I went with a friend on a photo shoot/birding expedition to the Florida Everglades. I forget which park it was, but I don't know what I was thinking. It's the Everglades. It's muddy. It's wet. It has alligators and panthers. Did you know that Florida has panthers? I'd forgotten that. Panthers. Hmmm... OK; you can't see it, but I'm making my scared face. And why the possibility of seeing alligators doesn't have me making my scared face, but maybe seeing a panther does? I dunno.
OK. Here's a confession. I have a pathological fear of mud, and it's only mud of a certain viscosity that skeeves me right the hell out. I was never a child who liked to walk barefoot in the mud or make mud pies. No! none of it! And even though I wasn't walking barefoot through the Everglades and I had on my nifty hiking boots (remember the ones I bought on sale and that had a friend believing I was a pod person from Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Those boots?), it was just the feel of the mud as my foot sank and got stuck in it. I had visions of getting stuck in quicksand, except it was mud.
I swallowed my panic because I didn't want to worry the person I was with (and who'd have to share an hour and a half car ride back with me through the Everglades to Fort Lauderdale). I was doing OK until she points just ahead of me and says, "doesn't that look like an alligator track over there?" "I'm sorry; alligator WHAT?!" I think to myself. And I'm stuck in the mud. I can just hear my husband now. "Alligator?! You're here now because you got eaten by an ALLIGATOR?! How many bites did it take? One or two?"
"Oh," I said with amazing calmness. "Alligator where?" My friend points out a long trail that had been made by something of a substantial size, having flattened out the tall grass in its wake. Thankfully it was going in the opposite direction from us, and had long since gone before we got there.
You would think that I would have turned around at that point, but people think lots of things, don't they?
We went a little bit further, and it keeps getting muddier and wetter. I try to focus on the trees. I focus on the birds. I try not to think that I don't remember where the trail is.
And then we hear voices. Either we were both having a psychotic break at the same time, or there really IS someone else on the trail with us. Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? Can I get out of here?
We see a group of people just ahead of us coming out of the marsh. Led by a park ranger, everybody is wet up to their knees. I breathed a bit easier seeing the ranger until she told us that she wasn't exactly sure if she'd picked the right trail back, so she was glad she saw us...
Yes, the Everglades are lovely this time of year. Just remind me not to go over a hard rain, and pick a trail that hasn't been defined by something big enough to consider me a tasty tidbit.