SUNDAY NOV 18 – Resolving to beat my issue with energy drain the day before, I reflect on the fact that I am here to slow down and relax … I’m utterly unplugged, having left my laptop at home, and the cell phone is firmly shut off. I am ON VACATION for the first time in four years on the hike … I am here to relax. My first foray ’round the Big O was in 2002, and I circled the entire lake that year and the next. I have nothing to prove, so I decide to “Hike My Own Hike” and enjoy Okeechobee at my own leisure.
After an early up breakfast at Pogey’s (open 4 AM), I slip into the day’s hike at the midpoint, Henry Creek, at 7 AM. It’s even better than I expected, despite trading sunrise for a short stack. Hiking alone in the breeze, enjoying the stillness of a Sunday morning, I hear the calls of birds but no footfalls of fellow hikers. A giant gator cruises the Rim Canal. An osprey wheels overhead. I find a tiny mud turtle on the pavement, parched and confused, so I drop my pack and head downslope to plonk it in the canal.
My approach from the parking area through the equestrian stile let me see moonflowers up close. From the top of the dike, it’s shocking to see how far the lake has receded, leaving moonvine to run amok and swallow cypress whole, creating bizarre and distant creatures like giant antelope and monster rubber ducky. It is no longer a marsh fringe, but dry land, making it impossible for the duck hunters to proceed by camo-decked boats as we’ve seen in the past. Instead, they stalk through the tall grass, unable to sneak up on their prey before a flurry of wings rises.
After 6 miles, my feet are sore but just barely. I’m glad for the sunshine and the quiet, and today, a chance to relax – not collapse.