Monday, July 11, 2016

A Long Muddy Morning

I recently experienced my first trip into the backcountry of Big Cypress, and it didn't go quite as planned.

If you look in the Bottom right you can see
where things went wrong

We left the ranger station Friday morning after after gathering the supplies we had packed the day before, headed for the oasis visitor center. There we loaded up the swamp buggy assigned to my supervisor Ranger Drew Hughes. From there we headed out into the backcountry, the interior of the park made up of rough trails, swampland and cypress groves accesible only by off-road vehicles. We had planned to travel about 40 miles on the day. At mile 3 our battery died.

Thankfully we had anticipated that problem, it had happened before, and had brought a jump kit. We jumped the battery and got going again through the forest. At the six mile mark we stopped to take a picture. When we tried to get going again we had another battery issue, this time though the jump didn't take and we couldn't get the engine started. Also, while checking on the battery we discovered a much more serious problem, one of our back tires had come off the rim.
That meant that even if we could get the engine going again (which we eventually did) we couldn't ride. Stuck in this unfortunate position we had to call for someone to come and get us. Because we were a good distance out, and Ranger Darrell Phillips was driving in his patrol truck rather than an ORV, we had to hop off and hike a few miles to make the pickup easier, so thats what we did. We walked through beautiful backcountry, occasionally in knee high water, carrying most of the gear we had brought with us. Eventually we heard the sirens from Ranger Phillips' vehicle that signaled our ride. One careful drive back to headquarters, and a pair of waterlogged boots later and I had come away with a new appreciation for what the rangers here at Big Cypress do on a regular basis, and the resources they are protecting.

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