Swamped

A trip to Orlando yesterday to pick up rentals for the wedding of a friend’s daughter provided a good excuse to slog through the muck north of Lake Jesup┬áto get an up close look at the swamp sunflowers.

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Exiting off SR 417 on Lake Mary Boulevard and then driving about five miles, including down a one lane road, we found the parking area at the trailhead at the Lake Jesup Conservation Area (Marl Bed Flats Trail).

An article describing the place to get a look at the flowers suggested taking the red trail for the best view but warned that this trail is wetter and muddier than the yellow one. What’s a little mud? We’d brought shoes that could withstand some mud. In fact, we were well prepared: boots, long pants, long sleeve shirts, hats, and insect repellent.

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Fortunately there was no need for bug spray, but it was all I could do to keep the swamp from gobbling up my shoes. And the sounds of unseen gators bellowing somewhere to my left made it difficult to really enjoy the beauty of the millions of yellow flowers.

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Finally we reached drier ground where either the gators were sleeping or far enough away to no longer frighten me. Time for pictures.

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If you plan to see the swamp sunflowers along Lake Jesup┬áthis year, you don’t have any time to waste. They’re already past their peak. Or you might just want to add this to your calendar for late September or early October 2016. But, I recommend taking the yellow trail.

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Tamiami Triathlon: Phase 2

Image 1After completing the first leg of the triathlon paddling across Chokoloskee Bay, we drove about 15 miles east on the Tamiami Trail to the Oasis Visitor Center in the Big Cypress National Preserve to begin a five mile swamp walk.

Notice, this is not called a hike, but a “swamp walk”. Participants are required to check in at the visitor center where you pick up a “government issued” walking stick if you don’t bring your own, something I thought ridiculous, but after the first half mile, I used it consistently.

The volunteer warned us the trail would be wet, checked to see that we were wearing the proper shoes, and explained that since the original loop trail was too difficult to traverse, it had been changed to an out an back path.

We left the visitor center and walked to the sign indicating this is not only the beginning of the swamp walk, but the southern most point on the Florida Trail.

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I was more than a little disappointed as we began walking on a neatly mowed lawn in the front of the visitor center and then one running parallel to a small airstrip, however about a half mile into the walk everything changed. No more mowed grass, no more wide path, but instead a 24″ path lined with sawgrass and alligator flag. Then another quarter mile and we hit the swamp we’d been promised.

After traveling a few hundred feet tiptoeing along the edge of the trail to avoid the mud, we hit an area that was not only muddy but covered by about 6″ of water. If completing the triathlon was our goal, slogging through the water would be required and that’s just what we did.

 

Unfortunately, the trail did not take us through an area with much variety in plant life, and since we started the walk a little after 2:00, it wasn’t prime time to view animals either – a couple of butterflies, the usual mosquitoes (though only few), and finally one deer as we approached the end of the walk.

I guess the point of the swamp walk was the swamp…the water…the mud…the challenge of pushing through an unsavory ecosystem.

Paddle – check.
Walk – check.

Only the bike remains!