Everglades hot summer camping and cruising – the Central & Western Florida Bay loop!

Freestyle leisure paddling and camping in a

tropical marine wilderness!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak loop summer paddle everglades chickee Camp mud flats tide turtle grass Keys heat satellite

Summer casual camping loop of Central and Western Florida Bay over 5 days and 4 nights.
Afternoon and evening storms / squalls caused a change of plans on the last night / day!
CLICK for bigger version.

.

This trip came about because of a meeting of the minds. I needed to get out of the city for a few days and had previously discussed a summer camping trip somewhere in the South Florida wilderness with New York based paddler Johna Till Johnson of windagainstcurrent.com. We both wanted to do a multi-day trip and I suggested Florida Bay as I am very familiar with it and also because I knew that bugs there are really not that bad, even during the summer.

For those not familiar with Florida Bay, I suggest reading through:

Chickees and Keys in Florida Bay – Kayaking, Camping and Nice Dreams!

(The article was featured in the final Feb/Mar 2014 issue of Sea Kayaker magazine.)

.

Flamingo aerial kayakfari Florida Everglades Bay kayak boat launch ramp canoe

The boat ramps at Flamingo are the gateway to much of Florida Bay!
CLICK for more aerial and VR panoramas.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Summer guest paddlers: Johna Till Johnson from New York and Jenn C. from Tampa preparing to launch. But wait – there’ll be one more!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure horse fly

BUG ALERT: Striped Horse Fly (Tabanus lineola)! 😮
These flies were really the only bugs of consequence, esp. at Flamingo and on Little Rabbit Key.

.

Florida Bay is a step just

outside of the world of people!

Florida Bay is essentially a tidal marine estuary shaped like a pizza slice nestled between the Florida Keys and the mainland. It covers about 800 square miles and is a part of Everglades National Park. As a kid in South Florida schools, I remember looking at the map of Florida on the classroom wall and seeing dozens of islands that nobody could tell me much about. Even today, many people are not very familiar with it. I’ve spent much quality time out there by myself over the years, so it’s always nice to be able to invite capable paddlers to share the magic of the ‘Bay with!

Paddling on Florida Bay is largely dictated by the tides first, then the weather second. The reason is that there are several “banks” which are grassy mud flats on low tide and impassable. Thus the general plan is always be to paddle with a rising tide, lest you may get stranded for several hours on the flats! Because of this feauture, the ‘Bay receives fewer boaters and paddlers than say the Ten Thousand Islands or the interior Everglades. The general boating public does not venture into Florida Bay much, and the few boaters out are usually fisher folk in flats boats and in the main boating channels. They are also a more considerate and competent class of boaters! In the summer very few or no paddlers actually venture out past the roughly three mile zone south of Flamingo. For campers, there are two wooden chickee structures and a couple of islands to get out on. Although there are dozens of keys in the ‘Bay, most are just large clusters of mangroves with maybe a briny lagoon on the inside. Few have any actual dry land to get out on, and in fact the Park prohibits landing on any islands not designated for public access! During the summer there is no backcountry fee, but a permit is still needed and should be filled out at the Flamingo Ranger Station.

All of the above add up to make Florida Bay the kind of place to really get away from it all!

Once out past the first line of keys outside Flamingo, it is sometimes still possible to go for days without hearing any background noises or engine sounds. When sound happens it’s usually a plane high overhead or a boater somewhere in the distance and fades away quickly. So even though Florida Bay is surrounded by a busy world of people, once inside it’s like a step back into time. It’s easy to imagine what the string of Florida Keys must have been like before all the islands were connected by bridges!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Paddling away from the horse flies and into a summer shower on Florida Bay.
Paddling in the Rain, Just Paddlin’ and Campin’ in the Rain .. sing along!

.

Summer in South Florida is the wet and rainy season and tends to be very hot! For paddlers the extreme heat and humidity can be risk factors for those unprepared. On any summer trip, it is essential to have up to twice the amount of drinking water that you think you need! This means ideally you should have up to 2 gallons (8 liters) of water per day. Most of us living in South Florida are habituated to the comfort of air conditioning, and it’s very easy to underestimate how much water you can sweat out! Also there is the ever present possibility of afternoon squalls and violent thunderstorms. This is really the main wildcard to deal with, although even in the summer the storms or lack there-of tend to come in batches. With keen observation, it is possible to find a window for camping and avoid storms. For one or two night trips, the odds can be good. However if you stay out long enough, the odds will eventually catch up, as we shall see!

You can read more about dealing with the summer heat in:

Surrender to the summer HEAT!

.

