I woke up on my deserted island to realize that it wasn’t as deserted as I thought. When I looked out of my tent I saw 2 people walking down the beach just a few feet from my tent. It took me a while to figure out where the people came from. I noticed a boat anchored off shore a ways down. It was definitely a confusing moment but it wouldn’t be the last for the day. I got moving as I had made plans to meet up with an angel who is the 5th person to complete the entire paddle around Florida. It was a beautiful day to paddle. I cruised on the inland side of a chain of islands. The water was clear all day and I could see fish darting around under my boat. The sun was blazing and hitting the water just right that it looked like I was paddling on a reflective sea of shinny liquid silver. I made it to the tiki bar that was on a causeway. As I sat there I felt like I was at a tropical resort. They had island music playing and kayakers were paddling around in the beautiful water bay. At one point a hobie Cat sail boat went by. I waited for a while and decided to order some food while I waited. I knew there was a possibility that the people I was meeting might not make it so I ordered another round of tacos. The waitress suggested that the quesadilla was good. I said sure. Bring them both. We got talking later and she said the kitchen guys thought I was going to just sit there all day and order food. I explained that I had worked up an appetite in the 2,600 Miles it took to get there. My new paddling friends showed up and we got to business talking adventure. In casual talk he and his wife said they had done the Appalachian Trail. Then he started rattling off the other big trips he had done and I was impressed. When he said his next one was only 600 miles I felt comfortable. Most people can’t imagine doing 600 miles but after a few trips over 2000 it’s nice to talk to other people who think the same way. We talked until the sun set, then I paddled off into the sunset a mile to an island camp ground. I quickly set up and called into the board meeting for the Seraph Fund. It’s always good to see the progress that we are making. As I was laying here I could hear the waves start crashing on the shore different than usual. The normal night sounds were off. I figured it might be a trash panda in my boat or something. I shined my head lamp over towards my boat by the water, and a light shined back from out in the water. I was confused again. I figured it was a fisherman a ways off. The noise of the waves kept getting closer. And the light would turn on and off. When I noticed it was really close I got out to investigate. I walked to the waters edge and saw it was a guy on a paddle board. Well he was standing in the water next to it peeing. I said hello and said it was a nice night for a paddle. He agreeed and asked if I wanted a beer. I had just sat at tiki bar by the water for almost 4 hours and didn’t drink. And now I’m in an island alone at 11PM and a guy comes out of the dark and offers me a beer. I said I was good and he proceeded to tell me he had plenty. I politely told him that’s ok. Then we had a good talk for a while never actually being able to see each other. I finally cut the conversation off and he paddled back into the dark. I went back to to my tent thinking about how confusing it was that just when I went to bed thinking I was the only person on the island, random people just showed up.
After pulling my boat back through the mud followed by a mile walk in ankle deep water, it was an 11 mile paddle out into the Gulf to North Anclote Key. I passed several houses on stilts a few miles off shore out in the middle of the water. Some of them looked run down but others looked kept up. I think it would be amazing to stay on them for a night but no one invited me so I just kept paddling. The closer I got to the Key, the water color changed. It went from dark blue to turquoise green. You could see the line where the water changed just like a sign that said welcome to paradise. When I landed on the white sandy beach it was official, I was in paradise. I hopped out before my boat crashed the shore to avoid getting swamped by the tiny waves and pulled my boat ashore. It felt like a movie when explorers are in the small boat coming ashore after reaching a new land. I didn’t even unpack before I went exploring. I walked to the tip of the island and made the turn. Several seashells were scattered along the shore. In the distance I noticed something right off shore. When I got closer I could see that it was a sunken sailboat. This really made me feel like an explorer. I went into the ocean and swam for a bit. I realized it was the first time I have gotten in the water since I got back on the water. Mainly because it was the first beach I came to and I didn’t feel like there were any alligators or jellyfish. The sun slowly dropped into the water as I set up camp and there were several times I just stood there and watched the beauty of it. I realized that with no access to this island besides personal boats, I would probably be alone out here and I was perfectly alright with that.
