3 Parks That Prove Why Your Vote Matters


In today’s current political climate, the midterm elections are as important as ever. And for national park advocates, voting can have an impact on the parks that we all enjoy.

National parks receive millions of visitors each year, requiring funding that can be secured by candidates that support conservation. And it’s not just iconic national parks like Yosemite or Yellowstone that hang in the balance. National memorials, monuments, and historical sites are parks that can be preserved and protected with your vote.

In honor of tomorrow’s Election Day, we’re highlighting 3 national parks that epitomize our democracy and prove that your vote matters.

1. Constitution Gardens Memorial


The Constitution Gardens is a 52-acre park located within the National Mall in Washington D.C. Flanked on either side by the Vietnam War and World War II Memorials, Constitution Gardens is an urban respite, filled with lawns, walking paths, and benches that surround a serene, manmade lake.

Originally established in 1976 to celebrate America’s 200th birthday, the memorial is located on a small island, accessible by a footbridge. Here, visitors can find stones that inscribe the names of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence. In addition to the memorial, the National Park Service hosts an annual naturalization ceremony in the Constitution Gardens, celebrating and welcoming immigrants who have recently become U.S. citizens.

The Constitution Gardens Memorial serves as a reminder of the founders of our country, who drafted the democratic ideals of our nation and believed in our rights as voters. To learn more, visit the Chimani website.

2. Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail


The Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail is an iconic stop in our nation’s voting history. This historic site in Alabama marks the 54-mile walk from Selma to Montgomery, following the steps of civil rights activists who marched to support the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The march, which began in Selma, grew to 25,000 participants and culminated in Montgomery, where marchers congregated to hear Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his “How Long, Not Long” speech. The Voting Rights Act, which outlawed discriminatory voting laws and created equal voting rights for African Americans, was signed five months later by President Lyndon Johnson.

Today, visitors can follow the signs that highlight notable stops in the march and key moments in the civil rights movement, including the Selma Interpretive Center, the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and the Alabama State Capitol.

This historic trail is a meaningful reminder of how, not too long ago, voting was a privilege for some and not a right for all. To learn more, visit the Chimani website.

3. Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument


Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, located in the rugged wilderness of Maine’s north woods, is 86,000 square miles of preserved forest, streams, lakes, and mountains. In fact, Mount Katahdin boasts the highest peak in Maine at 5,269 feet and marks the end of the famed Appalachian Trail.

In addition to hiking and camping, this federal parkland offers visitors the chance to cross-country ski, canoe, mountain bike, and hunt within the solitude and beauty of the park. Named a national monument in 2016 by President Barack Obama, this land is now protected from drilling, mining, and logging operations that could destroy its rustic beauty. To learn more, visit the Chimani website.

However, just as a presidential order has the power to create a national monument, it is being used to reduce them as well. National parks may not be protected forever. This means that voting for elected officials who support conservation can be instrumental in preserving public lands for us and for future generations. 

From our founding fathers to the civil rights movements, to modern politics—the National Park System is intrinsic to our democracy. Researching and voting for candidates in congressional, state, and local elections make a difference and will allow for your voice to be heard. So be sure you hit those polls tomorrow and GO VOTE!


Jersey Griggs is a travel and outdoor recreation writer for hire. A certified yoga instructor and a lover of all things outdoors, Jersey loves to ski, camp, and hike in national parks near and far from her home base of Portland, Maine. When not writing, she is certainly doing something outside with her husband and dog. To learn more, check out her website or follow her on Twitter.

On and Off the Trail in Acadia: Brook Trout Fishing in Acadia National Park


A good friend of mine – and an incredible fly angler – once told me a story he called the evolution of the fly fisherman:

When someone first learns to fish using a fly rod (and the same probably holds true of a spinning rod as well) they’re hell bent on catching a fish, no matter what kind. Then they’re similarly focused on catching as many fish as humanly possible and before too long the largest fish, who’s size they of course will embellish over time. As the angler acquires skill, he or she then looks to catch the smartest fish, or, without judging the intellect of fishes, at least the more difficult fish to catch. But after these stages, the angler looks to catch the eternal fish, by which I mean that the act of fishing has become more important than the result and, more importantly, that the angler has become focused on the conservation of fish and the ability of future generations to engage with fishing.

I love that story. Especially when he tells it I’m transported immediately to the scene of Karate Kid where Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) instructs Danny (Ralph Macchio) on the proper techniques of waxing cars … “wax on, wax off.”