Meet the paddlers:

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Johna Till Johnson of  windagainstcurrent.com has about 10 years of paddling under her sprayskirt including a successful completion of the EC 300 (Everglades Challenge) with Vladimir Brezina.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Jenn C. from Tampa, Florida is a lifelong outdoors person and athlete. While relatively new to sea kayaking, she shows great form and came well prepared!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglade chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure painen dias

There was another mystery “paddler”, more of a sailor really that was Painen Dias!
Read on to reveal his identity! 😉

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Summer Sombrero – check. Face protector – check. Flex Kayakfari – Czech! 😉
While the Banana Boat is my first choice for most outback touring, I elected to go with CLOUD9 (Venture Kayaks Orca 16) for this trip due to space constraints on the chickees.

.

There is quite a lot I’d like to show you from this trip! Through my photography I’d like to impart onto you the feel of the full experience of being out there for several days. There are a lot of pictures, some illustrative of similar moments from other previous trips. Many images will have borders and are links to other related stories, trips and artwork you might also be interested in!

Because this is a big story, five days – I’m keeping the writing to a minimum and going mostly with photos and captions from here on!

.

flex maslan everglades kayakfari summer heat kayak paddle camp surrender hot storms sun protection miami florida

Presenting the Kayakfari summer collection ..
Stay cool all the while looking dashing all summer!
A kayaker’s tribute to the humble and versatile Sombrero!

.

Day 1 – Flamingo to SPC (Shark Point Chickee):

This is a straightforward paddle due east across Snake Bight. We got a late start, but that fit in with the rising tide all the afternoon. Upon arrival at the chickee we still had some time to chill before sunset. This time the entire platform was clean of any bird droppings which was a big plus! 🙂

.

flex maslan everglades kayakfari summer heat kayak paddle camp surrender hot storms sun protection miami florida

Localized heavy rain in the distance ahead.
Chickees and Keys in Florida Bay – Kayaking, Camping and Nice Dreams!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Arrival at the Shark Point Chickee in the late afternoon.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

The SPC (Shark Point Chickee) fared well during Hurricane Irma in 2017 and was very clean.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Shark Point Chickee is the tallest chickee in the Park and feels like an outback condominium!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Johna has a head for heights while preparing to setup camp on the chickee. 😉

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

The tall elevation of the chickee allows great views of distant keys on the horizon!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

The cell phone tower at Flamingo as seen from the chickee imaged at an effective reach of 5600mm. The tower is 7.5 miles away across Snake Bight due west as the cormorant flies!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

My simple and instant delicious dinner of smoked salmon and green onion with mini toast. 🙂
Tasty & Quick Cooking!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Gorgeous sunset over Florida Bay from Shark Point Chickee.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

The big ball of fire dropping below the horizon!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

The ever changing color palette of a Florida Bay sunset.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Camp Kayakfari on the Shark Point Chickee in full living color! 😮

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

When there is no moon out, the glow of the lights from the string of Keys towns can be seen on the horizon from the chickee. The red light on right is the tower at Flamingo, due west!

.

I always tell people you don’t know chill,

until you Florida Bay chill!

A night on the chickee is probably the ultimate in camping tranquility. The absolute stillness and lack of any kind of background noises is pretty special and something not soon forgotten! Before the moon comes up, you can see the lights from all the Keys towns on the horizon to the south. To the east look for the “summer triangle” of stars. Read about the ancient origins and mythology of the triangle stars and enjoy the night sky!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglade chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure triangle stars

The Summer Triangle and Milky Way in the eastern sky over Florida Bay.
The perpetual glow is the light pollution from urban South Florida!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Later on the rising moon over Florida Bay lit up the nearby keys due east/southeast!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Sunrise from my tent on the Shark Point Chickee. In the backcountry I find it impossible to sleep past dawn!

.

Flex Maslan Everglades kayakfari humor kayak paddle photography florida motivation funny office adventure

Out of the office .. When you want to get away,
Permanently? 😉

.

Shark Point Chickee Everglades camping platform florida bay kayakfari kayak Flex Maslan

Incredible Florida Bay panoramic scenery from the tall Shark Point Chickee.

.

Day 2 – SPC to LRK (Little Rabbit Key):

This was the longest open water stretch of the entire trip at about 12 miles. Paddling in a general due south direction we skirted the eastern edge of the flats of Dildo Key Bank. Aside from dealing with the heat, this really was freestyle leisure paddling! The ladies would ask me which direction is Little Rabbit Key? I’d always answer “It’s straight ahead, you can’t miss it!”. For some reason I got the impression that this maybe wasn’t enough of an answer for them, though I’m always paddling in the right direction! 😉

.

Snake Bight kayakfari Florida Bay kayak Everglades Flex Maslan canoe panoramic 360 sky Garfield low tide shark chickee point sea turtle grass bank

Snake Bight 360 spin around panorama on a similarly calm and flat morning.
CLICK for more panoramas page!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Chart consultation on the ‘Bay, but the truth is that wherever you’re going it’s really “just straight ahead!” 😉

.

