In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, Everglades National Park and its partners proudly hosted the Everglades Wilderness Writing Expedition! This program engaged 10 aspiring writers and journalists, ages 18-25, on an exploration of wilderness, self-discovery and environmental writing. These aspiring writers embarked on the journey of a lifetime to discover the beauty and complexity of the Everglades wilderness.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


After hours of not checking my messages, I scrolled through my emails and saw “Everglades Wilderness Writing Expedition.” A huge grin spread across my face as my mind began to race with the possibilities. I’ll admit I got a little too excited, especially for not even knowing what the program was actually about. However, as I read on, I realized this was one of my few chances to cross something off of my bucket list; living in the wild! So, I clicked.
About a week later I received an email saying “Congratulations!” and I officially began my preparation to live in the Everglades for 3 nights and 4 days.

For starters there were a total of ten winners selected with one participant on standby. We met every weekend to learn about the Everglades through discussions, challenging adventures and more. The Everglades Wilderness Writing Expedition is being held in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act  which is essentially a bill that ensures the protection of certain areas of wilderness for future generations.
What is wilderness?
Before we embarked on our journey we were asked to contribute the thoughts that came to our minds when we thought of the wilderness. Because I am who I am I wrote “lions and tigers and bears,” but when we were asked in person I realized that I didn’t even consider animals to be a necessity for wilderness. In fact, I see them as more of a delightful addition.
Wilderness is “a wild and uncultivated region, as of forest or desert,uninhabited or inhabited only by wild animals; a tract of wasteland,” according to dictionary.com but we discovered that everyone’s personal definition differed from one person to the next.

Before the actual expedition we met once a week for a month. Our first meeting focused on becoming acquainted with the program and each other. When I met my “wild family”  I became even more excited because I was surrounded by passionate people. During our next session we eased our way into the Everglades with a walk along the Anhinga Trail. Up to this point we still hadn’t experienced wilderness but a week later we found ourselves surrounded by wilderness of all types – soon to be, proposed and current.
Throughout these small day trips I realized that I became less afraid of things when I knew that there was nothing to be afraid of. Yes there are dangers but there are dangers in everything. If you stay away from experiences because of fear you won’t find the things worth living for.
I went into this knowing that there was a possibility of being eaten alive by mosquitoes. I hate them just as much as the next person but I knew that they the probably wouldn’t kill me, so I continued.  I really don’t like the idea of being in places where I don’t know what’s coming up next or even what’s below me and around me. I like to know how long it takes to do something and how far I’m going when I’m going somewhere. It scares me when I don’t know these things because my mind runs wild with the negative possibilities. However when we had to bike on an endless road in essentially the middle of nowhere and tread through the sea of grass or “slough slog” I didn’t let my fears bother me.
Journal Entry 1: Biking and Hiking
“This takes me back to the times when I would drive to my grandma’s house surrounded by trees and fields. All I saw around me was nature and in front of me all I could see was the never ending road. I’ve never biked for that long. I’ve never hiked through an over grown trail with things touching my legs and arms. But I did today.”
After the biking expedition we went slough slogging which consisted of walking in swamp-like water through saw grass.
Journal Entry 2: Cypress Dome
“If you look below you it’s disgusting. There’s this yellow and green Spanish Moss that looks like something someone threw up and left sitting for a while. Saw grass wrapped around my ankles as the mud sucked my feet in threatening to steal my sneakers each time I tried to take a step and the only balance I had was in my walking stick. It felt like a trap for us outsiders. There were swarms of tadpoles tickling my ankles and curious – or oblivious- craw fish that used my legs as an object to climb on. As we went farther the saw grass  became increasingly taller and began to scratch at my forearms and elbows and I tripped at the roots of baby cypress trees. They left me stumbling and hoping that I didn’t fall into the unknown waters. Finally we made it to our destination.  After only looking down for the past hour making sure I didn’t injure myself I looked up and the trees that were once only to my hips now towered above me. As the sun peeked in between the branches it revealed spiderwebs and white spider eggs (which look like really tiny white spheres) and woodpeckers and just all of this wildlife who’s homes we were intruding in. Mosquitoes buzzed in my ears and my feet kept getting stuck in vines but as I stood there in the middle of the cypress dome I knew all of the discomfort I had been through before was worth it.”IMG_6900
The beauty before me was not something I could have dreamed of and it was right there for me to touch and smell. It was real even though my mind had difficulty believing in its existence. I took a picture so the memory would last longer but the picture did no justice to what I experienced.
After one last Saturday of light paddling in preparation for the hours of canoeing we would soon be doing, we were officially ready to get in touch with our inner wilderness.
Entry By: Nadijah Campbell

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