Camping Hell in the Ten Thousand Islands

Pavillion Key kayakfari night stars camp everglades kayak ten thousand islands gulf canoe beach 10000 hell panorama

Camping in Hell under the stars on Pavillion Key in the Ten Thousand Islands.
CLICK for evil 360 VR panorama!

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Darwin's Place kayakfari Everglades Camp aerial kayak Flex Maslan canoe Darwin wilderness waterway

Crazy from the bugs!! Darwin’s Place in Everglades National Park.
CLICK for frantic 360 VR Aerial view!

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Starting with a late departure, this trip, very late in the Everglades camping season seemed all about pushing our luck.  Ted of the Palm Beach Water Yaks meetup group came up with this trip at the last minute. The idea was to revisit the liquor still in the Everglades we had found earlier, and also see a bunch of new places and routes, especially the Gopher Key Calusa mound and Charley Creek out to the Gulf.

Thanks to skill, perseverance and some luck we were able to visit all the spots as planned, however the camping was just plain ugly!!

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camping hell kayakfari everglades bugs kayak satellite flex maslan

Approximate trip route totaled up right about 50 miles.

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I may have possibly been the last person to actually pay for a back country camping permit this season (the Park doesn’t charge for the permits in the summer season).

Well enough, the weather was good, tides in our favor, although we didn’t actually depart until 4:45pm. It was a 3 day/3 night kinda trip .. if that makes any sense?! Essentially we did a full day’s paddle in just about two hours to our first camp at the new Crooked Creek chickee, about 9 miles away.

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Everglades City aerial kayakfari Florida kayak Chokoloskee Bay launch ramp canoe

Birds-eye view of kayak launch into Chokoloskee Bay at Everglades City.
CLICK for VR 360 aerial panoramic!

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Per Ted’s suggestion we took the back route behind Chokoloskee up the Turner River a bit and then making our way SE along Mud Bay and Cross Bays to the Crooked Creek chickee.

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camping hell kayakfari everglades bugs kayak canoe flex maslan

Going up the Turner River there’s this very large mound / ridge with a historical marker sign. Please leave a comment if you know what this is!

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There’s a cut just off Crooked Creek where the Park positioned the new Crooked Creek chickee. It replaces the old Sunday Bay chickee which has been removed permanently.

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Crooked Creek kayakfari everglades chickee kayak camping ten thousand islands camp flex maslan

It’s 7:03pm .. do you know where your chickee is??
Arrival “just in time” at the new Crooked Creek chickee.

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Crooked Creek kayakfari everglades chickee kayak camping ten thousand islands camp flex maslan

The Ladies room at Crooked Creek chickee

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Crooked Creek kayakfari everglades chickee kayak camping ten thousand islands camp flex maslan

Ted blows up his .. mattress, yodeled a bit like an Alpine horn~

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Camping on the Crooked Creek chickee would in hind sight turn out to be the nicest of the three nights. There were the usual no-see-ums for a while, but thanks to a breeze, hardly any skeeters! The night turned out to be nice & clear and comfortable.

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Crooked Creek kayakfari everglades chickee kayak camping ten thousand islands camp flex maslan

Orion setting over Crooked Creek chickee in the darkness, April 2013.

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Crooked Creek kayakfari everglades chickee kayak camping ten thousand islands camp flex maslan

My tent glowing red on the Crooked Creek chickee .. later on.

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Morning brought a nice new day with a little bit of a nice breeze.

Crooked Creek kayakfari aerial everglades chickee kayak camping ten thousand islands camp flex maslan

Aerial bird’s-eye view of our camp on the Crooked Creek chickee in the morning.

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camping hell kayakfari everglades bugs kayak canoe flex maslan

Cruising down Sunday Bay in Everglades National Park en-route to Liquor Still Bay.

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One of the trip objectives was to re-visit Loren “Totch” Brown’s old liquor still site as detailed in a previous story “Moonshine in the 10000 Islands” .

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Liquor Still Bay kayakfari everglades moonshine totch brown islands 10000 ten thousand flex maslan

At the entry to the liquor still site.. looks like could be anywhere, right!?

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Liquor Still Bay kayakfari everglades moonshine totch brown islands 10000 ten thousand flex maslan

Ted pointing out the shell mound walkway that Totch’s father had built in the early 1930’s !

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To help preserve the integrity of this site, I am purposely vague with our route and omitting any directions – sorry!

