Just as I eased my self down at the base of the tree, I felt the air constrict around me.

“On top of everything else, its getting cold.”

We lay there on the cold ground, shivering, hungry, thirsty, bone tired and riddled with aches and pains, mosquitoes attacking nose, ears, back, our only warmth coming from where our bodies touched. One position — on my right side with my back to Alexis — was the warmest and most comfortable and I could almost sleep. But after a while my hips and shoulders seized up, forcing me to change positions.

We looked at the stars, marveling at their clarity and number. We argued about which were actually planets, but in the end I deferred to Alexis, as I always do on matters of science. Alexis, who has ears like a bat, listened for the sound of vehicles on Loop Road. I wavered back and forth between resignation at our situation and disbelief that such a thing could happen to people such as us. We made jokes about how we hated nature. Or maybe those came in the morning. There was too much physical discomfort and misery for much joking — or even talking– during that long, dark, frigid night.

I slept fitfully, Alexis hardly at all. I awoke once in the night to find the stars completely obscured by a dense fog. In the distance what sounded like a hoot owl turned into a monkey’s howl and ended with the grunting sound made by lions and other big cats. Alexis had no idea what it was, either, but agreed we did not want to make its acquaintance, not right then anyway.

I despaired that morning would ever come, waking again and again to darkness, but at last I opened my eyes to find a gray light coalescing around us. We stood, shivering, exhausted, stiff, bitten. “I feel like I’ve been beaten up by guys who knew what they were doing,” I said. Alexis chuckled grimly. And we began walking again.

The endless plain of dwarf cypress stretched on and on. We considered striking west — which we later learned would have been a good idea — but in the end reasoned south the surest thing. “Besides, no matter what direction we go sooner or later we’ll hit the road,” Alexis said. “It’s called Loop Road for a reason.”

About two hours later the dwarf cypress began giving way to thicker vegetation and wetter ground. As we made our way around an impenetrable thicket I look up and there, not 10 feet in front of us, behind a barrier of leaves, lay the road. “Alexis,” I said. That may be the happiest moment of my life. Alexis laughed and clapped her hands and we clambered up out of the swamp and stood in the middle of the dirt road, triumphant.

We grinned at each other. I joked that if we’d been on Oceanic Flight 815, we’d have gotten off that damned island by the end of Season Two. “And we would have taken no crap off of Ben or Locke either one,” Alexis said.

But the ordeal wasn’t over. The road stretched both ways as far as the eye could see and we had no idea where the car was. We picked a direction and started walking. Eventually a construction foreman came by, offering us bottles of water and a ride to the car (which was the other way). His name was Anthony. If I ever have a son, I will name him for this sainted man.

During the long walk, Alexis and I had talked intently about how we planned to sue the National Park Service. We got lost and spent the night in the Everglades — the Everglades! — with no provisions!– because we had used their trail as described. But when we stopped at the Oasis Visitor Center to file a complaint, the ranger, Jill Wilson, was courteous and sympathetic and concerned about our well being. By the time she had taken our information, my litigious spirit had evaporated. Don’t you hate nice people?

Now sitting here at my desk, putting the end to this long blog post, my legs are still leaden, not to mention bruised and scored with deep scratches, but the agony of the walk and the misery of the cold wet night has receded. Now this unintended adventure has started to seem like maybe the greatest experience, the proudest achievement, of my life. “We could have died, you know,” Alexis said when we were finally back to the car.

Not to overstate the case, but neither one of us had been willing to voice the possibility until the ordeal was over. I never felt seriously threatened, but she was right. A bit of bad luck — a snake bite, a gator attack, a twisted ankle — might have been enough to turn a difficult situation into a fatal one. And yet we did not die. I don’t want to make it sound like I think I’m Shackleton or Percy Harrison Fawcett or Edmund Hillary or somebody, but I have a new understanding of why some people like to place themselves into impossibly challenging circumstances.