Florida Bay is a big place with big skies and lots of open water paddling. Navigation is not difficult, provided attention is paid the the tide and the locations of the flats banks. There’s no need for fancy GPS instruments, but a waterproof chart is a must have unless you know the route well. For us on this trip, we knew that we would have a rising tide each afternoon, thereby assuring us of timely arrival at our camping destinations!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

“It’s straight ahead, you can’t miss it!”
The chart shows the main channels and flats banks in central-western Florida Bay.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

A solitary mangrove shoot on a flats bank in Florida Bay.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

A sweet & delicious home grown juicy mango brings much relief from the permeating heat! 🙂

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Johna cruising on Florida Bay with a summer shower in the background.

.

Flex Maslan kayakfari eclipse lunar supermoon high tides chickee kayak johnson keys photography everglades Florida bay rabbit key

Land Ho !! Sighting Little Rabbit Key in the distance.
Little Rabbit Key – a camping jewel in Central Florida Bay!

.

kayakfari photography art Florida Bay aerial kayak Everglades Flex Maslan landscape panoramic print sea Little Rabbit Key Aerial

Kayakfari ART photography – “Little Rabbit Key Aerial”
ART of the Bay – Florida Bay Landscapes.

.

Little Rabbit Key is a tiny island in the middle of nowhere on Florida Bay with a (usually) dry clay dirt interior for camping. It’s location along the main boating channel is popular with fisher folk both as a destination and a way point stop on their way elsewhere in the ‘Bay. Most tend to stay and fish in the deep channel that surrounds the island. During the day there were hardly any bugs except for the aforementioned horse flies. For some reason they were much more prevalent near the water than at the campsite, which was OK by us. The island is an amazing place with great sunsets and excellent night time sky viewing!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Setting up camp at Little Rabbit Key in the middle of nowhere. 😮

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Summertime inverse use of my space blanket to reflect the scorching sun off my tent!

.

The clay dirt surface of the key has two peculiar features for camping. Firstly, if it has been raining a lot, the dirt will soak up the water and leave just a thin drier crust on the surface. If there’s a high tide during the night, it can push that water back up and re-flood the campsite!

Second, the wet clay dirt can act like a heat sponge, absorbing all the day’s heat, and then releasing it all through the night! I remember one night a few years ago on this island, also in July when the dirt was so hot that it still felt quite warm in the morning! It was like a radiator all around my four season thermarest pad which blocked the direct heat, but it was still a hundred degrees in my tent! On this trip, the ground was just lukewarm, so not too bad for sleeping. The elevated chickee platforms are much nicer for sleeping well in comparison!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Little Rabbit Key has a clay dirt interior like many other Florida Bay keys.
The clay is mixed with vegetation, bird droppings, salt and water. Over time this creates a very tough rawhide-like surface crust.

.

kayakfari supermoon perigee-syzygy florida bay kayak everglades rabbit key 2016 sun spots photography

Freshwater is the most precious commodity out here – consider bringing 2x what you will need!
Surrender to the summer HEAT!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Hurricane Irma passed over Florida Bay in the fall of 2017.
There are areas that look untouched and others where lots of vegetation is missing and trees overturned. Little Rabbit Key fared well, with only some mangrove defoliation.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

The mangroves are blooming in the summer!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Cell phone tower at Flamingo, 12.5 miles away, as seen from the dock at LRK!

.

Due to it’s central location, Little Rabbit Key makes the perfect stop over during an

Across Florida Bay: Flamingo to Long Key Roundtrip Adventure!

On the island, you are at the limit of line of sight of the cell tower at Flamingo to the north, and you can just make out the tall Long Key bridge from the south end. These both make excellent landmarks that make navigation easy, though you always need to watch out for the flats and shoals!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

The tall bridge at Long Key, 10.5 miles away due south from Little Rabbit Key!

.

kayakfari photography art Florida Bay aerial kayak Everglades Flex Maslan landscape panoramic print sea Mirage on the Bay

Extreme telephoto view of distant Key over the flats banks of Florida Bay.
“Mirage on the Bay” – ART of the Bay series of Florida Bay Landscapes.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

The ladies enjoying a fine Florida Bay sunset. There was actually quite a bit of storm activity in the late afternoon, the remnants of which you are seeing here!

.

Flex Maslan kayakfari Banana Boat kayak photography everglades adventure Seda Glider camp tour Florida Bay 1000mm lens

Extreme close up of the sun setting over Florida Bay.
Winter birthday triad on Florida Bay with the ‘Banana Boat’!

.