Open ocean most of the day. The weather was ideal. I knew I was in for a long paddle but was ready for it. It is really hard to focus on the total distance but if I break it up, then it goes pretty well. The water wasn’t exactly glass today but it had a metallic look which is always a joy to paddle in. I decided to hit a restaurant about 18 miles in. Since I was getting closer to constant civilization I took advantage of it. As I paddled into the Little Harbor I noticed the blue tarps on several roofs. It’s a sure sign of hurricane damage. The further south I get the more damage from Hurricane Irma I am noticing. I ate and took off to finish my day as the sun was falling. It’s always a joy to paddle when the sun is setting but it comes at a cost. You have to find and set up camp in the dark. I knew there was a park where I could camp a few miles further. I made it to the turn off right when the sun set and paddled through the side water to reach the campsite. It was a pavilion built by air boaters. It was nice to have picnic tables, concrete, and a roof. The only problem was about a 30 yard mud drag to get off the water. After 22.5 miles, dragging my boat through the mud was the last thing I wanted to do.
No monkey business today. Well maybe a little. I pulled off the ramp and headed upstream about a tenth of a mile to a small island. It was covered with monkeys. Yes, real monkeys. I paddled up to get some pictures and one of them came down to the waters edge. He seemed interested in me. The quickness that he came to the edge had me wondering if he was going to swim out to my boat. But then I realized that if they were still on the island this long they probably couldn’t swim. He came to the water’s edge and used his tail to grab a branch and lean out and make faces at me. Of course I made them back. I got a brief history of why they were on the island and it’s because they were originally brought here to study polio cures and kept getting in trouble. One of the people said he wished he could send them to Alcatraz. And 50 years later they are still on the island. I probably could have hung out most of the day but I had to get moving. I headed back to the refuge water way for more paddling by gps. I really don’t know how I could ever paddle through these sections with out a GPS. I would get turned around so fast and lost I don’t know if I could ever get out. I think that’s one of the reasons I have always been scared of swamps. I finally made it out and headed for open water. I was paddling through larger isalnds now and made it to the suggested campsite at sunset. I realized that I was spoiled with National Trail camp sites on the Big Bend Trail. This is a tiny, over grown island with enough spot under a tree for a tent and that’s it. The bugs were so bad that even though it looked like an amazing sunset I didn’t get out of my tent to walk 20 feet to the other side of the island to see it.
I woke to voices of 2 men saying “what’s that kayak doing there? Oh someone’s camping”. They mentioned that I was probably up now with the noise from their motor. They were right. I paddled back the 2 miles to where I turned off my route last night. It was nice to actually see where I paddled in the dark and I didn’t feel like I was paddling a section I had already seen since it all looked new to me. It was a short paddle into Homosassa, a quaint little fishing village. There was nowhere to tent so I got a room and cleaned up. Right after sunset I decided to walk to a restaurant about a mile away. I had looked it up and it seemed like the best one. And since I had nothing better to do I started walking. As I was just getting going a guy was pulling out of the convenient store on his golf cart with a bottle of wine in the basket. He asked where I was going. When I told him he acted like he had never heard of the place. He said he was going to give me a ride if it was close. I said that I had just paddled into town and asked where should I eat. He didn’t tell me he just said get in. I was up for an adventure so I didn’t hesitate. Next thing I knew we were going the opposite direction down a dark road to nowhere. It seemed like it took forever and I was getting a little concerned. Finally we popped out at a place called the Freezer. It was a fishing market that had a dive bar attached. He said to get the snow crab and shrimp and sit at the bar. I walked in and felt at home. This place was hopping. They brought out 2 giant crab legs and about 20 steamed shrimp. It felt great to just sit there and eat with my hands and not have people judge me for once since I started the trip. For a brief moment I thought how great it would be to wash it down with an ice cold beer or 20. But as good as this food was there was no need for that. I made friends quickly while sitting there and before I left I got an offer for a place to stay in Alaska if I ever make it up that way. I walked back to the hotel stuffed and feeling normal again.
