| April 26, 2017

It should be noted that this was happening during the maiden voyage of our new RV–but more on that another time. This post is specifically about our visit to the Everglades.

When I was four or five years old, my mother took me to the Philadelphia Zoo. That night, I had a very vivid nightmare that I’d fallen into the alligator pit. It became a recurring nightmare.

Later on as a child, I read an article about alligators or crocodiles. In it, I read that the best way to survive an attack is to punch it in the eyes. I don’t know if this is true, but this information is maintained in the absolute front of my brain, never far from mind, despite my very infrequent proximity to alligators or crocodiles–which, up until last week, was never outside of a zoo setting. My entire life has been spent hoping that I never have to punch an alligator in the eye.


This guy is lucky I didn’t punch him in the eye.

Do you remember that plane crash, twenty-some years ago, over the Everglades, where the dead passengers (which was all of them) were being devoured by alligators and crocodiles? I do. I remember everything I’ve ever heard that involves alligator attacks. EVERYTHING.

It therefore makes no sense that I would dream, for two-plus decades, of visiting the Everglades. We’re talking bucket-list dreams. Nothing about the Everglades seems remotely appealing as I reevaluate this dream; yet, here I was.

Our first sighting. It was almost exciting, for about one second.

Our first sighting. It was exciting for about one second, after which I would not keep my eyes off of my daughter, lest she be eaten by an alligator before I had the chance to punch it in the eye.


Seriously, I hate these guys.

Seriously, I hate these guys.

We took a boat ride. We spotted both alligators and crocodiles. They co-exist here–and only here–and they do so in order to terrify me.  On the way up river, one of the boat guides noted that there was a crocodile nest to the left of us.  There was nothing there at the time.  “She’s not far from that nest,” the guide assured me.

On the return trip?  Oh, she was there, all right.


I was uneasy *every single second* that I spent outside. After visiting the visitor’s center, though, I was confident that I would be able to discern which creature was about to swallow me.

So I know which one has me in its jaws. #everglades

A post shared by kari martindale (@karilogue) on


Mind you, I have camped in California’s back country, and even come across bears in the wild. And yes, I know that a bear can destroy me. But I didn’t have recurring nightmares of falling into a bear pit as a child, so hiking with bear wasn’t as terrifying–unlike in the Everglades, where everything terrified me.

I was terrified of falling into the water. I was terrified of being attacked on land. I was terrified of an alligator snatching my child. And, after a really unhelpful friend texted me, I was terrified that there were alligators in the trees.

And don’t try to feed me some “they’re as afraid of you as you are of them” bullshit, because NOTHING in the Everglades is afraid of me.


If you can’t see both reptiles above, then your middle name might as well be Alligatorbait.

Now, as many people know, I’m prone to paranoia that I’m going to die doing whatever it is that I’m doing at any given moment. But I do it, and then I laugh about it once I’m done. I was not laughing in the Everglades, and I was not laughing after I survived the Everglades.

I may never laugh again.

After hooking up to a campsite, we decided to go for a walk down a short trail loop.


Here's the question we should have asked ourselves when parking our RV: Why is this campground, which requires reservations during peak season, almost completely empty?

Here’s the question we should have asked ourselves when parking our RV: Why is this campground, which requires reservations during peak season, almost completely empty?


We schlepped down the road to the trailhead. I was extremely uneasy. I was uneasy on the paved road; I grew much more uneasy as we entered the trail.

Who the hell goes in there?

Who the hell goes in there?  WHO?

I heard a noise. I jumped. Like, behind-my-husband, Rapunzel-hears-a-bunny jumped. Then the mosquitoes began to attack. *Thank freaking god* the mosquitoes attacked, because Paul said hells no and we turned around.

This would be the last time I thanked the mosquitoes.

The mosquito level is high in the Everglades this time of year. In case you’re thinking, “Oh, Kari’s exaggerating–it’s just a few mosquitoes,” No. No, it’s not.


“We highly recommend you pay for one night at a time since the bugs can be really bad…” THIS SIGN IS REAL.

It’s level-horrible high.

It’s finding-out-that-the-myth-about-deodorant-stopping-itching-is-LIES high. (Also, I should not be allowed bug spray.)

Fortunately, my aunt had cautioned me of the mosquitoes and recommended that I buy some citron candles before heading down. I picked up two small ones at the Dollar Store.

Spoiler alert: they weren’t enough.