Across Florida Bay Everglades camping Flex Maslan Little Rabbit Key Long Key Flamingo kayakfari canoe kayak adventure outback flats bank Keys primitive

I made myself a delicious dinner very similar to this one with octopus in garlic sauce.
CLICK: Tasty & Quick Cooking!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Dusk colors of the big Florida Bay sky.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Flamingo tower due north 12.5 miles away as the Pelican flies. It flashes two alternating red lights during the night.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

All sky 360 view of the Milky Way rising over Little Rabbit Key in black & white!

.

The night on Little Rabbit Key was gorgeous once the clouds cleared away. Because the island is ringed by mangroves, there isn’t much of a breeze and there were some skeeters, but nothing that some clothing couldn’t deal with. I like to wear a cotton long sleeve shirt with possibly another light layer underneath. I’m happy to say that I didn’t need any bug spray, in fact I didn’t even bring any. I did have a bug shirt packed, just in case, as I always do!

The Milky Way was rising early in the night, but we wouldn’t see it directly overhead this night as the post-full moon would glare it out later. On moonless nights this island is one of the darkest spots on the entire eastern USA seaboard!

.

kayakfari supermoon perigee-syzygy florida bay kayak everglades rabbit key 2016 sun spots photography

Later on the moon came up and rode across the sky over the little island.
The Supermoon of 2016 and the full moon camping experience at Little Rabbit Key!

.

kayakfari supermoon perigee-syzygy florida bay kayak everglades rabbit key 2016 sun spots photography

The morning was fresh and clear, just like this. Bless!!
The Supermoon of 2016 and the full moon camping experience at Little Rabbit Key!

.

Flex Maslan Florida Bay Kayak Everglades birds kayakfari photography wildlife portraits habitat birding florida artist

A White Heron catches an eel on the flats surrounding Little Rabbit Key.
The Everglades are for the birds!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

The tranquility of the morning was shattered by this trashed plastic bottle floating by.
All that trash – the ugly side of kayaking!

.

Flex Maslan kayakfari Banana Boat kayak photography everglades adventure Seda Glider camp tour Florida Bay 1000mm lens little rabbit key

“Wish you were here” – engaging in tranquility on Lil Rabbit Key.
Chickees and Keys in Florida Bay – Kayaking, Camping and Nice Dreams!

.

Flex Maslan Kayakfari Fisheye photography kayak everglades art adventure fitness panorama veritas aerial

I like fishing – that is fish eye photography! 🙂
The Supermoon of 2016 and the full moon camping experience at Little Rabbit Key.

.

Day 3 – LRK to JKC (Johnson Key Chickee):

As previously mentioned, I had invited one more guest “paddler” to meet up with us on this island the previous day. However nobody showed up, and we weren’t too surprised as we watched giant summer storms to the north of us rolling through last afternoon. Well lo and behold this morning I spot something unusual on the horizon due north. After a while it became clear to me that it was a sailboat, end eventually we were sure it was our guest “paddler” ahem sailor Joe S. of Miami aka Painen Dias! This was a pleasant surprise as we were convinced he hadn’t come out due to all the storms. Turns out Joe slept in his little Goose plywood sailboat in the lee of Johnson Key riding out the storms! 😮

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Meeting up with “guest” sailor Joe S. aka Painen Dias just offshore from Little Rabbit Key!

.

The four of us proceeded to make our way due northwest towards the Johnson Key Chickee platform. The winds were very light, forcing Joe to “pump” the sail much like a windsurfer would to try and catch some wind. Joe is an experienced lifelong sailor and made good time, though of course he had to tack, whereas we paddled straight on. The draft on his little flat bottomed sailboat was possibly even less than our kayaks, once he pulled the centerboard. It’s rare to see sailboats on Florida Bay, so this was a unique sight!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Joe aka Painen Dias making his way towards the Johnson Key Chickee in his little “Goose” sailboat!

.

Flex Maslan kayakfari johnson key chickee paddle everglades florida bay kayak camp skeleton photography halloween kaya kay humor

Approach to Johnson Key Chickee in Florida Bay always reminds me of this one time ..
ART of Halloween kayaking – Kaya Kay’s chickee camping holiday!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Jenn paddles up to the Johnson Key Chickee v3.0 in the mid day heat!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Once on top of the chickee we were thankful for every bit of a breeze but it was still bloody hot and making me see double, triple or whatever!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

It was so hot that we couldn’t even count straight anymore! 😉

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Jenn decided to cool off by doing some rolling practice next to the chickee. These are layback rolls with a float assist, but she completed some without too. Jenn will be a great paddler one day! 🙂

.

Flex Maslan kayakfari Florida Bay johnson key chickee Kayak Everglades Camp mud flats low tide turtle grass Keys photo underwater fish

Schools of fish underneath the chickee on another day when I saw a big Bull Shark cruising through here!
Camping on the Johnson Key platform in Florida Bay.

