Doin’ the Cypress Swamp Stomp!
ater water everywhere, but not a drop to drink--unless you have Dave’s handy water purifier when you’re in the Big Cypress Swamp
Although this was planned to be a wet hike, it was even wetter than expected. The water in the swamp was 12 to 18 inches above normal for this time of year, inundating even the few trail sections that would normally be dry. One of the side benefits was that, with so much water, there was no mud. Nevertheless, two hikers made an adventure of the weekend, covering about eight miles, round trip. We arrived at the visitor center midafternoon on Friday and soon hit the trail after responding to such inquiries as “You really going to hike out there?” (Yes--we are.) and “What if you see a snake?” (Ah--but what if a snake sees us?), and “Do you know it’s nothing but mud and water?” (Yes, we do.)
The trail was a little slow going because of the amount of water, and we were constantly swinging branches in front of us to knock down spider webs. Our only encounter with a serpent came on this day. We both walked within 18 inches of a water moccasin before Susan noticed him laying alongside the trail. He wasn’t interested in either of us. About an hour before sunset, having covered only 1 1/2 miles, we stopped at the first (and almost only) dry spot--a nice campsite prepared with a layering of palm fronds by earlier visitors. It also had a ready supply of firewood which soon became a welcome fire thanks to Susan and her hatchet.
The next day we proceeded further into the swamp, fighting not only spider webs, but also limestone obstacles hidden by the water. The water is actually quite clear, but there is a fine layer of silt resting on the bottom, which is easily stirred up by the leader of the parade. It made for some difficult trekking, and there were quite a few “near spills”.
The trail wound through hardwood hammock (normally dry areas which are supported by the underlayer of limestone) and vast open expanses of cypress prairie (almost always wet and supporting grasses and cypress trees). there We usually saw herons or egrets in these prairies. Except for some fallen logs, we found only two dry spots in the next 2 1/2 miles. After a relaxing lunch and snooze, since the prognosis for dry land was so bleak, we reversed course and headed for the welcome campsite we had used the night before.
The predicted cold weather never found us. Both nights were in the 60’s, and the second night brought a clear star-filled sky. After a leisurely breakfast the next morning, we broke camp and headed back to the visitor center. There we spent some time cleaning up and viewing the audio-visual exhibits before we hit the road.