Tuesday, July 7, 2009

There is no water on Bull's Island

FRIDAY (Planning for Bull's Island)

Barclay called me to remind me there was no water on Bull’s Island. “We’ll have to pack in enough water for the day,” he said. I had just finished working in the yard for an hour and had already drunk two bottles and was still thirsty. The forecast for Saturday was even hotter and there would be five of us. All day. I was thinking about taking our wheelbarrow on the hike.

BAGMAN: “Don’t be a sissy. It’s going to be great!”

BUTLER: “Last time you got all macho you ended up in the E.R.”

I was pulling out Brian’s big old backpack from the closet. We had used it only once on a three-day camping trip that lasted less than 24 hours due to bugs, my aging spine, and difficulties lighting a campfire in a chilly dawn. As I was looking at the pack, Karen called up from downstairs. “I just talked to Jerry!” (Barclay’s mom and Karen’s best friend) “She says there’s no drinking water on Bull’s Island!”

SATURDAY (Whoopee!)

Bull’s Island is an exquisite wilderness preserve accessible only by ferry. Visitors are limited so we got to the ferry early, worried that the 4th of July weekend would be crowded. We hadn’t considered that almost everybody was more interested in hot dogs, fireworks, beer, and beaches than in slogging through alligator infested trails in 98 degree heat. Only two other people showed up so we had the island to ourselves.

It was my daughter’s last day before returning to Boston and Jean, Karen and I were going with Barclay and Jerry. I had really been looking forward to it...until I’d completed the first 100 yards of the twelve miles Barclay had mapped out. I didn’t mind the long slim black snake that scurried away before I could get out the camera or even my first encounter with a very large Copperhead which I also missed photographing due to the fact we were all frozen in our tracks. What gave me worry was the weight of a ton of water bottles on my shoulders.

Of course Barclay was striding along under the same weight. But he was 40 years younger and had spent the last year tramping all over Northern Kenya. After the first mile, I started drinking water like crazy – not because I was thirsty but because I thought that empty water bottles would be lighter than full ones.

BAGMAN: “Stop whining and enjoy the sights.”

BUTLER: “Try to keep from dripping sweat into the camera’s eyepiece.”

Hey! A Butterfly!
Good excuse to stop, take a picture, try to drink more water

Jean and Barclay deciding to take the longer, more scenic route
Barclay says we'll see more alligators

I'm just focused on the word "longer"

Ah for a cool dip!
Oops! Maybe not, after I noticed the obvious gators.

And the less obvious ones.


Egrets taking off! They probably don't like the alligators.

The mystery bird! I couldn’t find this one in my Audubon Guide?

Help? Does anyone know what kind of bird this is?


And finally, after six miles -- Boneyard Beach
Good for swimming and shots of driftwood.

This one looks like a mermaid has crash landed

Heading back

The six miles back would have been easier because we had emptied ¾ of the water bottles. But, by then, my muscles felt like Gumby and sweat and salt water had converted my shorts and underwear into a fabric that resembled Velcro against my inner thighs. Meanwhile, Karen and Jerry are laughing about their childhood and Barclay is telling Jean how he usually avoids the ferry and kayaks over and back – 90 minutes each way! I consider throwing a water bottle at him.

Back at last, drinking more water, and waiting for the ferry to take us home.

Why are these people still smiling?

The low angle of this photograph is due to the fact that I’m lying on the ground not even concerned about fire ants since they can’t possibly do more damage than the sunburn, mosquitoes, and underwear chaffing has already done.

Riding the ferry back, we were treated to a large school of bottlenosed dolphins. They kept popping up and staring at us. The naturalist driving the boat said they were curious about us but I knew better. They were playing a game with my beat-up and exhausted nervous system. They’d pop up in an unexpected place and as soon as I turned the camera on them they would duck their heads under and giggle madly. I finally ran out of memory card and never did get a single shot with a dolphin face in it.

So I just shot one final picture of myself in Barclay’s sunglasses to prove to myself

that I was still alive.

He's not even sweating!

So, finally, the naturalist driving the boat, smiled, opened a large ice chest and offered us all big…oversized…cold bottles…of water.

I was the only person on the boat that did not take one.

Stayed in bed, moaning

Went to work. Moaned some more.

Finally found enough strength in my fingers to post this.

Now to go and find some texture shots for Friday's Shoot-out. Maybe I'll shoot my Velcro Shorts.


  1. I surely enjoyed that story. I like the comment about the velcro. Pretty good analogy. Sometimes it hard to keep up with the youngsters. My last hooray was a ride on a water ski. Blessings

  2. Well,I finally stopped laughing long enought to comment. You do know that I would be there in no time at all for that kind of adventure! My kind of day, except for the hot weather. This kind of trip is best done in spring and fall. I hope that you were not so turned off that you fail to get some exercise and stretching for the next trip...we are heading out for hiking in the cranberry bogs of Virginia tomorrow. Aren't you absolutely so jealous?

  3. Okay, that is THE BEST post I have read in a long time! Loved the story, loved the pictures - especially the ones on Boneyard Beach! Awesome! And the butterfly - amazing! The bird isn't a cormorant, is it? It is very interesting looking!

    Oh, and Mark....mmmm...maybe no pics of the Velcro shorts. Ok???

  4. Yep! I am with Audrey. Loved the post, the pics, NOT the scary Gators,(wow) loved the smiling loved ones, loved the driftwood especially, and the gnarled tree too.
    You can leave your pants on. :D

  5. Love the pictures though I'm scared to death of gators!

  6. is it some type of heron??? love the post.

  7. What a nice little travel book you put together for us.

    The photos were great as was your commentary, though I think you should have let Bagman do a little more writing.

    I liked the part about your wanting to throw a water bottle. And the little red illustrated circles really drew me in.

    The beach looks beautiful. Can't help you with the bird.

    Glad we don't have alligators here.

    I will email later. Like you, I have been really busy, and I lucked out by getting on jury duty Wednesday and Thursday.

  8. Hi Mark

    I loved those driftwood pics and your birds too -whatever they are...
    Good to see you out walking...somebody has to do it for me...

    Happy days

  9. Well written, humorous and very amusing. I loved it! Great pictures too.

  10. Once again a nice moment, reading and laughing!!

    You needed some rest first, but the result of your report is fantastic!

    I may have supported the hot weather, but not to be surrounded by snakes!

  11. It's always a real pleasure to read your blog. Love the driftwood!

  12. Hehehe, I was pleased to see that you were able to look up away from the gators and see birds, even if you didn't know what they were.

    This was entertaining, and I know what you mean about getting sore after a hike. I used to do it in college, but I don't now. Wow, those muscles you didn't know still lived.

  13. Wow, great pictures! No clue on the bird...I'm scared to death of them so I don't even look at pictures of them! LOL

  14. hey we are so glad you had fun i am really happy that you and jean got to see each other again she was really happy to see you we love you conner loves you we are having a fun time in myrtle beach see you sat when we get back

  15. If the bird doesn't have a baseball team named after it, how important can it be? I'm with Tabor. That's a cooler weather trip. I'm glad you had such a fun time, though. I can't get over the gators. They make them seem so vicious in the movies. And snakes..... you are brave and fearless!

  16. How did I miss this post... probably posted during the 25 hours it took me to get back to Rio. I would love this place, how did you get the shot of the gator from the top?

  17. Just a Passing BirderJuly 10, 2009 at 7:32 AM

    The bird looks like a Stilt - Black-necked is the only Stilt in my National Geographic Bird Guide for North America.

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