.

Flex Maslan kayakfari Florida Bay johnson key chickee Kayak Everglades Camp mud flats low tide turtle grass Keys underwater fish

This is what the visibility was really like under the chickee.
Camping on the Johnson Key platform in Florida Bay.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Avid sailor Joe S. from Miami working out his cramp so he could get back on the chickee! 😉

.

flex maslan kayakfari everglades hurricane Irma impact kayak johnson key chickee camp photography trident 11 wing paddle

Last time I was out here the Port-a-potty was still missing and the chickee was closed for camping. With the new toilet it is officially v3.0 !
Hurricane Irma impacts on the Johnson Key Chickee in Florida Bay.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Oh the harsh chickee life, swinging in the light breeze, trying to keep my cool!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Jenn happy in her hammock. 🙂

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Late afternoon light shimmering on the waters of Florida Bay.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Fishermen dropping their lines into the deeper channel around Johnson Key.

.

flex maslan kayakfari everglades kayak canoe humor chickee cooking paddle photography camp

Don’t be afraid to bring out the garlic and onions! 😮
Animated GIFs!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Another one of my delicious dinners featuring mussels in escabeche sauce.
Tasty & Quick Cooking!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Peering at the nicest Florida Bay sunset of the trip!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

The nice thing about the chickees is that once the sun sets, it cools off to a very comfortable temperature!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Loving the Milky Way over nearby Johnson Key!

.

Flex Maslan kayakfari eclipse lunar supermoon high tides chickee kayak johnson keys photography everglades Florida bay venus

Reminiscing of another night on the chickee with Venus rising over Johnson Key.
Harvest moon, Super moon, Blood moon and High Tides of the final tetrad Eclipse of 2015!

.

Flex Maslan kayakfari Florida Bay johnson key chickee Kayak Everglades night panorama moonlight Camp Keys 360 moon photography

“Johnson Key Chickee chilling on Florida Bay under the moon and the stars.”
CLICK for full screen VR 360 Panorama!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

I stayed up to see the moon rising over Johnson Key. It was so sweet! 🙂

.

Flex Maslan space kayak art photography kayakfari fantasy night alien everglades sky

Alien Ray Abduction” at Johnson Key, Florida Bay, Everglades National Park – It could happen! 😮
ART of Darkness – Kayaking the final frontier of imaging and photography.

.

kayakfari everglades Florida Bay Johnson flex maslan digital029art.com kayakfari.com kayak canoe

Full moon rising over the original Johnson Key chickee v1.0 platform on a previous trip. Are you picturing the tranquility?
Kayakfari ART photography – ART of Darkness series.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

A sweet July morning sunrise from the chickee!

.

Flex Maslan kayakfari eclipse lunar supermoon high tides chickee kayak johnson keys photography everglades Florida bay fisheye

Circular 180×360 panorama of one half of the Johnson Key chickee in the early AM!
Camping on the Johnson Key platform in Florida Bay.

.

Flex Maslan kayakfari eclipse lunar supermoon high tides chickee kayak johnson keys photography everglades Florida bay dolphin

We were treated to a morning visit by dolphins hunting in the flats near the chickee.
Harvest moon, Super moon, Blood moon and High Tides!

.

Dolphins hunting feeding Across Florida Bay Everglades camping Little Rabbit Key Long Key Flamingo kayakfari canoe kayak adventure outback flats bank Keys primitive

Cooperative hunting behavior of Bottlenose Dolphins in Florida Bay.
Across Florida Bay: Flamingo to Long Key Roundtrip Adventure!

.

Johnson Key kayakfari Florida Bay chickee kayak Everglades Flex Maslan island panorama camping

Full 360 spin-around view from the Johnson Key chickee platform in Florida Bay.
CLICK for full screen VR 360 Panorama!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Waving goodbye to Joe as he departs early for Flamingo.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

There goes Joe enjoying himself sailing miles away in the distance with the Flamingo Ranger Station behind him! Photographed at an equivalent 2800mm focal length.

.

Flex Maslan kayakfari eclipse lunar supermoon high tides chickee kayak johnson keys photography everglades Florida bay flamingo ranger station

Looking due north back towards the Flamingo Ranger Station, standard view.
Chickees and Keys in Florida Bay – Kayaking, Camping and Nice Dreams!

.

Flex Maslan kayakfari eclipse lunar supermoon high tides chickee kayak johnson keys photography everglades Florida bay flamingo ranger station

Close up of the Flamingo Ranger Station, six miles away, as seen on a very clear morning at an effective focal length of 2800mm!
Harvest moon, Super moon, Blood moon and High Tides of the final tetrad Eclipse of 2015!

