Heart of Darkness

Soon after we arrived in Florida, I received a message warning me that throughout the state dangerous sinkholes had been opening up,some large enough to swallow homes, occasionally with unwitting occupants still inside. A morbid curiosity about the recent phenomena led us deep into Florida's own heart of darkness.


We had to register part of our trip with the National Park Service, as we would be travelling through the part of the Everglades known as Hell's Bay. As we filled out paperwork an old ranger wearily handed us some information and a nautical map. 'Hell to get into, hell to get out of' began the reading describing the journey to Hell's Bay.

"Not sure you can make that trip in an inflatable boat. I think another guy might have tried a few years ago. If you can't make it, come back tomorrow and I'll issue a permit for an easier trip." The ranger finally spoke to us. With that challenge thrown down we took the necessary papers and prepared for the voyage.

The warnings were not without merit, the first three miles of the trip wove through a dense mangrove swamp in what was known as a 'mangrove tunnel'; less than a foot deep in parts the water was bounded by impenetrable mangroves on both sides, only a space about five feet wide allowed passage of the boat. Overhead the mangrove canopies of each side intertwined and filtered the sunlight, truly giving the waterway the feel of a narrow tunnel.

We navigated the boat by pushing our oars against the bottom sediment as much as by paddling. The tunnels contained numerous forks and offshoots leading to dead-ends and mind-boggling mazes. Finally, on the second day of our trip the living walls on both sides of us abruptly ceased and we exited the tunnel into Hells Bay. Now instead of navigation, our challange was to cross the waters whipped up by a heavy wind off the coast we had remained blissfully unaware of while wreathed in the mangroves.

When we made it to our chickee, the elevated wooden platforms anchored in the mangrove swamps for overnight travelers, we met another party using the same platform. A guide, and his companion from Switzerland related their own journeys to us as we talked late into the night. The guide informed us that in our path lay three 'gator-pits', submerged holes within the swamp that the alligators lived in nested in.

Days later, still intrigued, we made a special point of investigating these pits. As evening approached we slowly pulled into the area he had described, at first the surface of the water remained undisturbed and we wondered if we had been conned. But soon as we paddled along the shoreline, now comprised of tall grasses, we began to see the eyes and long snouts of the alligators surface around us.

As we approached one alligator basking on the shore, it abruptly lunged into the water. Just below the surface we suddenly saw a surge of water rushing towards us. We backed off as rapidly as possible in our rubber boat, and made our way back to the launch, realizing that the gators would become more dangerous after dark. But as we began pulling towards the landing, the alligator we had disturbed resurfaced ahead of us and began travelling perpendicular to us, cutting us off from land.

In a tense moment we got around the alligator, leapt, and ran with our boat out of the water as the enormous reptile glided to the water's edge just behind us. The adventure seemed almost over, until a bird taking advantage of my and the gator's mutual distraction stole my shoe from off the car's hood.


See the world, they
told me...

bayou goula towhead

the sea test

the circumnavigator pt5
the circumnavigator pt4
the circumnavigator pt3
the circumnavigator pt2
the circumnavigator pt1
falling dream
the darkness
one hell of a mile 3&4
he will return
the believers
the horror pt2
the horror pt1
death valley

paradise of outlaws
the mountain climbers 1&2
brought to surface
one hell of a mile 3
the lost world
inner gorge
a ghost story
the riddle
slaying the minotaur
heart of darkness
public lands
organ music
two sought adventure
the virgin river
the road north

steal the world
the end of the world
el dorado
the valley of the kings 2
the valley of the kings 1
one hell of a mile 2
one hell of a mile 1
the mountain climbers rr4
heroes rr3
rainy roadtrip 2
rainy roadtrip 1
the transgression
sinister 2
sinister 1
new chapter

like sedona?
torn in two
bridge to nowhere
the door
hitting the wall
elusive 2
elusive 1
pick up lines

revisited 2
revisited 1
which way?
lost mines
in their footsteps
a dance with death

casting the bones
mountain thief
the deer hunter
strange temple
burial pt. 3
burial pt. 2
burial pt. 1
the apparition
return to hell
the lower depths
underground lake
stretch sewer
the hidden lab
shadow movements
meager rations
sw8: the conclusion
sw7: lost gold mines
sw6: the big tubes
sw5: gold!
sw4: el calderon
sw3: redondo
sw2: ghosts
sw1: westward bound
formaldehyde dreams
the underdark
in the beginning