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Nightlife in the Swamp


Well-known member
Last weekend I made the road trip to the BIG Southern Airboat Wedding and got to see this part of the St. Johns River System for the first time. It is always exhilarating to explore someplace new and different with the airboat. Doing it at night adds something else to the experience. When the sun goes down the places we take our airboats can become a very different world, and then there is the WILDLIFE in the swamp at night.

I got to the lodge Friday afternoon, dropped off the airboat, and set up camp for the weekend. I met up with “the Bride� and she introduced me to her family from North Carolina. They mentioned that they had never been on a REAL airboat before and I was itching to ride after driving for 4 hours. I said C’mon lets go for a short ride while Moodfood, Cntry141, Stan and Cheryl were on their way. AirboatRN told me roughly where the ceremony was going to be and we took off toward the trail by the Bird Tower. As we got to the trail the water was only a couple of inches deep with steep banks on each side and just as wide as a boat, going down the trail it gets a little wider, when we get to the edge of the lake it starts to open up and I look over 3 feet from where we came out is a couple of 4 inch fence posts sticking up 6 inches out of the water. This Everglades boy is still getting used to riding around cattle country and now visions of JDotson are dancing through my head as the sun is starting to go down we turned around and made our way back to meet the rest of the gang.

The swamp has a certain mystery at night. Night rides on an airboat (when you know where you are going) are absolutely AWESOME. It’s usually quite a bit cooler, the places we go are so remote there is no light pollution and the stars light up the night sky. When there is no moon you cannot even see your hand at the end of your arm. You can only really see what your headlight is shining at. When there is a full moon it can light up the trails like a street light and you don’t even need a headlight. When conditions are right and you can safely run with just running lights, you can only make out the silhouettes of tree islands, you can see the lights on land or other boats for miles and distance perception is definitely different. Winter is also my favorite time of year, you bundle up, layer your clothes, and maybe keep a flask of “antifreeze� in your coat pocket (it helps to keep you warm and fuzzy on the inside and goes better with friends).

Friday night “the Groom� took us on a night ride to the Indian Mound. There was no moon to speak of and there was some “smoke on the water�, it was very humid and a little chilly with the temps in the 50’s and dropping, so we bundled up with a jacket or two, fired up the head lights, and four airboats headed out into the darkness. Moodfood & AirboatRN led the way; I had NC family with me, followed by Stan & Cheryl, with Cntry141 in the back. Leaving the lodge we stayed in the open water, because I wasn’t familiar with the area I stayed relatively close to Moodfood, and running with no headlight I could still see the lights behind me as we passed through the trail by the Bird Tower and into the next lake when we got to the bushes we made a left into another dark lake and headed to the tree line close to the Indian Mound and higher ground. I slid in backwards and did a few spins, pulled up alongside the Moodmobile and we waited for the other two. In just a couple minutes Stan & Cheryl pull up and let us know that Cntry141 got a little sideways, ran his boat up on the bank near the Bird Tower and could use a hand. The group headed back to help. Stan was first in and tried to turn around in the trail and ended up sideways with the front and back of the boat on the ground and the middle was 18 inches off the mud. Now there are two boats stuck. NO PROBLEM WHEN YOU’VE GOT FRIENDS. I pulled up where I thought it was safe, shut down the motor, put on my mud boots, and grabbed my camera. YES, I will help you but I will also take pictures of you while you are down and post them on the internet for the world to see. What are friends for? So with 4 guys we got on the bow and pushed Stan around and pointed him back towards the water. Now it was time for Cntry, his boat was out of the water up on the bank pointed up at the stars, he was standing on the ground in front of his boat and his grass rake was near his chin. We started to push his boat around and as soon as he was pretty sure it wasn’t gonna roll over he started it up and continued to drive it uphill and out of trouble. Now everybody was back in the water and we all drove out and continued our ride to the Indian Mound and got to see where the wedding would take place the next day. On the way back we picked up some wood for a campfire back at the lodge. I made a stop along the way to play with one of the swamp critters I had found and got turned around when I headed out I went the wrong way and kept on going about ½ way back to the mound and realized the error of my ways and turned around again, Cntry was following and just figured I knew what I was doing and forgot something. It was a little cooler and the fog was a little thicker on the way back but we made it with no other incidents.




