Spending the Day in Big Cyprus Swamp

ECT Day 310

Day 310: 18 miles

This morning we packed up fairly early at our campsite by the gate. We wanted to have as early a start as possible. Today we have to hike up about 8 miles along regular Florida Trail before we get into the big cypress swamp. The swamp is gonna be exhausting and time consuming, so we want to get there as early as possible today.

We set out and the walking was nice and easy for the first two or so hours hours of the day. The weather was great, and the trail was wide open and well maintained. The time went by fairly quickly as we made our way to the I-75 rest area. This rest area marked either the start or the end of the big Cypress section. That just depended on whether you were going north or south. For southbound hikers it basically marks the end of dry land and the beginning of the swamp.

Trucker walking up ahead along a dirt road.

As of this morning, I have less than 40 miles to go along the Florida Trail. It’s pretty crazy to think about. Some how the time really went by much faster than I could’ve ever imagined. Soon enough I’ll be on the ECT connector which will bring me to the overseas heritage trail. Those two trails continue on after you finish the Florida Trail, and go all the way to Key West.

The first 8 miles of the day dragged a little bit more than I was expecting. Trucker and I were both hopeful that we be getting into the swamp maybe sometime around 10-10:30am. That wasn’t necessarily the most practical assumption but we were hopeful. In the end we got to the I-75 rest area sometime around 11am.

We stopped there to pull out more snacks to have access to while we walked in the swamp. Once we get into the swamp or no longer going to be able to take our backpacks off and put them down. So we wanted to pull out what we need and have it accessible. At the I-75 rest area there was also a drink vending machine, an ice cream vending machine, and a regular vending machine.

Going through the gate before I-75. After we cross the street we will officially be in Big Cyprus swamp!

I got a drink and some snacks there. There were even uncrustables in there so I packed out a couple. Then I also got an ice cream bar to eat before we continued along. We filled up our water a bit there and then we made our way across the street to get into the swamp.

Heading into the swamp! Using my trekking poles for the first time in 3 months.

Starting off the trail was dry initially. Then little by little water began forming on the trail. Initially you could walk around it and avoid getting your feet wet. But resistance was futile. We knew that any second now we be getting our feet wet and we’d be walking through deep swamp for the next day and a half. Within the 1st mile my feet were soaked and we were moving into pretty consistent ankle deep water. A mile or so after that, the water was more consistently deep. The really cool thing that was at the water was crystal clear.

It’s official, we’re making our way through the big cypress swamp. A section of the florida trail that some say is the hardest section on any of the national scenic trails. I’m curious to see if I agree with that. I was surprised walking through the swamp that I was a little bit less scary than I was expecting. The water was clear, so if you were walking in the front you felt pretty safe.

For a little while I was walking behind Trucker and the water was getting all mucked up. Something about not being able to see added a lot of anxiety to the situation. After walking for a couple miles we switched off and I was out front which was nice.

In the first two hours we managed to do about 4 miles. That wasn’t too bad. I was expecting we were going to do about a 1-1.5 miles per hour. So I was glad that we could maintain at least 2 miles an hour as the swamp began. But I knew we weren’t into the worst of it yet.

As we continued along the water got deeper and deeper. The majority of the swamp was shin to knee deep. Every now and then the ground would be rocky and easy to walk on. Sometimes the ground was rocky with lots of big holes in it. In those sections you had to worry about your foot slipping into one of the holes, and possibly rolling an ankle. The texture and consistency of the bottom of the swamp varied drastically over the course of the day.

Big Cyprus swamp.

While the trail itself was completely under water, you would pass land every now and again. Every hour to three hours we would walk by some sort of an island that had campsites on it. So even while you’re doing the swamp portion of the trail you’re still able to stop off and break. You don’t have to get through the swamp all in one push. Most people take 2+ days it seems.

You could do it in even more days to, depending on how fast you can go through the deep water. Some of the islands could fit maybe 2-4 tents and other islands could fit more like 5-10. I was glad that we wouldn’t be starting north on the Florida Trail after the kick off. So many hikers start around that time, and apparently it could be hard to find places for everyone to camp. Though I am a bit jealous about the big mob of northbound hikers.

After walking for a little while through the swamp we stopped off at a campsite. This island was called Thank God Island, and only had space for about two tents. If you were really desperate, you might have been able to squeeze three tents in there. We sat down there to enjoy a break. It felt so good to be able to sit on dry land after walking through the swamp for hours.

While we sat there a northbound hiker walked up and talked to us. We’re gonna be seeing a lot of northbound hikers over the next couple days. A lot of people try to start before the kickoff so that the trails not too congested. And a lot of people start after the kickoff event. Either way, I’m sure we’re going to be seeing a lot of northbound hikers today and tomorrow.