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Liquor Still Bay kayakfari everglades moonshine totch brown islands 10000 ten thousand flex maslan

Remains of an old moonshine barrel .. looks like might even be one of the original Totch era casks

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Liquor Still Bay kayakfari everglades moonshine totch brown islands 10000 ten thousand flex maslan

Totch Brown’s Liquor Still in the Ten Thousand Islands, Everglades, April 2013.
The masonry is circa 1930 original; the top is a replica made for a documentary about Loren ‘Totch’ Brown’s life.
CLICK for superwide VR panorama!

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Liquor Still Bay kayakfari everglades moonshine totch brown islands 10000 ten thousand flex maslan

In good company ..

Liquor Still Bay kayakfari everglades moonshine totch brown islands 10000 ten thousand flex maslan

! CHEERS .. to Totch Brown & Gladesmen!!

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I had brought a lil something to raise a

toast to Totch and all Gladesmen

(and the women who put up with them) !

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Liquor Still Bay kayakfari everglades moonshine totch brown islands 10000 ten thousand flex maslan

This is the concrete lined pen Totch’s father built as described in his book .. to keep bugs and worms from getting into the barrels!

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Liquor Still Bay kayakfari everglades moonshine totch brown islands 10000 ten thousand flex maslan

Ant’ eye ground view of Totch’s liquor original still foundation and replica still.

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Read more about Totch Brown’s liquor still from a previous visit:

Moonshine in the Ten Thousand Islands

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Meanwhile, back en-route down towards Darwin’s Place you can’t help but see this very last privately owned cabin inside Everglades National Park. It’s a really nice setup!

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huston bay house everglades kayakfari cabin kayak private flex maslan

Continuing on past the well maintained (last) private camp in Huston Bay.

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Darwin’s Place is a ground back country campsite (no fires allowed). It was the home for many years of Arthur Darwin, a friendly hermit who had a house here. Today it’s just a dry spot for camping, but the cleared area was much larger once when people were living off the land!

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Darwin's Place kayakfari Everglades Camp kayak Flex Maslan canoe Darwin wilderness waterway

Arrival at Darwin’s Place, 4:57pm, Everglades ground site.

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Darwin's Place kayakfari Everglades Camp kayak Flex Maslan canoe Darwin wilderness waterway

Masonry foundation is all that remains of Arthur Darwin’s home ..

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Darwin's Place kayakfari Everglades Camp kayak Flex Maslan canoe Darwin wilderness waterway

The Bitches love my Britches” .. lol, Ted’s kayak.

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As I had suspected – this would be a buggy site. So much so that right after dinner I retreated into my tent – and was very glad that I had brought my larger tent!

Ted had a very small tent, and he looked like he was in a “cage”. We dared not put our rain fly’s up due to the heat .. it was muggy in the 80’s.

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Darwin's Place kayakfari Everglades Camp kayak Flex Maslan canoe Darwin wilderness waterway

It’s 6:40pm .. and I have retreated into my tent immediately after dinner.

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With beer and relief bottle in tent – I was all set for the next 12+ hours, once I killed off the remaining bugs already inside my tent!

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Darwin's Place kayakfari Everglades Camp kayak Flex Maslan canoe Darwin wilderness waterway

A blood sample on my tent roof that I had involuntarily donated to a deceased mosquito~

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Darwin's Place kayakfari Everglades Camp kayak Flex Maslan canoe Darwin wilderness waterway

You keep on knocking but you can’t come in~!!

Darwin's Place kayakfari Everglades Camp kayak Flex Maslan canoe Darwin wilderness waterway

Close knit no-see-um netting keeps bugs outside the inner sanctum!

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Darwin's Place kayakfari Everglades Camp kayak Flex Maslan canoe Darwin wilderness waterway

So what to do ?? still light out, not yet sleepy .. take close-up macros of my tent.

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Darwin's Place kayakfari Everglades Camp kayak Flex Maslan canoe Darwin wilderness waterway

My tent and my zipper
.. they comfort me!
I fear no evil !

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Darwin's Place kayakfari Everglades Camp kayak Flex Maslan canoe Darwin wilderness waterway

Ted, suited up, emerges from his micro-tent / cage after about 12+ hours~

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Darwin's Place kayakfari Everglades Camp aerial kayak Flex Maslan canoe Darwin wilderness waterway

Ted is going crazy from the bugs! Frantic aerial view of packing up at Darwin’s Place.
CLICK for frantic VR 360 panoramic!

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The morning brought a lot of clouds and dampness. We managed to pack up camp in record time!

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camping hell kayakfari everglades bugs kayak canoe flex maslan

We got lucky and didn’t actually get rained on until out on the water! Paddling out of Darwin’s Place into Cannon Bay.

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Gopher Key kayakfari everglades calusa shell mound indian conch clam flex maslan

Entering Gopher Creek from the north side.

