One more story from the Florida trip that I can’t pass up telling – as I really enjoy stories, and this one is worth the telling………..
The captain of the boat said, “You want to see flowers? I know a great, easy scenic tour you can do this afternoon – real easy!” Did we ask questions? Did we get a map? No! First two teenie mistakes.
“Jane’s Scenic Tour” the man said, so we headed off following the written map he’d given us to get there, not knowing the adventure that would await…
Driving through a local neighborhood made it seem innocuous enough. We assumed ‘easy’ meant that it would be a lovely 11 mile loop and back out through the quiet little neighborhood. Mistake number three – never assume. The drive was beautiful, and quite easy, really. We stopped frequently on the two-track and took a myriad of photos, that is until Carlene quietly let it be known that a facilities stop would be in order shortly. So, speed up a bit – it was only another 4-5 miles of two track, we thought….you got it, mistake number four! About 45 minutes later we reached not the quaint little neighborhood at the end of the loop, but a “T” intersection with a sign that read “Entering Pikayune Wildlife Management Area”! Panic! “We’ll just turn on the GPS and it will get us out of here”, remarked Carlene calmly. As for me, I’m thinking with a growing pit in the middle of my stomach along with a silent prayer, “I’m just hoping that we can get a signal out here in the middle of no where!” She turned on the GPS and soon we got a signal and map with the note “turn right in 12 miles”! “Thank you, Jesus!”
Twelve miles of beautiful scenery, with a small pit in the middle of my stomach – “Can’t believe we are out in the middle of no where without a map!” Finally, we reach the twelve mile mark, and make the necessary right hand turn only to find another 12 miles on the GPS! “It is getting late – after 5pm. How long will this take? Will we find ourselves out here after dark?” are questions that begin running silently over and over in my mind. This road is in much better condition, and so it doesn’t take as long as I thought it would, and the scenery was beautiful – groves of Palms with darkly marked trunks – “Must be a type of palm I hadn’t seen before”, I mused. At the end of the last 12, I am beginning to be relieved, until we see ahead of us a gate with a sign on it “If this gate is closed, please notify…….to have the gate opened!”
That feeling returns, and I have to keep reminding myself that even if no one else knows where we are way out here, the Lord does. Fortunately, the gate is open, there are two trucks parked out by a small trailer, and as we drive through it we see another welcome sign stating “Leaving Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park”. Ahead I see a paved road and a long line of electrical poles – of which I have never been so excited to see in my whole life! Civilization at last, and we made it out alive before dark, with no accidents! I felt like a long lost explorer finally making it to the village gate after a long day wandering around the wilderness! The rest of the trip was uneventful, and Carlene finally found the facilities – good she had a strong bladder, is all I say. We both thank our Lord for protecting us, and we now feel we have a real story to tell. However, the story doesn’t end here and only gets more intriguing…….
The next morning, we are out and about and stop by a Visitor’s Center not far from where we’d been the day before. As both of us are story tellers, we began to tell the woman behind the counter of our unwitting adventures of the day before. She looked at us in dismay and stated “It really is a miracle you both got out of there as you did! There have been fires in the area (maybe those dark trunked palms weren’t a new variety after all), and so all the gates into that region have been closed for a while. You say the gate was open? Amazing!” Needless to say we were a little astonished, and dismayed, and so asked for a map for any other adventures we may come upon accidentally the remainder of the trip. She gave us one map and then said that for the other we would need, we would need to get it from the “Everglades National Park Visitor’s Center” not far up the road. We left quite a bit more grateful for God’s provisions of the day before. But the story doesn’t end……..
We found the Everglades National Park Visitor’s Center, and asked them for the additional map deciding to tell them the same story we had shared not long before, of yesterday’s journey. The park ranger looked at us in astonishment and replied, “You went in there without a map? No one should ever do that! What were you thinking – that area is currently being developed back into a wetland, and no one is supposed to be back there. You should have turned around on the Jane’s Scenic Tour and went back the way you came.” (We can read, and there were absolutely no signs stating as such, truly!) Another gentleman stepped out from the back, having heard our tale and said, “If I may speak. I have hiked that area extensively, and the gate you found was the only gate out of that area. You are very fortunate. Also, that gate has been closed because of fires in the area.” Carlene and I looked at each other and realized the full danger we had been in, and the hand that had truly taken care of us in our ignorance. And we thanked God for knowing where we were and how to get us to safety.