Today was a short one — just 12 miles. That’s because five of those 12 were in Bradwell Bay, a swamp hike where you typically average one mile per hour. I wanted to give myself plenty of time.
After conquering Big Cypress Swamp in January, I was kind of excited to tackle Bradwell Bay solo. Linda Patton told me the east end was dry, but the west was wet. I had about seven miles of hiking to start with before entering the east end of Bradwell Bay. These seven miles were pretty overgrown, so I had to do a lot of what I call “bushwhacking light.” It wasn’t terrible, but annoying. This is the start of hiking season, though, so the volunteer crews are just getting out to maintain the trails. I knew this going in, so no big deal.
At one point while I was hiking in an area akin to a garden/hedge maze — tight walls of bushes on either side — I heard this chuffing for several minutes. I realized it was a bear. I couldn’t see where it was, but could tell it wasn’t agitated. It appeared to be calling to another bear, or maybe to warn that a human was near. I grabbed my bear spray and held it in my hand for about 10 minutes until I was convinced it wasn’t coming after me. There wouldn’t have been any place to run in that narrow, tight maze.
Bradwell Bay turned out to be a disappointment. It was 99% dry, something that is very rare. But we live in a time when the climate is never predictable anymore.
The only slight challenge I had was in one soggy part where the mud sucked your feet down to the ankles, and I feared I’d lose my shoes. Once I even sunk down to one knee. Being alone, it was concerning. But I always got my feet/leg out and carried on.