I have been thinking about what I should do with my life after this trip. When I stopped in a marina to get a drink the guy asked if I needed gas for my boat. It took me a minute to get that he was joking. I dropped the “I started in Ohio” on them. Then 2 separate people came up to me and said I should work for National Geographic. I thought that was a stretch until I tried to find the campsite and my exploration began. I came off the island this morning and up the Crystal River then worked my way down Salt Creek. It’s just a giant braid of islands and streams. I was checking my GPS constantly to make sure I was on course. When I pulled off to find the camp site I was heading up a creek and no luck. All it was, was marsh land. When the creek ran out I back tracked to the only spot that could have been it. I climbed through the mud and marsh to the clump of trees and no campsite. I decided to just keep going. The sun had set and I was only going on the after glow. One of the guys at the marina told me about a place called Hangover Island that was good to camp. When I found it on the map it was about 2 miles out of my way but by studying the satellite image it was really my only option. I felt like I was playing a video game, staring at my GPS and paddling based off it. Since it was now dark I would shine my head lamp on the shore of the island to see if I could find a spot but no luck. I committed to going to Hangover Island and finally made it. When I pulled up I found a beach. A beach with a large private property sign posted. I went to the next and a sign was there too. Kind of interesting since it was on google maps with a tent symbol. I debated just setting up and if someone said something I would just say I came in at night and didn’t see the sign. There is no way they would believe that but it could be worth a shot. I realized that I probably wouldn’t get any sleep being worried that someone would show up in the middle of the night so I paddled across the bay and found a small place on a bed of sticks. Not ideal but it will have to do. When I looked at my tracker to see the route I had taken today, it looks similar to how I used to come home from the bar. All over the place walking in circles, staggering. But hey, at least I got to explore some and work on my resume for National Geographic.
The rain prediction was right on point. I woke to my tent shaking with rain beating down. I decided to make it a traditional Thanksgiving and just lay around and do nothing all day. Just because I am alone on an island in the middle of the gulf doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy American tradition of eating and doing nothing on Thanksgiving. The major difference is that I wasn’t around friends and family. I did catch a break in the storm to go out to the beach and eat my traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I have been carrying a precooked meal of turkey, stuffing and gravy, along with a can of green beans and instant mashed potatoes mixed in a ziplock bag to round out my meal. I had flipped my kayak over to prevent it from filling up with rain and used it as my dining room table. I reflected on what all I’m grateful for. While I could name things all day, the main thing I am grateful for is that I don’t have to live the way I used to and that I can be alone and actually enjoy myself. It was great sitting by the water enjoying my meal but the break in the weather didn’t last long and I had to retreat back to my tent where I spent 23 and a half hours of the day. But I was glad that I got the opportunity to get out for that 30 minutes if not for anything else but to get a picture of me eating my feast.
The bugs were out of control again this morning. I packed up and got on the water as quickly as possible but continued to scratch for about an hour of being on the water. When I finally made it out of the bay and into open water I checked my tracker to see how far I had gone to get an idea of what the day would look like. I was cruising at 4 mph average. I haven’t hit this pace for quite some time. I figured I would have an easy day. After a while I felt like I was slowing down. I couldn’t figure out why until I looked down. I was in pretty shallow water even though I was a few miles off shore. I don’t need much water to stay a float unrestricted but if I don’t have over about a foot or two then it slows me down tremendously. I could have gone further out but that would have put me way off shore and the effort to get there wasn’t worth it. Mentally it was a struggle and I felt like I would never make it. When I saw a chain of islands I knew after that it was about 3 miles to the spillway where I thought I would camp. I stopped on one of the islands to stretch and check my maps to know exactly where I was going. I realized that it had suggested to camp on one of the islands. The island they suggested was 2 over closer to the mainland. It was 3/4 a mile to get there. I debated paddling it but found a decent spot to camp on this island under some trees and was lined up for tomorrow to paddle directly across to the break in the spillway. So instead of having to paddle back tomorrow I just made camp. While I was getting a fire going I noticed a lizard darting around. At one point he was in the rock fire place while I had a fire going. I kept hearing a noise like ruffling leaves while I sat there and figured it was another lizard. I couldn’t ever see it when I would turn on my light. I finally caught it in my head lamp near my food bag. But it wasn’t a lizard. It was a mouse! It wasn’t big enough for me to consider it a rat. He ran off and I was worried that there might be more and they were hungry enough to chew through my tent at night to get my food. It was kind of overcast but being close to the water I figured I would leave the rain fly off my tent for a good breeze. While I was laying in bed about to fall asleep I checked the weather for tomorrow. Rain was on its way. I’m glad I checked the weather instead of waking up to being soaked and trying to get my rain fly on after it was too late. It was calling for rain from about midnight on. 100% most of the day tomorrow mostly in the morning. I checked the radar and it didn’t look good. I realized that I might be stuck on this island all day tomorrow and maybe even longer. I put my rainfly on and staked it down the best I could in preparation of a storm. I fell asleep to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore and the rain pounding my tent hoping that the storm would pass and I could get off the island tomorrow.
