Moonshine in the 10 000 Islands
Look at the panoramic above and imagine hacking out a small clearing in the above mangrove forest to live in and operate a clandestine moonshine still. This is what Totch Brown’s father John Brown did during the Great Depression to make ends meet during those difficult times. His life story is fascinating, and I couldn’t possibly do it justice here, suffice to say I will mention that you should read Totch: A Life in the Everglades by Loren G. Brown. In this post I will offer you a photo-journey-essay to find this “lost” relic in Everglades National Park.
As I was recently afforded the opportunity to paddle and find this site in the apt named “Liquor Still Bay”, I jumped at the chance to explore a colorful bit of the old time Everglades! The plan was to paddle to the find the still, check it out, and continue on to our campsite. Next day return via a different route, for a rough total of about 40 miles or as it would be.
Since we were going to find the remnants of an illegal liquor still, I felt it was good form to fly the colors and represent!!
Arrival in Liquor Still Bay
Finally, the remains of the still camp literaly pop out of the woodwork!!
Compare these pics with this video filmed in 1993, The Everglades Outlaw, Totch Brown, watch @ 3:26 as the camp was re-created for a documentary!
In this video, Totch talks a bit about his life, and living in the frontier ‘Glades: Yesterday’s Everglades Preview
As a young boy, Totch lived in an 8 x 14ft tar shack just behind the still..
John Brown had filled the camp with shells and debris to create a shell mound much like the Calusa did generations previously..
Mission accomplished, we headed out towards the Gulf on a slack tide..
Winds had picked up as our first “big” cold front moved over the area, kicking up 3 -5 ft seas. As it was getting late, and we had already paddled 20 miles, we elected to surf down-weather towards Mormon Key a couple of miles south. About 20 minutes later we were beaching the boats and enjoying the refreshing 15-20 knot winds and sunset!
Meanwhile, back at the campsite, I was watching the setting crescent moon, the moonshine, and the belt of our milky way straight overhead.. so you can see it was still windy == NO BUGS!!
The next morning was very comfortable and clear, winds had shifted to the N-NE and dropped considerably. One cool thing about Mormon Key is that it is completely covered in shells, from pulverized microscopic pieces (“sand”) to foot-long pieces and giant clams. The ancient Calusa ate well, I think!
On a different note, as beautiful as it is, this beach has been overtaken by sandspurs (“sticklers”), like the one’s you’ve painfully stepped on at the beach.. sadly I don’t think you can find a spot that isn’t covered with them here! They will poke through your tent floor, and into your mattress and/or private parts..lol, and you will need three tarps to prevent this. Even after you think you’ve got rid of them all, you will find even MORE! My final surprise was a few that managed to attach themselves to the underside of my sprayskirt as I went in to launch.. !
A delightful 20 mile open water paddle lays ahead..
..was followed by an awesome fish sandwich and cold beer at
Thanks to Kayak Ted of the Palm Beach Water Yaks for organizing!
© 2012 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.
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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..