Mike emailed me a few weeks ago and said he was heading down from Vermont and wanted to face his fears in the Fakahatchee. We had planned on meeting last year to search for 2 rare ferns in the 80,000 acre wilderness and instead he spent a rain-soaked night in the Everglades, listening to bellowing alligators and fearing the consequences of drinking water filtered through his own shirt. It was a life or death experience and now he was hoping to put that nightmare in the past and finally get to searching for the rare ferns we had hoped to find a year ago.
After an hour of slogging through ankle deep water, I paused to look around, giving our second Water Moccasin a chance to slither between the two of us. I shouted an expletive, jumped backwards and watched it swim into a small cypress hammock. My heart racing, I quickly and carefully waded up to Mike. After 90 minutes we began to hear the bellowing of alligators coming from the pond - loud territorial growls intended to keep us at bay. Had any of these alligators ever seen a human before? It's possible they hadn't but like any well behaved alligator, they took to the water and ceased their grumbling. The age old question is answered below. Bears do poop in the woods. That was one big turd. After 4 hours of listening to buzzing, swatting at bugs and sweating through my long-sleeved shirt, I was exhausted. The search for our ferns had been unsuccessful and torn and tattered we began to head back through the tangle of trees. My safari tour hat has suffered greatly - here appearing bent, soaked and dirty. As we dragged ourselves back through the swamp, Mike shouted out. This was something I had gotten used to, but was never sure if it was for a wild animal, a poisonous plant or an exclamation of joy. It turns out that after giving up, we had accidentally stumbled on the rare "Bird's Nest Fern". It looks similar to the common Strap Fern with a few subtle differences. To the common person it no doubt looks like any other green leaf and I wouldn't expect the image of it to change readers world. But after 4+ hours of searching it was truly exciting for us. Thoroughly pleased, we continued on and had just gotten under way when Mike said "Wait - here it is". And there it was - our 2nd rare fern species. An unassuming little thing that even I thought looked like every other green leafy thing. There is a great wilderness here and there can be little doubt that there are other rare species if not completely new species of ferns, flowers, insects and other living things. I wondered how such things could be found. We might have passed over something unknown. Mike said to me later - "You see what you know". Everything else is a mystery to be solved and something new to learn.