Well your grasshopper here isn’t sure where he sits in this particular evolutionary chain of being – likely somewhere between the big fish and the smart one, although I remain skeptical that there are such defined stages along the road toward Zen master angler.

Because I am a resident of the hamlet of Bar Harbor here on Mt. Desert Island, with a job that limits the amount of recreational time at my disposal, and because that time constraint limits me to fishing in the waters of Acadia National Park (poor, poor baby), the big fish just isn’t much of a possibility at all.

Sure, our lakes and ponds have some big, beautiful land-locked salmon and brook trout, but I’m of the persuasion or the perversion that streams are where my boots should be. I don’t much care for fishing on ponds unless they are frozen and there is beer and fire.

But my real passion is fishing in creeks with tiny, dry flies and stalking if not always catching native brook trout. These are what might you call smart fish, although I may have taken an errant turn on the evolutionary tree branch toward just very small fish.

(Undisclosed location where brook trout can be found … with patience)

Though I’m hesitant to tell you about them all for fear you might spoil my tranquility, you should know that Acadia is crisscrossed with many such creeks that hold brook trout. There are about 46 watersheds on Mount Desert Island that feed these small streams as they make their way to Frenchman Bay in the east or Blue Bill Bay toward the West or the major ponds and lakes at the island’s center where most of you should focus your fishing.

But to those who are ready to brave the bugs and are comfortable with spending some time untangling line from the surrounding wilds that will without a doubt toy with your patience, consider these small streams. Consider Hunters Brook near Seal Harbor where the fish are especially plentiful in a last, large pool before the ocean. This is perhaps the one spot on the island where you can pretend to play Paul Maclean of River Runs Through It, with your epic false casts and all. Or consider Duck Brook right in Bar Harbor where there is one pool that I know holds a 10-inch trout. Be kind if you catch him – be sure you’re using a small hook (size 20 or smaller) where you’ve pinched the barb flat and, remember, this is a grandfather, monster fish where MDI inland fishing is concerned, don’t handle him with dry hands or keep him out of the water while you fumble with your iPhone to grab a picture. No one will be impressed, I promise.

Eventually, you will tire of these spots. I have. But I’ve developed a new approach to my fishing that will keep me interested for the foreseeable future. I’ve taken up the personal challenge of hunting these brook trout with the goal of catching said fish at the highest altitude, shooting for the pools furthest from where the stream hits the ocean, nearest the creek headwaters. Just yesterday I caught a fish about 20 yards downstream from the carriage road bridge on Jordan Stream – a new record for that stream. It was a mighty, three-inch brook trout who went after my caddis fly with the gusto of something very vicious or very hungry.

(Beautiful brook trout in Hunters Brook)

Here’s the thing: this kind of fishing isn’t for everyone. For the true beginner, I’d suggest searching for more open spots where you can find rhythm and shape in your cast and have better chances at finding that first fish. I’ve you’re driven toward the large or the many, you will be frustrated on these streams. But if you like getting to places in Acadia where not too many people have been, if you’re intrigued by the idea of understanding fish behavior and like cataloguing that behavior, if you can appreciate beautiful colors and attributes in the small as well as the large, I’d highly suggest bringing your rod and taking a detour upstream. Hope to see you there or, better yet, know you are enjoying a similar kind of experience elsewhere on MDI.

Darron Collins is a 1992 graduate of College of the Atlantic (COA) and, in July 2011, became the seventh president of COA and the first alumnus to hold that position. Prior to coming back to COA, Collins had been managing international and domestic projects at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for a decade. After four years of work in the Amazon Basin, he was asked to lead the organization’s strategic planning process. Then, during the later half of his career at WWF, Darron served as managing director for the Amur-Heilong Ecoregion—an area the size of Alaska, encompassing parts of Russia, Mongolia, and China—and as senior advisor to the organization’s CEO.

A native of Morris Plains, New Jersey, Collins is an avid fly-fisherman, cyclist, hiker, and trail runner. In the summer of 2015 Collins climbed 40 named peaks on Mount Desert Island in one single 27-hour expedition and continues to design and execute endurance adventures annually. He lives in Bar Harbor, Maine with his wife, Karen, their two daughters Maggie and Molly, and their black Lab named Lucy.


Chimani receives the Innovation & Creativity Award


Chimani receives the Innovation & Creativity Award at the 2017 Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Augusta, Maine.

