Scenic trail in Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

naturist 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

South Florida is one the most popular tourist destinations, but it’s not known for its hiking. In this blogpost, I invite you to join me on a scenic trail that proves that hiking in South Florida is exciting even though it’s as flat as it gets.

Florida trail view 0003 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

This 8-mile section of Florida trail goes through various landscapes of Big Cypress National Preserve. About a year ago, I went to Florida with my sister, and we stayed at the same CouchSurfing hosts, as in my first visit to Florida with Joe; Peter already knew we would love the idea of hiking in the swamp, so he got in touch with his friend Dave from Florida Great Outdoors group. Dave was an excellent guide, he knew every corner of the trail and told us a lot about the wildlife, of which we saw plenty!

cormorant 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

Just on the way to the southern trailhead, we saw various birds, from a cormorant with a fresh catch to great egrets wading between cypresses.

great egret 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

Dave knew that we were unlikely to encounter too many other hikers, so, almost immediately after the start of the trail and getting ourselves familiar with its rules, we got naked. Given the muddiness of the trail and hot weather, it was clearly the best way to go!

Florida trail view 0002 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

In the beginning (coming from the South), the most typical landscape is grassland with a few scattered cypress trees. But unlike prairie or savannah, this grassland is flooded, with water levels varying throughout the year and depending on weather conditions. On this trail, we could really see why the Everglades are called the “river of grass” (the whole southern part of Florida practically represents a giant swamped slow-moving river). Besides the sawgrass marsh, we also went through the pine forest and cypress swamp. On the photo below, you can actually see the so-called cypress dome in the background. It is formed when pond cypress trees grow higher in the center than on the edges of the swamp, which can happen due to various reasons.

Florida trail view 0004 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

Our first encounter with an animal on the trail was a snail.

snail 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

There were many dragonflies

Halloween Pennant dragonfly 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

and grasshoppers,

grasshopper 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USAgrasshopper 0001 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

one of which devoured on a flower 🙂

Speaking of flowers, maybe we were lucky with the season, but there were quite a few plants blooming:

white star sedge (a sawgrass species),

White Star Sedge 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

milkweed,

Hymenocallis,

http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5503/12021500684_86f8da91cf_z.jpg

and marsh roses (Sabatia) – pink

marsh rose (Sabatia) 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USAmarsh rose (Sabatia) 0001 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

and light-blue.

marsh rose (Sabatia) 0003 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

Bromelias were blooming too,

bromelia 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

but even when they weren’t, they served as a nice decoration on cypress and pine trees.

bromelia 0001 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

At some point, palm trees appeared more frequently between the pines, but we could tell that the first one wasn’t in the best condition… which made me look like a giant next to it.

naturist 0007 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

That’s where we saw some Carolina anoles too. I was too slow with my camera and only got one hiding in a hole in the tree and missed how it changed colors while moving across different surfaces (for this ability, they are nicknamed american chameleons).

carolina anole 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

Midway, pine and palm forest got denser and we stepped on solid soil for the first time in a couple of hours. This is also the only place on the trail that is suitable for camping; we had our lunch break there.

naturist 0002 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

We couldn’t rest for too long, however, and soon followed the trail further through the swamped cypress forest.

Florida trail view 0001 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

When we reached the cypress dome, we could see how the tallest pond cypress trees indeed surrounded the central pond, with many tropical understory plants mingled between them.

naturist 0003 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

We almost missed our second reptile encounter, a snapping turtle, as it was well-concealed in the mud. Being much better protected than a lizard, it didn’t feel the need to run away from us but looked cautiously; considering the name of the species, we didn’t approach it too close though.

common snapping turtle 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

Then there was a stretch of the trail that went through fern thickets taller than human.

naturist 0001 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

And some open water again, where we could see the odd cypress ‘knees’ (I saw many more of those in the Mississippi swamps near New Orleans).

naturist 0006 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

Usually, I don’t post pictures of people in clothes due to the nature of this blog, but my sister deserves a credit because later on this trip she did get naked in a public place for the first time in her life (at Haulover beach), and here in the swamp she looked pretty cool and odd at the same time in her white night dress (she thought if she didn’t get naked she should wear the lightest thing she had…)

naturist 0005 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

The rest of us were content with our naked attire… As you can see on these photos, the cypress forest after the dome became more flooded, and the rest of the trail we hiked in ankle-deep water, which actually felt nice.

naturist 0004 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

Then, we had our third reptile encounter, or actually two but of the same species.

