everglades

Owl baby  

Salt Lake Utah Lifestyle Photographer

Boom.

Owl baby’s brother 

Salt Lake Utah Lifestyle Photographer

Yes, that is right.  

Everglades.  Went there.  Did that.  Saw alligators.  Petted them.  OK, not that.  

This blog post is going to be the post that never ends, cause it goes on and on my friends.  

Feel free to skip to the end.  But be warned, it will be boring.

The world’s most deadly creature lives in the Everglades.  This creature has killed more people than any other on earth.  And I went to war with it.  

The trailhead read Snake Bite.  Now this is how to name a trail.  Snake bite, sword cut, karate chop.  

I was ready to live dangerously.  

I exited the minivan.  Look, mini-vans are dangerous.  I know, I had just almost flipped mine swerving out of the way of a heron that was the best chicken player I ever met.  

Especially the Dodge Grand Caravan.  Especially the black on black Grand Caravan with super comfy seats that adjust like fifty different ways, and that also has pedal adjustments and an economy mode and LED interior lights.  It even has buttons on the back of the steering wheel that not even I know what they do.

Where were we?  I didn’t see any snakes.  Not yet.  Instead, a long shaded path next to still sun splotched water.  The perfect place to see a snake sunning on a tree limb.  The back of my head urged me forward.  The Everglades are littered with warning signs.  

Salt Lake Utah Lifestyle Photographer

Yet, there were no signs warning of snakes.   How bad can it be? 

The Everglades are home to four poisonous snakes, and the Burmese python.   They are also home to the American crocodile, the alligator and the Florida panther. Just as background.  I am not saying that I was attacked by either of these animals.  I am definitely not saying that they joined forces and attacked me in an unprecedented reptile cat voltron/Mighty Morphin Power ranger type mega animal.  It would be way too soon to say any of that.  

Read on.

When I exited the Grand Caravan with fantastic glittery black paint job, I was surprised to find that no one else there.  

Five feet down the trail, movement caught my eye.  I twisted.

AND. SAW. A. CARDinal hop from one branch to another.  Cardinal, you goonie, you really had me worried.  Good one.

I continued along the path next to the brackish stream.  Light beams (beams of light people) fell from the branches, and were consumed by the murk.  

The sound of movement close to the stream.  

THE CROAK OF A FRog. Frogs- nature, even when you are kind of ugly, you are also strangely hot.  

Don’t judge me!  You don’t know me!

Then it happened.  

I hear a high buzzing in my ear.  I also see bugs float in the haze.  I approach and see that they are 

MOSQUITOS.  DEADLY TERRIF- Wait, what?  You thought this story was about snakes or panthers or gators?  

Really, you have no one to blame but yourself for that.  I did say the thing that killed more people that any other.  Malaria, West Nile, and apparently, some new effing disease local to the South that my friend Paul had told me about before he left me to my fate to rejoin his family.  All spread by these floating denizens of death.  

An aside, it seems like I am making light.  I might be a little.  But, I really am wary of mosquitos.  They really are responsible for more death than any shark or lion or alligator or bear or other freaky predator.

I continue on. I feel confident that my bug spray coupled with my flannel and pants will fend off the bugs.  I applied the spray as one has water applied to them after a chemical scare, that is to say liberally.  

I grin as I feel the first mosquito light (Wait, does this make sense?  Enough with the weirdo light references, English.) upon my cheek only to be repelled by the spray. For about a minute I continue in my self assurance.  

Then I feel a small prick.  Son of a- I swat the offender.  I label it an outlier.  Unnatural immunity, that is all.  

I continue onward, hidden adventure ahead.  The mosquitos are more plentiful.  I notice that if I windmill my arm I can swat at least one mosquito per revolution.  

I find pleasure in this.  Slayer of bugs and all that.  Soon, I hit two per windmill.  I stop the game, because I look like a total jerk walking down the trail doing one arm windmills.  Even though I know no one is around. 

Then I notice that I am hitting mosquitos without trying.  First one and as I continue as many as five per normal arm swing.  

And they have begun to ignore the spray completely.  The mosquitos this far from the road seem desperate.  They have probably not had a meal walk by in a long time.  Sane people turning back before now and all that.

I have an epiphany.  I realize that no matter what I see on the trail it is not going to be worth it.  

I turn back.

When I turn I am confronted with a cloud of mosquitos.  Mosquito version of tailgating.  I had not noticed the party being at its head.

Now I panic.  

I am carrying two cameras.  One of them I have slung over my shoulder on a monopod.  The other I have at my waist.  My back is encumbered with lenses.  This is all to say, I cannot really run.  

I want to.  It just is not possible without dropping things.  So I settle on a weird half jog, half trot.  

I wonder how fast mosquitos fly?  

Jog-trot jog-trot

It would seem at least as fast as a jog trot.

I continue onward though, I consider that even if the mosquitos keep even, they will certainly have less time to suck my blood if I am outside for less time.  I majored in math word problems.  Very specific major, but let me tell you, tot-ally worth it.

I am nearing the road.  I feel itchy burn in my elbows.  That is odd.  I do not remember applying Ben Gay (I doubt that this is how it is spelled people.  I even doubt that I am referencing the correct product.  But, as this is how it is in my head, and I am currently flying without access to the internet, we are going with it.) to my elbows.

Mosquito sharp nose straw things are not long enough or strong enough to penetrate my flannel.  Certainly.

