Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Triathlon anyone?

Wednesday January 30, 2013
Site 16 Big Cypress National Preserve


* note from yesterday’s blog:  I think I may have confused folks with my “one dangerous critter” question.  I do think of all living things as creatures/critters and apparently so do Travelbug Susan and Carrie who caught the dangerous Poison Ivy hiding out with the ferns.  Congratulations to you both for being on my strange wave length although Carrie has a leg up on Susan having been subjected to it all her life.


We’re entered!


Shark Valley 15 mile ride 010


When we stopped by Shark Valley yesterday afternoon they had this banner flying.  We didn’t think anything about it.  But it is hiking, biking, kayaking.  Our favorite things to do. So I inquire.



Turns out it’s sort of a pseudo triathlon in my mind. 

Those of you who are familiar with triathlons, like Bill & Nancy Mills, should not laugh here.   There’s a 3.5 mile hike which is about a 5K,  a 15 mile bike ride and a 5 mile kayak.   All very doable by anyone who does these sorts of things.  But the pseudo part is that you don’t have to do them all on the same day one right after the other.  You can do them on any days you like.  Makes it pretty easy actually.  Oh but you do have to answer a question about each event and turn in your answers to get the “prize”.  Thus, everyone is really a winner.  I like that part too.  :-)


So why not be tri-athletes??  It may be our only chance in life.   We’ll just do them on a different days.  Each of these events begins at a different visitor center.  The hike at Oasis Visitor Center in Big Cypress National Preserve,  the bike ride at Shark Valley Visitor Center in the mid section of the Everglades National Park and the kayak at the Gulf Coast Visitors Center in the western end of the Everglades National Park.


It’s a gorgeous day so we take on the hike first.

Staying at Midway Campground, we are MIDWAY between the outer two and only 2 miles from Oasis.   So today we head up to Oasis to hike the recommended trail, the loop trail North of the visitor center into Big Cypress.  


It doesn’t start out very impressively as we walk for at least half a mile along the fence line of the Visitor Center Property. 


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Then things pick up when we see the Orange Blazes for The Florida Trail.  (Can you even see that little orange blaze in the picture below??)

The Florida Trail is a National Scenic Trail.  In this case, a long distance hiking trail running the length of the state,   1400 miles from Gulf Islands National Seashore in the north to the loop road we drove yesterday in Big Cypress National Preserve.


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Not sure what you do when you get to the end on the loop road.    Flag down a tourist and ask for a ride?  Or turn around and hike back to the visitor’s center?  I guess the latter would be like the AT when you climb Mt. Katahdin and then turn around and go back down to the State Park.



You can tell by the size of his pack that this is no thru hiker. :-)


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The trail gets even more interesting when we come to the mud.  I’m thinking “oh boy, a swamp walk”.


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But sadly that turns out to be the wettest this trail gets at this time of the year.  Big Cypress gets an average of 55” of rain each year.  But Winter is the dry season down here and the water levels are really down.  I heard someone say the Turner River was down 2’ in the past 2 weeks.  They do need rain.  And so do we if we want a wet hike.


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But we do get to be really friendly with the palmettos.  Make sure you have on a long sleeve shirt if you go out in the wilds here.  These guys have saw toothed stems and fronds.


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The trail turns into a pine scrub.


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We come to a primitive campsite for The Florida Trail hikers.


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At that point we loop around to come back to the visitors center.


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And look who I almost walk right in to.   It’s the younger brother of yesterday’s slithering reptile.   So coming up is another

Skip the next 3 pictures and go to the finished sign if you don’t want to see this small cottonmouth.


The distance from me to him, no zoom, when I first discover him.

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He looks up.  Look at those colors and patterns.  The Native Peoples took their designs directly from nature and I can sure see why.

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I think he is beautiful. Casita & AM Florida Trail hike 038A





And those aren’t the only lovely patterns we see.

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When we arrive back at the Visitor’s Center, we answer the question on our Triathlon form.   Since I know a lot of you will also want to enter this event, I won’t put the question or its answer in the blog.  Come on out and try it yourself.


