February 14 - February 25, 2012
This was the hitch we’ve all been waiting for —- our trip down to Big Cypress National Preserve for our second and final F-Troop project. We got our things together and made the 8 hour trek down to southern Florida, ready to spend 10 days working through 17 miles of marshy trail, palmetto forests and cypress domes. When we arrived, we set up a base camp at the Oasis Visitor Center, and awaited Sean, our agency partner, to join us. Upon his arrival he promptly described his first and much-awaited encounter with a possible Florida Panther while we enjoyed a lovely bonfire.
Within the next day or so, a few volunteers arrived and we set out to 10-mile camp, which is appropriately about 10 miles away from the trailhead. Luckily, Jared and Robin, two helpful park rangers, drive all of our water, tools and belongings into the campsite with swamp buggies - what a load off!
Unfortunately, on our first night in, one of our volunteers scratched his cornea while walking around our campsite at night, and had to be driven out on a swamp buggy the next day. Although he’s fine now, we were sure sad to see him go. Luckily, throughout the next few days, we had two new members to our group join us. Our job was to put in 40 signs throughout the 17 mile stretch through Big Cypress. The swampy, and sometimes knee-deep in water trail, often had hikers losing their way. We also chopped out over 50 fallen logs and countless overgrown palmettos with our newly sharpened axes.
On one evening, our group split up so that the crew that went North could put in more signs, and the crew that went South could clear out the trail. When the Northern crew arrived at their starting point, they were hoping to find signs, posts and a post-pounder. The post pounder is important, considering it’s nearly impossible to pound in posts without it. Imagine their frustration when there was no post pounder to be found. Luckily, Michael went into beast-mode the next day, woke up at 5:30am and hiked 7 miles up to the Northern crew to bring them a 55-pound post pounder, and then proceeded to pound in posts all day. (Count how many times “post” and “pounder” were written in this paragraph).
At the end of the wet, hot, american week, we headed back to Oasis Visitor’s Center with only one missing person (that’s pretty good!), and only one completely ruined pair of boots (according to Sean, his boots were faster drying when there was no sole attached to them), and 17 miles of trail that can be better enjoyed by its users! We saw some of the most beautiful scenery that Florida has to offer, and also saw some of the most diverse wildlife we’d ever seen! We all had a great time, but were all pretty thankful to finally be dry!