...possibly the most ancient tree on the entire island--a tree that has weathered through time immortal--seen Native American hunter-gatherers, pirates, countless storms, squatters and now tourists come and go. Despite time it has remained alive and continued to grow...its trunk is gnarled and twisted, limbs bent and covered with flowing manes of Spanish Moss* and spidery bromeliads* and beautiful orchids* and yet it still survives only just a few feet from the often pounding waves of the beautiful Gulf of Mexico. UPDATE: It seems that sadly the sun has set on the sunset tree. The ravages of time and the sea have overwashed the great tree and reduced it to a bleached skeleton of its former self--but that my friends is Nature's way. The moss, bromeliads and orchids are gone and it may not be long until the remains of the tree itself vanish into the brine. Should this happen let this Geocache be a record of final years of this special tree's life on Pavilion Key.
This single tree may have been the first to sink its roots into a sandbar that was formed by a storm long ago. This single tree, followed by others, may have been the one that anchored the sediments and began the island building process that created Pavilion Key so long ago. This interesting process continues today all over the Ten Thousand Islands area and in Mangrove forests the world over.
This ancient tree has provided a home and a shelter for countless generations of wild creatures from tiny probing insects to the majestic Osprey nesting in its branches.
I do not know the age or species of this tree and do not want to know--it does not matter. All that matters is that the tree is REAL...it EXISTS and has existed for longer than most of us temporary humans can conceive. It is very likely that this tree was there...on that tiny windswept island...before any of our ancestors were even in this part of the world and it is likely that it's offspring will remain behind after most of us reading this are gone.
What I do know for certain about this tree is that--however ancient it is--it has seen every sunrise and every sunset from its remote vantage point since it began growing! This twice daily event is a sight that cannot aptly be described so it must be experienced...it is for this reason that this cache has been placed--to simply encounter this tree and view the beautiful sunset from under its branches on the edge of the great Gulf of Mexico.
Getting to Pavilion Key:
You will need a boat. Kayaks are excellent and you can paddle directly to the cache. I met some folks on the island who sailed in, dropped anchor and came in on their dinghy (you can just make out their sailboat in the photo of the sunset below)! Your best put in for a day trip is Chokoloskee Island or Everglades City to the NE. Pavilion is a grand place to camp but you will need to check with the NPS in Everglades City for permits/maps.
To access the cache-site directly you should visit during high tide--if you have a flat bottomed boat--if a V-hull you will need to anchor your boat in deeper water a few hundred yards out and walk/paddle in. If you walk beware of the millions of Oyster bars in the area--if you get cut you are many miles from help. It is for these access reasons that I have given this cache a high terrain and difficulty rating.
You can beach most smaller boats on the North end of the island near the campsites at:
N 25 42.438
...and walk to the cache. It is a beautiful beach walk for most of the way but for the last 1/3 of the walk you will be clambering over many piles of driftwood, walking through spiderwebs and fighting off Mosquitoes--but it is worth the effort. I doubt if many humans have ever seen the tree.
When you visit please do not harm the tree--take only pictures and leave only footprints.
To prove that you made the journey - log your visit here...with pictures please!!
Remember! This is a WILD area with all of its components so please read my WILD Disclaimer:
Remember this! Should you decide to go outside you must remember that you will be trekking into WILD areas with all of their wild components some of which are listed below.
You may encounter living wild creatures with their own agendas. No matter your perceived status, beauty, machismo, power and achievements in the "human" world you are nothing to them (well, except possibly food!). Most of these creatures have "super powers" and are "smarter" (aka: instinct) than you are so you will never see them. They will know you are coming long before you arrive by your odd smell, noisy heavy gait, loud voice and unusual coloration--they just want us to think we "scared" them off--you will smell, hear or if you're lucky catch a fleeting glimpse of...something. Some of these creatures may or may not hurt you--but if you corner any of them they WILL defend themselves with whatever means they have--tooth, claw, fang, venom, sting, musk, "hurl" and so on! These creatures will leave scat behind them (i.e Poo, poop, droppings, turd, doo, doo doo, dung, guano, pellets, log, sh*t, shite, crap, plop, squirt, oooze...) this may be fresh or sun bleached...the fresh variety may be accompanied by a rather unpleasant odor so WATCH OUT! Often, if you poke a stick at scat in just the right way you will be able to determine what type of creature left it there and just what that creature had eaten for its last meal!! WOW-ain't nature grand!--if you have any questions about some scat, hair, teeth, bones or any other part of a critter alive or not that you find--you can feel free to save it in a baggie and mail it to me and I will help you ID it's owner.
Plants (and some things that impersonate--er--should the PC term for that be implantonate or imbotonate...hmmm--plants but are not plants) --these things are usually green but sometimes in the case of Funji (which are not plants nor animals but space creatures from the planet Mycelia) they could be any color, and just about everywhere--even in the water! Some are pretty, some small and taste good and some others will kill you if you eat them (know these well if you plan to eat "random" plants/fungi for fun and nourishment as I do)! There are also some plants that will make you itch and/or bleed--it helps to know these well also! You may encounter a yellow powdery substance we primates call pollen--it is a by-product of the endless love making of many plants--this plant spawn may make some of you sneeze, itch and cough and leak bodily fluids from various orifices--and possibly even visit the human "healer" who usually end up giving you a concoction that oddly enough is made from--plants.