.

Flex Maslan kayakfari Florida Bay johnson key chickee Kayak Everglades Camp Flamingo tower flats turtle grass Keys photo

The Flamingo tower is always your homing beacon!
Extreme telephoto closeup of the cell tower at Flamingo from six miles away on the Johnson Key chickee.
Photographed here with “Hubble Jr” at a mind blowing 11200mm effective focal length!

.

Flex Maslan kayakfari Florida Bay johnson key chickee Kayak Everglades Camp mud flats low tide turtle grass Keys telephoto carl ross key

Pre-Hurricane Irma Carl Ross Key as seen from 7 miles away over the flats of First National Bank. Imaged at an effective 4500mm reach from the Johnson Key Chickee on an exceptionally clear morning!

.

Day 4 – JKC to CRK (Carl Ross Key):

Departing the Johnson Key Chickee we headed due west towards possibly the most remote group of islands in Florida Bay. Today there are two or three if you count a small sandbar, but once these were all once just one large key called Sandy Key. That name today is reserved for a bird sanctuary with no public access permitted. The other key that splintered off after Hurricane Donna in the 1960’s has been called Carl Ross Key (CRK). This used to be an official backcountry campsite until Hurricane Wilma further split it into two in 2005. Camping there is no longer permitted, and today CRK is a seasonal day use only area and worth a drive-by visit en-route to East Cape as was our case!

.

Flex Maslan Florida Bay Everglades white pelicans kayakfari photography Kayak wildlife artist winter birding

Paddling under that big, BIG sky over Florida Bay! 🙂
Welcoming the fall arrival of White Pelicans in Florida Bay!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Johna approaching First National Bank in Florida Bay.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

First National Bank remains low even on a rising tide until the last couple of hours to high!

.

First National Bank kayakfari Florida Bay kayak Everglades Flex Maslan mud flats low tide

Exploring the Underside of the Surface!
Mirror to the lush forest of Turtle grass beds of First National Bank.
The hold up at First National Bank in Florida Bay!

.

kayakfari photography art Florida Bay aerial kayak Everglades Flex Maslan landscape panoramic print sea Flying over Florida Bay

Kayakfari ART photography – “Flying over Florida Bay”
ART of the Bay – Florida Bay Landscapes.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Johna and Jenn breaking out of the grass beds of First National Bank into slightly deeper water.

.

flex maslan everglades kayakfari summer heat kayak paddle camp surrender hot storms sun protection miami florida

Imposing cloud formations over the distant Everglades as seen from First National Bank.
Surrender to the summer HEAT!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

An overturned boat hull courtesy of Hurricane Irma still lies on the flats!

.

flex maslan everglades kayakfari summer heat kayak paddle camp surrender hot storms sun protection miami florida

A ‘bay scrag’ – an uprooted mangrove tree dispersed by hurricane Irma in 2017.
Chickees and Keys in Florida Bay – Kayaking, Camping and Nice Dreams!

.

After crossing First National Bank we pulled out onto the little sandbar in between Carl Ross Key to the north and Sandy Key to the south. This little spit is all that is left of a once larger CRK and can hardly be considered a key! Unfortunately for us we didn’t have much time before a large squall we dubbed the “apocalypse” came to bear down on us from the north. There is no place to hide, we were fully exposed here. I suggested we point the kayaks into it, get in and seal up! I held a tarp over myself as we rode out the quickly passing storm. This worked well and we stayed relatively dry. Although we didn’t know it yet, this was just the beginning of storm activity that was in store for us!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Landing on a little sandbar island next to Carl Ross Key which was once the southern tip of the much larger island. This is all that’s left after Hurricanes Wilma in 2005 and Irma in 2017 passed overhead!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Aerial view of the little sandbar with Carl Ross Key in the background. I was captivated by the blues in the sky and green hues of the water.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Front row seats to the impending apocalypse!
There is no place to hide from this. One option is to point kayaks straight into it and get in on land. This way we were less exposed and warmer. I had a tarp over myself during the thick of it.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Happy that the apocalypse had passed (or so we thought!) 😮

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Drying tarps and things with post-apocalypse in the background to the south.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Real espresso coffee is worth more than gold in the backcountry!
Thank you Jenn!! 🙂

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

I decided to check out Carl Ross Key proper, landing here at the north end.

.

After sipping on a delicious espresso made by Jenn, I decided to check out Carl Ross Key proper. The island looks a lot better than it did in the aftermath of Hurrican Irma in 2017, though there is still a bunch of washed up trash. One particular piece is a 5 gallon bucket full of some type of sealing or roofing compound that has been there for almost a year now! I would remove it except it’s way too big and heavy to carry in a kayak. Somebody in a powerboat needs to pick it up and remove it before it spills it’s toxic contents onto this pristine island!!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Bucket full of chemicals washed up with Irma in 2017 still on the island. 😦
All that trash – the ugly side of kayaking!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

The July 2018 stub remains of twisted wood that inspired me to create “Extreme Birdwatching” ten years earlier.
See below!

