Ever been in the middle of a swamp, in the pitch dark, on a canoe above two feet of water, and nearest dry land miles away? Hope you enjoy this story.
Two thumbs up for Lard Can Campite. So what’s the big deal? Apart from the fact that the only way to get there is by canoeing…yeah that’s basically it. Unlike other campsites where the majority of exploring is done by foot, at Lard Can…you gotta paddle. And I’ve been told a few people had the guts to get into the water. Hum…not me.
So here is my story. I went there with my sister and arrived around 3 pm. Big mistake. Between renting the canoe, getting the canoe to the landing site and prepping our gear, next thing you know its already 4 pm. Mind you, this is in January (winter) where the sun sets around 6:30 pm.
So we have 2.5 hours of daylight to get to our site, and it takes about 3 hours to get there. The trail is about 3 miles long, or about half way to Hell’s Bay campsite. And half of the trail is about 6 feet wide (our canoe was like 10 feet long). For beginner paddlers like us, it can be a pain in the rear for you are constantly hitting the mangroves as you attempt to make sharp and very twisted turns. The other half consists of wider open trails. A lot easier to navigate.
It’s true about the white tube markers which indicate where you are to go. Only a few sneak out of sight which make you miss a few turns, but no biggie. Overall, they are everywhere and highly visible in daylight.
Noticed I said daylight. Why? About two hours into our “expedition”, the sun had fully set. We were at the mercy of low dusk light and it was fading very quickly. Those white tube markers? Forget it. Can’t see them.
So here we are in the middle of the Everglades canoeing down a trail int he hope that its the right one. In our minds, we were already thinking; “OK…we can always tie ourselves to a mangrove and somehow sleep inside the canoe”. This is not what we originally planed!
So what saved the night? As we are exiting a narrow part of the trail into a wider area, we hear whispers. My sister and I look at each other with smiles from ear to ear. We paddle closer to where we think the whispers are coming from. The whispers become low voices…and WHALA. Humans!
In the dark distance, we spot two people on what we believe is a wooden deck. Lard Can Campsite. Thank God they were talking. Had they not been conversing, we would not have spotted them, therefore, the site. Remember, by now it’s pitch dark and the wooden deck completely blended with the mangroves. The camp site was not visible at all. This was truly a strike of luck.
Heck. Ever slept in a canoe while its on water? I haven’t. I thank you almighty I did not have to experience that.
So the above was the highlight of the event. The other great part was the site itself. As we pull onto the dock, two extremely friendly people greet us. Long story short, the night was non-stop laughing. The campsite can only hold about three tents or like eight people. But no one else was there except this Venezuelan, an American, my sister and I. I hope these people we were with find this post for we wish we could of exchanged contact info.
Hell’s Bay Trail Guide (including Lard Can)
They were avid fishers/campers…every weekend type of thing. And either they were really good or the river was loaded for they were catching cat fishes left and right. The atmosphere is dead quite, which we loved. And as always, the Everglades never disappoints with its incredible view of the Milky Way. From a distance, you can barely see a soft glow coming from Miami’s city lights. And that’s OK.
The actual tent sites are hugged by thick plant life, very compact. Oh…and there is a portable bathroom…and I’ll leave it at that.
Overall, the experience was amazing. The original plan was to paddle to Hell’s Bay. But once we got to the ranger’s office to get a permit, Hell’s Bay was already booked. We were bummed for we were really looking forward to Hell’s Bay, and I guess this was a missed opportunity in disguise. Had we been able to book Hell’s Bay, we would have been forced to paddle in pitch dark for an extra hour!
What our packing looked like?
- Cell phone
- Energy bars
- Flashlight + batteries
- Hammock cover
- Long sleeve shirts
- Mosquito mesh face nets
- Mosquito repellent
- Rain coat
- Hicking shoes
- Sleeping bag
- Toilet paper
So. To wrap this up. We woke up and got ready to paddle back to main land around 9 am, and made it back in less than 2.5 hours. The way back was smoother and the weather felt like perfect room temperature. Our mission remains undone, and we plan to head out to Hell’s Bay in the winter of 2014.
You too plan on heading out there? Please reach out!