On the second longest day of the year, I traveled to one of the most remote locations in Florida, The Florida Everglades. I usually don’t travel to the Everglades in the summer, mainly because of the bugs. They can be horrible, at best, in the winter. Summer they can be epic. Borderline plague. So thinking all these thoughts through, I hauled my boat, the Muspa, to the small outpost of Chokoloskee Island and set out to see one of my favorite trees in bloom, the Royal Poinsettia. There is a Royal Poinsettia tree located on Hog Key many miles from where I left the mainland behind. For over ten years I have wanted to observe this particular tree in bloom. I know they bloom earlier, farther to the south, but I thought it was worth a shot. On the way to Hog Key I stopped by Plover Key, a key I have never been to before. The shells were plentiful and the beach relaxing. The tides allowed me to stay for a while before I caught the high tide at Hog Key. The long weathered Poinsettia had a few red flowers which I expected to see a red glow from miles away. This tree has weathered many hurricanes and storms. I will try earlier next year to see this magnificent tree in bloom.
I decided on my return trip to travel the back country and go up rivers I haven’t been up for over ten years. The Chatham River holds many secrets, this is where I left the Gulf behind and traveled into the watery mangrove forests. The notorious Edgar Watson had a place on a 40 acre shell mound at the turn of the century on the Chatham River. He was known to have killed a a few people and every now and then people who worked for him would turn up “missing”. Truth or fiction traveling by his place does have a different feel about it. I didn’t stay long. Weaving in and around the mangroves, I continued into Huston Bay traveling through Oyster Bay then into the magnificent Sunday Bay where the water averages 3 feet deep. Twisting and turning my way into the Lopez River where I had the tide in my favor and skipped across Chokoloskee Bay back to the boat ramp. At the end of the day, sixty miles were traveled. Beautiful cumulus nimbus clouds observed along with pink roseate spoonbills, a four foot shark in very shallow water, a large tree stump that I left bottom paint on as I pulled my anchor. Memories of the water and what lie underneath me, I have logged in my mind for the next excursion to the intriguing Florida Everglades.
Brian Holaway

I have been a Shelling Guide to Cayo Costa State Park since 1995. Many people know me as the Shelling Guide and Captain with Captiva Cruises over the past 20 years. In 2016 I began solely offering private small boat charters to the islands of Pine Island Sound including Cayo Costa State Park, Cabbage Key, Useppa Island, Pine Island and North Captiva. I am a certified Florida Master Naturalist, licensed USCG Captain, avocational photographer, seashell enthusiast and passionate about the history, people and culture of Southwest Florida, especially Cayo Costa. I volunteer as a member of Friends of Cayo Costa State Park and have great respect for the heritage of Cayo Costa. My goal is to provide guests with an overall experience and appreciation for the waters, islands, shells, plants, marine life, wildlife, history and people of this unique area of Southwest Florida.

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