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I spend 10 days in March each year in Florida at what sometimes seems like summer camp. At this “summer camp” I find myself laughing all the time at the most ridiculous stuff and staying up late with friends.

These aren’t just ordinary friends, these are friends from a tribe, from my tribe, the WaterTribe. Look, I even have a picture of our Chief!

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These friends have names like Lugnut, Leather Lungs, Paddledancer, Sparkle Rocket, and Sandy Bottom.

With a little sleep deprivation, the names would sometimes come out wrong. Busted Rudder ended up as Busted Rubber, Paddledancer turned into Tassel Dancer, Sea Hare became Hareless, Lugnut came out as Ednut, and WindWard Mark turned into Wayward Mark.

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While off at summer camp, cafe con leche reigns supreme.

There were places named Twisty Mile, Crocodile Dragover, the Wilderness Waterway, Chokoloskee, and The Nightmare.

Commonly heard by checkpoint captains and volunteers: “Where is the bathroom?”

“…the shower?”

“…some water?”

“…the orange box?”

“…Paula?”

“Where can we sleep?”

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The racers were not alone although they probably didn’t know it. We were with them, watching from afar as much as we could.

Waiting for updates, worrying. Out in the weather, in crazy rain, howling winds, at times in freezing cold.

Either up all night or roused from sleep. You could find us on the shore or at the end of a pier,  flashing any lights we could find out into the darkness. Scanning the waters for a speck, a light, a sail. Hoping. Praying.

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And we’d be there hootin’ and hollerin’ when we saw someone headed for shore.

“Hit your OK button!”

“Don’t forget to sign in.”  

The top questions from those waiting ashore:

“Are they coming?”

“How many are out there?”

“Who’s next?”

“Where are my glasses?” 

Boats and gear were strewn around.

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We ate at Denny’s (not THAT Denny’s but a Latin cafe called Denny’s) and bought groceries at CVS. (Yes, THAT CVS.)

Always watching the weather.

There was a pink Flamingo named Fred.

Key Lime pie was our friend. 

Gator teeth, shark teeth, and paddles were earned.

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They come each year, some with new boats, all with new plans and dreams.

It was hard for all to get here.

They leave each year, some with new boats, all with new plans and dreams.

It was hard for all to leave.

(Ten days at summer camp refers to my time spent with the WaterTribe at the Everglades Challenge in Florida. I volunteer wherever they need me. In 2015, you can find me at CP3 as a co-captain. When I’m not busy with other duties there, I’ll be taking lots of photographs.)

My photos from the 2014 Everglades Challenge 

My photos from the 2013 Everglades Challenge

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