Saturday we had breakfast (Cheryl Thanks for cooking. Cntry141 Thanks for Coffee) and then took a ride back to the Indian Mound to get started setting up. Soon enough we were bringing guests out, having the ceremony, bringing guests back in, cleaning up afterwards, and getting ready for the reception. After the incredible feast and several adult beverages (I ain’t saying who, but somebody had an ol mason jar with some clear “mountain juice� that went down smooth and had a kick, and they were kind enough to share) there was another kind of WILDLIFE in the Swamp…You should have seen Stan tearing it up out on the dance floor, for a while he was wiggling between a couple of ladies kinda like “a late night Stan-wich“. Things got a little heated when he ended up on all fours with Dakota riding him “Southern Style�. Everybody had a great time. When the party wound down and we got things cleaned up and put away. It was time for another one of those story-telling campfires.



Saturday night was a little more interesting, after the reception some of us still wanted to ride. Safari Rick had done an incredible job with all the food and was looking forward to some boat time, Red Dwarf, CC & Dakota, myself, and Geneva0550 leading the way. To start out with the night air was very wet and the fog was a little thicker than the night before, but nothing to worry about. We had been “primed� at the party and now we were ready to go. Geneva0550 took the group around the channel to Hatbill Park, we stopped to wet our whistle and share a few stories. Somewhere along the way CC went fishing, a 16 inch mullet jumped into his boat. Geneva0550 asked where we wanted to head to next and somebody said Bear Bluff. Now this is where it starts to get good, the weather is changing and the dew has settled making the vegetation look silver when you shine your light on it, you can’t really tell what is wet and grown over or what is dry and grown over and the fog is getting a little thicker. The trail from Hatbill to Bear Bluff is a little hard to find at night and the vegetation has grown over in places. I had never been here and don’t know quite what to expect, I can see some of the river banks near the channel are 2-3 feet tall and there is 6-8 foot tall vegetation in places, on top of that the channels we were in are winding around hairpin turns one right after the other just enough room to get the boat on plane before it would do it again. After a couple of stops to “see where we were�. Our adventure finally brought us to the cabin at Bear Bluff. We stayed and hung out for a bit then figured it was time to head back, that is when the fog rolled in and got really thick. It was so thick in places with your headlight on it would be so bright shining back you could barely make out the front of the boat. Even though I had my GPS and had the trackback to show where I had already been you still had to get there. Now things are getting pretty hairy and my “spidey-senses� are tingling, it is very dark but I can't use my light, I really don't know where I am going or what is around the bend, there are a few spots where you cross from one lake to another, I have seen 3 foot tall riverbanks and fenceposts near the waterline. Part of the group got turned around and ended up back at Hatbill. We could see CC & Dakota shining their light up and headed toward them. We finally found the way back to the Bird Tower and the rest of the way back to the lodge where there was still some of the SA gang hanging out by the campfire. We pulled up a chair and a bottle, and then sat down to get warm in the company of good friends.

Sunday morning a bunch of the gang met up at the lodge and we cooked breakfast. It sure is a lot more work to cook for 16 people than I am used to, normally it is just me and my boy when we go camping, but I ain’t skeered-bring it on. A couple of hours later there were pastries, coffee, orange juice, pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausages, and ham. Once everybody ate and got cleaned up. It was time to ride again, this time it was just Safari Rick and myself with the NC family. Rick asked “do you know where you are going�? I told him I was pretty sure I could get back to where we were last night. So off we went, this time it was much easier to get to Bear Bluff, it was a lot closer than I thought, and most of the mystery from the night before was gone. It was still a real nice ride. So we head back to the lodge to load up the airboats. At home in the Glades normally I have the luxury of a very nice and easy “wet ramp� to get my machine back on the trailer. You boys do it a little different up there, “dry loading�, you drive the airboat up a hill across a field then right up and onto the trailer, I have to admit I need some practice because I came in a little fast, hit the stop on front of the trailer, and darn near parked the airboat in the bed of the truck. It is almost as much fun to put it back on the trailer as it is to ride the swamp.
I know this is really long, my family and friends say that every time I come home from one of these trips I jabber on telling stories of what a fantastic weekend and what a great time I had with friends. I don’t get to do it as often as I would like, but when I do I really like to have fun.
If you get a bunch of good ‘ol-boys & girls together you are bound to get some good times, good food and good stories.
Hey Whitebear when is that book coming out?
WOW what a TIME I missed !