Water Moccasin 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

This was a venomous snake, water moccasin. They are territorial and feel safe with their venom-filled fangs, so they didn’t show a sign of retreat, but thankfully they did show their warning display. So we just stood there and looked at each other for a few minutes, and who knows who of us was more scared… Well, there is no use for them to bite humans unless attacked, so I guess we could call it mutual respect.

Water Moccasin 0002 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

It also provided enough time for taking pictures 😉

Water Moccasin 0001 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

Soon after that, we could hear the noise of Tamiami road; it didn’t make sense to put on clothes in the end of the trail just to make it dirty, as it was still muddy, but that’s what we had to do.

In the pond by the visitor center,  we had our fourth reptile encounter. A group of american alligators were sunbathing and just waiting to be photographed.

american alligator 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

Thus, we saw representatives of the major groups of reptiles on one trail!

wood stork 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

And as a bonus, while picking up the car, we saw some more wading birds: wood stork (above) and great blue heron (below).

great blue heron 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

Florida doesn’t really need much publicity for tourism with its climate, beaches, festivals and Disney World, and it probably has more nudist colonies than any other state, but there is definitely more to it! This trail was perfect to discover Florida’s wild side and see the “river of grass” that it really is. Next, we’ll show you the place where this river meets the sea.

PS Keep in mind that Big Cypress National Preserve is also a home to black bears and  elusive Florida panthers (a subspecies of cougar)!

24 thoughts on “Scenic trail in Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

  1. OK– point made… Come to think of it– since I’ve lived in NYC — I’ve been hit by a car while crossing the road twice… Least I wasn’t naked when it happened.. LOL!!!

    Like

  2. Wow… I could never venture to a place that had snakes alligators, and many other creatures that could KILL me, much less naked! Good on you, and awesome pictures! Thanks for sharing!

    Like

    1. Thats what I was thinking — I don’t think I could walk around naked or barefoot in the swamp with snakes and gators… Not to mention the insects bites… LOL!!!!

      Like

      1. Would hate to come out of it with less parts than I went into it with… gotta hail those who are brave enough to make this kind of adventure!

        Like

        1. I know what you mean Brother. I’d like to keep my parts– I need those things 😉 LOL!! He’s a brave son-of-a-bitch !!!

          Like

          1. you guys crack me up! thanks for your comments about my bravery, but here is some food for thought for you. So, you say you “would never venture to a place that had… many… creatures that could KILL” you, but I’m pretty sure you drive or at the very least cross streets where others drive. How many people did die from cars in Florida? 2500-3500 per year between 2005-2009. Now, how many people did die from alligators? Between 2000 and 2007, there were 0-3 fatal alligator attacks per year, and none at all between 2007-2014 so far! In the whole of US, on average 5 people per year die because of snake bites. Of course, you could argue that a lot more people drive cars than wrestle with alligators, but nevertheless these numbers show that many more people suffer from cars than from alligators, and yet it’s only the latter that scare you! And btw, I actually confirmed the statistics with my own example, although luckily without a fatal or very serious consequence: in my last trip to Florida, I was hit and run over by a car :-/ The crocs and snakes didn’t touch me…

            Like

  3. Living in the state; but on it’s coast I never knew such a beautiful/wild place existed…..and it’s perfect for a naked day in nature. Really great reportage…..I’m truly looking forward to your next installment!

    Like

  4. What a talent you have, for showing both places for naturist activity and for wildlife. Likely areas of heavy naturist activity in the future ? That’s a wonderful plan to make. Cheers

    Like

  5. I am amazed and I pressed that you can find naturist/nude options no map tater where you travel. Hope to see you at summer nudist weekend at The Woods Campground.

    Like

  6. I have been there and the winter season there are few insects to deal with. In the summer yes indeed the bugs are bad. Beautiful photos and nice narrative especially for those of us familiar with the area and The Big Cypress Swamp.

    Like

  7. Great photos–wonderful colors!! Would love to explore this place!!
    But aren’t you worried about walking around barefoot in that area due to shape grass –splinters– and snakes? And what about bugs — in that kind of swamp like environment I’m sure there are a lot of bugs. Did you get alot of insect bites? Nothing worse then getting a bug bite on your private area….. 😉

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s