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Gopher Key kayakfari everglades calusa shell mound indian conch clam flex maslan

On Gopher Creek ..

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Gopher Key kayakfari everglades calusa shell mound indian conch clam flex maslan

Looking for an entry into the Gopher Key (Calusa) mound. This could be one of at least two entrances. Note the two big trees..

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Gopher Key kayakfari everglades calusa shell mound indian conch clam flex maslan

At the actual entry into the Gopher Key mound .. very very soft mud!

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Searching for an entry into the Gopher Key Calusa mound we paddled around the key. The high ground is easy to see from a distance since there are tall trees growing on it and it is in fact the only thing that sticks up above the mangroves! However finding what could be an entrance took a little bit of searching. Eventually I spotted what looked like a footprint in the mud, then after standing up in the kayak, I was sure that there were several footprints. It was only one set, from a single person, a smaller person I would say based on the size.

Anyway we had found it!

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Gopher Key kayakfari everglades calusa shell mound indian conch clam flex maslan

Once out of the boat you can see that there is a “path” to follow.

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Gopher Key kayakfari everglades calusa shell mound indian conch clam flex maslan

There must be thousands and thousands of shells of all kinds which the Calusa had left and used to build up the (Indian) mound!

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Gopher Key kayakfari everglades calusa shell mound indian conch clam flex maslan

Evidence of more recent activity as someone had sawed off this Gumbo-Limbo stump.

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Gopher Key kayakfari everglades calusa shell mound indian conch clam flex maslan

Can you say “overgrown” ?!

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The site is obviously fully overgrown, and the mound is really more like a long high ridge, maybe just 2 – 4 feet above the water in spots.

Note that all artifacts in Everglades National Park are protected by law!

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Gopher Key kayakfari everglades calusa shell mound indian conch clam flex maslan

Walking over the shell (literaly) mound. The mud coating my legs helped keep the skeeters off!

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Gopher Key kayakfari everglades calusa shell mound indian conch clam flex maslan

This tree is long gone, yet leaves a presence, not unlike the Calusa and their (Indian) mound at Gopher Key.
CLICK for superwide VR panorama!

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Gopher Key kayakfari everglades calusa shell mound indian conch clam flex maslan

Here you can see the mound, really more like a ridge going into the near distance.

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With excitement and the rush of adrenaline, I didn’t even pay attention to all the skeeters while taking these pics ..

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Gopher Key kayakfari everglades calusa shell mound indian conch clam flex maslan

Wider view of the Calusa mound / ridge with healthy strand of Gumbo-Limbo trees.

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Gopher Key kayakfari everglades calusa shell mound indian conch clam flex maslan

Conch shell with hole clearly made by a person. No doubt the meat was extracted, and the Calusa may then have used this shell as a sort of hammer.

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As we were leaving .. we imagined the mound / ridge as a clearing with a small Calusa settlement on top, with entries on either side and the residents eating very well, as evidenced by all the shellfish!

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Gopher Key kayakfari everglades calusa shell mound indian conch clam flex maslan

Looking straight up into the Gumbo-Limbo canopy at Gopher Key Calusa mound.

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Gopher Key kayakfari everglades calusa shell mound indian conch clam flex maslan

Walking back out to the boats, some really soft Everglades muck!!

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Coming out of Gopher Creek, we entered a middle area, sort of like a prairie punctuated with shallow mud puddles. This was on low tide and the water was only inches deep.

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Gopher Key kayakfari everglades calusa shell mound indian conch clam flex maslan

It’s low tide and we had some time to kill. Lunch break in the area between Gopher Creek and Charley Creek.

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Gopher Key kayakfari everglades calusa shell mound indian conch clam flex maslan

Extreme wet (soft) and extreme dry within inches of each other along these mud banks.

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Gopher Key kayakfari everglades calusa shell mound indian conch clam flex maslan

Surreal landscape mix of dead Buttonwood trees and fresh newer growth. Lot’s of birds in this area.

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Gopher Key kayakfari everglades calusa shell mound indian conch clam flex maslan

The “Banana Boat” on the mud bank .. waiting on the tide.

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Gopher Key kayakfari everglades calusa shell mound indian conch clam flex maslan

In the shade, Ted does a map check vs GPS with the Google Earth printouts I had brought.

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Gopher Key kayakfari everglades calusa shell mound indian conch clam flex maslan

Parched Everglades mud!

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Gopher Key kayakfari everglades calusa shell mound indian conch clam flex maslan

Large bird footprint – probably a Heron.

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The mix of dead Buttonwood trees (perhaps killed off by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, or maybe by saltwater intrusion) and newer mangrove clusters give this landscape a surreal look.