.

Above and below:

Back in 2008 I was inspired to create one of my favorite artworks “Extreme Birdwatching” from some uniquely twisted mangrove wood courtesy of Hurricane Wilma. Today after Hurricane Irma only the stub remains!

.

Flex Maslan kayakfari Everglades Art Roots paddling Photography mangroves florida keys bay estuary dreadlocks landscape kayak decoratedreality.com

Digital Surreal Art from Carl Ross Key in 2008!
“Extreme Birdwatching”
CLICK to see the whole series!

.

Carl Ross Key has the distinction of being the site where in April of 1832 John James Audubon collected his bird specimens on then much larger Sandy Key.

From the many dozens and dozens of specimens he then painted his world famous bird portraits known as the “Birds of America“!

John J. Audubon’s Birds of America

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades Camp mud flats tide sandy key john james audubon

Townsend’s Sandpiper by John James Audubon in the 19th century.
CLICK for large version!

.

Flex Maslan Florida Bay Kayak Everglades birds kayakfari photography wildlife portraits habitat birding florida artist

21st century Sandpipers frolicking along the Everglades shoreline at Carl Ross Key.
The Everglades are for the birds!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

A White Heron wading in the shallows of Cark Ross Key.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

These three islands were once one big key called Sandy Key until the 1960’s!
Further hurricanes continued to fragment the shifting sands to where one is essentially just a sandbar now.

.

flex maslan kayakfari everglades hurricane Irma impact damage erosion kayak carl ross key photography aerial paddle florida bay

Aerial of Carl Ross Key in October 2017, about a month after being inundated by Hurricane Irma!
Hurricane Irma impacts on the Johnson Key Chickee in Florida Bay.

.

Our original plan called for only a stop over on Carl Ross Key, en route to camp at East Cape – a further seven miles away due northwest. However after returning to the sandbar the weather really deteriorated, esp directly due north where we’d be headed, and we discussed our options. We certainly didn’t want to be caught out in open water during a storm, and there was a lot of activity.

Although camping on Carl Ross Key is no longer permitted, the Park does grant an allowance for emergencies in the interest of safety.

In light of our situation it would be foolhardy at best to get back on the water, and possibly much worse. We would have to setup our tents right on the sandbar and deal with the coming storm systems as best as we could.

Our only realistic option was to stay and ride it out on the sandbar!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Dark clouds hanging over tiny Carl Ross Key in the afternoon.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Nearing darkness, things are not looking so good .. 😦

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

All sky 360 view of the lightning show on the horizon that was coming our way.

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Storms all around!!
Camp Kayakfari tent on the little sandbar between Carl Ross and Sandy Keys.

.

Setting up my tent on the little sandbar I anticipated strong wind gusts to come, so I was glad to have my extra long 10″ tent spikes. I also covered the (north) leading edge of my tent fly with plenty of sand to keep it from lifting. This was my feng shui orientation with tent entry on the southern leeward side!

What followed next were over two hours of storm and lightning activity, some of it directly overhead. The strong gusts from the squalls were easily 35 mph, possibly up to 50! I rode it out with my feet in the tent corners, my left hand pushing/propping up the side of my tent and my right hand outside tent, holding down the fly taut! Several times I was sure that my tent would collapse on top of me at any moment, but it held up, even with one broken pole segment! Enduring the lightning was not pleasant and I was momentarily blinded by the extreme brightness a few times!!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Conditions inside my tent:
RED ALERT and shields UP! 😮

.

Between all the activity there was a lot of noise, and I couldn’t see anything outside. During the few brief teasing lulls I shouted out to Johna and Jenn to see if they were still out there! Not hearing back a reply, I wasn’t sure what to expect after it was finally over. Thankfully we were all still on the sandbar!

Johna was in her bivouac and thus had the lowest profile. She also had a direct view of all the action and called it our early July 4th fireworks!! Jenn’s tent was positioned sideways to the wind and I had loaned her my extra regular sand spikes. I don’t know that they held, but I think she ended up pushing her tent on the side into the gusts to keep it from collapsing! All in all it was quite the experience, much more than we had bargained for and we were glad it was all over!

.

Flex Maslan kayakfari.com kayak canoe camp tent spike peg everglades florida bay big 10 inch humor aluminum size matters kayakfari

My tent held and stayed put through it all thanks in part to my custom extra large 10 inch spikes.
Size matters – DIY big 10 inch tent spikes!