We return to Winnona for lunch and decide to walk Gator Hook Trail which we had seen on our dirt road drive yesterday.  It showed pictures of folks wading in the swamp.  We’re IN!



Now this is what we are looking for!


Monroe station loop drive & shark valley 002


Monroe station loop drive & shark valley 005



A short 120 yards takes us into a sparse stand of Bald cypress. Yea!   Do you see the bromeliad on the cypress?

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See it now??

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The Cardinal Air Plant.

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After that teasing with the water, the trail turns into a saw grass prairie dotted with dwarf bald cypress. 

During the summer this prairie  can be shin deep in water but of course who would want to compete with the bugs for the privilege of hiking here at that time of the year?



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But dry prairie is good too.  Look at this Halloween Pennant Dragonfly.  Isn’t that a great name??

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This prairie is much muddier in summer and fall. 
Now only the path is slightly damp.

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But we can very clearly see who has gone before us.

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David’s smiling.  Swamp water yes but
notice the water lines on the trees.


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Just the habitat where a bobcat or ????? might sneak up on an egret.

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NOTICE:  narrow fellow on the log ahead

Skip these next two pictures.



What’s going on here?  This is the twice in one day and 3 in a row.

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Like stepping stones these little cypress knees lead us to what turns out to be today’s big water.

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Looks like more swampy but dry woods ahead.   We decide to turn around and wade back through the most fun of the day.

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My turn.   

Apparently Last week this water was mid thigh on people much taller than I.  Water levels are dropping fast.  It’s a long time until the rains come.

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We want to come back in November or December next time.  You should too if you want to do swamp water walks.  And possibly see the swamp orchids.

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But beautiful designs are all around us all the time no matter the season.

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And now a geologic experience.

Seems pretty unusual to have a geologic experience here but the broken limestone bedrock of the Big Cypress comes to the surface and is pitted with holes  More beautiful designs but careful walking. 

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Back where we began, in a beautiful beautiful place no matter the time of year or level of the waters.

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We hiked over twice as far as we needed to for the Triathlon but that is just fine with us.

Tomorrow is part Two of the Tamiami Trail Triathlon.
Will we make it??


  1. Looks like fun but more energetic than I would be interested in. Quick question: does it look like campers stay for a week at a time at Midway or are there spaces available during the middle of the week? We are thinking about getting there next Wednesday or Thursday. We were visiting my mother-in-law in Ft Myers last week and drove to Everglades City one afternoon. We checked out the no service campground a few miles west of Midway and that would also work well but having electricity would make life easier if we stay for a week. How long are you there? Dione

    1. Dion - If you get here early enough in the day mid week you are likely to get a spot but they fill up quickly and by later in the afternoon all are gone. We got here at 12:30 last Sunday just after check out time and had our choice of 3 or 4 spots. Since then I've noticed people seem to be staying longer. We've been here a week tomorrow - I'm always beind on my blog unfortuntely - so I'm sorry we will miss you unless you are coming on down to Flamingo where we will be for 2 weeks. If so do let me know.

    2. I should have paid attention to the date of your blog. We may end up in Flamingo while you are still there. If we head in that direction I'll send you a message and maybe we'll have a chance to meet. Keep on enjoying each and every day!

  2. Well, that is a WONDERFUL contest, and what a lot of cool stuff you saw today. Love all those areas that you are going to participate in , especially Shark Valley! Wish we were going there with you! The 5K I"m not sure I'd want to do, but kayak and bike, you betcha! Have fun!

    1. Jeannie, good to see you here again. A 5K hike is only 3.2 miles I know you could do that with no trouble.

  3. What kind of snakes are you finding, do you know? Not sure I would want to get to close or find them on a water walk!

    1. So far all the snakes we've seen have been water moccasins aka Cottonmouths. They are poisonous so we have kept a good distance away in all cases. We walked out into the prairie and off the path rather than step over the one on the trail. They are lovely through a zoom lens but I recommend such precautions. I'm also beginning to think after 3 of them in 2 days that they are on my trail! HA!! Where will I see them next??