Maybe it’s true that you only know yourself by testing the limits of your endurance. I’m almost ready to go hiking the swamp again. Only this time I’ll have supplies and a plan and an itinerary on file with the Parks Service so they know where to look if I don’t come back.

And now for the books: Of course we start with Marjorie Stoneman Douglas’s The Everglades, River of Grass. Before this book came out in 1947, the Everglades were considered a worthless swamp. It’s one of the masterpieces of American nature writing.

The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida and the Politics of Paradise, by Michael Grunwald. An award-winning reporter for the Washington Post, Grunwald covers the history of the last American frontier–how it was almost destroyed in the name of progress and how it may be rescued.

Shadow Country, by Peter Matthiessen. This epic masterpiece, a novel based on real events in the Everglades at the turn of the 20th century, won a National Book Award in 2008.

Oh, and I highly recommend the National Park Service page on hiking in the Big Cypress National Park. It might help you avoid camping out unless you mean to.

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70 Comments leave one →
  1. February 24, 2011 1:19 pm

    You paint a whole new picture of the glades, one I hope never to experience! Glad all is well and that you are fit to tell the tale!

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 24, 2011 2:40 pm

      Thanks, me too.

  2. Sean Piccoli permalink
    February 24, 2011 1:32 pm

    Indeed you have grabbed a gator by the tale! Glad y’all are back with humor intact. I’m almost as thrilled that my own visits have been via car (Flamingo), paved bicycle/bus/pedestrian trail with gift shop (Shark Valley) and chaperoned group hike (Clyde Butcher’s photo studio).

    At the same time I’m kind of envious of your authentic Everglades adventure. Not the part about gym shorts – that’s scarier than Karen Allen wearing a dress to the snake party in “Raiders” – but it does confer additional tough-hombre status.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 24, 2011 2:42 pm

      Like I said, I’ve learned it’s amazing what a person can do physically when you really have no choice. I would rather endure the punishment to my shins than sit alone in the swamp, waiting for Alexis to return with help. We were better off together than separated.

  3. February 24, 2011 1:42 pm

    Wow, what an adventure.

    Go on a couple more and we’ll do a book!

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 24, 2011 2:42 pm

      Great! I’m headed for the Amazon tomorrow!

  4. February 24, 2011 1:50 pm

    That is a great story. I am very glad you both are ok. That is great news. You did break all the rules though. All the rules. I know that is also moot and probably was thought about at the time. As I say you never know where a path in life will lead you. I do want you to know as you lay looking at the stars and planet. One was a little one called PurpleUmpkin. The Murples were in fact watching over you. That is how they are. You have found out many things and had a day you and your daughter will never forget. Value. Price less. You both will be a little different now. Even better than before.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 24, 2011 2:49 pm

      We did break all the rules, except we didn’t know they were in effect. We thought we were on a nature walk that would take three or four hours and deliver us back at the starting point, not a trail that would disappear and dump us unguided into a primordial swamp. Neither of us is quite that irresponsible or brave. And yet I suspect a tiny bit of recklessness, of heedlessness, is required in all great endeavors. Or just having a good time.

  5. Tracy Sorensen permalink
    February 24, 2011 2:10 pm

    Chauncey — what an adventure! It reminds me to bring “provisions” for emergencies, even if I intend only to go for a day hike. Glad you made it out to tell the story.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 24, 2011 2:50 pm

      I will never go anywhere quite this unprepared again. Thanks, Tracey.

