Friday, January 4, 2013

A trail in the Everglades is not necessarily a trail.

After spending the night camping too close to other people for our liking we head to the most remote camping spot on the map. It's a free site which makes it all the more better. With a van full of provisions we head down the 25 mile dirt road to a hidden spot where we'll set up home for a few days. It's what's referred to as primitive camping without power or water hook-up.

On the way there Larry is excitedly looking for any kind of reptile he can interact with. There are alligators lining the road on both sides and birds galore but what he really wants to find are snakes. Before becoming a hobo he raised and bred reptiles. With a shout of "STOP, STOP, STOP!" I just barley break in time to avoid running over our first snake. Larry jumps out before we are even at a full stop and before I can blink he has the snake in his hand. I'm not afraid of snakes but I certainly wouldn't go picking them up without the experience of knowing how to handle one. Have you ever seen such a happy person?!

The next morning we he makes a big breakfast of oatmeal and bananas, I pack a lunch and some water and we head out on what we think will be a day hike in the Everglades. I talked to the ranger at the gate and he gave me a map of the trails and told us where to start. Now, let me just say we may not be the brightest tourists but in our defense it looked like the trails would be marked and easy to follow. I mean, there's a map of them after all. We set out at 10:30. In the beginning we are excited to notice every bug, plant, lizard and bird we see. We walk thorough tall grass, between pine trees, under palm trees and through cypress swamp all the while happily chatting about what we see.
I'm guessing we lost the trail after we walked through this area of swamp. The trail posts we found after wading up to our thighs in water had either rusted so bad the tags were gone or melted into an unrecognizable twisted mess. It was about 3:30 and we would be out of sunlight soon. After  trying to retrace our steps several times I was terribly turned around and everything looked the same. Larry looked at me and gave me two choices. We either continue to try and find the swamp we walked through and therefore get back on the trail or I follow him while he makes his own way out. "But you don't know what's out there" I say. "No, I don't" he replies. I'm calm on the outside but inside I'm convinced we are going to die out there with no ID on either one of us to identify the bodies. We didn't even have matches to start a fire! With clenched teeth I agree to follow his instincts. He excitedly starts off towards the sunset. We had the sun to our back on the way in so it made sense to have it in front of us on the way out. I follow him in silence for what seems like forever and then I ask him, "are you not panicked at all?" Picking some kind of plant, he replies, "no, I don't panic until the end" and he smiles. I have to admit his calmness and confidence helped me keep my own worries in check. The only thing I could do to help get us out was to follow in silence and not freak out at him.

Then came the sound of cars. The highway! A half hour later we reached the road, but where the heck were we? This was not anywhere near where we entered the 'trail'. Luckily there was a map where we exited as it was an entrance for wilderness camping. We would have to walk about 5 miles up the interstate and then hop a tall, barbed wire fence to get back into the preserve and then walk another 4 or 5 miles up the dirt road to our site. We were both soaked and muddy from the knees down. My rubber boots were almost filled to the top with swampy water and the air was getting colder with the disappearing sun. We set off walking anyway. There was no choice. Okie had been in the van all day and I worried about her.

We walked maybe a mile or so when I heard a vehicle pull over behind us. It was Alberto, a Road Ranger, stopping to find out why we were walking on the I-75 when it's illegal to do so. We told him our story and he wasn't surprised by it. Not long ago a Norwegian man got lost for 2 days in the Everglades.

Alberto called a Highway Patrol car to come take us back to Bear Island. While we waited he offered Larry a sweater and me some chocolate. He had a bag of bars with him because he was trying to quit smoking and thought they would help. He shared many stories with us about other people he had found along the road while we waited for the patrol officer. Jason arrived within a half hour and he drove us to the entrance of the campground, leaving us to walk the one mile or so left to get to our site. It was the longest mile I've ever walked and the happiest I've ever been to put on dry socks.

In the morning we decide we'd seen all we want to see of our current location so we drove further down the 41 and enter the Collier-Seminole State Part in Ten Thousand Islands area. Once again we are told there are no camping spots left but after talking to them for a few minutes they decide to put us in the youth group camping site all by ourselves. We were the happiest campers there I swear. We had a huge area all to ourselves with our own driveway. We are both ridiculously lucky people.
As we sat drinking and chatting over the fire that night we hear various shouts of happy new year from the campers outside our little haven. Both of us are surprised it had gotten so late. We wish each other a happy new year and I run off to bed to get away from the relentless mosquitoes. By the end of our adventure we are both bitten pretty badly up and down our limbs. We celebrate the new year the next day with a canoe trip down the canals. It's a perfect day. The sun is shining, the water is calm and we are happy to paddle our way through our hangovers.

For the second time I drop him off at the edge of town and watch him disappear into the woods. This time he heads towards his home. I beep the horn and wave good-bye while Okie barks out her own farewell. She really likes that guy. It's a hard thing coming to realize I will very likely never see him again. I am very grateful to have made such a friend and enjoyed traveling with him. I remember saying before I left home I couldn't imagine finding someone who would want to travel the way I do. Larry is that person and I enjoyed our time together. I wish him the best of luck finding his way and hope we will never lose touch completely.


  1. Wow Angela, you've experienced the real Florida; it's a beautiful dangerous place that most snowbirds never see. Thank goodness you made it out to the road and I credit yours and Larry's cool headedness for's too easy to panic when you're lost in the woods. I can't imagine being lost in the swamp!! What an adventure!