There will be dirt, mud (wet dirt), sand (an aggregate of tiny rocks) which is often found in dirt and mud and/or on the edges of continents and near bodies of water), **if sand and water mix in the correct ratios then you may encounter quicksand--although shouldn't it be called slowsand since you don't sink fast?**, flotsam and jetsam (whatever the heck that is?) Rocks(big hunks of sand or small hunks of mountain*)--watch out for these things--you may trip on them and fall down (but they can be used as TOOLS if you know what you are doing!) You may suddenly or gradually--depending on your locale (your GPSr should give you this)--encounter: uneven ground or rough surfaces (that may cause you to fall down and/or abrade your skin), heat(radiation (off-givings) from the sun (see below) or from rotting plants), cold(the lack of radiation from the sun), wet water (that becomes hard and cold in the colder times) and OH MY--this often will fall unpredictably from the sky (that blue, gray, black, red, yellow, purple or green area that is above your head when you are in the outside) and if you are not prepared it will make you and your coverings WET--GASP!! Sometimes you may encounter this wet water gathered together in large quantities either in motion or still. Sometimes it may have a high concentration (lots of) of salt, dirt, mud, silt, scat (human and/or animal) and/or toxic chemicals (especially if found near human aggregation areas) so don't try to drink it if you are unsure of its source...it is however most enjoyable to play in (i.e.: frolic, cavort, rough-and-tumble, surf, swim, dive, leap...) when the weather (see weather below) is nice. Dryness--in combination with the wind may chap exposed skin. Sand (previously described), is often encountered near water and will make you itch and/or chaff if you get it in your nether-regions or cry if you get it in your eyes. Wind (see also air below)--this is an amazing invisible and incredibly powerful force of nature that can float a feather (bird protection, courtship and propulsion device) or destroy a mountain* (aggregate of almost everything that is or once was or is going to be) (with the help of sand and water) and and may chap exposed skin and disturb carefully placed hair or steal your breath and blow you over, air(see also wind above)--like wind this is also invisible and could be anywhere from hot to warm or cool to cold and it may be still or moving so fast (wind) that you will not be able to stand up--this is called a storm, storms are often accompanied by bright flashes of light called lightening (generated by clouds rubbing together and against the earth) followed by loud, earth shaking sounds that come from an unseen source--this is commonly referred to as thunder (which is the sound of lightening splitting the air and wind and sometimes trees, rocks and houses and cows) --when this is near you should hide--but not on top of a hill or you may die (the opposite of life). Weather--a combination of many of the factors present here (see above and below). This is entirely unpredictable unless you believe what the NWS tells you. Sometimes you will see a very bright disk overhead but don't look directly at it as it will damage your eyes--this is the sun (a gigantic star that is very close to the Earth. It, with the help of the plants, fungi, animals, air, water, the Earth (dirt, mud, sand, rocks...) makes all life possible on this planet). Although life giving it may also cause red burns on your exposed skin so bring your protective devices and chemicals. Often there is a lack of light accompanied by a large glowing disk (or a percentage of said disk) in the sky and countless tiny glowing points of light that are pleasant to look at (unless you are in a human aggregation area called a city). During this lack of light time you will need to bring your own source of illumination ie: anything form a pine-knot torch or 1,000,000,000 CP LED Solar/geothermal/kinetically charged, waterproof, floating, Swiss Army searchlight with included knife set chain saw, winch, fork, spoon, water filter, lazer pointer, weather station, rocketing grappling hook w/100 feet of cable, calculator(solar), tazer, hand towel and toilet paper roll. Whatever your light source your diurnally adapted eyesight will then be augmented and hopefully you will not fall down and contact the ground or lack thereof (see above for description) with its associated hazards.
Often you may hear unpredictable sounds created from unknown sources some of these may be creepy (scary, frightening, unnerving) , some may be pleasant (pleasing, happy, jovial), some may be loud (see thunder above)...and sometimes these loud sounds will scare you (make you jump or run uncontrollably) or hurt your ears!
Finally, you may encounter other beings like yourself--often with their companion animals and smaller versions of themselves--as well as their associated mechanical and electrical constructs. These are BY FAR the most dangerous and destructive creatures you will ever encounter so WATCH OUT!
In all seriousness folks, enjoy these things and your times spent "out there" because as Edward Abbey wrote so perfectly:
“One final paragraph of advice: Do not burn yourself out. Be as I am-a reluctant enthusiast... a part time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it is still there. So get out there and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains. Run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to your body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much: I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies,
over those deskbound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: you will outlive the bastards.”
…and my promise to you is this: when you head out there adventuring in the natural world--you will encounter plenty of random unplanned events--so be ready for them as they are the things that make life worth living!