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The Green Life: Tracking TrekEast: Week 2

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February 23, 2011

Tracking TrekEast: Week 2

TrekEastWeek2John Davis's TrekEast adventure from Florida's Everglades to Canada's Gaspe Peninsula has as its goal to raise awareness of the East's remaining wild places, and to inspire people to help protect them. We at the Green Life are logging weekly updates of Davis's progress as he completes his 4,500-mile, human-powered trek.

The beginning of Davis's Week 2 was spent paddling the 100-mile Wilderness Waterway of Everglades National Park. Davis and his four-man crew (a physical therapist, a photographer, an environmental lawyer, and a conservation scientist) explored lakes, swamps, rivers, and creeks rich with wildlife. They saw birds including eagles, hawks, herons, osprey, and egrets and water-dwelling animals including sea turtles, manatees, alligators, and dolphins.

Davis enjoyed the route's serenity but was troubled when the silence (and thereby the creatures' feeding rituals) was interrupted at times by speeding motorboats. He wondered if the boats were driving away species that depended on the area. "This is a wonderful waterway," Davis blogged, "but it is not yet wholly wilderness."

The TrekEast crew spent their days navigating thick mangrove tunnels and their nights setting up camp on "chickees" (roofed platforms above the water.)They reported to the Park Service their rare sighting of a smalltooth sawfish, and were disappointed to learn that many of the big sawfish have been fished out. The crew suffered a couple of setbacks, including a hole in the gear canoe from a sharp branch, and getting briefly stranded in the "Nightmare" (a maze of shallow creeks that require a rising or high tide), but eventually made it to the sunny Gulf of Mexico.

After completing the Wilderness Waterway, Davis headed north to Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park and Big Cypress National Preserve, noting along the way the need for secure wildlife passages near busy highways that fragment habitat. He carried a tiny turtle safely across the Tamiami Highway, but saw many others that hadn't been so lucky. 

Among other actions noted by Davis to be essential in helping to protect and reconnect the wilds of Florida was the need to return natural freshwater flows to areas where saltwater has crept in from rising sea levels, and the need to protect and restore seagrass beds that have been damaged by development, pollution, and motorboats.

Before leaving Big Cypress, Davis was happy to stumble upon what might have been what he had hoped to find: panther tracks.

--Molly Oleson /photo courtesy Wildlands Network

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