This wouldn’t be the first time my planned route hit a road block, this time it turned out to be a swamp. I was on a three day hike in the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve just out of Tampa Florida. Like many hikers, I used Google Earth to plan out a track and then download it into my GPS to give me a guideline of where I wanted to go. Most of my friends consider camping an activity where you drive your 4×4 somewhere into the woods, plop down a tent and complain about the cellular reception as you grab another beer from the cooler. I, on the other hand have a simple rule; if it doesn’t fit in the pack, it doesn’t go, (needless to say I don’t carry any beer).
The Florida Trail runs through this area and I have camped along it many times. On occasion though I do like to pick out a few nice spots on Google Earth and try to make my way there for a change of pace. Maybe some area that rarely sees any human foot prints. When I’m backpacking I’m really trying to
avoid people. You see I’m a Quality Engineer in a manufacturing plant and usually when people come to talk to me, there’s a problem. So if I spend a few days not talking to anyone, or to be more accurate, a few days with no problems, I’m OK with that.
I’m fifty and don’t get out on the trail that often so I try to limit my pack to around forty pounds. To be honest, on a full day hike I probably couldn’t handle much more than that anyway. As far as my gear goes I am, like others, on the never ending quest to lighten things up a little. I’ve gone away from tents in favor of a hammock. I carry a Katadyn Hiker for my water needs. A small gas stove for when I don’t want or can’t have a fire, a Ledge oversize bag, a Multimat Adventure sleeping mat (which I actually put in my bag), a piece of Reflectix insulation to keep my back warm and I use a tarp as my rainfly. When cooking, I prefer to grill over the fire so I carry a light weight grill which is actually a Trivet I found in a kitchen store. A lightweight camp chair rounds out the whole ensemble.
My first day out was going along well and I was about two miles from my first nights camp, a nice spot next to the Hillsborough river that, according to Google Earth looked ideal. It was then when I realized one important fact. Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between an assemblage of trees on the satellite image and a swamp. In this case it was a swamp, a swamp that laid directly between me and my destination. It was time for an alternate plan, again. An hour later l was at a primitive campsite courteously provided by Southwest Florida Water Management District.
The campsite was fine, a bench and a fire pit were provided. The site overlooked a small pond that provided plenty of fish
for the Great Blue Herons that were patrolling the edges. Occasionally my favorite bird, the Swallow-tailed kite would come cruising past on the lookout for a wayward snake or frog. Sometimes you can actually hear the wind flow over their wings as it glides past. It’s amazing how they weave through the trees with no effort. As I get to work on the fire I think that the swamp probably did me a favor today as I don’t know if the view would have been as nice as what I ended up with.
The alternate plan is sometimes the best thing about backpacking for me. The realization that things can and will change but my overall goal remains the same. The goal to connect to nature. To remind myself that if my cell phone battery dies or the internet isn’t available, it doesn’t really matter. There is still going to be a great sunset tonight and a warm cup of coffee in my hands in the morning.