Last week, Kerry Gallivan, founder of Chimani travel apps for national parks, was awarded the Innovation & Creativity Award at the 2017 Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Augusta, Maine. The Governor’s Conference on Tourism is held every year to bring 400 tourism organizations together to share ideas, discuss best practices, and learn upcoming trends and marketing from industry experts.

Gallivan founded Chimani, in 2010, to combine his love of national parks with his mission to provide mobile tools that would empower travelers to explore more fully.   “I’ve loved our national parks since I was a kid and I believe helping people have better more fulfilling park experiences can lead to a lifetime of love, stewardship, and advocacy for these great spaces –  ultimately preserving them for generations.” said, Gallivan.

The Innovation & Creativity Award was given to Chimani for their development of a mobile version of the Friends of Acadia’s Acadia Quest game which was built into the Chimani Acadia National Park app.

The Acadia Quest game hosts a series of experiences in Acadia National Park that encourage youth and families to explore, learn, and protect national parks and other conserved lands. Teams who completed the quest earned prizes such as an annual Acadia park pass. Friends of Acadia have been running a paper version of the Acadia Quest program for nine years, but this was their first launch of it on an app.

“Winning this award was a great honor, “ said Kerry Gallivan, “there are so many great organizations doing creative work getting people to Maine and when one of us succeeds we all benefit. For this particular project, I was fortunate to work with the good folks at Friends of Acadia. I believe the project was so successful because of our shared vision to get more people, especially kids, out in the park in a fun and unique way. We were thrilled by the mobile version of Acadia Quest’s popularity.  We had over 25,000 check-ins over the course of the summer. It’s important for me to recognize Friends of Acadia when accepting this award.”


Other award winners were: David L. Berg,  Red Apple Campground who received the Leadership & Growth Award; Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce who received the Marketing & Promotion Award; Biddeford Mills who received the Originality Award, and Karen Arel, President, Ogunquit Chamber of Commerce who received the Governor’s Award for Tourism Excellence.

8 Ways to Avoid the Crowds at the National Parks

NPScrowdYellowstoneNearly everyone wants to enjoy the beauty and majesty of the National Parks at some point in their lives — the problem is when too many of us have the same idea at the same time. More than 300 million people visit the U.S. National Parks each year, and nothing can kill the buzz of getting outdoors and communing with nature quite so quickly as having to share the experience with hoards of other people.

Even at the height of tourism season, however,  crowds are neither inevitable nor unavoidable. Here’s our advice for finding serenity amid the scenery when you head to the parks:

Travel During the Off Season

Generally speaking, summer is the busiest season with the biggest crowds in the national parks (one major exception is Death Valley National Park, where scorching summer temperatures make spring, fall, and winter visits far more preferable). But Yellowstone’s hot springs, pools and geysers can be equally enchanting during the winter, desert flowers are in bloom during the springtime in Joshua Tree (another park to avoid in mid-summer), and the changing leaves make fall an ideal time to visit Acadia National Park.

Remember, the parks are open year-round, not just between Memorial Day and Labor Day!

Visit Early or Late in the Day

Seeing the sun rise from the summit of Haleakala National Park or atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia are not only quintessential National Parks experiences, but allow early risers to hit the trails before the crowds start filtering into the parks later in the morning. Park rangers say that the earlier in the day you arrive, the better (at least prior to 10 a.m.), especially when parking lots at popular parks can start filling up even before 9 a.m. in the summer.

Likewise, sticking around for sunset is its own reward and offers the option of lingering into the evening, when many parks offer stargazing, campfire chats, and other night programs that typically are enjoyed by far more campers than day-trippers.

Avoid the Weekends

Visiting the national parks is a vacation of a lifetime for many people, so you won’t necessarily avoid all the crowds by visiting during the week, especially in the summer. But at least you won’t have to cope with the sometime overwhelming combination of vacationing park-goers plus day trippers making a quick visit on their Saturday or Sunday off.

Choose the Road Less Traveled

We all know the names of America’s iconic parks — Yellowstone, Yosemite, Bryce, Zion, the Grand Canyon — and the reason we do is because they’re so incredibly popular. Yet the U.S. National Parks system is not only remarkably rich and diverse (there’s over 435 parks in all), but there are plenty of spectacular landscapes to explore at lesser-known parks, where crowds are rare.