.

kayakfari photography art Florida Bay aerial kayak Everglades Flex Maslan landscape panoramic print sea Detonation at Dawn extended

Scenes like this are really only fun to watch from a safe distance!
Kayakfari ART photography – “Detonation at Dawn (extended)”

.

After midnight everything settled down, the moon came up and the tide really dropped to expose miles of mud flats all around. I decided to commit acts of photography under the moonlight! 🙂

.

Flex Maslan kayakfari time-lapse everglades kayak photography art moon night beach everglades sky moonlight

After all the storms cleared out , the moon came up as in this time-lapse from the delicious darkness.
Animated GIFs!

.

Flex Maslan kayakfari photographer kayak camping stars night Everglades landscape pano print art Florida Bay slough shark camping with the stars

ART of Darkness – Camping with the Stars! Part II

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

“I can see for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles”
After midnight the tide really dropped. The mud flats extended for miles around in all directions!

.

flex maslan kayakfari Barracuda Keys marvin shoal sandbar kayak paddle sugarloaf backcountry beach bay coral reef photography moon camp higher ground

The low tide flats reminded me of another summer time camping on a really tiny sandbar in the Lower Keys.
Temporary tidal space and Faith in Numbers!

.

Flex Maslan kayakfari photographer kayak camping stars night Everglades landscape pano print art Florida Bay slough shark light pollution satellite

Oh the darkness of the Everglades and Florida Bay!
Credit: NASA Earth Observatory/NOAA NGDC
CLICK for story!

 

.

Day 5 – CRK back to Flamingo:

After the night’s storm activity and not enough sleep, we elected to get up before dawn at about 4:30 or 5am to take advantage of the still high tide to take us back to Flamingo. By getting an early start we would avoid any more storms and also get to witness the sunrise on the water. This is an experience not to be missed! 🙂

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

We packed up at dark’o thirty and paddled off to take advantage of the high tide and experience the sunrise on the water!

.

kayakfari photography art Florida Bay aerial kayak Everglades Flex Maslan landscape panoramic print sea Champagne Dawn

The pre-dawn light reminded me of another time on Florida Bay ..
Kayakfari ART photography – “Champagne Dawn”

.

flex maslan everglades kayakfari summer heat kayak paddle camp surrender hot storms sun protection miami florida

Settling into the soul permeating wetness of a summer morning on Florida Bay.
Surrender to the summer HEAT!

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

A sleep deprived but glorious July morning on Florida Bay! 🙂

.

Flex Maslan kayakfari Everglades Art Roots paddling Photography mangroves florida keys bay estuary dreadlocks landscape kayak

“Bay scrag #1” from Kayakfari ART photography.
South Florida’s walking coastal Mangroves – Roots Paddling, Photography and Dreadlocks!

.

Flex Maslan Oyster Keys aerial kayakfari Everglades Canoe raulerson prairie trail spoonbill pass photography kayak

Buzzard’s eye view aerial of the Oyster Keys, en route to Flamingo in Florida Bay.
Chickees and Keys in Florida Bay – Kayaking, Camping and Nice Dreams!

.

Paddling the roughly 9 miles back to Flamingo was uneventful after the glorious sunrise. Getting back early has it’s advantages, but after several days out in the marine wilderness I wasn’t yet ready to deal with the world of people again. The sudden loud noises and human activity seemed vulgar in comparison to the tranquility we had enjoyed throughout the trip. Not even the violent thunderstorms of last night could measure up to the horror of driving on South Florida’s highways again! 😮

.

flex maslan kayakfari florida bay kayak summer paddle everglades chickee Camp flats tide turtle grass Keys heat adventure thunder storm

Safely back in Flamingo, parting pic of our trip! 🙂

.

Enjoy Jenn’s video of the trip!

.

The End.

(The End was followed by a delicious Mexican lunch at Taqueria Morelia in Florida City. The menu is very meat-intensive, so as a vegetarian/pescaterian I usually opt for the Chile Relleno with several visits to the excellent and spicy salsa bar!)

.

You have been warned!

.

.

Flex Maslan kayakfari.com rasta 420 happy kayakfari kayak canoe paddle photography adventure fitness awakenthegrass everglades florida

! BLESS – July Morning

.

.

.

© 2018 Flex Maslan / kayakfari.com / awakenthegrass.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!

I hereby disclaim any sponsorship, endorsement, nor association with any product or service described herein. The photographs, depictions, products, and ideas presented on this site are for informational purposes only. Your results may vary, and I do not imply nor guarantee the effectiveness, suitability, design or operation to adhere to any standard. I assume no legal responsibility for the implementation of anything herein presented! Use any and all information at your own risk! By using any and all information from this website, you accept the final liability for any use or possible associated misuse!

.

With that said..
Blessings friends!

🙂

Advertisements