Would you like to know some other helpful advice from my aunt? Not to cook chicken, because gators come running.  Keep the pups on a short leash, because gators love dog meat. WHY DID I COME TO THE EVERGLADES?

Meanwhile, in the less-than-a-minute that I was on that trail, I had accumulated burrs at the bottom of my pants. The poor puppies: one trip out to pee, and their thick schnauzer hair was matted with burrs. We were picking burrs out of their fur for two days.

Burr removal in--have I mentioned?--a nearly abandoned campground.

Burr removal in–have I mentioned?–our nearly-abandoned campground.

At least I didn’t fall into a cactus.  Yes, there are cacti.  Also, the “high mosquito level,” “high wildfire risk,” and “panther crossing” signs WERE NOT HELPING. THE EVERGLADES ARE A DEATH TRAP.

That said, here are a few pretty pictures…

aerial roots everglades

everglades tree

spanish moss everglades

But don’t let the pictures fool you: The Everglades are easily the most inhospitable region of the US. When I peeled my pants off, one pant leg was literally stuck to a mosquito bite. I had to peel my pants off of a mosquito bite. I mean, Come ON.

To summarize, my goals for the 24-48 hours we were in the Everglades were:

1) Do not die
2) Do not end up a tragic character in a Carl Hiaasen novel

And then this happened:


You do remember this sign, right?


Here are my personal facebook page posts, pounded into my phone as I tried to hide from the mosquitoes while Paul tried to locate the breach.

Kari Martindale

18 April at 21:35 · Flamingo, FL ·

OHMYGOD. you don’t even know what is happening. Mosquitoes are literally getting in. I don’t know how. The ceiling looks like we murdered someone on it. I was going apeshit. Flash, on the other side of my door, was going twice-the-apeshit, hearing me shriek like *I* was being murdered. Sequoia trying to calm him There are so many stuck in our window screens. So many. I really want to drive us out of here now, but we are plugged into the electric hookup. None of us is going out into the mosquito swarms to unhook. This is why paragraph 1 of this sign exists- FUcK GUYS FUcK


((Friend)) Please tell me you brought bug spray and citronella.
Kari MartindaleYes. And the mosquitoes DGAF
Like · Reply · 18 April at 21:51

And then…

Kari Martindale We are leaving. Paul went out and began throwing pots and pans into the RV and he unplugged. We are leaving. I don’t even know where we are going. Not here.

For real, Paul sprayed himself with bugspray, then darted out the door.  I personally had been willing to leave behind the pots, dishes, and blanket that we’d left outside to dry, but suddenly the door opened, and CLANG CRASH FLOP, Paul was tossing shit into the RV. He unplugged that RV faster than I can unplug my phone.

I was relieved that this was not the last photo I took before my husband was devoured by mosquitoes and alligators.

I was relieved that this did not turn out to be the last photo I took before my husband was devoured by mosquitoes and alligators.

I had intended to get a picture of me at the Everglades National Park entrance sign when we left. I did not get that picture. There was no way in hell I was getting out of that RV.

We had no idea where we were headed.  It’s a good thing I posted to facebook, though.  My friend Matthew, whom I had not seen since the early ’90’s, read of our situation. After he stopped laughing, he contacted me to offer his driveway, just two hours away.  We arrived after midnight. You should’ve seen Paul’s face when Matthew offered him a beer: pure relief. 

When I took my first post-Everglades shower, I counted 36 mosquito bites.  It felt like 3600. For as long as I live, I am going to limit my interaction with the Everglades to Carl Hiaasen novels, because his books don’t bite.

Pulling out of Matthew's. Dear Florida, FUCKING BYE.

Pulling out of Matthew’s driveway. Dear Florida, FUCKING BYE.

“The next time you’re begging to do something, my answer is going to be, ‘Remember the Everglades.’ Some dreams are worth letting go.” -Paul Martindale (2017)

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Category: Der Wanderbus, Family Travel, In Germany A Broad blog, Shits & Giggles, Travel, Uncategorized, US Travel

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

Comments (4)

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  1. Brooke says:

    Eff. The. Everglades.
    Hell no.

  2. Jacki Reese says:

    You do realize that there are alligators as far north as North Carolina, right?

    I (almost) wish I’d been there with you. But I would have peed my pants and you would have locked me out of the RV.

    • I would’ve left you with the pots and blankets! I am nervous when I’m in South Carolina. I never have occasion to be in NC or GA, so it’s just FL and SC where I have to be on guard…