More than 10 million people visit Great Smoky Mountain National Park each year, for example: only 12,000 venture into Gates of the Arctic National Park. But you don’t have to go to Alaska to avoid throngs of visitors: Lake Clark National Park, North Cascades National Park, and Isle Royale National Park are all parks in the Lower 48 that get far fewer than 100,000 visits each year. Lightly visited Capital Reef National Park in Utah is often recommended as an alternative to busy Zion. You can get all the info you need on these and other less-familiar parks by downloading the free Chimani National Parks app on iTunes or the Google Play store.

Seek Out Remote Corners

The simple act of going for a hike can separate you from the crowd at many national parks, which all too many visitors still experience from the window of a car or tour bus, or at a scenic overlook steps from a parking lot.

Venture into the backcountry and you’ll quickly discover what true isolation and freedom feels like. The same basic rules apply to most national parks: the more you have to sweat, the fewer crowds you’ll get.

For example, Grand Canyon National Park sprawls across more than 1,900 square miles, yet the vast majority of the park’s 6 million annual visitors never stray further than a few miles from the South Rim. Hiking more than a few hundred feet below the canyon rim is all it takes to transition from a theme-park atmosphere to wilderness, especially if you choose a route other than the popular Bright Angel Trail. And of course, the North Rim is far less crowded any time of year. Trying to avoid the summer traffic jams in the Yosemite Valley? Check out the nearby Hetch Hetchy Valley, also inside park boundaries.

Learn to Love the Rain

Most parks are open 365 days a year. Not all of them are going to be warm and sunny. Many casual visitors will simply stay home if the forecast calls for rain or other inclement weather, so be bold, zip up your waterproof hoody, and defy the raindrops for some cherished alone time in the parks.

Bring Your Own Food

You didn’t really come to the parks to eat overpriced cafeteria food, did you? Packing your own picnic lunch will keep you out of the lines at concession stands and provides the flexibility to stop and eat amid some of the most spectacular scenery on Earth. One of our favorite meals ever was simple cheese and crackers, noshed amid the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon’s Peekaboo Loop Trail  — a far better experience than watching the yellow jackets buzz around the garbage cans back at the lodge.

Don’t Forget the Forest Service and Other Federal Parks

The parks administered by the U.S. National Park Service tend to get most of the public attention and love, but the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have hundreds of additional protected parks that your can enjoy. The fabled El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico is managed by the Forest Service, for example, while the Fish and Wildlife Service manages National Wildlife Refuges in every state in the country.

(Photo via NPS/Yellowstone National Park)

Introducing Chimani Perks – a Savings Club for National Park Travelers


Save $200 on your next national park trip!


This week the team at Chimani is proud to announce the launch of their Chimani Perks a Membership Savings Club program for national park travelers, perfect for people planning to hit some parks this summer. To honor National Park Week, we are offering a special introductory price of $29 dollars for an annual membership.


The Chimani Perks  Membership Savings Club offers discounts on lodging, dining, tours, activities, retail shops, and gear throughout the national park system. It can save up to $200 on a park visit.

Savings are significant, which means the membership can pay for itself sometimes with a single activity. A family-of-four can save $40 off a guided tour in Yosemite or a couple can save $100 on a three-day stay at a ranch in Montana.


It’s simple.  


Download the free National Parks by Chimani app at the Apple AppStore or Google Play.


Click on the Perks Savings icon.



Scroll through listings to see what great businesses are offering discounts.



Click on the big orange JOIN NOW button and go through checkout. Chimani_perks1


Your Chimani Perks will magically be unlocked.



Start Enjoying! Once your card has been unlocked, promo codes will also be unlocked on the Perks Business Listing individual pages. Show your Chimani Perks card to Perks Businesses to receive your discount or go online and receive your discount by using specialized promo codes.



Chimani is the premier mobile travel app for National Parks.  We don’t believe in cookie-cutter travel, so we build apps that are like having a park ranger in the palm of your hand. Chimani has 65 apps for National Parks.


The Chimani Perks Savings Membership club is a paid annual membership program that provides travelers with savings on hotels, restaurants, activities, and retail goods around National Parks.  


Any user of Chimani Apps has the opportunity to join the Chimani Perks Membership Savings Club and receive discounts. To join you must download the app and click on the Join Now button. You then will pay $29 for a year-long membership. Once you have paid the membership fee, your membership card will be unlocked along with promo codes. 


Your Chimani Perks card can be accessed by opening up the Chimani App and clicking on the Perks Card Icon in the right upper corner of the app. You also can the card to your apple or google wallet.


