What is the 12x12 all about, anyway?
Written by Mitch Hollingsworth-
One day in 2010 Myself and fellow adventurer Nigel McAteer, attempted to paddle from Bahia Honda State park to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West, roughly a 60 mile run. We got a late start, and a "quick stop" at No Name Pub in Big Pine as we paddled past, was anything but. Feeling good after a few pints and an appetizer, we continued on to our destination, the Content Keys, but would not make it.
We battled a monsoon not long after being back on the water, but in the end, we were beaten by the tide going out and the sun going down. Still on the water in very much darkening skies, we passed through areas of bioluminescent plankton in the turtle grass. Glowing green as we disturbed them with our paddles and kayaks, for a moment it appeared as if we were paddling through glo-stick water. We ended up emergency landing on the tip of Raccoon Key, and started to take stock of our situation. The storm from earlier was backing up towards us, and there was no land inside the tree line where we were. Only a clump of mangrove roots. Luckily, after scrambling over the tangled roots in the darkness with headlights, we found a 12ft x 12in plank jammed in the trees. We muscled it out of its spot, and found an area of branches that was relatively level and had limbs above that I could rig my rain fly from the camping gear into a shelter against the impending storm.
We sat on that board (in what we were now calling Camp Fugitive), fired up the JetBoil, and started sautéing Italian sausages in Guinness. Drank some too. The storm skirted by, giving us just a bit of rain, but a great light show and a chance to have one of the most amazing nights ever. It was here that I first had the idea to bring people out into this amazing enviroment. Maybe not to that extreme, but sharing these quietly wild areas with people who would never get to see this side of the keys. After the Guinness was gone, and a bit of a balancing act on that narrow plank, we did manage to grab a few winks of sleep in the wee hours.
Early morning brought an onslaught of tiny gnats that were hell bent on crawling into every part of your face. I Slashed the lines with my camp knife that were securing the rainfly and we loaded up in record time. We were back on the water and on the move before the sun even broke the horizon. We we psyched. Literally everything went wrong as far as the day before's paddle went, but we made the best of it and had the time of our lives. We could not wait to get out there and try it again, in spite of all that went awry.
To us, the 12x12 spirit is about having an insatiable thirst for adventure, even after everything goes wrong. We are in, all the way, regardless. Paddle Rad and enjoy this amazing world we call home!