  4. Wait, wait! You mean you didn't see the Bigfoot peering out behind that poison ivy???

    1. Now you very well know that Big Foot only lives in extremely cold climes or in Los Angeles. The guy down here is the Swamp Ape. But I would have given you honorable mention. Too late for your entry now that the big prize is gone. :-)

  5. Good for you both!! Hey, no matter if you don't do the whole thing in one day, you're doing it, none the less :)

    1. Thanks Laurie! Glad to know you are cheering us on.

  6. OK - no swamp walks for me ... especially after seeing those snake photos ... looked while scrolling ;-)

  7. Woo hoo. I figured it out.

    Would love to do that kind of triathalon, but no kayak. : (

  8. You are in the swamps walking and we are in the desert - climbing the foothills (they feel like mountains to us) Keep it up!

  9. I must admit I would have not jumped into that water after spotting those snakes!

  10. You guys are out and about every day. Looks like a lot of fun.

  11. What a cool idea!!! I think I would do the bike ride 3 times...does that count;o))) So good to see David is healthy and strong enough to be enjoying the things you both love:o))) You are already WINNERS!!!

  12. I suppose there's a reason why you like hiking in swamps. for the life of me I just can't figure out why a person would want to hike in a swamp. I like looking at pictures of swamps ~ they're very pretty ... but hiking in a swamp? isn't the ground slushy? can't you sink in? aren't those water moccasins? they won't bite you?

    What if you piss one off and it bites you? Lots of stuff I understand but swamp hiking ain't one of em... don't things gather around your feet and legs? ew

    any quicksand out there? y'all bring ropes to get yourself out of quicksand?

  13. I'm with Carolyn. Mucking around in the swampy water is not my idea of fun. :)

  14. Can't see myself hiking thru the swamp.....but I sure enjoy your photos of it! The bromeliad and the dragonfly with the really great name were my favorite pictures today.....are you biking or kayaking next? Can't wait to see!


  15. I love the outdoors, but I can't get excited about swamp walks either. Don't you get blisters from walking around with water soaked shoes?

    Don't forget to be on the look out for a python! What would you do if you came across a 17 footer??

  16. You two are brave souls. I hate slithering things. Ans swamps are full of them as you have shown. But the adventure is there for sure. Have fun with this triathlon.
    Glad to see looking and feeling so good and able to do these things again.

  17. What a great day. I love swamps. This past week, while on our continuing quest to find canoe launch places on the Texas Paddling Trails, we wandered around in the Big Thicket Preserve (did roughly 6k total) and wished it had been this wet and muddy! Texas is still dry as a bone. We need lots more rain. Didn't see a single snake, but the birding was good.
    Will you complete the challenge? Of course you will ;)

  18. snake is yucky. I would be afraid I would not see one and it seems me first. Not my kind of hiking trail at all. Rather do the beach.

  19. I see Carolyn's review of swamp hiking.. guess I am on the same wave length with her! I assume you have high rubber boots (Sherry.. for you ALL boots are high!). Glad you are finding joy in what you do. We are getting very excited about Arizona... doing a leisurely drive to get there... now to the packing part.... not so fun! I hope the sun continues to shine brightly ... in all ways... for both of you... love following your adventures. It is especially joyful to know that David is able to do so much of this... once again!! Watch out for those water moccasins and cotton mouths.... their markings are beautiful, I agree....

  20. Sounds and looks like a great triathlon! It sure must be good getting out there and doing these things together :)

    I have seen lots of kayakers here in and around the Colorado River. It's something I've done only once (we used a canoe a lot when I was young, however). We are thinking about someday getting one of the inflatable, 2 person boats.

    Also, we never saw Bigfoot in Southern Cali! I must have been dozing at the time.

  21. I could never hike in a swamp..glad to see you are enjoying yourselves tho...I'll hike through your camera l...thanks for sharing and great pictures by the way...my skin is crawling lol....from the snakes

  22. Beautiful snake and butterflies - looks like two enjoyable hikes! I like the idea of a triathalon without having to do it all at the same time :) It's great being on your wavelength ;)


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