Missy Williams steps around the end of a chain-link fence at a Fort Lauderdale airport park-and-ride lot and into what can only be described as a truly frightening jungle. The way ahead looks impassable. Mangrove limbs and rope vines crochet from ground to sky. Underfoot, roots pop up everywhere, a natural bed of nails. Williams—an anthropologist, a mother and a seemingly fearless outdoorswoman—pulls apart the vines like opening curtains. And then she steps inside. Before we go further, here’s a brief accounting of the ways we could be taking our last steps. There are snakes, perhaps venomous, in nearly every pond. The tangles of branches make perfect homes for a face full of spiders, maybe among the five poisonous kinds in Florida. Luckily, it’s brackish water below us, so probably no alligators. Just, perhaps, crocodiles. “Anything that dies in this swamp just sinks to the bottom,” Williams explains. “It’s so humid that a body decomposes quickly.”
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