Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Florida Trail - Big Cypress

I have almost fnished my first week on the Florida Trail - and it has been quite an adventure.
I had thought that there is not much new for me as an experienced hiker, but I was wrong. The FT is full of surprises and new challenges...
First I thought that I know what strenous hiking is: Postholing in snow, climbing over blow-downs or rock-hopping. So far, I did not know much about wading..... and this is what the first part of the FT is all about. You walk or better wade through Big Cypress. The first 20 miles were sort of ok and I was even averaging almost 2 mph. There were very swampy areas with water up to the knees, but half of the trail was on dry land. Ok, the humid heat was killing me, but it was still ok. And then I hit the swamp - with 1 hour of daylight left and 1,5 miles to go. Swamp means knee deep water ALL THE TIME. Yes, all the time. There is not even a spot were to put your backpack down, not to mention sit down yourself. All you can see is water and cypress trees. And in my case the setting sun. Some other desperate hiker had slowly gotten rid of his equipment. An old sleeping bag was floating in the water. 10 minutes later and empty daypack was hanging in a tree. I almost panicked. It was too late to go back and I did not know what was ahead. And I definitely did not want to be in this in the dark. I could not even make 1 mile per hour because underneath the water surface there was muck. I was sinking into all the stuff up to my knees. And I was starting to wonder whether in this high water the designated campsite would be dry. I had no choice and just sloshed on - and just made it to a lovely and very dry island with the last rays of sunlight. To say I was relieved is an understatement....

The next day did not improve. I waded through swamp for a whole day and nearly stepped on a water moccassin, a deadly poisonous snake. Don't get me wrong: This was really beautiful and a unique experience, but it was very tiring as well. But finally, after 3 days in the swamp I made it to I 75 and civilisation. Restrooms, drinking water, even cell phone reception for the first time in 2,5 weeks!!!! Wow, I was impressed. Things improved even more after that. The rest of the trail through Big Cypress is on old abandonded roads and very dry. But the next problem came up quickly: The road was dry, but on both sides of it was swamp and swamp and swamp. And about every 5 minutes I could hear a big splash - when I had awakened an alligator and it had jumped into the water. Alligators were everywhere around here - and I had to sleep somewhere in the middle of all that.... I know that alligators are usually shy and pose no threat to humans, but it still scared the shit our of me. But as you can see, I survived the night and the whole Big Cypress experience. I had never seen anything like that before and I can highly recommend that hike to anyone - just bring a lot of time...

1 comment:

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