I left early from Big Sabine and eased into a 25 mile paddle to a spoil island in Fort Walton. The water was still and the heat was unbearable. I got to the point where I could only take a few paddle strokes before stopping to drink. I crawled past miles of sand dunes shimmering in the morning heat and watched small puffy clouds billow up into towering thunderheads. I wished that a gentle rain might cool me off. I got my wish…but at a price. The thunderheads released a downpour of ice cold rain and revived me. Unfortunately, my wonderful rainstorm began to produce huge bolts of lightning which struck the water off in the distance. This was an incredibly dangerous situation so I raced off the water and made it to a small restaurant in the town of Navarre.
The restaurant, Juana’s Pagodas (http://www.juanaspagodas.com/), turned out to be the prefect haven from the storm. I’m not sure if it is listed in the newer edition of the circumnavigational trail guide, but it should be. There was a soft sandy beach to pull the boat up on and the people there were incredibly friendly and accommodating. I stumbled into the restaurant dripping wet, slightly dazed and very dehydrated. The waitress immediately sat me down at a table with a power outlet so I could charge my phone and brought me an ice cold tea…and another tea…and another. I probably drank about two gallons of tea and my glass was never empty. The food was great and I was able thankful for the break. The storm outside worsened and I was worried that I would not be able make my campsite. The manager offered to let me weather out the storm at the restaurant and even said I could pitch my tent there if it got too late. I had a great chat with the people at the restaurant and watched as the storm finally cleared. As I was getting ready to leave, the waitress topped off my empty 3-liter bottle with ice cold filtered water. Awesome!
Feeling happy and rested, I had a wonderful evening cruise down to Fort Walton. I watched dolphins and sharks hunting in the channels and passed miles of pine forests lining the shore. I passed the end of a runway and a huge military cargo plane took off right over my head, making the boat shudder in the water. As I approached camp, I watched a small motor boat zoom up to the beach. A dog jumped off the boat and the man on board backed the boat out into the channel. He gunned the engine at full throttle while shouting across the water. The dog ran across the island and then jumped into the water and swam across the next island. He ran across a second island before jumping into the water to swim back to the boat. Apparently, this was the dog’s evening exercise routine
The sunset was beautiful and a full moon rose over camp. It was so bright that I didn’t even need my headlamp. I tied the boat off to the tent in case one of the huge barges going by created a huge wake. Fortunately, it turned out to be a peaceful evening.