Leaving the wilds of the Big Cypress Swamp, the trail followed an old road for most of the distance. After a right hand turn on a large main road, I followed the blazes and other hikers footsteps.
I stopped while crossing a canal to tend to a few hot spots on the bottom of both feet. With duct tape in place and dry socks on, I ate my lunch.
Road walks seem to hypnotize you. Step after step, mile after mile, I mindlessly kept going. At one point, I noticed that I was walking on pavement. I hadn’t noticed where it happened. Nor had I seen it coming. Off in the distance I could see the parking lights of Billie Swamp Safari and could hear the swamp buggies rumbling through the woods. By the time I was at the entrance to Billies, I was pretty beat.
I waved to every car as they passed me on their way to visit Billies and have lunch. Seeing the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in the distance, I knew the campground – where we were all meeting after exiting the swamp – was getting closer. I discovered a funny thing about roadwalks on flat terrain: even when you can see something up ahead, it’s still a long walk to get there!
Arriving at the Big Cypress Campground office, I flopped on one of the rocking chairs. After about twenty minutes of just resting, I went inside to check in. Looking at the GPS, I had hiked 17.6 miles since I had started at 5 AM, not missing my current “18 miles in one day” record by much.
I limped to the campsite, pain in every step. Once I had the tent up, I assessed my poor feet. Scribbles, a first responder and fellow hiker, offered to help doctor my feet. I wandered off for a shower – the first on this hike – and to scrub my feet.
While showering, I noticed a large tick dug in under my armpit. After three nights of crashing after hiking all day, I hadn’t been checking like I should been. That gave this little fellow plenty of time to dig in!
Back at the campsite, with me clean and a little less smelly, Scribbles went to work, pushing threads through multiple blisters on both feet. One blister on my heel had already torn open and was bleeding. After close examination, Scribbles prescribed two or three days of not wearing boots and letting my feet air out.
The tick removal took minor surgery. Luckily I had kept the tweezers in my first aid kit. But tweezers alone weren’t enough. With the tick gone, the red spot where it had been, about the size of a dime, looked bad. After treating it with antibiotics and a bandage, “Dr. Scribbles” released me.
Had I been hiking alone, I would not have been able to remove the tick by myself. I’m not sure what I would have done. It was another reminder that hiking with a partner is a good idea.
After four days and more than 50 miles of hiking, it was nice to be in a campground with amenities. Being on the Appalachian Trail spoiled me. When we hiked there, there always seemed to be an old log or rock to sit on. That is not the case on the Florida Trail, at least not in the Big Cypress. So having a huge chickee to shade us, and picnic tables to sit at, felt like first class accommodations!
For those doing this hike, the campground also has showers, a pool, hot tub, and a laundry. The only thing missing is food, which is about a mile and a half away. Another perk for being part of a supported group is rides to the “just out-of-reach” places!
Two fellow hikers, Bogey and Bacall, stopped at Billies and enjoyed the full guest package! They rented their own screened chickee, took rides on both the swamp buggy and the airboat, went to the critter and snake show, and enjoyed lots of good eating. All that was missing for them was a washer and dryer.
While I’m recuperating, I start my adventure as a van driver and hiker support team member. Being with a seasoned pro like Chuck Norris will be a great place to learn!