When an underwater mangrove root seizes the front of my 17-foot canoe, I grip my paddle like it’s a battle-ax. The collision hurls me out of my front seat towards a cluster of shrubs.
I fight my way out by jousting at branches and slicing down vines. A trail of vegetation in my wake, I paddle on.
Old timers complain that Hell’s Bay is “hell to get into and hell to get out of” for good reason: To start this 6 mile trail in the Everglades National Park, boaters must navigate through a complicated and somewhat frustrating series of sharp right and left turns, down slim, narrow creeks. But after three hours of paddling, the maze-like conditions ease, as the tiny passageways spread open up into broad canals and, eventually, into expansive bays.
That night, I gaze up at the stars from the middle of Pearl’s Bay. The glassy, smooth conditions of the water reflect the Milky Way back at itself, like a mirror. I float in my canoe, with the day’s struggle now a distant memory, and I realize I won the war.