I was looking forward to October 31, not only because it was Halloween, but also because I was going slough slogging through Taylor slough with my everglades class. I was not sure what to expect slough slogging to be, I only knew that it sounded like alot of fun. Upon arrival at the Main Visitor Center an unexpected guest showed up, so I knew I was in for an adventure. I had thought that Mr. Watson was killed some time ago, but he was standing right in the center of the room, knife in hand prepared for anything. After piling into a few cars we drove a half a mile through a dirt road to our entering point on Taylor Slough. I felt privileged to be able to slough slog through Taylor slough after the ranger had informed us that very few visitors get to do this. My journey into the slough is one I will not soon forget, vivid pictures of the following still race through my head: the scenery; the struggle; my yearning for dry land.
As we submerged into the slough I quickly noticed the many vast mats of periphyton lying on the water, they almost seemed to be giving a resting place for the abundance of sawgrass growing about. As we started our trek through the muck and water I began to pity those few students who did not heed the warning and wore shorts into the slough.
Slogging through dense algae, water, and mud starts to take its toll after a while. Between the water and algae my feet felt as if they weighed a ton. While slogging through the huge plain of sawgrass and periphyton I began gasping for air as my feet were giving in. Finally I decided to wallow in the periphyton ridden waters for a few minutes to rest up, oddly enough I think I was the only one to take a seat on the mats of algae. I guess no one wanted to get wet and mucky, the laugh was on them though. Upon entering a hammock for lunch just about every student fell into the water hole in front of the trees, I even had to help a few people out of the hole. By the time we arrived in the hammock, however, we had already lost one or two students who decided they couldn't make it and turned back.
My lunch consisted of sitting on a fallen cypress log eating some fruits. The first log I sat on was quite unsteady, in fact it cracked a few times as Prof. Machonis moved about along its length trying to find a good seat. Although I didn't have much to eat, I relished every bit of my food as I shuddered to think about the trek back. The scenery was actually breathe taking as I began to notice it. This hammock reminded me of some of the paintings of Prof. James Couper, and even of some of the precious photographs from Clyde Butcher. Its fascinating how these huge Cypress trees flourished in the pool of water below. As lunch came to an end my much dreaded journey back to land was about to take place.
From the onset of the way back I was scoping out my car like sea explorers searching for land. The terrain was not consistent, some spots were deep with water and others where high in sawgrass. The only thing that remained consistent was that every step began to be a struggle. Once my car was finally in my vision a silent sigh of relief passed through me as I whispered 'Car Sweet Car.' As I stepped out of the slough I ran for the cooler to drink some much needed water. My 'in depth' exploration of the everglades and Taylor Slough in particular is a memory that will stay with me for quite some time.
One thing I realized during this expedition was that slough slogging was not for me. I felt like I had lost 20 pounds when the journey was complete. My hands were lacerated in several different areas from that horrendous sawgrass. The various little creatures lurking about such as water spiders and crayfish were easy to ignore, I left them alone and they left me alone. I guess the reason that this event became so treacherous for me is because of my bronchial condition, I was gasping for air so much that I wasn't able to fully enjoy the surrounding beauty. I won't forget the swamp like hammock that we ate lunch in though, that was a beautiful site to behold. I even had a snail trek across my leg on its way across one of the logs. Although I was truly relieved when the day was over I was happy to be able to accomplish something that very few visitors do, the ranger said that maybe one in a thousand visitors get to slog across the everglades like we did. I wonder if Mr. Watson is going to show up again next class session, we are going to meet in Chokoloskee and the 10,000 islands, a place Mr. Watson should be quite familiar with. I know that it will definitely not be as physical and exhilarating as my slough slogging adventure, but when I think about it maybe that is a good thing.
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