05 Bear Island

Trip Start Nov 06, 2008
1
5
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Trip End Apr 30, 2009


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Flag of United States  , Florida
Saturday, February 21, 2009

Spent a week primitive camping at Bear Island in the Big Cypress National Preserve (my favourite place) that  is 20 miles up a severe washboard road about a mile past, and under with no access, I75 (Alligator Alley). The area is spectacular with a plethora of Slash Pines, Bald Cypress, Cabbage Palms and Palmettos, interspersed with "grasslands" creating neat horizons.

I moved from Campsite 1 to 4 (once it freed up) to get more shade during hot afternoons; there are ten campsites in the loop plus thirty more along the "road". Moving is no big deal when the tent is small enough to carry while still assembled. It is great camping weather - 85F in daytime and 50F at night. Most people at Bear Island are long-term residents - there are currently no stay limitations - especially once hunting season ends. Eventually the heat and mosquitoes drive the nomads further north.

The bird and animal life is prolific; there are owls aplenty, especially Barred, and Red-shouldered Hawks glide around hunting rodents. And at sunset, Ibis roosting is so impressive with a couple thousand flocking to land around one small gator pond in a Bald Cypress dome. All these birds lead to a cacophony in mornings; my favourite is still the Catbird which calls both first and last, mornings and evenings.

The stars are spectacular being away from the big city lights - the Big Dipper (and associated Little Dipper with North Star) is now fully visible before 22:00 now. Night noises, including death cries, create quite an evening show while curled up reading in my tent.

I have been hiking the Off Road Vehicle (ORV) trails and utilizing game created tributary paths; the scenery is beautiful with lots of Black Racers slithering. The large thistles also attract numerous pretty butterflies. I got trailed (hunted?) by a coyote but it disappeared once I started my return trek but it provided an eerie feeling along my back. The best hike was four miles (eight return) along the Perocchi Grade to the Pink Jeep campground; I will likely return here sometime soon via backpack. The campsite was named for a lady that drove a pink jeep using this campsite for many years prior to this area becoming a national preserve. Most of the "roads" were created (along with associated small canals and ponds) by oil drillers; the resulting abandoned pads make great campgrounds.

My patience has finally been rewarded - Erik the Umnak (guess the colour) has been acquired relatively cheaply (about the same cost as the Thule roof-racks) :). a 1992 seventeen foot fibreglass P&H Icefloe with built in bailer plus Orange-Slice paddle; world famous Derek C Hutchison designed the kayak. This sea kayak, although old, is in great shape and was mainly used for weekend ocean trips in the keys. I'm looking forward to learning how to roll it :) plus trying it out carrying gear on a short camping trip (which will be its main job up north). More pictures and stories on those aspects will likely appear in future logs. The gators, especially a ten footer about twenty feet away, were cheering on its re-christening voyage as I tipped twice near shore while learning how to properly enter :); I guess some lessons might speed up the learning curve :).
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