I got out early to hopefully beat the storms. The idea of being in the middle of the ocean with no where to pull over and get off the water when a storm hit had me very anxious. I loaded all my gear up on my body and walked the block to the harbor. I clipped as much as I could to my lifejacket to free my hands to carry bags. I’m sure it was an amusing sight seeing me walk down the street with bags hanging off my body. It was low tide when I got there and my boat was hanging from the dock over mud since the water was low. I wasn’t expecting to see a harbor with barely any water. It took some effort to free my boat and lower it down to the ground. Luckily I had my long rope attached and was able to pull my boat over to the ramp and load up. I paddled through the only channel through the tunnel and into the ocean. It was a fairly heavy chop but I pushed through knowing I had to keep moving to beat the storm. After a few miles the wind stopped and the water was basically glass. For some reason I didn’t make as fast of time that I would have expected with flat water. Between the overcast and fog it felt really weird all day. When I made it to the river where the campsite was supposed to be, I got turned around trying to find it. When I went a little further I saw it. It looked like an old moonshiners camp. A pieced together wood and metal roof between a few trees. The no-see-uns were so bad and with rain coming my way I couldn’t get the tent up quick enough. I put it up as much as I could under the shelter and dove in and didn’t come out till morning.
I woke up not wanting to get out of my sleeping bag. It was definitely cold. And not just Florida cold. It was so cold that I had to put on socks with my sandals (fashion suicide). While I was packing up my boat, my hands were frozen. I wanted to wait for the sun to rise and warm everything up but I needed to get moving. It was a little over 18 Miles to Cedar Key for the day. If I was going to stay in Cedar Key I wanted to make sure that I got there early enough to make it worth it. I really didn’t want to pay the money to get a room in town but that was the only way I could work out meeting up to talk with some other alcoholics and addicts so I figured it was worth it. It was a nice paddle. I saw something pop up in the water at one point. I have seen hundreds of dolphins at this point but today was a first. The fin was deformed. It could have been destroyed my a boat propeller or a shark. I would assume that it was probably a boat that had hit it. I kept a watch to make sure it was swimming OK. If it wasn’t I would have tried to find a local dolphin rescue to contact. It seemed to be fine so I continued on. I found the local public marina and unloaded at the ramp. I had to make a decision to tie up my boat or carry it up the street to the hotel. I didn’t really feel like putting my cart together and dragging it down the street. I found an old dock and chained it up. I put one of my cards in a ziplock and zip tied it to the post incase anyone had any questions. I loaded and clipped all my gear to me and waddled down main street to my hotel. I was able to meet up with a group of like minded people and it was exactly what I needed. I felt centered again. It always amazes me how talking with complete strangers who know exactly what I am going through can keep me balanced mentally.
Delayed start today because of rain but I definitely made up time once I got paddling. I had the wind to my back and was cruising. I was heading for Suwannee for the night. I had gotten a message from the local angel a while ago when I first hit Florida and he had been following up to make sure I stopped through. He told me a short cut on how to get up the river to Suwannee but not to go past a certain point when I arrived. I hadn’t heard back and since I was ahead of schedule I figured I would get there way before him. When I paddled up the river I saw a white canoe with 2 gentleman in it. They told me they had been waiting for me. They said they checked my tracker and saw I was making good time and paddled out to meet me. It was the Angel and his grandson who had come in from Alaska, where he had spent the last 10 years commercial fishing and doing other manly Alasken jobs. They took the lead and escorted me up the river through the canals to the fish camp. I would have definitely gotten lost if it wasn’t for them. When we came to a bridge a little dog started barking at us. He followed along side of us for a while until he jumped in their canoe. I was definitely jealous. We arrived at the fish camp and got my boat out of the water. They had a screened-in pavilion that was for campers that they said I could stay in. I decided to just put my bed roll right on the picnic table. They insisted on taking me to dinner. They paddled their boat back home to get their car and came back to take me to the only restaurant in town. We got talking and found out that he used to live about 20 minutes away from where I grew up. He literally was in the town during the same amount of time from when I was born until I left for college. He name dropped a few people that we knew in common. It shows that it’s really a small world. I got some gator to eat because why not when you are in Florida? I returned to my picnic table for the evening. The temperature was dropping but still not close to as cold as it is in Ohio.
