10 Mar 2012

East, West, and always North

We are past the halfway point. The past two weeks has taken on an incredible series of adventures. We have been traveling in the land north of Lake Okeechobee, otherwise known as the Northern Everglades. We paddleboarded east down Josephine Creek. We kayaked north across blustery Lake Istokpoga, and ground our way upstream through Arbuckle Creek, all the way to the Avon Park Air Force Range.

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We turned east again through the bombing range and found our way to the Kissimmee River, where engineers have restored natural meanders and habitat to the banks. We swam the Kissimmee and slogged east across the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, where we were shown the stronghold of Florida grasshopper sparrow, arguably the rarest bird in North America. From KPPSP we biked north, to the Latt Maxcy and Destiny properties south of SR 60. From SR 60 we biked north on the Peavine Trail to the Adams Ranch on Lake Marian, on Saturday, one week ago. Mallory rejoined the expedition after too long away. Bad weather on Sunday forced us to hike from the Adams camp west onto Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area. Our plan to kayak through Lake Marian, Lake Jackson and Lake Kissimmee en route to Brahma Island was spoiled by 30-40 mph wind gusts out of the northwest. Instead we hiked 10 miles due west to the banks of Lake Kissimmee. In howling wind and three foot chop we struggled across the lake for the toughest two miles of the expedition, finally arriving at Brahma Island just as dark fell. We spent a day recuperating on the island. On Tuesday paddled north again, and again the wind pounded us in the afternoon. Lake Hatchineha and the Creek Ranch became our home for Tuesday and Wednesday nights. On Thursday we went on horseback from the Creek Ranch to The Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve headquarters near Poinciana in Osceola County. With us were members of the Northern Everglades Alliance, an group of ranchers and conservationists committed to conserving the working landscape of central Florida for water and wildlife. DWP marked the northernmost extent of our movements in the Everglades Watershed. We spent a night with Carlos Vergara at his Camp Lonesome near Keenansville. This morning we began hiking again at Three Lakes WMA, heading east towards the St. Johns River watershed.

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