It is a $29 annual membership that will save you up to $200 on a park visit. The more parks you visit, the more parks you save.


No – one membership can be used at businesses located throughout the United States.


By promising to honor a discount to Chimani members your business will receive free advertising on our apps with a dedicated page about the business with photos and clickable links. Want to be Perks Business? Enroll now here or contact partners@chimani.com with any further questions.


Currently, we are running the Chimani Perks Membership in the communities around Acadia, Arches, Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Glacier, Rocky Mountain, Olympic, Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Zion.


We suggest spending full days in the parks, taking walks or having adventures with people you love and people who make you laugh. Rember to always carry marshmallows, band-aids, and extra water. And if the sun is shining, take a moment to sit and enjoy it.


(t) 207.210.0266   (e) support@chimani.com

Chimani receives the Corporate Stewardship Award

Chimani receives the Corporate Stewardship Award and Honorable Mention for Innovative Product of the Year at the 2017 Public Land Alliance Conference

We are proud to announce that Chimani received the Corporate Stewardship Award and Honorable Mention for Innovative Product of the Year at the Public Land Alliance Convention on February 15, 2017 in Arlington, VA. The award is the result of Chimani’s development of a mobile version of the Acadia Quest game which was built into the Acadia National Park app by Chimani. Other recipients of the Corporate Stewardship Award included American Express, REI, and Coleman.

The Public Land Alliance holds a yearly conference to bring together land management organizations, nonprofits, and businesses associated with America’s public lands to educate, share best practices, and develop partnerships that will help strengthen their shared missions of promoting stewardship and protection of these great spaces.

Last summer, in honor of the Acadia’s centennial, Chimani and Friends of Acadia partnered together to create a location-based, in-park “gaming” experience on a mobile device available on the Chimani app. The Acadia Quest game hosts a series of experiences in Acadia National Park that encourage youth and families to explore, learn, and protect national parks and other conserved lands. Teams who completed the quest earn prizes such as an annual Acadia park pass, or teams may donate their prize to a conservation project in Acadia. Friends of Acadia have been running the popular Acadia Quest program for nine years, but this was their first launch of it on an app.

Acadia Quest
Chimani and Friends of Acadia partner together to launch Acadia Quest on Chimani’s mobile app.

“All of us at Friends of Acadia congratulate Chimani on the national recognition received through these well-deserved awards – and we are grateful for their continued partnership in encouraging more families and kids to explore and connect with their national park through our Acadia Quest program, “ said Friends of Acadia, president David MacDonald. “Chimani’s role in helping us to offer a digital version of Acadia Quest through their app resulted in more participants than ever.”

Kerry Gallivan, Founder and CEO of Chimani, accepted the award in partnership with David MacDonald, President of Friends of Acadia, Kevin Schneider, Superintendent of Acadia National Park, and Ed Samek, Chairman of the Board of Friends of Acadia.

“We are honored to receive this award, “ said Gallivan. “Our mission is to enhance the national park experience for visitors, and the Acadia Quest game was a great way to get families and friends out and about to unique areas of the park. We were thrilled by the game’s success and that it was able to generate 25,000 check-ins with the Acadia Quest program.”

Daughter of the Everglades Squatter

I never thought I’d go back to the Everglades, but last Monday, I found myself looking at a brisk Florida sky and two kids who needed something to do.  “We want to see Manatees,” they said, “Manttatees?” I’d said, a life -long mispronouncer of words that my husband lovingly calls Mandyisms.

“Mannnnateees, Mom,” said my daughter “Think about a man having tea when you say it.”

I’d spent a portion of my childhood in the Florida Everglades, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back.  We’d come down to the Florida Keys, from Maine, for a long weekend to escape the cold and do some snorkel trips but the temps in the 60s had made underwater exploration kind of like dabbling in hypothermia.

Life in Maine, in the winter, can get kind of small. We were all craving outdoor adventure, the feel of sunshine on our skin. Plus I’d just recently started working for Chimani and I had not actually had the opportunity to try our National Park Guide apps out in the field. So, going to the Everglades seemed like a win-win.

I grew up in New England, but there was an earlier part of my life when I was a flip flop kid in Florida who played with red ant holes in a burned out back yard like preppy kids play with golden retrievers.