Slower than normal start today. Pretty easy paddle. I did notice a lot of personal fishing boats out today. I guess I am starting to get out of the Big Bend and closer to more consistent towns. Towards the end of the day I came to Horseshoe Beach. A small little town and paddled up to the marina for a Gatorade. They had a little bar attached. I asked if they had food and the store clerk said they had a few things just ask. I went in and was the only person in the bar. Ordered some hot dogs and regretted it right away. The bartender told me it would take a while and couldn’t find the food. I told her it wasn’t a big deal but she insisted. Then she had to call someone to figure out where they were. By this point I wanted to leave but I was in too deep. They were actually pretty good. I had less than 2 Miles to camp and it was another amazing campsite on an island. After getting set up, Isaw a rope hanging from a tree. It looked like a bear bag line to hang my food to keep it away from bears. I thought that was weird that bears would be on an island but I didn’t want to take a chance. When I went to hang my food it all made sense. It was a swing! I spent the next hour swinging back and forth over the beach into the sunset.
I packed up ready to hit the water. The day off was definitely needed but I was ready to go. I got talking to the guy checking me out. We were talking about adventure trips. When I gave him my card and told him why I was doing it he asked “are you an addict?” It took me by surprise. I don’t know why it took me by surprise but it did. I’m not sure if it was the combination of how and the exact words he said but it definitely hit me. Are you an addict? Yes I am. It’s something that I forget sometimes. Forgetting that I’m an addict is a very dangerous situation to be in. It’s something that I have to constantly remind myself. Even though I haven’t touched any mind altering substance for almost two and a half years I am still an addict. The moment I forget that and think that I can have a drink or use drugs just once, for me it’s game over. I know that I won’t stop. I might not see the direct results right away. I could probably drink or use drugs one day and be fine. But I know that it will creep right back up on me and I will quickly crawl right back into the same pattern that I was in daily. And that’s not a risk I am willing to take. Knowing and keeping it fresh in my mind that I’m an addict is something that I have to have a constant reminder of if I want to continue to live the life I have been given a second chance at.
I woke up recharged and ready to go but knew I needed to rest. I was able to get some chores done but mainly slept most of the day and can tell I needed it.
The goal for today was to get to town and recover physically and mentally. After about 15 paddle strokes I knew that I needed to take an extra day off. Every paddle stroke into the wind and waves provided pain. It’s hard for me to listen to my body sometimes but it’s what I have to do to make it all the way. I paddled up the river into town and saw the most beautiful site I had ever seen. A pizza place with a dock. Since I had been craving pizza for weeks now you know what I did. I ordered a medium pizza for myself. When the waitress brought it out she brought a medium and a small. She claims that she messed up but I think she just felt bad for me based on how I looked. I ate the whole medium and strapped the small to the deck of my boat and headed up river to the hotel I reserved. My shoulder pain disappeared the moment I hit land but I still knew I needed to rest it to prevent further damage.
Another day of paddling into the wind and destroying my shoulder. It’s not terrible pain but I can tell I have been working it fighting through the wind and waves. It was a short paddle. Another campsite that was down a hidden trail. This one was overgrown but I can tell that I am very remote so I got excited about the star gazing. While I was sitting there in the overgrown weeds I heard something tromping around not too far. Sure enough it was a boar. This time I could see him just about 20 feet away. I still couldn’t get a picture before he disappeared into the marsh but was on the lookout for the rest of the night. I laid there with the top of my tent open staring up at a million tiny specs lighting up the sky. I dozed off while waiting for it to get darker to try and take a picture. When I woke up I was too exhausted to take any pictures so I will have to settle for mental pictures.