  6. boneislandbooks permalink
    February 24, 2011 2:27 pm

    We got lost kayaking in the Everglades once, trying to get from Whitewater Bay to Hell’s Bay. The feeling as the last bit of sun dipped below the horizon was one I never want to experience again. Very very fortunately, just at the last moment of light, we found our way back to the camping platforms at Whitewater Bay where an extraordinarily nice (and prepared) couple from Alaska loaned us a couple headlamps. Then we navigated back to the trailhead in the dark, trying to distinguish between the reflectors on the trail markers and alligator eyes. Not to mention things thumping against the boat … anyway finally made it back to the car around midnight. I’m trying to think if I’ve been kayaking since. Not sure, but definitely not in the Everglades.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 24, 2011 2:52 pm

      That’s a pretty good story, too. But of course, you missed the best part — sleeping rough and unprepared in a primordial swamp. Nothing like to build up the ol self-esteem. Thanks for sharing. I plan to hike again, maybe even to camp in Big Cypress. But if so it will be on purpose.

  7. PJ Parrish permalink
    February 24, 2011 2:31 pm

    Cool story! Look at it this way, at least you didn’t fall down a hole and have to cut your arm off. Which reminds me, wonder why that old gator had only three legs?

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 24, 2011 2:53 pm

      He wasn’t saying, and I couldn’t locate his press agent. And I know! A terrfically challenging and unpleasant experience, but not disastrous enough to warrant a movie treatment.

  8. Dan Norman permalink
    February 24, 2011 2:48 pm

    Wow! Glad you and Alexis made it out alive. Baseball season wouldn’t have been the same without you guys. That being said, you still owe me a lunch. Give me a call when you are physically up to it. Your pal, Dan.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 24, 2011 2:53 pm

      I have not forgotten. Lunch on me in the near future. Thanks, pal.

    • Sean Piccoli permalink
      February 25, 2011 9:40 am

      “That being said, you still owe me a lunch.” Yep, you’re back in the modern world!

  9. February 24, 2011 2:48 pm

    Wow…Chaunce, what an unintended adventure! I’m so glad youre’both OK. And I’m glad Alexis – not surprisingly! – kept her head and her wits. (And that her knowledge came in so handy!). I’m sure you’re looking at life a bit differently now. I used to hike in the Glades all the time when I lived in Miami; your story brought back a lot of memories. (I remember thinking that the horseflies were very appropriately-named.) You’ve lived, perhaps, the adventure of a lifetime. You lived it with your daughter. And you both emerged OK. There’s something very nice about that, I think…

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 24, 2011 2:56 pm

      Thanks, Steve. Yeah, I can think of no one I’d rather share such an adventure/ordeal with than Alexis. When she was a toddler her favorite book was “Henry the Explorer,” which she had memorized and could recite almost as if she were reading the words off the page. Almost every day, we lived in North Miami then, we’d go “exploring” at Arch Creek Park across 135th Street from the apartment. She’s a tough kid.

  10. Candice Simmons permalink
    February 24, 2011 2:51 pm

    I wondered where you were. Glad you made it. Alexis too. What happened to you–exactly the reason why I choose to do my hiking and other such exercising at the local YMCA.

  11. Chauncey Mabe permalink*
    February 24, 2011 2:59 pm

    Someone asked me on the phone not long ago why we didn’t use our cell phones to call for help. An excellent question. The answer is: There’s no signal in Big Cypress, at least not hte part we were in, nt even at the road. I didn’t even take my phone out of the car. We were trying to get away from modern life and all its appurtenances. We just had no idea we’d succeed so thoroughly.

  12. Candice Simmons permalink
    February 24, 2011 4:00 pm

    I understand about the cell phone. Never can get a signal when you really need one. Same thing happened to us when we got lost in the snowstorm in North Carolina at Christmas.

  13. February 24, 2011 4:30 pm

    Remember the USS Minnow. Look at it this way. ” Lost? Did not know where you were going? The best way to get to a place you never have been.”

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 24, 2011 5:15 pm

      Whether you want to be there or not.

  14. February 24, 2011 4:31 pm

    Please tell you travel mate and daughter , way to go.

  15. Scott Eason permalink
    February 24, 2011 5:59 pm

    You’re bad ass Chauncey. Let’s go camping!

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 24, 2011 6:38 pm

      Let’s go! Now that I know what I’m in for, I’m down for the challenge…Uh, we’ll take water, food, blankets, right?