Your post makes it seem like I was right there sharing it though. I am so much looking forward to meeting everyone and the rides coming up.

I wouldn't expect the book to be ready for print much before mid summer or even early fall '07. Its a labor of love and with the new (to me) airboat and kids and grandkids I havent seen for a LONG time, well its going to take a little while to get the jet fumes off and learn to be grandpaw again.

Its not all coming from the fourum folks so theres a LOT of listening and asking questions and personal interviews to do still. If I just replrint whats on the forum, well you could just read the forum LOL.

Theres going to be at least 50% thats never been printed before, maybe more.

'07 is going to be a banner year for me ! Im going to have more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Maybe even more fun than the law allows .....oops......LOL !

Bring it on !
Scotty :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
Great post ab4fun!

Every airboat trip is an adventure.
The night element raises it up another notch or two!

I love it.

Great story man.

I'm just glad Stan did'nt get hurt........
On the dance floor that is! All the ladies ganging up on him, and all.
What a blast I had over the weekend heck I'm one of those guys that'll go anywhere and follow just about anyone with a boat. You just can't beat the good times and good people ya meet with an airboat. Randy anytime and I do mean anytime you want to ride I'll be game, and by the way thanks again for the "ANTIFREEZE".
Randy what a weekend. We had a great time with all of you. I saw you taking pictures and I just had to take advantage of a great photo op with Stan. He surprised me and he is a great booty dancer. :D Hope to do it again soon.
It was a blast for sure. I woulda been disappointed if no one had a camera, I had left mine in the truck afterall it was only a short ride LOL.
Randy, you were a truly welcome addition to the group. I'm glad you made it and am pleased we got to ride together.

I had a real blast. Thanks for the photos!

Chris "Red"
Randy, Great summary of the events and cool photos as well. I missed the friday night adventure but had a "foggin" awesome time riding with y'all sat night. Enjoyed bs'ing with you and rick at the campfire afterwards . Look forward to riding area 3 with you soon.

Good job Randy!

cntry & stan....I think I've been stuck in that same ole dried up ditch before (probably several times). I don't care how "BAD" a boat is....if you ain't gettin stuck every now & then, then you ain't having as much fun as you should be IMO. :)

Great dance floor action too.

Hard to believe the only link other than snake creek from loughmans to the river is only ankle deep. Last year they would be almost chest deep in that same spot. You could see the water running out of the lake.
Snake Creek is treacherous in low water. snakey turns with vertical mud banks.

That road crossing got us too - earlier in the week. Our old boat ended up many feet up the hill... but I had the 2 gals on the boat to help push.

RANDY!!!!! GREAT SUMMARY! Night is fun out there FOR SURE. Partly because it's different, but also there is some added thrill due to the VERY REAL danger of those fence posts. Making it back means something. ;)

I'm glad you got to take my new bro-in-law out to see Bear Bluff. Thanks again for hauling them around.

Thanks for the photos.... and Dakota - remind me to RUN AWAY if they play that song anywhere near a dance floor!!!!! You may have snared Stan, but yikes.... That's just dangerous!!!!!!

Thanks again for coming out y'all. It was so much fun in more ways than one.


4fun thanks for the blow by blow i was out of state couldnt be at the wedding sure looks like i missed it,, looks like cntry was trying out that 4th blade, hey stan did you see the tall blone, mood & rn live long and prosper