The logistics of backpacking are biting me in the...
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Gabriel Diaz
(freelancer) - F

Locale: South Florida
The logistics of backpacking are biting me in the... on 12/28/2011 10:08:55 MST Print View

I am finally off from work and school for the week. I planned a 3-4 day hike out somewhere in the Everglades - found a relatively dry loop (Bear Island unit in Big Cypress Nat'l Preserve) thanks to the park rangers. By dry, I mean it's not completely inundated. Got everything I need for a few days of hiking and wildlife photography, and I'm timing it so I'm out there New Year's Eve, and away from the foolishness of South Florida cities.

All set, right? Nope. I have no way to get there - the trailhead is pedestrian access only, no parking other than the side of a busy state road. So not a good place to leave my only ride, a Honda cruiser. Who else is off from work this week and free to give me a ride for some gas money and lunch? No one. Shuttle service? Not available. Safe place to park the bike and ride a cab over? Can't find one yet, the closest city being Everglades City. Tiny private airport, about 40 miles away. The park rangers have no suggestions for me. I can try calling one of the few motels in Everglades City and see if I can work out a spot to park the bike, but then I'm looking at ~$100 in cab fare each way.

I've been trying to plan this part out for a couple of weeks, but it's down to the wire now (leaving tomorrow) and still nothing. I have one more friend I can call that I just thought about; failing that, I'm gonna have to hit a frontcountry campground where I can just park my bike by the tent. Not my idea of a wilderness trip, but better than sitting at home staring at a shiny new pack, with a thumb up my...

What do you guys usually do in these situations? I think I need to find some local backpacker friends, maybe join a group? I'm not big on those as I'm a solitary mammal, but I might find interesting people.

Anyway, rant done. Let me go back to finding solutions ;)

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: The logistics of backpacking are biting me in the... on 12/28/2011 10:49:28 MST Print View

Hitchhiking is always a possibility. But not a certainity. And much harder in FL than in AK. But the same tricks vastly increase your chances anywhere in the world:

Smile

Lose the shades

Have a sign

That tells a story ("Need to get to backpacking trailhead")

A big sign (readable at highway speeds)

Be an interesting nationality

Have a flag out for that interesting nationality

Be a woman

If not a woman, then two women

If not only women, then a boy-girl couple

If no women at all, look really clean-cut and friendly

Pick a spot where drivers can (1) see you, (2) aren't driving fast, (3) can stop safely

The further from the city, the better your chances

The more you look like a backpacker and not a bum, the better

Smile

Lose the shades

This has worked for me in CA and AK. Even as a single guy.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: The logistics of backpacking are biting me in the... on 12/28/2011 10:58:14 MST Print View

You say "off school". Many colleges have a "ride board" where students and staff can connect for carpooling for regular commutes or special trips.

Also, the outing club at any college is a great place to find like-minded outdoorsy people. And rides to the trailhead.

Gabriel Diaz
(freelancer) - F

Locale: South Florida
But people always say I look like a serial killer.. on 12/28/2011 11:01:28 MST Print View

I haven't ruled out hitchhiking either, but everyone that knows me always tells me the same thing: "When I first met you, I thought you kinda looked like a serial killer." It's true I'm always angry at something and I tend to smirk more than smile....

In all seriousness, hitchhiking out there can't be as hard as trying it in some place like Miami or Fort Lauderdale (or Los Angeles), so it's a possibility if all else fails.

Gabriel Diaz
(freelancer) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: Re: The logistics of backpacking are biting me in the... on 12/28/2011 11:03:21 MST Print View

That's another good idea, David. Too late for this one (school is closed till January, I think), but definitely something to look into for the next one. I plan to go on several trips over the next few months, before the rain starts up again.

Jason Williams
(whiskey) - F

Locale: Middle Tennessee
park rangers on 01/02/2012 18:49:25 MST Print View

Hit up the park rangers and game wardens in the area. Don't call the office and ask them. Get the ranger or warden's number and ask them personally. Promise to not tell anyone they they hooked you up. Some departments don't allow them to give rides, others might. You have US Forestry officers, US Fish and Game, Park Rangers and FL Fish and Game to try. I have had good luck getting help on lots of fronts from these guys.

Gabriel Diaz
(freelancer) - F

Locale: South Florida
Didn't think of that one on 01/02/2012 18:53:38 MST Print View

That could have worked out as I know a couple of rangers here and there. I ended up not going anywhere - my only other alternative was to sit at an RV campsite with my motorcycle for a couple of days, and I just couldn't get my head into it. I wanted to explore.

I'll wait a few more weeks till the water goes down some out there, to hit the trails I was originally going for. In the meantime, I'll do some weekend hikes here and there. Florida doesn't offer much to the backpacker, but I'll take what I can get.

Jason Williams
(whiskey) - F

Locale: Middle Tennessee
re on 01/02/2012 18:58:30 MST Print View

I lived in Sarasota for several years. I know what you mean about fewer opportunities.

Gabriel Diaz
(freelancer) - F

Locale: South Florida
How is Myakka? on 01/02/2012 19:10:42 MST Print View

Did you ever do Myakka? That's on my list as well.

I don't mind traversing the swamp, I think it's a different kind of challenge and the terrain is interesting, but the trails here are so short. The Bear Island unit is over 30 miles of trails, which you can do in a loop. The Florida Trail portion from I-75 looks interesting, and you can extend some of the other trails by going off the beaten path a little. But that's kinda it till you start going north, and even then, the pickings are slim.

Jason Williams
(whiskey) - F

Locale: Middle Tennessee
Myakka on 01/04/2012 04:26:56 MST Print View

Myakka State Forest? (small place) Yes, I have been over every square inch of that place. It's mostly grassy roads, atleast that's what it was 5 years ago. There's a couple nice camping spots along a couple different lakes. I never stayed overnight, I mostly biked it. It's pretty typical south Florida landscape. Lots of palmetto flats with some pine and the occasional oak hammock. Hopefully they are doing a better job of keeping the roads mowed. I hate walking in tall wet grass. There are areas of the roads that get flooded when it's wet, cutting off different parts of the park. Watch for hogs.

Myakka State Park? (large place) Yes, I have been to that park too. It can get very wet, go during a dry time. I walked in ankle to waist deep water in a lot of place to get where I wanted to be. I can't say I enjoyed it much. There are a couple of beautiful oak hammocks that I enjoyed. I don't remember trails though. I think there are some primitive camps there too. I was on in there a time or two.

Edited by whiskey on 01/04/2012 04:34:49 MST.

Gabriel Diaz
(freelancer) - F

Locale: South Florida
Thanks for the review on 01/04/2012 19:09:00 MST Print View

Myakka is one of the few longer trails I know of, almost went there instead of the Big Cypress trip I was planning. Now I think I'm glad I didn't. I'll still go, but will wait for the drier months. I know what you mean about the tall grass, it's a little unnerving. I love snakes, but don't need to get bit by one - or any other critters that are lurking.

I am thinking of going to some trails north of here, like in Withlacoochee, but I may wait till next month for those as I will probably have an old pickup or something then, instead of just my bike. Carrying a backpack and camera gear on a motorcycle for a longish ride kinda sucks.