Mosquitoes were thick outside the tent when we awoke, their fierce persistent attack driving us to the middle of the bridge for some peace and breakfast. At the beginning of the hike, blooming bushes along the Sopchoppy were casting up their fragrant scent into the steamy warmth of morning. Cypress roots like wooden cascades were tumbling down the banks to drink from the sands of the flowing river.
Burned areas of scrub were crossed before entering Bradwell Bay Wilderness. The data book said the deepest part of this blackwater swamp would be near Monkey Creek, but that's not what we experienced. With ample dexterity, we worked our way through with only damp shoes as proof of our efforts. By the time we reached the island camp, we assumed the worst was far behind us. Not so! In no time flat, the fun truly began. Giving up all hope of remaining dry, we plunged in. Soon we were in knee-deep, pitch-black water and at least ankle deep in sodden rotting leaves, wending our way through the confined spaces of the winding water course. Unseen tangled roots nearly brought us both crashing down into the swampy soup, but at the last minute we were able to right ourselves and avoid the dunking. As if this was not enough excitement, Jon nearly stepped on a coiled cottonmouth, the white of its mouth showing when it exposed its fangs in warning. Another was seen swimming in the shallows on one of our final forays. I'm not too keen on having a poisonous snake slipping through the water in my general vicinity. Nevertheless, it made for some of the most memorable moments on the trail.
Once out of the swamp it was a race to Porter Lake to beat the mounting thunderstorms. A light rain began to fall as we traversed the ravine of the Ochlocknee River. Breaking out of the woods, we crossed the wide river and surrounding swampland on a series of bridges, finding the camp amid tall pines and scattered fire pits waiting for us on the other side. Skys threatening more rain, we took to the pit toilets and bedded down for the night, safe from any potential downpour and relatively secure from mosquitoes. It marked the end of a demanding yet thoroughly enjoyable day in which Swamp Tromp got to earn his name.
Let the Fun Begin