At the end of March, my brave girl and I experienced something new… together. We went on our first backpacking trip. It was just an over-nighter, but what an adventure she and I had!
The night before, we packed our backpacks, divvying up our gear and supplies, giggling and talking about what we think it will be like.
The next day, we threw our packs in the car and off we went to Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, FL. Our plan was to hike 6 miles to Bee Island, spend the night, and hike the 6 miles back. I made sure that we started early enough to ensure plenty of daylight so we could take as many breaks as needed and just take our time and enjoy this experience.
We checked in at the Ranger Station, drove to the gate, parked on the side of the road, adjusted our packs just right and put one foot in front of the other. It was about a half mile from the gate to the trailhead, which I wasn’t aware of. No big deal… just added a mile to our planned 12 miles (roundtrip).
We took our time, stopped to pick flowers, have lunch, and roll up our pants to make our way through swampy areas. It was quite hot that day and we took many, many water breaks… More than I had anticipated, actually.
There is a lot of standing water around Myakka, and at one point we heard something running through the water that was about 15-20 feet away from us. We froze and saw a huge boar (~300lbs) come charging out of the water! It was quite frightening, but also pretty awesome to witness. After that incident, my sweet girl stayed pretty close to me.
We finally reached our camp and we were the only ones on Bee Island, and it remained that way for our entire visit. Which was nice because we had the entire place to ourselves, but also a little worrisome because of what happened next…
We set up camp and sat down to play cards before dinner. As we are deep into an intense game of Go Fish, we heard this rustling behind us, like someone walking up towards camp. We turned around, and saw a 6 ft alligator making his way towards us. I stood up and the gator froze, got on its belly, and opened its mouth. He was no more than 10 feet away from us. Morgan was worried, but stayed calm and insisted we continue our card game, as she was about to win! My clever girl suggested we move our tent, and so we did. The gator hung around for about an hour and then it moved on. But, every little rustle we heard, we were convinced it was coming back to visit!
After dinner, we pumped water from the well because we drank so much water during the day, we weren’t going to have enough for our hike back. I treated it, and let it sit overnight.
We got cozy in our little tent, listened to the night sounds, and chatted about how crazy our adventure had been so far!
The next morning, I got up before she did and made coffee and watched the sunrise. Sleepy little girl got up and had hot chocolate and cereal, and we packed up camp and headed back.
The sweetest moment happened when we were on that last half mile headed towards the gate. When the gate was in sight, Morgan grabbed my hand with a huge smile… as if to say: We did it… let’s cross the finish line together. With tears in my eyes and my girl’s tiny hand in mine, we crossed our first of many finish lines to come. And celebrated with a victory kiss!
This girl… I can’t believe how lucky I am to be her Momma. She is brave, open-minded, creative, adventurous, witty, confident beyond belief, kind, strong, balanced, intuitive… and so, so much more. She is so special and anyone who meets her will understand what I mean. She is going big places and doing big things and I am so proud of the person she is evolving into.