Hiking to Tarpon Lake in Big Cypress with the Florida Trail Association.

Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Aerial view of Tarpon Lake in Big Cypress with frolicking swimmers.
CLICK for interactive panorama!

This short day hike was organized by the Happy Hoofers chapter of the Florida Trail Association, a great group of cool folks from all backgrounds interested in hiking and exploring South Florida’s many wild and off-beat places. Held on on June 6th, it was the last hike of the season, and one that also celebrated National Trails Day!

Tarpon Lake is located in the Big Cypress National Preserve Addition Lands, a short hike from the new parking and access point at Mile Marker 51 on I-75 aka “Alligator Alley”. Note that this is NOT a rest area and that there are NO facilities! It is a parking area with a boat ramp, trail heads and access to the L28 levee roads. The adjacent L28 Interceptor canal is a major feature of the very extensive SFWMD canal system. This vast network of canals, gates and pumps provides flood protection, water storage and irrigation for agriculture from Lake Okeechobee on south. It is what has enabled the 5+ million people to reside in South Florida, including myself. Unfortunately this system hasn’t done as well for the Everglades ecosystem in general, and has left some areas with too much water, and others with very little. Fixing the “plumbing”, along with making it work more effectively and ensuring good water quality is what the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) is all about!

Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike satellite photography kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Approximate hiking route to Tarpon Lake from the MM51 access point on the L28 Interceptor Canal.

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Trailhead on the NW corner of the MM51 parking/access area.

This section of Big Cypress, the so called “Addition Lands”  (acquired in 1988 & 1996)  has stirred up some controversy regarding the General Management Plan, as to who is going to get access and how . We should not forget that the Preserve was created only forty years ago with the combined efforts of environmentalists,  hunters, conservationists, ORV users, hikers and others who wanted this land set aside and protected for future generations. Prior to the establishment of the Preserve, a giant international airport was already under construction, and a two mile runway survives to this day. Working together is the best way to maintain awareness of and support for Everglades restoration issues and challenges. Big Cypress is also vitally important to neighboring Everglades National Park.

Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

One of the first things we saw was this track left by a bear, maybe?

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

A beautiful Bartram’s Rose Gentian flower on the trail.

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Along the trail, lots and lots of Butterfly Orchids this time of year!

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

This was about eye level, looks to be a bird nest, maybe a hummingbird?

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

This is the typical landscape in this part of Big Cypress.

We hiked along marked hiking trails, old ORV trails and did some bushwacking to connect the dots.

Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Remains of a very, very old glades buggy. Those look like old airplane tires on the rear axle on a custom rim.

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

View from the front, it was a 2WD vehicle, maybe a Ford Model A?

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Dragofly view of hikers at Tarpon Lake.

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike satellite photography kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Closeup satellite view of final approach to Tarpon Lake.

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

First glimpse of Tarpon Lake – a refreshing oasis in the woods.

Tarpon Lake is a natural sinkhole that was created when the soft limestone rock collapsed on itself. It is about 50 to 60 feet deep, but I really doubt there’s any tarpon fish in there since it is landlocked. It was already a pretty hot day, even in the morning, so a brave soul decided to jump in to cool off. After giving George about 5 or 10 minutes,  and seeing he was still alive, I could no longer resist and jumped in myself.

Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Hikers to swimmer: you go in first!

Are there alligators in there?

Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

None of the rest of our group would join us, but were ready to record anything!

Yes, of course there are!

Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

My lifeguard training came in handy high treading this water.

We saw two or three smaller ones on the opposite bank, but figured I’d be to big for them as a single-serving meal. Also, some of the girls decided to jump is as well! 😉

Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Cameron swims at Tarpon Lake. I love the reflection on this one!

I took some liberties ..

Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Going in!

.. with the photography* !

Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Tales from the dark depths*.

And especially the post-processing! 😉

Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Lovely, innocent smiles, but oh what lurks beneath the surface?*

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

I now know that women and alligators can coexist peacefully!* 😉

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Fishing for girls from the sky with the pole cam.

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Aerial view of Tarpon Lake in Big Cypress with gator bait, ehr I mean swimmers .. lol.
CLICK for interactive panorama!

Fishing in the sky for low altitude aerial photography!

Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

On the banks of Tarpon Lake, note the limestone!

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Sinkhole from underwater shows the limestone wall and ancient reef fossils of Tarpon Lake. The water gets very dark beyond five or six feet!

