End of March Weekend
Short Story

I can not think of a better place to be then in the Big Cypress Swamp in March. The subtle beauty is almost majestic when seen in the right frame of mind. March and into April are the months in the Big Cypress Swamp that put you in that frame of mind. The picture on the right is taken on Buckskin Prairie, just as the sun was about to go below the tree line. An unusual sky, with nearly invisible high clouds that turned the glowing sun into just a speck on the horizon. Not a glorious sunset with bright reds and orange colors, but a subtle glow, that most people will never notice in the city. Too busy with every day life, the housing and congestion blocking the view, most people would never notice a Big Cypress Sunset.
Hoss and I started the weekend with a sunset because we got a late start on the trip. Leaving on a Friday afternoon, we needed to do some vehicle work before our trip began. Those that own ORVs, know the effort it takes to keep one usable in the roughness of the swamp. Never knowing when the next breakdown will occur, an ORV carries not only passengers and gear, but a supply of repair parts for the unexpected stop. That is one of the things that makes the visit to the Big Cypress Swamp an adventure and not just a ride in a park.

  Big Cypress Sunset on Hazy Evening
Sunset on Buckskin Prairie

NPS Outback Camp Update
I'm sure someone is expecting an update on Calvin Stone's Calusa Camp, the new Outback Camp the National Park Service is building. Its only been about three weeks since the last update, so not much has changed. The roof has been put on the kitchen and dining Hall. Windows have been added to the kitchen. As you might imagine, I speculate on things I see, some of them are pretty minor details. I notice that the dining hall only has a screen door on it, not the kind of thing that can be locked up. Where as the sleeping quarters and kitchen have a steel frame and very secure type door. Could it be that the dinning area is going to open for visitors, maybe a hiking party or such. Since the NPS has never been very open about their plans, we can only speculate.

NPS Kitchen and Dining Building
NPS Kitchen and Dining Building
 

NPS Quarters - former Stone's  Calusa Camp
NPS Outback Quarters

Panther Update
It seems that I can not pass up a weekend story with out including mentioning Panthers. Well as soon as they move on and let hunting get back to normal, I will quit mentioning them. You can not walk the ORV trails in our area with out coming across panther sign. Below is a picture of some of the clearest panther tracks I have seen. I'm guessing it is a female and probably young, based on the size of the prints. The print is bigger then a big bobcat, but not by much and has the well defined three lobe center pad, that is distinctive on the panther. The other picture is what is left of a raccoon, a well digested meal, left by a panther. I mentioned in a earlier story that raccoons had started to disappear, but I hope they all don't show up as panther poop.

Panther Prints - probably young female
Panther Prints (as clear as you will ever see)
  Panther's Raccoon Snack
Panther Scat

Rumor Mill
Well, it would seem the Big Cypress National Preserve Superintendent, John Donahue, will be moving on to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area this June. Some might miss him and some might not, John, when you walk out to leave, don't let the door hit you in the butt.
New Acquaintance
On our way out from camp to the hard road this weekend, we ducked to the east to avoid a heavy rainfall and that put us going by the Gresham Camp. Some know that the Gresham camp changed hands this year and Mr. Gresham passed on just a few months ago. As we passed by, we noticed the new owners arriving in camp and stopped to meet them. Pedro Garcia and his son Alex, are friendly nice people, the kind of people we need in the Big Cypress Swamp. Some time I hope to meet the other two owners. Probably have to do that before the designated trails are in, so we can go by their camp.

Old Man Cypress
The Big Cypress Swamp is a rugged place, even for a tree. First the soil is not very fertile and the cypress trees for the most part are stunted. Only in the Cypress Domes do the trees gain any stature. The tree to the right shows me how rugged life is in the swamp. It's knocked off top and ragged trunk, show the endurance and clinging to life, that takes place in nature. Probably most people would not even notice this tree, but to me its a symbol of the rugged and hardy life in the swamp. Most people I have met, are rugged enough to visit the swamp, but few of them are rugged enough to enjoy it. I have brought different people with me to the swamp and you soon learn which have the tenacity to over come adversity and those that are not able to cope with hardships. There are some that never accept a second invitation. Too comfortable in their air conditioned homes in front of a TV, not wanting to endure a little hardship. That's OK with me, I would just as soon, not have those that don't love it, crowding me, in the Big Cypress Swamp.

 

I's a rugged life, even for a tree
Old Man Cypress

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Story by Steve - March 24, 2003