Tuesday, December 17th, 2019
Yesterday we were feeling pretty defeated, and we were hoping that today would be a new day. You wade in water a whole lot in Big Cypress National Preserve, but due to the drought, we were experiencing more mud that flooded swamp. I would have much preferred the flooded swamp! The ankle-deep mud made it impossible to gain any traction, and we were not able to cover the distance we had hoped. Our plan was to make it all the way to the southern terminus of the Florida Trail. This would not be happening.
As soon as the sun rose up in the sky, we started hiking, well, wading. We passed through the cypress swamp surrounded by epiphyte-covered trees. One second we were wading in water, the next we were fighting through the muck.
Then the thing that we most feared presented itself. If it weren’t for its white mouth, hence the name, I would have stepped directly on a tiny cottonmouth. It laid coiled up with its mouth wide open, warning me of its existence.
Let me make something clear. I don’t exactly like snakes, but I’m not terrified of them. However, I don’t like to be vulnerable to them, especially to the venomous kind. I’ve nearly stepped on a timber rattlesnake on the Appalachian Trail, a diamondback rattlesnake on the Arizona Trail, and a pygmy rattler earlier on during the northern stretch of the Florida Trail. Not fun, but I was at least able to maneuver around them at the last second. This situation was a bit different. We could barely walk through this terrain, let alone dodge obstacles!
We took a break on a dried out swamp buggy road before we passed Oak Hill Camp. This was where we had anticipated camping last night. Thank God we didn’t attempt it! I was cursing at our situation. I felt completely crushed. This was one of the most mentally challenging experiences I have ever been through. Frisbee made a phone call while I sat in the dirt in a daze, trying to process what we just went through and what lied ahead.
We trudged through more ankle-deep mud. This was total misery. Just as soon as my adrenaline rush subsided, I nearly stepped on another cottonmouth. I was reaching a point of frustration where I didn’t care anymore. In fact, the cottonmouths should have been worried about me! I wouldn’t have put it past me to grab one still latched on my leg with my bare hands, and beating it against a tree. I was in a dark place.
We made it through the final stretch of the swamp, well sort of. The trail ahead, which was normally flooded, was currently bone dry due to the drought. I’d regret not filling up on swamp water while we still had it around. Neither of us were exactly in our right mind though, so mistakes were made. We looked for water at a couple of the cypress domes that Tiffany had informed us about. Everything we came across was dry. This was bad.
We bushwhacked, then took a break at 13 Mile Camp, which was actually inaccurate. We had much more than 13 miles until we reached the finish line due to re-routing over the years. I was so thirsty. I had less than 1 liter left and it was blistering hot out. Frisbee suggested we stop there until dark and hike in the night when it would be cooler. I just wanted to get this trail over with. I was currently not a Florida Trail admirer.
To be continued…
Jump Ahead to Return to the Florida Trail: Chapter 29
Jump Back to Return to the Florida Trail: Chapter 26
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