I walked out of my room overlooking the boat ramp and heard some fisherman talking about the winds. They said it was calling for 5-10 knots and that it felt like 10. I got in my head that maybe I should wait another day but realized I would be bored out of my mind. I loaded up and headed down the river to the Gulf. It was slow moving with the wind and I was dreading the paddle. When I made the turn and got in the open water there was a slight chop but nothing compared to the previous 2 days. It was a pretty blah paddle, nothing exciting and I made decent time on the 13 miles to the camp site. When I saw the sign, I beached and was a little concerned that the site wasn’t that great. It was right on the water but not a lot of room to pitch a tent. I noticed a small trail and decided to explore it and sure enough there was a nice camp site under a tree with a fire ring and fire wood that some one had left. I still had about 3 hours till sunset so I took the time to relax. As the sun was setting I realized it was directly west. Which means I have officially left the pan handle and made the turn south. I am still in a pretty remote area but a good feeling knowing that I have geographically made the turn south. Mentally, in about a week when I round Cedar Key I will officially feel like I am in West Florida. Either way it was a great feeling seeing the sun set directly out over the water. Even though it wasn’t the best sunset, there is just something peaceful about seeing the sun drop into the ocean with nothing around.
I woke up early to hopefully beat the wind and high seas. I could hear the wind ripping through the palm tree above my tent. I gave it a little bit and decided it wasn’t going to get better so I made a run for it. It wasn’t as bad as yesterday but still not enjoyable. My hands were going numb from yesterday and the cold water splashing on them. It died down some but nowhere near flat. When I got close to the entrance of the mouth of the river I was going up, I tried to cut the corner and hit a oyster shell mound. I got out to walk my boat and was actually happy to walk it. When I was close to the shore I noticed something red and black in the sea grass. I went to explore what it was and saw it was a jacket. Curious, I decided to go through the pockets and found a wallet. No money or credit cards but a Georgia drivers license, social security card, and insurance cards. I threw it on my boat and headed up river. I came to a fish camp and stopped to see if they could help find the owner. I was going to give them some money if they could mail it once it dried out. While talking to two gentleman cleaning fish they asked where I was camping. They then said good luck, the bugs are terrible. That made my decision to get a room at the camp a lot easier. They told me stories about some other people who had paddled through there and I knew some of them. The rooms were on giant stilts with a deck going all the way around the building with views of the swamp land. It was nice to get a shower and charge my batteries, literally and figuratively.
I knew it was going to be a rough day when I only got less than an hour continuous sleep with paranoia waking me up thinking I was pig food. I paddled the 3 miles through the alligator infested water back to the Gulf. Even though the tide was going out it was still hard to paddle down the river. When I rounded the bend and hit the gulf it was miserable. The wind was blowing hard directly from the east into my face. The waves were 3-4 feet. The only angle I could go to prevent from getting rolled caused about every other wave to splash water directly on my face and soak my body, while slowly filling my boat. My hands were screaming from a mixture of cold and pain of gripping my paddle with every stroke. I could see Rock Island off in the distance where I was going to camp but it never seemed to get closer. When I would stop to pump water out of my boat I would float back about 100 yards off course. After several hours I finally made land fall completely broken both physically and mentally. The no-see-ems were eating me alive. I got my dry clothes on and was able to get my tent up and climbed into my sleeping bad wanting to die. After a while the sun set and I felt a little more human like. Someone had left some fire wood at the campsite and I was able to get a big fire going hoping to bring heat back to my body. As I sat there staring at the fire, reminiscing about how terrible my day was, I realized that it was Veterans Day. That served as a huge piece of humble pie. I’m out here putting myself in these situations for my own personal reasons. I know that hopefully it’s helping others see that there is a good life out there. But while I’m fighting all the elements, I didn’t have bullets flying at my head. I could make a fire to get warm and not have to worry about giving away my position. I can go to sleep tonight and rest my bones not having to worry about someone sneaking up to killing me. No matter how miserable of a day I had, it’s nothing compared to what our soldiers are going through. And if it wasn’t for our soldiers fighting for our freedom I wouldn’t be able to put myself in these “character building” situations like I did today. And I will never forget that.