  16. Terri Schindler permalink
    February 24, 2011 5:59 pm

    This could have been on an episode of “I Survived” (which happens to be in my repertoire of weekly shows ….well almost!
    WOW! What an amazing experience indeed!
    And you tell it so well my friend!
    So glad you & Alexis are back safe & sound!

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 24, 2011 6:39 pm

      Thanks, Terri. We did survive, and it feels great.

  17. Chauncey Mabe permalink*
    February 24, 2011 6:43 pm

    @Michael John McCann: One lesson from this experience is that I can’t trust any trail, no matter how clearly it may be marked, blazed by someone else.

  18. Monica permalink
    February 24, 2011 7:23 pm

    Alexis always did love going exploring with her papa. I had a very terrifying hour to live through when I didn’t know where she was Wednesday morning … and I was very upset with you for not answering your phone to relieve me of my fears. Once again, I am so very thankful that you were both watched over by the HP. Your description of your explorations were entertaining … I have never really had any desire to hike in the Everglades (the mountains are always calling my name), but it might be something I will have to try the next time I am down for a visit. Should I trust Alexis to take me?

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 24, 2011 11:02 pm

      I highly recommend her guide services. Otherwise, you raised a strong, smart, competent and determined daughter. I think she takes after her mother.

    • Alexis Strand permalink
      February 25, 2011 8:39 am

      What do you mean, can you trust me?! Didn’t you read the story?????

  19. n r von staden permalink
    February 25, 2011 2:23 am

    Great teaser………when’s the book?

  20. Steve Grubb permalink
    February 25, 2011 6:36 am

    If not for Alexis your butt would still be wandering around the swamp, being stalked by ‘gators. Remind me never to go hiking with you.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 25, 2011 9:48 am

      Ha. Probably right. On the other hand, you? Hiking? Good one, pal. Put down the ceegar first.

  21. Alexis Strand permalink
    February 25, 2011 12:46 pm

    Okay, I would just like the record to reflect that we went for about 22 hours with no water and 24 hours with no food.

    And that night was THE LONGEST NIGHT OF MY LIFE. I bet that I did not sleep for more then an hour total. I estimate we laid on that cold hard damp ground for nine hours! That’s about eight hours where the only thing I could do was listen for sounds and try to go to sleep. As the hours passed by I heard you snoring. Truth be told, it brought me joy and envy to hear you were sleeping. Every time I opened my eyes, I prayed the light had changed.

    I was thirsty, hungry and cold the whole night. But one feeling was always worse then the others, and they would take turns. Although, hunger rarely was the worst. At times my desire for a blanket or a cold glass of water was so great it made me feel sick and if the ordeal had lasted much longer, might have drove me out of my mind.

    By morning, I was basically numb. Thirst was even distant.

    I have to say, the only time I really felt despair and verged on a break down was early on. When we decided to go south and we couldn’t find our way around that slough. I felt like we were in a race against time.

    Is the Amazing Race still on? Because if it is, I think we should apply. We are hard core and I think we would kick ass.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 25, 2011 2:30 pm

      We would kick ass. I’m game if you are.

  22. February 25, 2011 12:56 pm

    Wow. Adventures like these are always so great in retrospect; you can dine out on them for many years. Glad you’re both safe, and thanks for convincing me never to go hiking in the Everglades. Sorry. I’ll continue to hike the gator-free mountains of the Caribbean. This kind of thing makes our fer-de-lances, hairy spiders and blood-sucking bats seem downright tame by comparison.

    Not to mention the cold. At least the most extreme cold we can get is the 60s.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 25, 2011 2:30 pm

      It’s a bit like childbirth. Once the memory of pain subsides, I start to think maybe I’ll do it again.

  23. Candice Simmons permalink
    February 25, 2011 2:44 pm

    I still think you should both be sent to your room without dinner for putting yourselves in such a dangerous situation.

