In 2002, I arrived at Lake Okeechobee for the Big O Hike in November, not knowing exactly what to expect. My good friend Sunny Piskura had bugged me for years to join her on the annual walk around the lake, and I thought she was crazy.
Then I got two book contracts in which I needed to walk around the lake to write about it – Along the Florida Trail and the Florida Trail Official Guide.
So I made plans. But unbeknownst to all of us, Sunny’s cancer returned and two months before the big hike, she died. It was a shock for many of us, especially to be present on the opening day and to watch her granddaughters spread her ashes on the dike at South Bay.
That year, that hike, I made fast friends, folks I’ve hiked and traveled with all over the country, folks who I count as some of my closest people in my life. I came to love the Big O Hike, all 9 days around our massive Lake Okeechobee, its subtleties and its splendor. I returned again and did the whole thing twice, then life took me in other directions and I only made it back for work reasons, or to do the kickoff and head home again.
In 2007, I vowed I’d be there for the whole nine days, and I did it unplugged. I’d thought of blogging from the trail, then thought better of it. It was the most relaxing week of hiking I’ve ever had, and it flooded back reminders of why, despite the assumptions people make that “walking on a dike is boring, the view never changes” this hike is anything BUT boring. So read these journal entries and plan to join the hike yourself next year! You’ll find all the logistical details you need in the Big O Hike section.
- Day One: Kickoff! - Day 1 of the 2007 Big O Hike around Lake Okeechobee starts off with sunshine and a walk to Port Mayaca along the glistening lake waters.
- Day Two: On Vacation - Discovering that the Big O Hike can be a vacation immersed in the beauty of Lake Okeechobee, I take the time to slow down and enjoy nature at my own pace.
- Day Three: Hiking with Cliff - On the third day of the 2007 Big O Hike, I walk with Cliff Moody, the oldest man to ever complete the walk around Lake Okeechobee.
- Day Four: Halfback - Day four of the 2007 Big O Hike evolved into a relaxed walk from the halfway point back into the campground in Okeechobee, greeting hikers along the way.
- Day Five: In the pink - On Day Five of the 2007 Big O Hike, sunrise over Eagle Bay was the event of the morning before a move to our southerly campground in the afternoon.
- Day Six: Giving thanks - Sunrise unfolded ever-so-slowly through the fog-shrouded marshes at Moore Haven, making for the perfect start of Thanksgiving Day during the 2007 Big O Hike.
- Day Seven: Surreal - Day seven of the 2007 Big O Hike is a counterpoint to the previous day, entertaining family with the highlights of Clewiston.
- Day Eight: Torrey Island - After a moonlight walk the night before with fellow hikers, I arise early for a walk to Torrey Island on Day 8 of the Big O Hike.
- Day Nine: Pelican Bay - The final day of the 2007 Big O Hike sweeps us around the curve of Pelican Bay into Pahokee as the details sink deep into my memories.