I am standing here on a wooden platform about 4 miles up a river staring into the dark forest as I hear a large animal crashing around getting closer and closer. I have my head lamp on high hoping to see eyes. I have a half full nalgene water bottle in one hand and my phone in the other. My buck knife is under my arm with the safety off ready to be drawn if needed. Heart beating probably as hard as it ever has.
I was up before the sun and ready to go. I could feel nature dialing my number but it wasn’t calling just yet. I broke down camp then looked around for a place to go. I started walking over and looked up to see a gentleman walking down the trail towards me. I play it off like I was looking for something and go drop off my TP and head over to talk to him. I guess I was only about 2 miles from the parking lot according to him. We had a nice chat but I had to get going. I get back to my boat and get caught up with a phone call. I’m now way behind when I wanted to leave but had 2 good conversations so it’s all good. It was high tide so getting back to the ocean was easy from the stand point of water levels, not so much navigation. I was weaving through the marsh lands and finally made it to the open ocean with only about 4 wrong turns. The water was choppy and the wind was coming from the east right in my face. I had about 10 miles open water paddling and it was not easy. Water was splashing up on me and in the boat. Nothing to be worried about but with the wind it was a little chilly. About half way I saw some rocks on a sand bar and figured it was a good place to take a break. There was a boat there with people fishing. It was so windy I couldn’t talk to them so I just pulled up and stepped out and peed in the water in front of them. I turned my back of course. They left soon and looked at me and waved as I sat there. It was kind of a last chance to ask for help before they left me sitting in the middle of the ocean wave. I pushed through and had trouble finding the entrance to the river I needed to go up to camp. When I did find it I still had to go 3 miles up river. It was low tide and the river kept getting smaller in width. It winded through till I got to the state park boat ramp. The fisherman were complaining about how rough it was out there today so I felt good knowing that I survived. One of the guys was telling me to watch out for bears and boars around here. I told him that I had a boar in my camp last night and thought it was a bear till I looked up if they had wild boars. He said that bears can be scared off easily but boars are savage. He had 5 dogs killed by boars. I asked if he had any other bedtime stories to help me sleep tonight. He did tell me that boars can’t lift there heads so you can jump if they charge. Don’t know if it’s true but I will be jumping when I’m not screaming. I headed up the river to the paddlers camp site. Right when I started paddling something caught my eye on the east bank. It was something sliding into the water. I didn’t see it fully but it was either an alligator tail or a big snake. I went with the lesser of two evils in my opinion and guessed alligator. I was blown away by the beauty of the section of this tiny river at this point. I was soaking it in when I saw a sign for the camp site guarded by an alligator on the other side of the river. I pulled my boat out and went to the campsite. You can tell it hasn’t been used in a while but was very nice. It had a tent platform built as an Eagle Scout project. I got a fire going and set up. I went back to see if the alligator was still by the shore right before dark. When I got there I heard something go crashing through the woods on the other side of the river. It had to be a black bear by the sound of it. I went back and put a few more logs on the fire and tried to relax. Which brings me to a little after dark when I began hearing something new tromping in the woods on my side of the river. I yelled trying to scare it off but it kept tromping. I figured it was a boar but it kept coming closer. It could be a bear since I had just eaten dinner and it wanted to join. Since it didn’t run off I prepared for battle with the boar. First thing I did was strap on my sandals and stretch incase I needed to jump. I got on the platform for the high ground. My thought process was that if I could hit it with the water bottle I would stun it, I could get a picture, then if it didn’t run I would use the knife to defend myself. Luckily it didn’t come to that but I spent quite a long time standing on the platform watching and listening. It went a way at one point and came back from a different direction but wasn’t alone. I could hear at least 2 crunching in the woods. I figured if I got one and the other killed me, then when they found my body they would know I put up a good fight! (Just kidding, Mom). I kept throwing logs into the fire and into the woods. At one point I heard a snort so I knew it wasn’t a bear. They finally left. At least for now but I am keeping my ears pealed. Alligator, Boars, and Bears, oh my!