I Needed a Walkabout
My husband and I are stationed at Fort Rucker, Alabama – VERY south Alabama. I’m from Colorado and adventure is in my blood. There’s not a lot to do in southern Alabama… so I decided I needed to take a trip. A road trip. A camping road trip. On my own. To a place I have always wanted to go: THE EVERGLADES!
It was March and the timing was perfect. I planned my route on Roadtrippers, and I packed up my Outback. Inflatable kayak: check! Military Ka-bar knife: check! (Thanks, hubs) JetBoil: check! Bug Spray: check! Cooler of beer: check and check!
Here are all the places I went on this epic road trip:
I joked with my mom that I was bringing an inflatable kayak to the one place you probably don’t want an inflatable kayak! Alligators!!! She asked, “why on Earth are you going down there all by yourself?!” Well, I just needed some time to explore. Spend time with myself out in the wild. And I really just wanted to see if I COULD do it. I needed a walkabout. She said I should call it a “paddle-about”!
…I just needed some time to explore. Spend time with myself out in the wild. And I really just wanted to see if I could do it.
Six Days. Five Nights. 1,800 Miles.
One of the biggest goals of this trip was to get myself out of my comfort zone. I think I can say I accomplished that! I love the outdoors and I LOVE camping. But I’m used to Colorado mountain camping where there is no humidity and NO bugs.
And I’ve never gone camping alone. And not for almost a full week covered in bug spray and only taking one shower the whole time. But that only added to the fun of it. And the fact that I was alone? I could be as gross as I wanted and I didn’t care! That was a special kind of freedom.
The only time I ever really felt scared, was not because of reptiles or bugs. Before I got down to Everglades National Park, I camped for a night in Big Cypress National Preserve. I was in one of the most secluded areas I’ve ever been. There is one highway that goes through the Preserve with only one exit and no gas stations. And the Preserve is HUGE! Like an idiot, I didn’t fill my gas tank before I came into the Preserve, so I was running on fumes pretty much the whole time. And this was interesting—the only other visitors in this entire area—were hunters.
They were all men. And they ALL had guns. I was a woman, alone.
So I get to this camping area, and my gas light had been on for about an hour. There was pretty much no leaving this place until the next morning, I’d cross my fingers and coast into a gas station. There were a few other people in this camping area. They were all men. And they ALL had guns. I was a woman, alone. With no guns. Now, normally I wouldn’t think much of this situation. But this is like, deep, deep jungle. And one of the men I ran into, would not stop staring at my chest as he talked to me. He wasn’t threatening. Maybe he was just awkward or surprised that there was a woman out here. Let’s just say I slept with my Ka-bar knife that night.
The trip, besides that night in Big Cypress, was a breeze. A big, beautiful, amazing adventure. I made it down to Everglades National Park— the very southern tip of Florida—to Flamingo campground. I wrote in my travel journal:
I don’t want to forget this moment.
I’m lying here in my tent at Flamingo Campground in Everglades National Park. There’s a warm breeze blowing through and you can hear the palm and cypress trees swaying. The young couple at the site next over – Daniel and Cici – are strumming a guitar with an easy tropical melody. The night sky looks incredible and majestic in a way that a camera could never capture. I can see the Taurus constellation right outside my tent window as I’m laying down. A few last sips from my beer sitting in its perfect little tent pocket… Dreaming about the amazing things I’ve seen and the adventures to come tomorrow…
Everything is Just Trying to Survive
There’s a lesson you learn when you leave the comforts of Human World and enter the actual world of nature: Everything is just trying to survive. Once you realize this, everything is so beautiful. More than you ever thought it could be. It makes you sad for the natural wonders that have been lost to the progression of human civilization. But it makes you appreciate what we have left, and you realize: we have to save it.
Overall, this trip was in one word: Amazing.
I swam with a manatee. I saw alligators AND American Crocodiles! (Those are not too common!) I cooked my food over a campfire. Most nights, anyway; there was one night it was so windy, I couldn’t get a fire started for the life of me. Thank goodness I brought a JetBoil. I randomly ran into a guy I went to college with at Missouri State – that was TEN years ago! That reminded me that it’s a small world—In the human world. Out here in the wild… now that’s a different story.