Big Cypress NWR – The Return
It’s been a long, gloomy week. Not much change in the forecast predicted for the weekend. Crap! If it’s not raining, then on Saturday, I’m going back to Big Cypress WMA. Lots to do. Breakout the backpack, grab the camera. It’s Friday night. WeatherBug’s forecast seems dismal. A brisk North wind is going to be blowing into the area during the night, and temps will drop to the mid 50’s! Brrr, hey, I live in South Florida. Temperatures in the 50’s is chilly ! I’m going to bed and check again in the morning.
Saturday 5:45am Clear sky, 58 degrees, North wind blowing at 12mph
It’s cold, it’s dark. I need coffee! I have to make that all important decision. To go or not to go? That, indeed, is the question. I’ll make my decision after I’ve had my coffee, a cig or three… when I’m fully awake.
I can see a brilliant sun rising out of the East. Decision made… I’m heading out!
Last minute checkout on what’s in my backpack. In other words, throw everything across the bed and put it back in, just to make sure!
Damn, this pack is heavy. Duh! There is enough stuff to supply 2 hikers for a week ! Lol
My rational… better over prepared than under! This rational is learned. It has come from being unprepared all too many times! Ah, that’s me… forever evolving! Lol.
Load up the car, Head out on the highway, looking for adventure, or whatever comes my way!
I’m on the road again.
This trip is gonna be a lot less stressful. I KNOW THE WAY NOW!
A little over an hour later, I’m at the gate. One deep, cleansing breath, open the gate, and step into “The lost world”. I hike down the cut, limestone trail, make the bend, and start my journey. At about ¼ mile from the gate, I see a WMA sign in post. That’s good, I can sign in but if I get lost, who’s gonna find me in all this acreage.
At the bottom of the post is a very, un-detailed map of the area. It turns out I’m on Noble Road which is the main trail, and about a mile ahead was to be the first of several side trails. I’m in hog heaven ! Advance ahead…seek and ye shall find.
The mile hike went quick, with a number of gators seen in the canal which flanked Noble Road. At last, there was the double blaze marking on a post showing the first side trail. On a tree, in orange blaze, marked the trail at Mile Marker 1.1
I slowly make my was through fallen cypress, and what seems to be an endless canopy of foliage. At MM 1.8, I come across a fence with a break in it. My choices are to go straight and across a large field bordered by cypress or make a left and cross the fence line. I decide to check out the field. The wind is a bit nippy as I emerge from the “forest primordial“. I didn’t feel it while in my cocoon of green!
I decide to hike along the tree line to be less obvious to any critters in the area.
Halfway across the tree line, I hear turkey gobbling. It was so exciting. I stopped, squatted, and patiently waited to see if I could snap off a pic or two of this creature. It gobbled 2 more times but never came out in sight! Damn. Never saw an Osceola turkey before. I got up and proceeded to continue my trek in this wild place. About 2 miles further, the field ended and it started getting muddy. After 50 feet or so into the muck, I saw the water level was rising. Heck, I felt it running into my boots! This habitat I was entering was more than I was prepared for. That, plus my feet were wet and cold.
I need to make a small fire, have something to eat, and warm my chilly toes!
I spot a little piece of high ground that will be perfect for a small fire, a bite of lunch, and a quick nap!
As I clear out the leaf litter with the side of my boot, I look around for some dry tinder and small branches. Although there is an abundance of wood, there was not much that wasn’t damp or wet. Not good! But all is not lost. Australian Pine abounds so a bit of bark should have plenty of flammable oils in it. I gather up some bark and after laying out some Saw Palmetto fronds, proceeded to chop it up into almost powder. I wanted to make a just below ground level fire pit, but the ground wouldn’t abide. This area was just too hard to dig, so a teepee fire it is! I lay a few twigs near each other to act as a base for the powdered tinder, then made about a foot high teepee with 3 branch pieces. A piece of tissue paper in the middle, a spark, and voila.. fire! NOT!
I used my flint n steel striker. Plenty of spark, but everything is so damp. After 5 minutes of striking, I brought out the heavy gun….my Bic lighter. With just one flick of my Bic, and ten minutes later, I had my wet hiking boots and socks off, and was warming up by the fire. How nice, how peaceful. I’m hungry, we explorers need our nourishment.. And that nap also!
What a peaceful nap. Damn, I didn’t nap, I fell asleep! It’s 3 hours later! I better get going back to the trail. As I move along the trail, I’m entranced with the raw, natural beauty of this area. There are numerous air plants, and bromeliads growing off the tree trunks. And Spanish Moss trailing down from branches, to give it that eerie feeling. My senses are keen. My hearing acute, picking up every sound. About 45 minutes later, I see the main trailhead. Guess I’m not getting lost today! Get to the main trail, make a sharp left, and keep the canal to my right! Simple!
While heading back, I watch a few gators sunning themselves , a pair of raccoons, and some of the biggest freshwater turtles I have ever seen. Of course, as soon as I pull out the camera, splash, splash, they’re gone! There are 2 types of fruit and berry I’m encountering. I’ll take a leaf and sample from each and try to see if they are edible through some online research.
Although there appears to be a lot of wildlife, the main road, Nobles Road is fairly straight, so you can see the critters…BUT they can see you a lot quicker. Hmmm, maybe bring out a camo blind next time, my turkey calls, my mountain bike? I feel old!
I get back to the sign-in post and scribble my time out in an old style kids notebook. I also take a gander at the names and dates of others that have passed through. The Happy Hoofers, the Florida Trail Association, and the Sierra Club!