Last night the sky was spectacular! Out along the spoil banks, far from Panama City and heading into the deeper wilds of the northeastern panhandle, we were finally away from light pollution. And noise pollution. No drone of traffic in the background. No roar of military aircraft. Sure we were camped by a high energy power line but that was the only opening in the bush large enough for us to get off the water and camp.
A pack of coyotes yipped and yapped and howled at the stars just as I too marveled.
It was a cold night again at our Layover camp, but I was dressed well for it this time. And yet the morning still came all too early.
We had to make our biggest mileage day to-date: 16.5 nautical miles. So we couldn’t dilly dally. I reached over, unscrewed my thermorest sleeping pad valve, thus making my bed uncomfortably flat, and proceeded to pack.
The current was against us until the ditch opened into a lake. Then the wind was against us.
The landscape changed to swampland. No beaches to pull out on. Spanish Moss. And trees flanked by what looked like an undergrowth of root tubers sticking up into the air.
Bald eagles. Ospreys. Great Blue Herons. Turtle heads popping up for just a second and then diving.
There was no place to stop and get out of our boats. No way to rest and eat and drink water without being pushed backwards. Finally, we tucked in behind some trees, around a small point of land and briefly out of the wind, and could take a sip of water.
And later I found a partially submerged tree I was able to run my bow upon for a minute so I could snack.
I thought of exercise machines and how after just a few minutes of exertion I typically want to get off. The minutes can’t go by fast enough. If this were an exercise machine I would have gotten off. I would’ve gotten off two hours ago, three hours ago, four hours ago.
After the lake a ways, a river entered our channel and the current turned in our favor! Hallelujah! The wind was still in our face but how glorious it felt to have the current going with us! This is the joy of paddling!
Too bad it was for only four of our 16.5 miles today. Too bad we’ve been paddling against wind and/or current for 90% of our entire trip so far!
We weren’t expecting these conditions. Fighting for every inch of forward movement has beaten us up. Especially when fighting for every inch and not being able to take a break. When you’re hiking and you need a break you just stop where you are. Not so, when paddling along a swamp against the current and against the wind. We’re tired.
You can imagine our relief when the vegetation suddenly opened and gave us access to a park. John dropped on to the pavement to stretch out his back. I tossed our last two day’s worth of garbage into the trash. And I would’ve used the toilet but there wasn’t one.
On the water, we passed a fisherman who said we apparently were lucky because he caught one as we passed. Another fisherman told us to be careful; that people were drowning. At least I think that’s what his deep southern drawl said. And a healthy-looking older woman, while dumping a large pot into the river, yelled out to us that she was freeing the minnows now that her grandchildren had all gone home.
A few miles later we paddled up to the town of Appalachicola, famed for its oysters, and looked for our hotel, the Appalachicola River Inn.
We pulled into a little slip of beach between it and Boss Oysters Restaurant. And checked into our hotel room with a view of where we came from.
We did it. We paddled our biggest day. And I’m feeling a bit like a sponge woman.
Time for a shower, a beer and a meal.
We are alive.
We are healthy.
We are adventurers.