    • Alexis Strand permalink
      February 25, 2011 4:32 pm

      we already spent the night without dinner, isn’t that enough?

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 25, 2011 11:54 pm

      We just went for a walk on a designated trail….

  24. Tena Hubble permalink
    February 25, 2011 8:48 pm

    Wow, Chauncey…everyone thought you were the smart one out of us siblings. Just kidding. I too, got lost out hiking one time many years ago, though not in an area nearly as dangerous as the Florida Everglades. It was with one of my teacher friends in Southside Virginia. We eventually found our way out to a road, after trekking through almost inpenetrable forest (with lots of briars, beg-a-lice, and cuckle burrs) just before the sun set for the night. But, like you and Alexis, we didn’t know which way to go once we got to the road. But unlike you and Alexis, we did pick the right direction. It was dark and cold when we got back to my house where our husbands were warm and cozy watching a football game. They were just beginning to realize that perhaps we had been gone a little longer than we should have. When asked if they were planning to rescue us, they said that they were coming if we weren’t home by the time the game was over. Gee, thanks a lot. My experience wasn’t as scary as yours, but we were beginning to think we were going to have to sit down and wait for someone to find us. And, there are wild, dangerous animals in any forest. Lots of copperheads in Southside VA. I think part of our problem, and maybe yours too, was that we were raised in the mountains where you can get some bearings on where you are and where you’ve been. It’s much easier to find your way around in the mountains than in flat lands. Anyway, so glad you and Alexis are safe. This actually was a terrific bonding experience for a father and daughter to share.
    Randy wants to know if you found out whether the trail you started out on was in fact, still under construction.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 25, 2011 11:59 pm

      Thanks for sharing your story, Tena. It’s a good one, too. For Randy: At the Ranger station we were told that no, it is not a loop trail, and we should have turned around and returned the way we came. The blaze we followed deeper into the swamp was not for the trail, but for fire control or some other purpose. I’m not sure the Ranger knew what she was talking about in this regard, however. She didn’t seem to know much about the Gator Hook Trail at all. But her take does make sense.

  25. February 25, 2011 10:06 pm

    Wow Chauncy, I’m glad you made it. A real test of endurance, most likely preparing you for the end of the world next year. Seriously, glad you made it and cheers for Alexis, Lady Warrior, and intelligent eco-specialist. My blessings to you both!
    –Deborah D.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 25, 2011 11:59 pm

      Thanks, Deb, much appreciated.

  26. Connie permalink
    February 27, 2011 1:42 pm

    Wow. That’s quite a tale. Explains why I tend to overpack water on any backpacking/hiking trip. Also makes you appreciate the joys of hot water, doesn’t it?

    Excellent Lost reference, btw!

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 27, 2011 2:49 pm

      Thank you. You’re the first to mention it.

  27. Eileen permalink
    February 27, 2011 2:18 pm

    I guess Pico Iyer was right about bad trips making the best stories!

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 27, 2011 2:48 pm

      Indeed he was. I take a walk in Victoria Park and get lost, no one wants to hear it. But I get lost in the Big Cypress and suddenly I’m Mr. Popularity. Which is, of course, fine with me. Not an experience I want to repeat anytime soon, but one I’m downright proud of now that it’s over.

  28. Oline permalink
    February 27, 2011 3:54 pm

    Just the other day, I was thinking…where is Chauncey? Hope he’s not lost in the Everglades again.
    You are a true story teller, giving us a wonderful view of the Everglades….and, of course, we are glad you are all right

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 27, 2011 6:29 pm

      Thank you, sweetheart. You gave me a chuckle. Yes, lost in the Everglades again. Sounds like a Gus Van Sant movie, doesn’t it?

  29. February 27, 2011 5:50 pm

    I still think it would make a wonderful tale and for 8 ,9 and 10 year old children. There is a very good message here. Friendship and more. Please do not get lost in Victoria park either.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 27, 2011 6:30 pm

      I know! I was walking in the wilds of Victoria Park one day, and I almost didn’t make it to 7-11 before collapsing of thirst.