My parents divorced when I was young and my mom moved to Connecticut while my dad stayed in Florida where I’d been born.  For years I went and visited my dad in various apartments around the Delray area. But then, when I was in 7th grade he packed up all his worldly possessions into his VW wagon and took off for the Everglades, where he became, the first and to my recollection, the only, established squatter. He lived there for almost 30 years. Yup, that’s right, my dad was the Everglades hermit.

So, while my friends with divorced parents spent holidays skiing with their dads in Vail, I went to Florida, to an outpost island called Lulu, where my dad had a village of tents, fire pits, and camp chairs. Somehow he’d gotten our old yellow patio table out to the island by canoe, so dinner was always kind of a formal event.

Mandy Ward Davis and Mike Ward 1986
Mandy Ward Davis and Mike Ward 1986

There’s no other place on earth like the Everglades. It is a unique interdependent series of ecosystems, swamps, mangrove forests, islands, and a dense wild habitat for marine life, bird, and mammals. At a glance, it is static and unimpressive, but if you sit there, quiet your breath, and patiently watch, you will see the entire glade is wildly alive.

*      *    *

Still, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back. Though my dad was an interesting character, no one ends up living alone on an island without a reason. I’m not sure whether my dad had moved to the Everglades to remove himself from society, or society had asked him to leave. I’m guessing it was the latter. I do know his three wives had all showed him the door.

We’d spend days canoeing amongst the mangroves, him pointing out all sorts of marine life and birds. Through vast amounts of silence and alone time, he’d become like an Audubon field guide, he knew everything. In the heat of the afternoon, he’d sit in the shade of his camp and sketch birds he’s seen by memory.

It took my family an hour from Key Largo to get to the  Royal Palms Visitor Center and then another five minutes or so to the Anhinga Trail. We parked the car next to rows of vehicles covered with tarps. We assumed that these were day trippers keeping picnic coolers shaded, but we soon saw a sign over a pile of tarps warning us to cover our car so that they would not be attacked by vultures. For my family, this kind of sign was a definite indicator of a great day. And no we did not go back and cover our rental car.

We came across our first alligator about 12 steps from the bathroom on the Anhinga trail. Surprise and fear traveled through my body as I and remembered every alligator/crocodile movie ever made. I was relieved that there was a low stone wall separating us from the gator. My kids took pictures, angling selfies so the alligator could be seen behind their faces.  I smiled nervously. An older woman passed me, “Oh you haven’t seen anything yet.” We continued down the trail and I was dismayed to see that the stone wall completely disappeared. We were just out in nature with alligators, a lot of alligators, like alligators literally everywhere. At times there were so many they were stacked up on top of one and another.

Maisy and Calder and some Gators
Maisy and Calder and some Gators

Thankfully the swamps that lined our trail were loaded with fish, so the alligators seemed full and a bit sleepy, but still every time my husband placed his hand on my back or touched my arm to point out something, I shrieked as if being attacked.

My kids, clearly never saw any bad gator movies and they were enthralled stretching their bodies practically into the mouths of the gators to get pictures.

Honestly, I was a little lost and kept thinking about my dad, what kind of man decides to live here? What kind of dad brings his 12-year-old daughter out here to sleep solo in a tent surrounded by gators?

Alligator Yawn?
Alligator Yawn?

After leaving the Anhinga Trail we drove another 45 minutes into the park to Flamingo Station where you can rent kayaks. We arrived at 2:56, 4 minutes before the rentals close. The boat guides were pretty laid back though and not overly concerned with us getting back quickly. They set us off down a man-made canal that was pretty good for seeing manatees. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed, a man-made canal felt sort of like a ride a Disney World. In the car, I had imagined paddling my way through tight jungles of mangroves, pythons swinging out of branches, toucans flying over my head. This was pretty tame.

We paddled for about 15 minutes before we saw our first manatee. The sun was warm on our shoulders, the water brown like coffee, wood storks and roseate spoonbills, larger than my children, swaying heavily in the tops of thin trees. My husband spotted the manatee first. With a wave and shush sign, we all paddled towards him and there in the shallow banks was a large whale-like manatee chewing on the roots of the mangroves. Its size was breathtaking, it’s peaceful nature majestic. To our left two more manatees floated to the surface, sighed, then swam under our boats and settled a little farther down the canal to continue eating.

None of us could speak. We were in awe and simultaneously reminded that the word is filled with wonder.

And in that moment, the gentle sway of the water below my boat, I understood, why a man might leave society and choose to live in the wild.

Flamingo Station Canal
Flamingo Station Canal