Cowbone Marsh deserves its own melodrama. It took five hours to get to open water. There is time here only for the highlights.
Highlight #1: DON’T GO THERE! YOU WON’T LIKE IT.
Go to the campground: http://www.fisheatingcreekoutpost.com They are lovely people who rent canoes and will shuttle you up to Burnt Bridge or Ingraham’s Crossing. There is 18 miles to play in where the river won’t hurt you.
The marsh had grown thicker and taller since it was last stumbled through by any of us. It evidently hasn’t burned in a long time. Exotic weeds like Primrose Willow are 8 to 10 ft. tall. Thick hyacinths fill in the niches. Woody willow trees with two inch trunks are in the way. Exotic water grass grows too thick to push a boat through. It wouldn’t have been so insulting to be beat up by native vegetation. The native Alligator Flag was quite decorative.
Joe and Justin took turns out front with machetes. Carlton kept us on course and filmed it all for posterity. The rest of us pushed the boats through the narrow opening in the impenetrable vegetation. That involves shoe eating mud and tangled roots and chopped off branches that make standing up difficult. Crawling was easier.
Justin climbed a lone cypress tree but saw no open water. He did get bitten by bull ants. He is allergic to bull ants. Mallory found two benadryll for him and we hoped he wouldn’t go to sleep. We needed him.
We drank the last beer.
We did not see a single snake in four days. We saw a fair number of alligators. We probably swam with them and around them and crawled through them. At that point, they didn’t worry us at all.They were not the enemy. The vegetation was.
We made it to the open prairie and a wide deep channel. We ate the last candy bars. The sign said only 9 miles to go.
It was a lovely evening with a fresh breeze and streaming clouds in a wide open Florida sky. Wading birds flew over. Green herons squawked. Alligators popped up and down. Carlton ran over one. It got caught on his paddleboard fin. They both survived.
It was a very long paddle. We were very tired. We were very happy.
We zigged and zagged across the prairie. We passed Fort Center where pre-Columbian Indians built earthwork mounds and middens from 450B.C. to 1700.
It got pitch black again. It is difficult to tell water from marsh grass in the dark.
Carlton led us in with in his headlamp.
We made it back to the car at 8:45.
We were very glad to be back, but very glad we went.