Saturday, February 23, 2008

Fish Eating Creek

On Friday afternoon, the big boss man let me leave work an hour early so I could head down to Fish Eating Creek (a private nature preserve about 120 miles from Tampa near Lake Okeechobee)...a trip sponsored by the Florida Studies program at USF. At 3pm, I took off from St. Pete and drove through the little towns of Myaka and Arcadia, arriving at my destination at about 6pm. By that time it was getting dark and the mosquitoes were ready to feast.

On walking up the path that lead into the sanctuary, I was surprised when my friend Sean rolled up on this swamp buggy to pick me up. Homemade, this beast got her done in the mud. Its drive shaft had broken earlier in the day but was somehow miraculously fixed by our host and guide, crazy Bob.
After about 15 minutes of rolling through muck and swamp, I arrived at the camp fire and our motel for the evening...picture a giant shed, walled with mosquito netting, a makeshift kitchen, and about a half dozen bunks. This would be the first time I've slept outside since I was 12.

After some really good food and even better conversations around the campfire (as well as finding out that one of the twelve guests with us was Susan Surandon's brother), we headed to bed at about midnight. At this point, the reserve was dead silent except for the sporadic, eerie hoots of barn owls.
At about 7am, everyone woke up to some breakfast and coffee over the fire. Soon after, we took off for a pretty long walk through the woods. Not far from camp, we discovered this saw palmetto above. This palmetto species only grows about a centimeter a year. Granted the size of this one in particular, we're looking at about a 250 to 300 year old plant.
Through the reserve, Cypress knees were a dime a dozen. At one point I was certain that my clumsiness was going to send me to my death atop one of these bad boys...I was wrong, luckily.
On our walk there were many sloughs to cross. Most of them had makeshift bridges to span the water. This was the most aerobic of the lot. Here is one of my professors (Dr. Mormino) making it happen...this guy knows an ungodly amount of information about Florida.

Sour orange and lemon trees were found at random throughout the reserve. Most of them were pretty deep in the bush. Legend has it that early Spanish settlers planted them. Too bad they weren't concerned with taste...these things were terrible.

I had to snap this shot on our way out. This is Fish Eating Creek. Pretty breath-taking...I felt pretty lucky to have experienced its remoteness.
Thanks to Dr. Mormino for the invitation. And thanks to crazy Bob and Sean for picking me up in the swamp beast. If not, I would have had filthy feet after walking through the muck. If you didn't know, filthy feet are on my top five list of things I can't deal with...Yes, I'm an odd one.
-He Said

1 comment:

elawgrrl said...

Matt - I am glad you got to visit Fish Eating Creek. We are lucky to have lots of cool preserves all over FL. We even have a couple locally - Gibbons Preserve in Brandon with lovely Bell Creek for example! Sierra Club does weekend hikes frequently too!