On thank god island we enjoyed a nice long break before continuing along. We knew from there we probably wouldn’t be standing on dry land again for hours. The guy who we talked to at Thank God Island told us that the next 6-7 miles are all consistently swamp. Everyone said that that section of the trail was the worst of it. It was funny to think that we’re been walking in swamp for a while already, but the worst was yet to come.

When we left Thank God Island and continued walking the water kept getting deeper. The maximum depth of the day was somewhere around mid thigh. I never actually got my shorts wet from the height of the water. Though I know that if you did step into some kind of a hole or a deep pocket, it could be possible to go deeper into the water. I just got lucky and never had that happen.

Trucker and I deep in the swamp. Around this time we saw Yard Sale and his friend Geo Dude! But Yardsale took a picture of Trucker and I, even though we should have taken a photo together!

As we continued on through the swamp our pace slowed a bit. The 2MPH pace slowed to more of a 1-1.5MPH pace. In the thick of the swamp we passed by a few different northbound hikers. At one point I saw two guys approaching and recognized one of them.

It was Yardsale! I met him this year on the Pinhoti trail when he was attempting the FKT. He had reached out recently to say he was going to be starting the FT. But I had gotten too caught up by the swamp and totally forgot. We took a break in the swamp and talked for a bit. He was hiking with another guy Geo Dude. Seeing Yardsale again was so cool. He’s such an impressive young guy. The last two years he hiked the PCT and CDT impressively fast. I’m excited to see what he does in the years to come.

For another couple of hours past there the water kept up. As we went through the Blackwater Lagoon the water actually got a bit deeper. It was so cold and refreshing. Walking into the lagoon area the terrain changed visibly. I weaved between trees and followed the orange blazes. The water was particularly clear in this area.

Going through the Blackwater lagoon area.

Through the lagoon the trees looked a bit different in the way that they were spread out and the depth of the water. The water looked dark up ahead of you, but while you were walking through it, it was deeper and clearer than the sections before. This was my favorite version of the swamp thus far.

The swamp was incredibly beautiful. Hiking through there was truly unlike hiking anywhere else across the eastern continent.

Because the water was so deep, we decided to fill up our water bottles in this section. We plan to walk until just before dark tonight. It seems like the swamp might be getting shallower as we continue on, so this deeper area was perfect to fill up. Standing in water above your knees and filtering water there was so weird. You couldn’t put your backpack down, so you just had to pull your water filter out and fill your bottles while standing there. That was definitely a new one.

After that first break on Thank God Island we walked another 3-4 hours before we got to dry land again. When we finally did it was such a relief. But the dry land didn’t last long. It was getting close to dark out and I wanted to be out of the swamp before then.

Deep in the swamp! Nothing quite like posing for a picture when you’re thigh deep in swampy water.

Initially we were expecting the trail to only be flooded for maybe the first 10 miles or so. When Trucker came through earlier this year he said that the trail was way drier. But this time around the whole swamp was totally under water. As it was approaching 6pm the water was still shin deep.

Around this time we walked by a flat spot that was mostly dry. The ground was a bit saturated but not too bad. We didn’t know when the next piece of dry land was going to appear. This site was too nice to pass up. We decided to call it a night and set up there.

I got my tent set up pretty quickly. The mosquitos were terrible and I got eaten alive. Eventually I got into the tent to hide away. Trucker wound up making a dehydrated meal for me which was a nice surprise. He brought a bunch down with him. After such an exhausting day he just wanted to help fuel me up which I appreciated.

That hot peak refuel meal really hit the spot. I haven’t had a stove in about 1500 miles and definitely miss it. There’s no way I’d go stoveless on my next hike. I haven’t been nourishing myself nearly enough. The calories that I could get from a hot dinner would really be helpful.

After I ate I was so damn content. The meal was delicious and my body was so happy. I called it a night shortly after that.

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Comments 6

  • Jul Cesar : Jan 7th

    Hi Peg
    I love your post but I’m from Fl. Be careful with Gators and cotton mouths, please.
    Are you going to pass Jax??

  • thetentman : Jan 7th

    Nice post. I guess the fact that it is flat is some consolation.

    Not much left.


  • Jeff Greene : Jan 7th

    I had no idea so much trail would be literally wading in the swamp! Very cool experience.

  • Lish : Jan 8th

    Trucker crush gets more juice- seriously this man is a treasure. Swamp hiking is definitely on my list of hell no but so excited to see great pics and read your excitement!

  • Kim : Jan 16th

    Cypress is misspelled.

    • Testrun : Jan 21st

      Is it misspelled or a typo?


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