Seeing this just cried out for me to bust out and do some aerial pictures like the one below!

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Gopher Creek Charley kayakfari aerial everglades rookery bay mud flex maslan mangrove birds

Aerial panoramic of a surreal landscape between Charley Creek and Gopher Creek in Everglades National Park.
CLICK for aerial 360 VR panorama goodness!

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Gopher Key kayakfari everglades calusa shell mound indian conch clam flex maslan

Vertical panorama in the Everglades.

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Once past all the mud and shallows, we entered Charley Creek, which is basically a long mangrove tunnel.

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Charley Creek kayakfari everglades rookery bay mud flex maslan mangrove birds

Entering the tunnel into Charley Creek, Everglades National Park.

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Charley Creek kayakfari everglades rookery bay mud flex maslan mangrove birds

Picturesque mangrove tunnel that is Charley Creek, Everglades.

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Charley Creek kayakfari everglades rookery bay mud flex maslan mangrove birds

Tall strands of mangroves along Charley Creek.

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Charley Creek kayakfari everglades rookery bay mud flex maslan mangrove birds

Negotiating one of the many twists and bends in Charley Creek, Everglades National Park.
CLICK for superwide VR panoramic!

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Charley Creek kayakfari everglades rookery bay mud flex maslan mangrove exit gulf

Exit out of Charley Creek into the Gulf of Mexico and islands of Everglades National Park.

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It turned out to be a beaut of a day after all as we cruised the Gulf towards Turkey and New Turkey keys not too far away. Here I have to mention what a great pace Ted keeps up and what a treat it was to paddle together!

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New Turkey Key kayakfari everglades kayak ten thousand islands beach flex maslan canoe gulf camp

Lunch break on New Turkey Key in the Ten Thousand Islands, Everglades.

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New Turkey Key kayakfari everglades kayak ten thousand islands beach flex maslan canoe gulf camp

Scenic New Turkey Key in the Everglades.

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Heading out in the afternoon towards Pavillion Key, I was picturing island bug-free camping. Then I noticed this cloud formation ..

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New Turkey Key kayakfari everglades kayak finger ten thousand islands beach flex maslan canoe gulf camp

Was this a sign of things to come??

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Pavillion Key kayakfari camp everglades kayak ten thousand islands gulf canoe beach 10000 hell panorama

Arrival on Pavillion Key in the Ten Thousand Islands, Everglades.

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We set up camp on the north tip of Pavillion Key and enjoyed a good dinner. Ted was even able to bake some corn bread!

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Pavillion Key kayakfari camp everglades kayak ten thousand islands gulf canoe beach 10000 hell panorama

Ted’s portable stove baked up some great corn bread on Pavillion Key!

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Pavillion Key kayakfari camp everglades kayak ten thousand islands gulf canoe beach 10000 hell panorama

After dinner, Gulf sunset over Pavillion Key, just before all the bugs came out to play ..

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Unfortunately, the winds dropped at sunset and mosquitoes came out in full force, even out here far away from vegetation. Once again, we were forced to retreat to our tents, I could hear  the buzz over my head, there were a lot of skeeters!!

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Pavillion Key kayakfari night stars camp everglades kayak ten thousand islands gulf canoe beach 10000 hell panorama

Camping in Hell! About midnight winds picked up and allowed me to leave the inner sanctum of my tent. Total darkness under the stars on Pavillion Key in the Ten Thousand Islands.
CLICK for evil 360 VR panorama!

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It was pretty bad that we had to stay in the tents until after midnight when (as forecast) the winds shifted and picked up to near 15 kts! Only then were we able to get out again and put more stuff back in the boats to keep it away from the roving Raccoons. They took some interest in a dry bag of mine, even though there was no food inside, and tossed it into some brush.

Looking around it was dark as could be, with only the glows from the different area towns and further distant cities. It was a good time to experiment with some night panoramic photography which you should check out above!

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Pavillion Key kayakfari camp everglades kayak ten thousand islands gulf canoe beach 10000 hell panorama

Seagrape leaf on Pavillion Key in the morning. It’s a really nice island!

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Pavillion Key kayakfari aerial camp everglades kayak ten thousand islands gulf canoe beach 10000 hell panorama

Morning aerial view camping on the north tip of Pavillion Key in Everglades National Park, Ten Thousand Islands.
CLICK for fullscreen 360 VR aerial pano!

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Pavillion Key kayakfari camp everglades kayak ten thousand islands gulf canoe beach 10000 hell panorama

Departing Pavillion Key in the morning for the return trip home.

