Miami to Clewiston, Part 1 of 2

This post is part one of a two part blog post updating folks on my trek from Miami, Florida to Clewiston, Florida along Krome Avenue, the Tamiami Trail, and the Florida Trail. Part two will be published this Thursday. My apologies, I have not edited this post yet. I wanted to get it out there for folks to start reading.

After getting out of the hospital, I started to continue my way up Krome Avenue toward the Tamiami Trail. Many of the guides I’ve read for the Eastern Continental Trail, including the original by Nimblewill Nomad, have  Krome Avenue as the way to bridge the gap between the end of the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail and the Tamiami Trail (which then leads to the Southern Terminus for the Florida National Scenic Trail).

Krome Avenue is under heavy construction. It was hard to imagine having anywhere to stealth camp anywhere near the road, so I didn’t even bother trying. Despite that, I had an interaction with a member of Miami-Dade Sheriff’s Department. He pulled over while I was hiking to “remind” me that “vagabonding” was prohibited along Krome Avenue and to move along quickly to Route 41. For the future, I think I’d like to work with the South Florida Water Management folks and the Florida Trail Association to get a fixed and protected route for connecting the FSOHT to the FNST.

When I finally got to the end of my time on Krome Avenue, I discovered that the Tamiami Trail is actually US Route 41, not an actual trail. It gets it’s name for connecting Tampa to Miami. There is an old dirt road along the top of the dike that follows the canal, but it’s call the “Old Tamiami Trail” and ends abruptly at the start of the Miccosukee Tribal Reservation. Still, I followed the dirt road portion as far as I could before turning it into a road walk.

On my first night of travelling along the Tamiami, I met a man named Mike. He was fishing and I approached him to ask if he was a local. He said he was now, but was originally from NY. He saw my Boston Bruins hat and he mentioned he was a NY Islanders fan. Yay fellow hockey fans! He told me he comes down to the canal most nights to do a little fishing and meditate at the end of the day. It got me thinking about the human need for ritual. Whether we realize it or not, we all have morning and evening rituals to help us mark our days. If we can be mindful of those practices so as to deepen their meaning, we can move toward having even more fulfilling spiritual lives.

Anyway, my reason for approaching him in the first place was to see if he had any suggestions for stealth camping, as the water district sign specifically said no overnight camping (whereas Krome Avenue didn’t, making the Deputy’s comments even more puzzling). He said it wasn’t really patrolled and I’d likely be fine.  He even helped be pick out a spot and gave me some advice on snakes and gators. Before he left, he went out of his way to come back to do some more trail magic, making my night.

That night, before going to sleep, I finally experienced by first thunderstorm and downpour while in the Big Agnes Scout Plus UL2 tent. It stood up well and kept me dry and cozy for the entire evening. When morning came, there wasn’t any condensation inside the tent whatsoever and it outside condensation dried quickly.

After packing up, I continued on. Eventually I came to Coopertown, a town with a population of 8. (No, really. Look at the photo in the gallery below.) It’s home to the Coopertown Restaurant and the Coopertown Airboat Tour Company. I was almost out of cash reserves at this point. My debit card had been turned off by my bank due to a fraud alert, so I only had the two dollars in my pocket. I wouldn’t get my new debit card until I got to Clewiston. What to do? I knew I had a $10 camping fee coming up before Clewiston. But instead of worry, I bought a cup of coffee from Janine working behind the counter. She told me I could have as much coffee as I wanted and I stayed to charge my phone and write in my journal (thanks Janine!).

While I was there, I met a local called Big Jim. He was there with his grandson, nicknamed Little Jim. Big Jim told me that he originally came to Florida over 40 years ago from his home state of Pennsylvania to visit him aunt for a week. He never went home. He told me a lot of stories about the Miccosukee and gave me a lot of pointers for dealing with snakes (everyone has their snake tales). After I was fully charged, I stopped by the canal to refill my Platypus backpack water bladder and off I went.

Road walking, even along a dirt road, really gets on my nerves eventually. What can I say? I prefer trails! So after a couple days, I started getting blisters. I don’t get blisters, I’m an avid hiker. The only time I get blisters is when I am breaking in new shoes or boots and overdue it. But I broke these boots in over a year ago. Oh well.

At one point I came across standing stones arranged in such a way that led me to believe it was a monument of some sort and, sure enough, it was. Turned out to be the memorial for ValuJet Flight 592 which crashed in the Florida Everglades on May 11th, 1996. When I saw the actual memorial itself, I couldn’t help but read each of the names aloud. It was a gut reaction. Someone nearby came and stood next to me and read a few of the names aloud with me. The thing is, I really remember this disaster happening when I was a kid. Just past the memorial, I entered the Miccosukee Tribal Reservation.

Since I was without a debit card or cash, I really wasn’t able to do much on the Miccosukee Reservation. I wish I had gone into the museum and the village. The Miccosukee tribe was once affiliated with the Seminole Nation. In 1957, the Federal Government announced that it would no longer be recognizing the Seminole Nation. So the Seminole Tribe applied for reservation status and it was granted. During that time, the Miccosukee Tribe of the Seminole Nation realized that their cultural differences were too great to remain with the Seminole Tribe. They sought their own recognition and it was granted later that same year.

Unlike the Seminole, who have adopted modern practices and commercialization, the Miccosukee are traditionalists. They continue to live in chickee-style homes and their village and tribal life seeks to reclaim their earth-based path.

I got to Big Cypress, finally, early on the morning of March 7th. I was low on some supplies and was a bit worried when someone stopped to ask if I was hiking the FNST. I said yes and they asked if I had everything I needed. When I said I needed snacks, they handed me a ten and offered to bring me back to the Miccosukee Village to resupply. They said they couldn’t get me back, but I shouldn’t have any problems hitching a ride. I wish I wrote down his name, but thank you anyway! If you’re reading this, please be in touch!

I eventually did catch a ride with Vance and Danny from Georgia. They were on their way to an airboat tour of the Everglades when they saw me thumbing. They picked me up and after sharing some stories, Vance said that I should look them up when I get to the AT in Georgia for some trail magic. Thanks, guys!

That’s it for part one. I’ll start part two on Thursday with my trek through the swamps of Big Cypress National Preserve. Thanks for reading! And, as always, if you’d like to help me continue the trek, please consider a contribution to my Go Fund Me page!

 

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