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Hiking the Rim of Lake Okeechobee

I had a Saturday free and decided to get out and do some hiking, South Florida style. That is: at risk of being chomped by a 'gator, in land only marginally drier than the swamp from which it emerged.

Lake Okeechobee was my first destination: it draws your eye inexorably as you gaze upon the southern half of Florida, and around it was a massive earthen dike with a hiking trail at its top. Built in the early part of the 21st century to control the sloshing floods of Lake Okeechobee, it thoughtfully included a hiking trail that permitted you to essentially circumnavigate Lake Okeechobee if you had enough time, stamina, and a decent rain jacket. The thing is perfectly flat, like tracing a doughnut. In fact, the lake's low profile is behind the flooding: it's basically a shallow lens of water, that passing hurricanes and storms were able to coax into sloshing up and over the low rim and into the surrounding farmland.

Florida has none of these of course, so Okeechobee was a fun hike. I drove to Canal Point on its southeastern shore and followed the shoreline north for a few hours, returning along the same path. Okeechobee is a body of water large enough to affect the weather, and I hiked the better part of four hours at the edge of a black thunder squall whose rain poured down on the sugar cane fields in opaque sheets, while the sky over the lake was for the most part, clear.

I returned to the same area the next day, this time to explore the Dupuis Management Area. I'd underestimated its size and realized too late how truly expansive an area it is for walking. There are so few open spaces left in Southern Florida, and this one refreshed and cleansed me as do open spaces everywhere.

Dupuis is mostly some sort of wet, subtropical savanna: isolated stands of pines and lots of palmetto undergrowth. It was overcast all afternoon and I hiked under a glowering sky that occasionally broke into rain. The grey was humanizing, somehow, though, as was the threat of being wet and cold. Deep in that open space I saw not a single other human soul that day. But I did cross paths with a pair of White Tailed Deer, and to my great surprise, a pair of Bald Eagles! I hurried past them so as not to disturb: Lord knows they have enough trouble without curious hikers ruining their day.

The rain showers didn't ruin my day either, but the constant threat of downpour encouraged me to pack lightly. I took not even a camera, so all these photos are borrowed from elsewhere. Thanks!


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