I peer down at my elbows.  They are black.  Sure, there are spots of flannel.  But the elbows are black with flannel spots.  Just like a zebra is white with black stripes.  Or whichever.

I flail.  I do this in the grand tradition of the completely creeped out.  The person that just bit into meat and saw maggots, etc.  This only rids me of some.  

I then self flagellate.  This gets the rest.  I see the road.  I know that the sweet safety of the 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan with plush cushioned seats that disappear into the floor to make a completely flat sleeping surface or carrying surface or landing pad is near.   I slept in its warm flat nurturing comfort last night.  The seats are still stowed. 

I see the wonderful fantastic Grand Caravan.  With automatic doors.  Including automatic beeping back door.   Here, I am using beep to mean beep.  (I will not always.  Spoiler alert.  Wait, are you supposed to put the alert before the spoiler?)  As in, the back door beeps three times before it opens.  

I hatch a plan.  I sprint for the van.  Mid sprint I hit the fob.  I glance backward and see a cloud behind me.  This is a good sign.  I am loosing at least some of the tailgaters.  

The back door opens.  I superman it inside.  I turn the superman into a side slide.  I look pretty rad.  I tug the door closed.  Some mosquitos make it in with me.  But more do not.

Now it is on beeps.  (See here, I used beep to mean something else.  Clever, huh?)

I search the back of the van for a weapon.  My glance falls on Red Bane.  Arthur fished Excallibur out of some lake.  I found Red Bane at REI.  

It is a small red rollable head pillow.  When unrolled it is a perfect mosquito killer.  I scan the van’s interior.  

I estimate that there are a whole scary lot of mosquitos.  That is somewhere between a lot and a whole beepin’ lot.  It might seem like these are imprecise terms.  That is because they are.  

“Now you are on my turf, you stupid freaking jerks!”  For me, this is really angry talk.  I never have been great at the trash talk.  

I position myself against the back corner of the van.  I forcefully smash (redundant?) my back against the plastic to kill anything on my back.  Also, this way they cannot surprise me.  

I begin my massacre.

I lounge and swat, spin and hit.  I smash walls and bang joints.  I clear the right back quadrant of the vehicle.  I notice an infestation by the drivers seat.  I jump in front to bring the battle forward.  

BEEP BEEP BEEP the back door warns.   I bumped the fob twisting over the front seat.

BEEP BEEP BEEP, I curse.  I lunge to stop the door from opening.  

I am late.  A second wave is on me.  The amount of mosquitos has risen to a whole beeping scary lot.  

I renew battle.  The body count rises.  Occasionally, I smash a mosquito against a window or a panel and it creates a red explosion.  At first, I love this.

“Take that!  I just killed the blood out of you!”  Again, I am not great with the trash talk.  

Then, as I realize that it was little specks of my blood splattering the interior, I begin to jump when it happens.  A little like exploding bloody jack in the boxes.

But I am winning the battle.  

I white Mercedes pulls up.  A very nice looking couple get out.  They are about thirty feet away. 

By this time, sweat covers me.  My blood courses through me.  My breath is labored.  These make me even more attractive prey to the mosquitos.  I feel like I am in real peril.  Adrenaline is pumping through me.  Higher cognitive thought is beyond me.

“TURN BACK!  THE HORROR AWAITS!”  (see preceding sentence).  

The couple neither hear me- darn you awesome Caravan sound dampening- nor see me- and killer factory installed window tinting. 

I consider opening the window to warn them, but ultimately decide that my situation is the more dire.  Surely, they will not persist down the path for as long as I had.

They disappear down the path and I make an end of the mosquitos.   It takes a few more minutes.  By then the couple has returned to their vehicle, scowled at mine, and left.  

I collapse in a sprawl in the spacious interior.  My breath slows to normal and my grip on Red Bane loosens as I slide it under my head.  It does not even bother me that its mosquito-gut/my-own-blood-encrusted shell is touching my hair, rubbing against my cheek, caressing my tongue, wait, what? 

Salt Lake Utah Lifestyle Photographer

Nature- you got me.  I did not see the mosquitos coming at Snake Bite.  Well played, sir. 

I then Drove down the road and found the cute pictured at the beginning of this post.

Salt Lake Utah Lifestyle Photographer

Other than the bugs, the Everglades were spectacular.  Teeming with life even in the dead of winter.  I did not know much about the Everglades before I went.  I was very pleasantly surprised.

They are not the grandeur of Glacier of the rock faces of Yosemite.  They are a subtler taste.  

Their most remarkable feature is their flatness.  The huge park varies by only seven feet in altitude.  At first, this uniformity seems to breed sameness.  But, as one explores the park, its amazing variety presents.  

Salt Lake Utah Lifestyle Photographer

Hardwood hammocks, sawgrass, the “river of grass,” saltwater estuaries, freshwater oases, dwarf cypress trees that create the illusion of hills.  Wood storks, many herons, Purple Gallinule, Roseate Spoonbills, Alligators, Panthers, and Bald Eagles, and Anhingas.

My time in the Everglades was spent in sweet loneliness.  I was king of the park; free to wade through water, and hike through grass.  I roamed under the cool moon and the warm sun.  I sat and watched the sun and moon dip beneath the horizon as the soft sounds of nature lulled me.  I grinned, and laughed and swooned.

Salt Lake Utah Lifestyle Photographer

BLUE LILY | Lifestyle Photographer | Salt Lake City, Utah