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Rabbit Key (not to be confused with Little Rabbit Key which is in Florida Bay) is just to the north. As we arrived on low tide, there is but one little channel on the east side of the large sandbar. Even so we had to wait a bit for more water to fill it in.

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Rabbit Key kayakfari everglades kayak ten thousand islands beach flex maslan canoe gulf camp

Ted makes landfall on the Rabbit Key sandbar.

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Rabbit Key kayakfari everglades kayak ten thousand islands beach flex maslan canoe gulf camp

Panoramic of Rabbit Key and sandbar on low tide. I’m standing in the little channel that allows kayaks to get through.

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The shallows around Rabbit Key were inviting for a swim to cool off and also resulted in this awesome aerial panoramic you see below!

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Rabbit Key kayakfari aerial everglades kayak ten thousand islands beach flex maslan canoe gulf camp

Crossing over Rabbit Key at low tide in the Ten Thousand Islands, Everglades National Park.
CLICK for awesome 360 aerial panoramic!!

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Rabbit Key Pass kayakfari everglades kayak ten thousand islands beach flex maslan canoe

Cruising into Rabbit Key Pass in the Ten Thousand Islands, Everglades.

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Rabbit Key Pass kayakfari everglades kayak ten thousand islands beach flex maslan canoe

Osprey family in the nest along Rabbit Key Pass, Ten Thousand Islands.

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And then, the road home ..

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Chokoloskee kayakfari Bay kayak ten thousand islands flex maslan

Chokoloskee Bay and Chokoloskee island-town.

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Chokoloskee kayakfari Ted Smallwood kayak canoe ten thousand islands flex maslan

Historic and famous Smallwoods Store in Chokoloskee. Note the large Cypress Dugout canoe under the building!

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Everglades City kayakfari kayak launch canoe Chokoloskee Bay Florida enp

Everglades City Ranger Station .. well there you have it, the END!

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Read more about Totch Brown’s liquor still from a previous visit:

Moonshine in the Ten Thousand Islands

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http://kayakfari.wordpress.com/trips-sea-stories-pics/moonshine-in-the-10-000-islands/

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Enjoy!

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© 2013 Flex Maslan / kayakfari.com / digital029art.com. All original photographs, artworks and music in this portfolio are copyrighted and owned by the artist, Flex Maslan, unless otherwise noted. Any reproduction, modification, publication, transmission, transfer, or exploitation of any of the content, for personal or commercial use, whether in whole or in part, without written permission from the artist is strictly prohibited.

All rights reserved.

DISCLAIMER:: The maps and images on this site are not intended for navigation, I am not a guide; use any and all information at your own risk! Your mileage may vary .. so use good judgement before venturing out!

With that said..
Blessings friends!

:)

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Susan
    Sep 21, 2013 @ 10:27:34

    Flex – great trip report. I look forward to seeing you at Chris and Gisa’s get together. Susan

    Reply

  2. The most secluded remote boating spots in the U.S. - SailNet Community
    Jan 07, 2014 @ 22:24:37

  3. Sandra Jackson
    Mar 08, 2014 @ 17:30:38

    We just returned from camping 5 days at Flamingo in Everglades National Park. It was our first visit to the Everglades. This brought back great memories, especially the pictures of the stars. So impressed you could capture that on film. Thank you for sharing. We have aspirations to camp on a Chickee next. Work now, play later. Hopefully before the blazing Florida heat returns!

    Reply

  4. Cody
    May 10, 2014 @ 07:54:24

    Thank you for that nice 15 minutes.

    Reply

    • Kayakfari
      May 10, 2014 @ 10:15:03

      You’re welcome Cody! C’mon back for another 15 ..

      Reply

  5. Steve Lee
    Aug 01, 2014 @ 08:29:58

    Great trip report. Loved the pano shots. I’m guessing you used a quadcopter for the aerials ? If so, what brand ?
    Happy Trails
    Steve

    Reply

  6. Steve Lee
    Aug 01, 2014 @ 09:12:48

    Just read how you did it on the techniques page- brilliant ! Way cheaper than a drone and more reliable.

    Steve

    Reply

    • Kayakfari
      Aug 01, 2014 @ 10:55:34

      Thanks Steve, I just referred your previous comment. Look for an update on the hardware (nuts & bolts aspect) coming real soon!
      -Flex

      Reply

  7. walt greer
    Sep 14, 2014 @ 16:45:21

    Nice report. good photography, accurate information. Smartly done.

    Reply

  8. Paul
    Dec 08, 2014 @ 12:40:37

    you mentioned that you dont suggest using your pics for navigation. Where did you get maps for navigation?

    Reply

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