Florida's 10000 Islands 10th to 14th Jan 2016

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Florida's 10000 Islands 10th to 14th Jan 2016

Post by Briggsy »

This years camping trip was in the 10000 Islands area of Florida, which is situated between Everglades National Park to the south and Naples to the north. It is a maze of small and large islands that separate the Gulf of Mexico from the mainland, the largest is Marco Island, and includes Cape Romano. In the southern part you can camp on islands that are within the Everglades National Park boundaries (permits are required) while the central and northern areas are free to camp at designated islands and are part of the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. The plus for us was that only the first night had to be booked, the other nights we could change plans if required.

Despite the freedom of camping we made a plan for a 6 night/7 day trip.
Day 1. Everglades City to Jewell Key
Day 2. to Gullivan Key
Day 3. to Cape Romano
Day 4. lunch at waterside restaurant in Isle of Capri, camp at Keewaydin Island.
Day 5. lunch at waterside restaurant in Goodland, buy fresh fish for dinner, camp at Kice Island.
Day 6. to Panther Key
Day 7 back to Everglades City for lunch then home.
Here is a map of our planned route....
10000.jpg (186.81 KiB) Viewed 22196 times

While planning the trip I had images in my mind of warm days paddling, great sunsets, evenings sipping rum punches at our beach campsites and enjoying a couple of lunches en route at dockside bars. The reality was very different. A week before Bea and Norm arrived we had a cold snap (for Florida anyways) and I hoped it would pass, but the days leading up to the trip the forecast was cool with a full day of rain halfway through our trip. I have a big tarp so wasn't too worried about the rain day.
Bea and Norm arrived on Friday and we spent Saturday stocking up on last minute supplies and rum for sunset cocktail hour.

Sunday 10th we drove down to Everglades City 2 1/2 hrs away and organized kayaks from Everglades Kayak Company at Glades Haven Marina. Bea had a Necky Looksha 17, only a few months old. It had a super luxurious seat but made getting the sprayskirt on very difficult due to high backrest. Despite the cockpit being the same size as the Cetus, Norm could not fit into the Necky easily due to the fact that the seat was much further forward, limiting knee room. The only other suitable boat they had was an older Widerness Systems Tsunami 175 which was huge. We got our camping permit for the first night from the Everglades National park Ranger station. Prices had gone up from last year, it was now $15 for the permit and $2 per person per night. We only planned on one night in the Park sites so total was $21. We had lunch at the "World Famous" Oyster House and set to packing up the boats. The gear went in pretty easily including around 11 galls of water. We set off for the short paddle to Jewell Key stopping on the way at Sandfly Island to check out the nature trail. Sandfly Island doesn't sound that appealing and should have probably been re-named Mosquito Hell Island. The trail was flooded so we went back and soon arrived at Jewell Key. After setting up our camp it was rum punches all round, then dinner.

Monday 11th woke to a cool morning. We took our time packing up and headed out towards Gullivan key, about 12 or so miles north west of us. We passed a long sandbar full of white pelicans that made for a good photo op. Lunch was on the beach at Camp Lulu where there was another group of paddlers camp already set up. As we got to White Horse Key we met another group of paddlers in all different types of boats. They had just started to set up camp, it turns out they were a group of college students from Mass. Gullivan Key was the next island over and after several landings we finally picked a place to camp. It looked like it might rain so after setting up I put the tarp up in a sheltered spot just in case. We had some cell service so we checked the weather again and it looked like the big rain event was going to be Friday instead of Thursday, now with 25kt+ winds from the SW which would be aiming straight onto most camping beaches head on. We had more rum punches and decided to tackle it the next day.

Tuesday 12th was overcast and not very inspiring, there were patches of sprinkles so we set up breakfast in the tarp. Welcome to sunny Florida !! Bea had the great idea of taking a picture with her camera of the weather forecast on her phone, that way she would not use her phone battery while we discussed the route and the forecast. Friday was now going to be an all day rain event, 25kt winds from the SW and all camping beaches faced SW making for an unpleasant day ahead. We planned to finish on Saturday anyway so we decided to amend the route and skip Keewaydin Island (our northern most point), as our original plan would have had us paddling from Kice Island to Panther key in heavy rain and strong winds. At this point I realized a mistake I had made was to rely on getting 2 of our lunches at restaurants and buying fresh fish for one of our dinners en route. While it was a nice idea, it now limited our possible route changes as we would be down a few meals. Well, you learn something every trip!! I think if I was doing it again I would pack food for ALL meals and a restaurant/bar meal would be an extra luxury and the camp food would just be left over at the end.
Anyways, we finally decided to go to Goodland for lunch, get our fish and camp on Kice Island. Once there we would re-assess again. It was cold and breezy as we made our way into the docks at Goodland and tied up our kayaks at the "Little Bar". We opted for outside dining as we were wet and soggy. The food was good and the beer cold. Next, we got some fish for dinner at the fish market next door and refilled one of our water bladders. Back in the boats we found our way to our favorite campsite of the trip, Kice Island. It was weird to be looking out from our camp at the water and wilderness, but a 5 minute walk down the beach, just around the corner, were the hi-rise condominiums of Marco Island about a mile away. We all agreed it was a fantastic campsite.

