|Me with Carlton on the morning of their departure from Florida Bay|
|Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition map|
|The headlights of my truck offer a quick photo opportunity before taking off on the Suwannee River|
I woke the next morning at 5:30 to ready my camera gear and head out on the river for first light with Carlton. Polar fog was settling on the water and made for some great images with the looming tupelo and cypress along the banks. Carlton and I paddled upstream while the rest of the crew prepared breakfast and packed their tents. Photo shoots like these are tough. Since I didn't have any time the day before to scout locations I had to work quickly to find compositions and opportunities where the light allowed. Luckily I was able to make a few frames before the fog lifted while gentle amber light still dappled the tops of the trees.
As soon as the sun started heating up the water, the light became too harsh and we pushed back to the camp to make moves for our lunch break at Griffis Fish Camp. It wasn't until we were halfway there when Carlton told me we were actually stopping to meet up with Mike Fay, THE Mike Fay, who flew in from Washington to also join in on the last push of the expedition. (!!!!!!) Carlton had met Mike while photographing in Gabon and invited him to serve as the ultimate transect guru and guest speaker for their final arrival on Earth Day. If there's anyone on this planet who knows about major transects to protect land, Mike is the authority.
|Carlton Ward gets horizontal for a frisbee|
|Joe Guthrie lays out for a disc on the Suwannee River|
|Mallory Dimmit dives for a frisbee|
|Carlton Ward and Mike Fay meet up on the Suwannee River to finish the last miles of the expedition together|
|Carlton and Joe G. portage over a fallen log|
By the time we made it to our campsite, we were soaked to the bone. The rain picked up again and wouldn't relent. All my camera gear was wet and I wasn't looking forward to spending the night in a puddle. Not that I had much choice though and plus, I wouldn't dare voice any complaint, not while in the presence of Mike who battled nearly every single discomfort known to man on his various transects. The chances for a fire were grim, until Joe found his axe and started to chop at burnt pine revealing lighter'd (lighter wood). We used my jet boil to get the coals going and soon enough we were warming up around a roaring campfire. Sweet, sweet, bliss.
|Joe Davenport warms himself by the fire|
|From left, Mallory, Joe, Carlton, and Elam leave their campsite in Okeefenokee and make way for Steven Foster.|
|Elam carries his bags to the boat|
Alligators and warblers traversed the calm river and our kayaks cut through the mirrored landscape. By 12:00 we were at the mouth of the canal leading to Stephen Foster State Park and the rain let loose from the sky again. It was a fitting end; one last push through Florida's fickle weather to the crowds of media teams and adoring supporters.
Their arrival was well-received and people cheered as Elam, Mallory, Joe, and Carlton disembarked from their vessels. Wives, brothers, sisters, children, and daughters swarmed the expedition team with tears and warm embraces. After 100 days and 1000 miles, they finally made it home.