Today I really saw the big Cypress. A mere seven miles on the map, but it was a nine hour journey.

Will the real Big Cypress please stand up

I found out today that what I was hiking through over the previous two days was only a taste of what the Big Cypress has to offer. I ended the last two miles of yesterday with a continuous water walk and the first seven of today were exactly the same. There were two small islands to stop and eat and take a break but that was the only dry land until the last mile before the interstate.

The first stretch from where I camped at Oak Hill Camp was 3.6 miles. It took me four hours to get there. There were two other smaller pine islands along the way, but they were very densely vegetated, which made them inaccessible.

The first two miles were great. I was having a fantastic time. But by the last one and a half I was looking for a place to rest.

I had started out with my coffee in the drinking position on my pack. But within thirty minutes I had completely emptied that bottle. An hour later I realized it was going to be a long trip without water. I had to figure out something.

Since there was nowhere to stop and take off my pack, I ended up loosening the straps as far as they would go to get the pack as low on my body as I possibly could. The pocket where I had my drinking water was the highest pocket I have and the one farthest away from my body. I needed to let the pack droop as much as possible just to be able to reach it.

With a little contortion I was able to fetch the bottle and switch it with the coffee bottle. That one liter of water lasted me the rest of the trip to the next island.

Island Hopping

Since it was almost noon and I had run out of pocket snacks, I decided to stop at Thank God Island. That is literally the name of the island. Ivy Camp was supposed to be better and only a half a mile further. But I was ready to stop.

The island was very small and as far as camping goes, could probably fit three tents in there. But there was no picnic table or fire ring and I was hoping for a picnic table.

I sprawled out on the ground and leaned up against a tree as I made another bean burrito. This time I used my fresh commercial refried beans instead of the bulk ones that were several years old hoping they would taste better.

They were thicker flakes and took longer to rehydrate and they didn’t really taste any better. But I managed to eat the whole burrito. Other various snacks rounded out lunch.

When I moved on after lunch, it was only about 30 minutes before I hit Ivy camp. I decided to stop to check it out and was amazed to see a bench there. If I had known about the bench earlier, I might have pushed onto Ivy camp instead of stopping at Thank God Island.I just had a quick drink and kept pushing on. I am only a few miles from I-75 and I am looking forward to an endless supply of water, a bathroom, and vending machines.

The entire day was either wading, or slogging through mud. What would have been a pine island twenty miles ago was now just a place that got almost dry, but not dry.

You might sink two inches, you might sink eight inches. Every step is a roll of the dice.

They say if the water levels are low, that more of the trip is soul sucking mud like this. I am grateful for a high water year.

The last mile to I-75 was following a buggy road where there were deep puddles followed by long stretches of slippery mud. It wasn’t very fun hiking but it was faster than wading.

Interstate 75

I knew that once I got to the interstate rest areas, that I would have to go some distance to the underpass to be able to cross. On the map it looked very tiny. In front of me it looked like it would take forever.

I was still wearing my water shoes because I didn’t want to switch until I could clean my feet. The last quarter mile to the North side of the interstate I could feel the toes on my left foot getting sore. There must be enough sand in that sock to be wanting to cause a blister.

I get to the north side rest area and there are a ton of picnic benches and a spicket by each picnic bench. This is Nirvana. I can wash my feet with as much water as I want.

I find one that has the most shade and drop my pack. I tried the spicket but it is dry. So I try another one and it is also dry. I tried four spickets before I finally realized… hey dummy, they’re all off. So I grabbed my water bladder and immediately headed for the restrooms.

To be able to use actual facilities for a change was very nice. But when I went to fill up my water bladder, the water flow was barely a trickle. I filled it for ten minutes and ended up with about two liters. This will have to be enough.

Back at the picnic table I immediately strip off my shoes and socks. There was way more sand in my socks than yesterday, so maybe the Dirty Girl gaiters are not as effective as I once thought. Even though there is a lot of sand, it is far less than the day before. I still deem them a success.

With so little water, I decided to filter it so I can use the hose to trickle water on my feet and not try and splash it. Whatever water I don’t use for washing my feet I need to filter for drinking tonight. I only shake out the socks but I wash my feet and legs thoroughly. I want them to be clean and dry.

After ten minutes of walking around barefoot, my feet are dry so I put on my dry socks and shoes. In the meantime, I have found an outlet where I can begin charging my battery bank.

Next on the agenda is the vending machine. I purchased a Gatorade, an ice cream sandwich, and vegetable chips to munch on. I also buy another bag of vegetable chips and a cinnamon bun for tomorrow.

Making Plans for Tomorrow

I am only seven plus miles from the Seminole Indian reservation. The reservation is over 20 miles of trail, and you are not allowed to hike at night or stop to camp. The only exception is a Baptist church in the middle of the reservation that will allow you to camp behind the church. If I can get a hold of the reverend and get permission, I think this needs to be the plan for tomorrow.

I look up his number and text him to ask if I can camp behind his church tomorrow night. I wait for ten minutes but no response. By this time I am rejuvenated and start packing my gear to head out. Whether I stay at the Baptist Church tomorrow or not, I need to make a few more miles tonight before it gets too dark.

As I begin hiking out, I decide to call Karen. But when I try to call her I realized I am still in airplane mode. I think I know why I have not heard back from the reverend yet.

I switch out of airplane mode and immediately make sure that the texts go out first thing. After I see that they have all been sent, I then call Karen. We talked for about 5 minutes. I am sweating and she is watching football. Sounds like we are both in our own Paradises.

After I finished my call, I check messages and have heard back from the reverend. He would be delighted to have me camp behind his church tomorrow. This is good news.Now to decide how far to go tonight. There was supposed to be a camping area near the I-75 exit but it did not look very inviting, so I moved on. The next official campsite is 5 miles up the road and I think that is where I’m going to try to head tonight. But I only have 3 miles worth of daylight so the last 2 miles will be in the dark.

If I was super motivated I could go another 2 miles to the gate of the reservation and camp there. If I camped at the gate and left camp by 6:00 a.m. then I could make it to the church in time to go to Sunday service. They serve a meal afterwards, so this is a motivating factor.

Night Hiking

But as I hiked along in the early evening, the sun was setting quickly. I will definitely be hiking in the dark tonight. But 2 miles or 4 miles in the dark is still not decided.

The sun had set about two miles from Nobles Camp. The last mile I was walking in moonlight. I did not need a flashlight at all. But as I approached the campsite, the clouds began obscuring the moon. With less moonlight it was harder to hike even though on a double track dirt road.

I made the decision to check out Nobles Camp and if there was space, I would stop here. No one was at the campsite. It was completely empty.

With less moonlight and an empty camp site my decision was made. Let’s make camp here.The usual routine ensued. Put up the tent. Get dinner cooked. Then throw everything in the tent.

During my nearly one hour stop at the rest area, I had gotten dry and cool. After rushing five miles to get here, I was hot and sweaty again. The entire walk here was mosquito free, but they found me within one minute.

I ate my dinner while walking around in the field where there was a slight breeze just to get away from the mosquitoes. Bears are in this area so I did not want to eat in my tent tonight.

Emotion of the Day

I think today’s emotion has to be amazement. I was amazed at how many miles this morning were 100% in the water. I am also amazed that I am ahead of schedule this early in the trip.

I think part of me is also amazed that I never saw a single alligator in the Everglades. Not that I am disappointed or anything. I only saw two snakes and only one of those I am sure it was a water moccasin. I guess I am amazed that the only wildlife I saw was either birds or fish and very little else. And by fish I mean minnows.