In completing an end-to-end hike of the Florida Trail, I knew I’d need to fill a gap or two left behind at the Big O Hike. Despite having walked around Lake Okeechobee several times, I was missing a few miles. During the Big O Hike, the hike begins and ends at trailheads, and in all the years I’ve been attending, we always skipped over several pieces for safety’s sake: the walk on roads through Moore Haven over the Caloosahatchee River Bridge, the walk between the Army Corps of Engineers office in Clewiston and Levee Park, and the walk over the St. Lucie Canal Bridge in Port Mayaca. Once upon a time, hikers could cross the Port Mayaca Lock, but that hasn’t been the case in the many years I’ve been hiking on the Florida Trail.
Weighing my options for a few days en route, I decided to go for the bridge at Port Mayaca: higher-speed traffic passing by, but much shorter miles than doing the other two. I also remembered the view from the bridge, and thought that would be neat to capture in slow motion.
Sure enough, there was an onslaught of traffic after John dropped me off where I’d climbed up the dike years ago to conclude the first Ocean-to-Lake Hike. But the shoulder was very broad and only once did I almost lose my Tilley hat to a gust of wind kicked up by a semi.
Enjoying the views from this high point, I slackened the pace when traffic died down. Seeing Primrose as a tiny dot on the landscape helped put the height of the bridge in perspective.
In all, it took a little more than a half hour to complete that piece of my puzzle, filling in another blank on the Florida Trail.
I’ve driven over this bridge hundreds of times, but at a hiker’s pace, it’s an amazing experience to soak in the views from the highest perspective above Lake Okeechobee.