Our stealth camp last night below the Destin bridge was a success in that we weren’t bothered. The golf course groundskeeper even discretely waved at me as he drove by on his lawnmower.
But I paid for it today in my lack of sleep. That’s a busy bridge! All night long. And our tent was pitched on a slope. Add to that a dash of nervousness that we might be bothered, and I might’ve only slept a few hours.
We got an early start though, breaking camp at first daylight and eating leftovers for breakfast, and then paddled out into the wind.
We made 11.8 nm today and practically all of it was beating into the wind. For hours at a time with white caps, and a couple of waves washed my deck and sprayed my face. As we passed house after large house, some modern, some brick, a couple that were pretty run down but most of them were in immaculate shape and practically all over 3000 square feet in addition to fabulous outdoor living spaces and pools. Looking at the homes was a distraction from the wind.
We saw a fisherman in a Hobie kayak with flipper propulsion. And asked if he knew of any public access where we could get out of our boats, and fortunately Legion Park, with restrooms, was just up ahead. When surrounded with so much private property we’re always looking for break spots, especially when beating into the wind.
We chatted with a newly retired (but already back to work part-time at new jobs) couple from Nashville who’d moved nearby, and we had them take our picture.
Then Jerry, the fisherman, showed up and we chatted some more and John gave him a hand loading his boat. He’s from Birmingham and also newly retired and spends a month on the beach with his wife every winter. They were all excited and encouraging about our trip and shared stories about themselves and trips they’d like to take. I’d love to think that we help inspire folks to continue adventuring.
That was the longest break that we’ve taken so far. And it wasn’t even 10:00 am. And the wind had only gotten stronger while we’d been chatting and snacking and using the restroom.
But by the time we took our next break, I, for one, was exhausted and feeling almost desperate. We poached a tiny sliver of beach on forested private property just out of sight of the No Trespassing sign. But what was that overhead – my gosh, a drone! Doing surveillance of us?! The local grey heron though wasn’t interested in us at all. It’s amazing how un-shy they are along the gulf coast. Very different than out west.
Back on the water, the wind had lessened up enough that it wasn’t suicidal for us to to cut straight across the 2-mile-wide entrance to the Bayou we wanted to skirt around. We were heading to the wide swath of wilderness on the other side. Big waves and chop would not have been good. We crossed it in half an hour, passing two frolicking dolphins and a group of pelicans dive-bomb fishing as we approached the wild shore.
We rounded the marshy point, homes thankfully nowhere in sight now, just grasses and reeds and in the distance a patch of trees.
Below those trees was camp but wow what a stench when we arrived. Anaerobic earth. Peat moss. Rich, organic, decomposing, black muck.
Within minutes we no longer smelled it. We had become as one.
And the wind that had exhausted me all day? Gone. Just like that. The Chatawhatchee Bay had gone completely flat. Fish were jumping like skipped stones, four jumps in a row.
And the bugs? Yeah, mega bad. The worse yet. No see ums and mosquitoes. We set up camp. John made chili quesadilla casserole in the dutch oven. We ate, washed dishes and dove into the tent where we will stay.
We are alive.
We are healthy.
We are adventurers.