It’s been over 10 years since I walked into Billie Swamp Safari and backpacked out of the reservation to Lake Okeechobee. With the announcement that the route of the Florida Trail would shift back to the original roadwalk I missed doing back then, and our plans to meet up with thru-hikers beyond the swamps, I made plans to close that gap.
Serendipity joined us in the form of Singing Sister and Mr. Blister, two section hikers from Tennessee who joined us at Oasis for the kickoff and decided to meet us again at the reservation. They have a unique method of self-shuttling for section hikes: they spot a small motorcycle and use it to get back to their car.
We’d heard the night before that there would be a 10K race on the reservation, and wouldn’t you know, it was on the newly restored Florida Trail section paralleling Josie Billie Highway. While it made for a snag en route – we had to take a very long detour to get to the trailhead – it meant a little trail magic awaited us about 1/3 of the way through the hike.
Despite the broad open spaces and canals, there was life. We watched a large otter lope across the road, and another one in the water. Singing Sister kept scaring up alligators. I told her that’s why she’d find me on the other side of the path, away from the canal.
Another bit of trail magic: an unexpected rest stop. Big Cypress Landing has been here for 7 years but since the trail didn’t go this way all that time, who knew? Loved that I could get a BLT for lunch.
Walking through the community, we saw a lot of chickees in yards and many government buildings for services – schools, senior center, and more. We ended the journey with JK & Shortcut waiting for us at the Sweet Tooth, a small eatery with root beer floats. While Shortcut & Singing Sister took care of retrieving the car on this leg, the rest of us sat in the screened room and watched backpackers slowly filter up the road and into the Big Cypress Campground.