Back in February, before moving out to the Pacific Northwest, I wanted to make one more kayak run down the Turner River. So I loaded up the car the night before and made it down to the kayak launch at first light.
One Thanksgiving, when I was visiting my family in South East Florida, I decided I would make a side trip and head down to Flamingo in the Everglades National Park. The last time I had been to the park was when I was a small child. So knowing I would be moving to the Pacific Northwest soon, I wanted to check things out one last time while it was still convenient.
Coming off my high from the swamp walk I had the week before at Sweetwater Strand. I decided I would do a mix hike/swamp walk and tackle the infamous Gator Hook Trail out on Loop Road. This roughly five mile trek can be either adventurous or very adventurous depending on how “deep” you want to get. I was all geared up for the long haul, so extra deep it is.
After my tiny taste of swamp walking back in the Okaloacoochee Slough, I was itching to get some serious swamping in. Having passed by the location once before, I decided my first real swamp walk was to be held in the Sweetwater Strand off of Loop Road.
In the heart of the Everglades, off of State Road 29, there is an old dirt road called “Jane’s Memorial Scenic Drive”. Stretching 11 miles, this road runs through the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, and ends at the edge of the the Picayune Strand State Forest, the site of the now infamous “Swampland in Florida” scam.
When you visit Collier-Seminole State Park, there are three trails for you to choose from. Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. This trail, the 3.5 mile trail is the intermediate trail. It’s great to hike down, and even easier to bike through.
As a child, I remember my family taking me to Collier Seminole State Park on a few occasions. One visit my Father rented a canoe and we paddled down Blackwater River as far as Mud Bay before it was time to turn around. That was so long ago, so I don’t really remember much past that.
Here is what one of the park websites have to say about the State Park:
“The park overlaps the northern edge of the great mangrove swamp of southwestern Florida, and the southern edge of the Big Cypress Swamp. The park is the meeting place of the land and the sea, fresh water and salt water, and tropical and temperate zone vegetation. Because of this blending, a great diversity of plants and interesting wildlife are found here.”
Having already documented the parks three walking trails, I figured it was about time to load up the yak and see how the ole canoe trail was holding up.
If you have lived any portion of your life in Florida, chances are you have been canoeing or kayaking. It is without a doubt on of the most relaxing and rewarding ways to get in touch with mother nature. The ability to to work as a team and slip stealthy down the waterway brings all of your surroundings that much closer.
I grew up as a Boy Scout, attended summer camps (focusing on nature and marine biology), and even has a family who demanded every Sunday be…well…family day. And those days were usually spent exploring the vast wildernesses of Florida. Needless to say, I have done my fair share of canoeing. However, it had been far too long since my last dip into the Florida streams.
I was headed down to the Keys for the 4th of July and took the beautiful Tamiami Trail over. It had been a few years since I’ve driven all the way across. So needless to say I was a little intrigued when I passed what appeared to be a new (to me) boardwalk called Kirby Shorter.