Wednesday 13th was overcast again and we pretty much made up our mind to cut our trip short rather than spend Friday holed up in a tarp all day only to paddle in the next day. We decided to head for White Horse Key. From our site we edged out into the Gulf and pointed south towards Cape Romano. Within 1/2 hour we were at the weird dome houses at Cape Romano. They were built by a zillionaire who obviously thought he could tame nature.....and lost. The current was ripping south fast. I could not find any current tables for the area so was surprised. Bea and Norm took some pics and in some you can see the water built up on the pilings. The tip of Romano was Monomoy-esque with shallow sandbars and strong currents, but thankfully no Great Whites! We followed the coast north again and had lunch on a nice long stretch of beach. A leisurely paddle brought us to White Horse Key where our intended campsite had been taken by someone already so we paddled around the other side and found a suitable spot to pitch the tents. It was a cold night, all of us in fleece and jackets.

Thursday 14th brought some rain sprinkles just as we were packing up so we put the tarp up again waiting for it to pass. All of us were in paddle jackets today as the breeze was picking up and it was very cool. As we passed Camp Lulu we could see a large group of kayakers camped on the beach, we wondered whether they were aware of the approaching storm. We stopped on the aptly named Picnic Key for our lunch then rode the tide in through Indian Pass to Chokoloskee Bay and the kayak rental shop. It had rained on and off all day and the sky was gray and bleak.
It had been a bummer to finish early but the thought of hunkering down under a tarp all day was not appealing, only to paddle in the next day. I think if the storm had been in the middle of the trip we would have stuck it out somewhere, after all we had plenty of rum! A rainy drive brought us back home to Sarasota.

Friday 15th we watched the storm move in on the weather maps, it was a monster. The following night a number of tornadoes touch down in Sarasota so it was a pretty eventful few days with regards to the weather. We made up for shortening our trip by doing a day trip out to Stump Pass on Saturday, finally sun and warmth !
I do not have mileages for each day as my GPS batteries were on their way out. Lesson #2 on this trip is to double check rechargeable batteries. They were OK for day trips but I never really paid attention to the amount of charge they had. My 8 rechargeable AA's can normally power the GPS and flashlights for a week easily, but the first set lasted only one day, the second set I put in showed only half power despite just being charged. I switched the GPS off to save the batteries in case of an emergency. Hopefully Norm has mileages.

Despite the weather it was still a great trip with great company. It was good to explore a new area and is definitely worth going back to. I particularly liked the Cape Romano area. Thanks to Norm and Bea for the photos and for coming down for another trip. Here is a map with the actual route we took. Hope you enjoyed the trip report and photos.

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Re: Florida's 10000 Islands 10th to 14th Jan 2016

Post by Ron »

Nice report.
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Re: Florida's 10000 Islands 10th to 14th Jan 2016

Post by Briggsy »

Norm and Bea have pics to add after they have sorted them.
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Re: Florida's 10000 Islands 10th to 14th Jan 2016

Post by NorwayLady »

Here is the public link to photos taken my Norm and me. Enjoy!

Part 1: Everglades City to Jewel key.
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set ... 3b35a39162

Part 2: Jewel key to Gullivan key.
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set ... f828e89ddf

Part 3: The weather versus the float plan.
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set ... 7811a71993

Part 4: Via Cape Romano to White Horse Key
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set ... d356fd9e6d

Part 5: Via Picnic Key to Everglades City.
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set ... 85030ca2ed

Last edited by NorwayLady on Sat Jan 30, 2016 5:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Florida's 10000 Islands 10th to 14th Jan 2016

Post by TraceyJ »

Really nice report, Dave.

Saw the pictures. They were great.
Even though it wasn't what you had planned, it looks like you all had a wonderful time and made the best of it.

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Re: Florida's 10000 Islands 10th to 14th Jan 2016

Post by Tortoise »

sounds like a fantastic trip even if it was a wet one. It's been a weird winter for sure weather wise. Glad you all have a great time.
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Re: Florida's 10000 Islands 10th to 14th Jan 2016

Post by Joy »

Thanks for the great pictures, we all can dream thru them, Looks like you had a great time in spite of the weather.
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