This deep, dark mysterious lake, along with the subconscious terror represented by the gators reminded me of a powerful poem by the Czech author Karel Jaromír Erben. His book ‘Kytice z pověstí národních‘ (A Bouquet of Folk Legends) or just ‘Kytice‘ for short is a collection of poems based on traditional Slavic mythology and folk themes, long considered to be one of the most important works of Czech literature. In particular, one of the poems ‘Vodník‘ presents a malevolent creature called Vodník – a Water Goblin who lives at the bottom of a lake and traps drowning souls in his watery lair! The green Water Goblin is today a very popular garden ornament and the perennial boogeyman in Czech folklore.

Just replace ‘Water Goblin’ with ‘Alligator’ ..  that is the Florida Everglades analogy!

Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Vodnik Tarpon Lake Big Cypress Erben Dvorak kayakfari poem everglades hike photography art fta czech slavonic myth

Vodnik‘ (aka green Water Goblin) is a part of Slavic mythology and Czech folk legend.
Pictured here as a smokin’ garden ornament.

These are the lines I thought of during our swim: (in Czech, of course!)

„Ach nechoď, nechoď na jezero,
zůstaň dnes doma, moje dcero!
Já měla zlý té noci sen:
nechoď, dceruško, k vodě ven.“

(* My best English translation *)

“Don’t go, don’t go to the lake,
Stay at home today, my daughter!
I dreamt frightful dreams in the night:
Don’t go, my darling daughter, to the water.”

(* Read the rest of the poem: English translation by Susan Reynolds *)

The poem is partly about premonitions and presentiments, leading to questions about fate, love, control and darker aspects of human nature. It also inspired famous Czech composer Antonin Dvořák to create a  symphonic poem piece: The Water Goblin (Vodnik) Op.107 .

Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Hiking on a Big Cypress ORV trail near Tarpon Lake.

Moving back onto dry ground, we hiked along what looked to be a well maintained ORV track and found skeletal remains of a deer fawn.

Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Remains of a deer on the side of the trail.

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Not a Happy Hoofer: fawn hoof from the skeleton.

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Orchid pseudobulbs on a Big Cypress tree.

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Furry flora of Big Cypress.

Back in color, this landscape is a great mix of reddish browns, greens and blues.

Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Landscape of the Big Cypress Addition Lands.

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Esther spots some orchids growing on a branch.

There is so much beauty in the details when you look around in Big Cypress!

Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Beauty on the trail: Esther poses behind a Butterfly Orchid!

A Butterfly Orchid encounter!

Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Hikers photographing orchids on the trail.

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Cameron is what you might call an Orchivore!

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

A small section of the trail led through an enchanted forest of sorts.

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

All of a sudden, it’s just a stone’s throw to the parking lot.

These beautiful orchids were all over the place, even within sight of the parking lot!

Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

One last Butterfly Orchid, just because!

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Check out some of my photographs that are available through: AwakentheGrass ART !

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Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike photography aerial art kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Back at the I-75 MM51 parking/access area.

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A BIG thanks to the Happy Hoofers for organizing! More pics (no login required) at:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1590540941194244/

Flex Maslan awakenthegrass.com Big Cypress Tarpon Lake everglades hike satellite photography kayakfari camp fta trail addition lands

Satellite view of South Florida and Tarpon Lake in relation to Big Cypress National Preserve.

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© 2015 Flex Maslan / Awakenthegrass.com / kayakfari.com. All original photographs, artworks and music in this portfolio are copyrighted and owned by the artist, Flex Maslan, unless otherwise noted. Any reproduction, modification, publication, transmission, transfer, or exploitation of any of the content, for personal or commercial use, whether in whole or in part, without written permission from the artist is strictly prohibited.

All rights reserved.

DISCLAIMER:: The maps and images on this site are not intended for navigation, I am not a guide; use any and all information at your own risk! Your mileage may vary .. so be prepared and use good judgement before venturing out!

*The photographs depicting the girls swimming with the alligators are fictitious. They were created in the safety and comfort of my Photoshop. No girls, nor alligators were harmed in the making of this story. Alligators were present in the lake, but not anywhere near the portrayed proximity! For illustration purposes only! Do not try this at home nor in any lake!!

With that said.. Blessings friends!

:)

One thought on “Hiking to Tarpon Lake in Big Cypress with the Florida Trail Association.

  1. Pingback: Early summer day hike to Tarpon Lake in the Big Cypress Addition Lands. | Awakenthegrass

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