Return to the Florida Trail: Chapter 26

Sunday, December 15th, 2019

The guy who slept in the bathroom stayed tight against the building as he snuck out. He pretended not to hear us when we tried to say hello. He was either really antisocial or we really scared him showing up in the middle of the night.

We tried to search for the caches left by Lotta and Ari as we walked on the dike towards the Seminole Reservation, or “The Rez” as many locals call it. No luck finding the caches. At least we had one liter left to help us through the 16 miles ahead!

Once we crossed the boundary to the Rez, we took a snack break, then started walking on the dirt road. It was getting hot out and we were getting thirsty, but there was little we could do about it. A police officer in a marked truck pulled up to us, told us about a pair of Caracaras ahead, then continued on his way. He’d pass back by us shortly after with his lights on responding to a call.

The dirt road curved around until it was parallel to Josie Billie Highway where we saw many motorcyclists out and about on a Sunday ride. Several miles in, the dirt roads joined the highway. I noticed Frisbee was lagging behind. We were both hot and thirsty. The sun was beating on us hard!

As soon as I walked through the doors of Big Cypress Landing, I quickly dug my credit card out of my pack and bought two Gatorades, flagging a distressed Frisbee over to the table I was sitting by. I felt bad for him and didn’t want him to have to worry about anything but hydrating when he walked through the doors. As we recovered, we saw the same cop as before.

“You made it!”

He chatted with me about two panther sightings from today, one of which he witnessed himself. He said it crossed the road, looked at him, then leaped over the fence with such ease that it almost seemed like he levitated up and over it. He also informed me that the Seminoles ran the 5th largest cattle operation in the entire nation. He’d pass us again later in the day when we walked through town.

While we rehydrated and ate at Big Cypress Landing, we also talked to a Seminole man who used to wrestle gators at Billie Swamp Safari, which is where we were planning on stopping at for the day. He pointed out proudly that he was the guy pictured on the ads displayed around town. After telling him about sleeping on the ground in our bivies versus inside a tent, he told us how he also enjoyed sleeping on the ground as a kid, but now he has kids of his own and sleeps in an RV instead. He suggested we sleep in one of the chickees at Billie Swamp Safari. We would do so since there’s no random camping allowed in the Rez, and that was the “designated camping area” furthest away. Our mileage would be a little shorter than usual.

We road walked through town, passing many sad signs that said “Justice for Ahziya.” We took a short break by the park to charge our electronics, and sadly had to skip our visit to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. It was late in the day and we didn’t want to rush through it. We plan to return there during our next road trip. As we walked by, a security guard stopped to chat with us and we told him about the orange blazes, the permits for passing through private property and the reservation, and our journey as a whole.

The Seminole guy we talked to at Big Cypress Landing mentioned that there was about 300 SxS’s, or side-by-sides (ie. a Polaris) at Billie Swamp Safari for an event, and we saw a lot of them pass by as we walked there. We also had the displeasure of breaking up a dog fight when two of the neighborhood pups approached us for pets.  The one was quite jealous of the other.

Once we arrived, we would be very happy we chose to skip the museum when our lodging opportunity was nearly missed. The welcome center, where you book your room, was just about to close for the day. Since they were so busy from today’s event, they had to clean the chickees first before setting us up in one, so we went to eat dinner at Swamp Water Cafe while we waited. Billie Swamp Safari was much nicer than I expected! I thought the “tourist trap” would be pretty tacky. It turned out to be very well cared for.

We didn’t explore the place much. It was getting dark, so we planned to do so tomorrow. After eating fry bread hot dogs and several cups of coffee, we searched for our chickee, a screened in hut with a palm roof, two cots, and nothing else. There was no water, no power, but no problem! It was more pleasant than our typical lodging, laying in the dirt. We could hear the wolves howling during the night, which were members of the animal exhibit that we’d check out the next day.


22.0 miles (35.4 km)


Jump Ahead to Return to the Florida Trail: Chapter 27

Jump Back to Return to the Florida Trail: Chapter 25

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