  2. It was Larry's cool head that kept me calm. I guarantee if I was by myself I would have panicked and it would have gotten me nowhere! I'm lucky to have been with him for this adventure.

  3. Happy New Year, Angela. I`m glad that you are well and that your adventures continue. A Christmas with family but without presents sounds completely liberating to me. Vaya con Dios.

  4. I joyfully followed your adventure from the start and even reminded you to be safe on a couple occasions but now realize that it is not a journey of self-discovery but a glorified vacation. Your comment about no gifts at Christmas being liberating made me realize that you are a privileged priss. My wife and I received no gifts at Christmas because we could not afford it and our kids only got presents because of the charity of others. You make me sick. Your father and step-mother having a place in Florida also indicates your life of privilege. Go back to Halifax and do your crappy art and shut the fuck up.


    1. Dear Kevin,

      I know Angela (and other artists) both personally and professionally and I find your comment and by extension your person to be just as ignorant as can be. You assume wrongly that artists must somehow be poor and suffer to create which is not the case and is a fraud perpetuated by uninformed persons such as yourself. Exploration and self-discovery take many forms and no one should impose their own life experiences on another as a gauge of how they seek to improve their own life. Angela is humble and the most modest and appreciative person I know.

      Art is subjective so I might suggest that if you do not care for Angela's work that you stop looking at it and her blog and since you rudely suggested she return home, I suggest you return to the sludge of stupidity from whence you came.

      An elitist swine you likely despise as well,
      Michael Christie

    2. I'm terribly sorry you feel this way Kevin, but I have never claimed that I am not privileged. I tell myself every day exactly how privileged I really am. I've even talked about it throughout my posts.

      Like most families mine also has little money and that is why I have been trying to get them to forgo giving gifts. It's an unnecessary expense on people's credit cards when no one needs gifts they will never use. By 'liberating' I meant that no one had to take part in the consumerist part of Christmas and go into debt for it. I'm just happy my family has come to realize it's not about gifts and are focusing on each other instead. I'm sorry if it came across wrong.

      You are partially right about a glorified vacation. I have been struggling with this since I gave up on my barter van idea. What gives me the right to go off and be a tourist when others are struggling to get by? What does making crappy art actually do for the good of mankind? I have had this discussion many times over the years as I try to reassure myself being an artist has some value. I have been living my life for me and it hasn't come without guilt.

      You are wrong about it being a journey of self-discovery though. It has always been about exploring the world and the people in it. To see what is actually going on out there instead of believing what the news tells me. I know exactly who I am, be that a privileged priss or not.

      I'm sorry I have lost you as a follower. I know I truly am more privileged than a lot of people and I don't take it for granted for a second. I worked hard and gave up a lot to make this dream happen and am grateful every day I am able to continue.

      I welcome all comments but I would hope people will take the high road and criticize without insulting me.

  5. Hi Kevin, I sincerely hope that 2013 will be a good year for you and your family.

    Hi Angela, looking forward to the next stage(s) of your trip. As you well know, the weather in Hali in February won't be as nice as Florida and the drive back will be hard in the snow. Why not just stay in the south?


    1. Thanks Roland. I would love to stay south but as a Canadian I would have to give up my free health care to do so.... and I need that to cover the HUGE bill from my fainting spell back in September.

      Also, I am excited about some things coming up for me in Halifax in March which will hopefully earn me some capital to get back on the road in the spring. I'll keep you posted......

  6. I am looking forward to seeing you and your wonderful art, and your little puppy. Can't wait!!

    1. Me too! (as much as I'm not looking forward to being back in the snow). Can't wait to see what Okie thinks of all the cold white stuff!

  7. My name is Kelly, I'm a photographer from Halifax who went to school with Angela. I had met with her prior to her leaving for her barter was with jealously & sadness that I did this. I had wished I could give up what little I owned and have to courage to do something so wonderful and artful. I never had time to really 'do' my own art this last year as my mom had been suffering with terminal cancer...and I had been driving 5 hours to and from my family home to help care for her. I made this trip over 50 times return. Angela and I had talked about how I was coping with my moms terminal illness... about the duty i felt to put my own life aside & to be there for her. I talked about the courage it took to leave and sell everything you own to do something Angela is doing...with very little money. We all have hardship, it's not uncommon. i came from nothing...I educated myself....I am a working artist and I'm proud of myself. Angela never had any pot of gold to fall back on...I can assure you of that.
    I spent Xmas in my family home...sadly without my Mom, she died the last week of November. Whether you have things or not is irrelevant at Xmas. I'm not Christian but I think the idea I have for the holidays is making the best of what you have and being kind to others...( something Angela has done since leaving Halifax). I had alot of sadness & pain but I tried to focus on positive things...
    Reading her blog has been a 'happy' place for me in this very dark time.
    I really have no time for negativity these days...especially spineless comments to good people. Life is too fucking short.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kelly and putting your story out there. I know things haven't been easy for you the past while but you are a strong lady and will soldier on like you always do. You still have many people who love and care for you and focusing on them will get you through anything.

      I appreciate your kind words about me and my character more than you know. I do my best to be a good person and live my life with very little material possessions knowing this is not where happiness comes from.

      In short, I actually do consider myself to be privileged but I think anyone who has a roof over their heads, food and clean drinking water to be living a fortunate life. Everything above the basic necessities are luxuries even if we feel we are entitled to them.