where the water was
It’s the dry season in South Florida, but this year we have received less than 60 percent of average seasonal rainfall. The danger of wildfires is high and the drought has put residents on water restriction. Although we find ourselves somewhat inconvenienced, nature suffers the most. On a recent trip to Big Cypress National Preserve I saw lower water levels than ever before. Alligators swim in pools of muddy green water where aquatic life congregates until the spring rains arrive, allowing them to spread through Big Cypress and the Everglades.
Birds forage in puddles of dirty water where during the rainy season water flows deep and clear.
The drought afforded us the privilege of hiking through cypress forests usually underwater without the familiar buzz of mosquitoes. We chose Gator Hook Trail, a short 1 1/2 mile walk that runs on the ground where a tram railway built by a logging company in the 1930-1950s snaked deep into verdant cypress strands. As the sun burned across the eastern horizon we prepared to set out on the trail.
Railroad ties still mark the trail through sawgrass, hardwood hammock, and cypress domes.
A fork loops through Dwarf Cypress and a field of sawgrass before rejoining the main trail. Along the way wildflowers and bright blooming bromeliads dot the landscape with striking beauty.
Soon the trail rose above the surrounding cypress. Only inches of variance in elevation produces a different Big Cypress habitat. The raised trail was lined with trees typical to a hardwood hammock while on both sides the low-lying land supported a cypress strand.
Just a few steps off the trail and a beautiful cypress forest surrounded us.
A gaze skyward and I knew that I had entered a natural cathedral.
The forest hushed as a fresh breeze rustled the trees. A migrating bird paused to acknowledge us while searching for last year’s Cypress seeds.
I didn’t want to leave this beautiful off-the-road wonderland, but the sun’s overhead warmth told me it was time to turn back. Now, a plethora of magnificent images, uncaptured by my lens, parade through my mind. They’re secret treasures to turn and examine; gifts of God to cherish. Next year I hope to return to where the water was on Gator Hook Trail.