This post was written by Joseph Guthrie
The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition is now off and running. If you’ve been following it from my blog this might come as a surprise. My apologies. The last few months are a blur of activity and frantic preparation, where we had no time to properly prepare ourselves, much less fill in the background through our blogging.
We made it to the start by working insane hours, working the phone and email around through all hours of the night. The two and a half weeks between the holidays and the start of the Expedition Carlton and Elam and I all suffered from intense sleep deprivation as we hurried between meetings and our computers, buying gear, talking to our collaborators, organizing our equipment. We shopped for a trailer that could carry our kayaks, bikes, paddleboards, camera equipment. We researched specific properties, specific wildlife species and conservation issues we wanted to highlight. Before we could get into any depth we would be distracted by another more immediate concern. The dry bags for stowing gear on our kayaks were out of stock. The wireless service provider for our portable wi-fi hotspots wanted a contract that we were not willing to pay for. We had two phone interviews and a conference call all going on at the same time. The rudder kits for our kayaks, which we naively thought we’d assemble ourselves, were far too involved and we needed them fixed by a pro. It seemed like one million adapter wires and batteries and connectors flooded the dining room table of Carlton’s house. Details, details, details…it was chaos.
The packing and organizing continued up to the moments before we launched our boats from the beach. Elam, the organized one, had pulled all nighters loading his gear into his vehicle at his home in Blountstown on Friday night. He arrived on Saturday in Tampa. Once the inside of the trailer was finished on Saturday night, Elam’s gear was ready to go in. He and our trailer driver Rick Smith retired to a hotel for well-earned sleep. Carlton stayed up all night Saturday packing his camera equipment and doing last minute stashing and captioning of photos from our route scouting for distribution later. I, the least equipment-laden of our team, managed two hours of sleep.
And then it was Sunday, the day of our departure for Everglades National Park and the start of our trip. By Monday evening we were camping beside Florida Bay. Brown pelicans sailed overhead as we took our spanking new kayaks out for their maiden voyage, a 15 minute spin. Mallory, the most experienced paddler of the group, provided instructions. We still had not rigged the kayak solar panels that we wanted to power our devices while we were out in the wilderness for seven days. We still had not loaded reliable satellite imagery into our GPS for our navigation. The press was mingling in our group. Important people would be arriving in hours to see us off. How would we be able to do this with so little practical preparation?
Somehow we pulled it off. Carlton and I were both awake that last night until 5 a.m. Once the sun was us up there was no more chance to fool around with the phone or the computer. We had to load the boats and go. Packing took until 2:30 in the afternoon, nearly two hours later than we’d intended, but we finally shoved off into the Bay. A flock of willet milled in the shallows just down the beach. The weather forecast was perfect. As I pulled through the first paddle stroke I felt relief begin to work through my system. Now we had to just go do the thing.