  30. Amy Rubinson permalink
    February 28, 2011 10:56 am

    that is an amazing story…it is crazy how the imagination gets going when you are in a dark unfamiliar place. I wish I had been there to share the experience with you!

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      February 28, 2011 11:45 am

      Be careful what you wish for! It’s more an adventure in retrospect. At the time it was a matter of exhaustion, extreme discomfort and (mostly) unspoken apprehension. I woke up this morning thinking about the moment we were most likely in the most danger, when we were probing that first slough, up to our hips in water, looking for a safe way across. We were pretty much entirely vulnerable to alligator attack at that moment. Fortunately, Alexis knew what she was doing, and immediately pulled us back to the firmer footing of the thicket, where we eventually found away around the slough. In fact, I’m more afraid now, when I think about that, than I was at any time during the actual journey.

      And yet I’m eager to return to Big Cypress for more. God, I love the outdoors…

    • Alexis Strand permalink
      March 2, 2011 1:18 pm

      Next time Amy :)

  31. Todd permalink
    March 4, 2011 11:55 pm

    What I took from this article:
    1) Obviously, you must procreate immediately and often until you have a son. You’ve had enough practice.
    2) Alexis’s version of things deserves equal time. I laughed out loud (literally, not cyber/LOL-style) at her line, “As the hours passed… I heard you snoring.” She’s listening for gators, wild boar, skunk ape, etc., and all her “ears like a bat” (what a lovely compliment, BTW; you are such a southern charmer) could pick up was Daddy-o sawing logs.
    3) Getting lost in the Everglades for 22 hours with your daughter is a walk in the park compared to getting lost with H. for 22 minutes on the road from Cape May to Wildwood.
    4) You just gave Carl Hiaasen the opening for his next novel. Hope he pays you.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      March 15, 2011 10:29 am

      Thanks, Todd. Yes, another example of poor planning: We didn’t stumble across the corpses of any gangsters.

  32. March 9, 2011 8:17 am

    I’m the author of a FalconGuide to exploring Everglades National Park and the Surrounding Area. You made quite a few serious blunders…not dressing correctly, having no GPS (much less a simple compass), not carrying enough water, and also thinking you could sue the National Park Service for your lack of preparedness. If there ever is a next time, be better prepared. Glad you made it back okay.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      March 15, 2011 10:27 am

      Well, as I said, we thought we were taking a stroll on a clearly marked trail, not a serious hike into the wilderness.

      • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
        March 15, 2011 10:31 am

        And nothing in the NPS sign describing the trail suggested extraordinary preparations were warranted. It’s only warning: “Expect to get wet.” So I dispute the notion we were unprepared. Had we recognized the end of the trail when we came to it, instead of being lured deeper into the thicket by the orange blazes, we would have turned around and made it back to the car hours before dark, none the wiser.

  33. Rita permalink
    March 10, 2011 2:36 am

    So glad you are both alright.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      March 15, 2011 10:28 am

      Thanks, Rita.

  34. Todd permalink
    March 16, 2011 6:33 pm

    I’m the author of “DogGuide to exploring Everglades National Park” and I believe you made only one serious mistake: not inviting Sofia Vergara along with you.

    By the way, my earlier procreation remark refers to your decision to name your first son Anthony.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      March 18, 2011 6:28 pm

      When I say I will be more prepared the next time I venture into the Big Cypress, having Sophia along with a sun umbrella and a dry, white hanky to wipe my brow is among the items I plan to bring. I am alas probably out of the procreation business, although there can never be enough practice, as I am sure you will agree. But in the extreme unlikelihood of a preacrative accident, then Anthony it is. I’m not kidding, either.

    • Alexis Strand permalink
      March 19, 2011 4:46 pm

      Todd, thank you for clarifying the procreation comment. I was starting to get offended.

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