CACHING IN THE MANGROVES--
The barrier islands along the Atlantic Ocean shoreline near Vero Beach, FL are largely the result of the growth of mangrove plants--and other marine vegatation--whose, in the case of the mangroves, gangly, above and below water root systems trap sand from the ocean waves, pile it up and retain it--not unlike a snow fence creating huge drifts from a blowing storm.
Here, the Intercoastal Waterway winds its way north and south in the protected lee of those out-islands creating safe passage for mostly pleasure boats in a waterway that extends virtually the entire length of the east coast from Florida to Maine.
Around here they call that waterway the Indian River Lagoon whose mainland shoreline is festooned with yet even more mangrove growth, often creating a labyrinth of canals like the one my geocaching partner Greg Cornett is navigating above.
In several cases we had to rest our paddles, duck our heads and propel our small craft by hand dragging ourselves through the caverns of overgrowth.
Navigating this uncharted, aquatic wilderness is not for the feint of heart. Greg was my experienced guide but even he was backed-up with the tracking feature of our GPS receivers which record an electronic map of the route we used to travel into this featureless maze so, if necessary, we could use that recorded track to find our way out.
This tracking back-up was itself backed-up by the satellite viewing capability of our smartphones. This is not the kind of environment where a sensible person would choose to spend the night in a kayak, lost!
Now, add the additional challenge of finding 8 geocaches; all small, say 1 x 2 inch, camoflaged containers containing only a log we needed to sign as evidence of our success. Greg had found most of them on a couple of earlier outings and increasingly nudged my responsibility for the day's navigational challenges.
We wound up scoring 7 finds of the 8 caches we sought.
On top of that add the fact this was my second ever experience piloting one of these delightful little boats and you have the ingredients for a truly memorable, life's experience.
This is the west shore of the Intercoastal Waterway where we stopped briefly so I could refresh my sunscreen and Greg noticed this pair of mating Horseshoe Crabs (right).
We also enjoyed seeing some dolphins cavorting in the waterway where manatees also enjoy the aquatic habitat.
Our return trip involved paddling to the left side of the visible bridge, turning east there and paddling yet another channel back to our launch ramp--where I confessed the onset of rigor mortis while attempting to quash the flame in my upper body muscles.
Greg's chuckle was not very sympathetic.