One of my first camping trips took place in the back-country at Myakka River State Park, in Sarasota Florida. I planned to hike to a comfortable camping site on the Bee Island Loop, which is a 12-mile segment that stretches along a 38-mile hiking trail created and maintained by the Florida Trail Association. This was beautiful backcountry and much safer than hiking cross country across a Florida highway.
After finding my beautiful camping spot, I started to unpack my camping gears. My backpack had my pup tent, sleeping bag, a small supply of food and cooking gear. My most valuable items were a good sleeping bag and water filter. The sleeping bag I brought was Thermarest Ultralite. Although the investment in this sleeping bag was costly, it proved to be a good investment and keep me comfortable.
I found the subtropical weather in Florida created a challenge when I began to hike. I found that I needed much more water for my hike than I could carry and that was why I brought the water filter. Using the water filter, I was able to drink from streams located in the area. The subtropical heat made it difficult for my body to regulate its temperature. I did not want to get heat sickness, so I drank plenty of water and ate light salty snacks.
It was easy for me to find myself alone in the Myakka River State Park because I was surrounded by 29,000 acres. Beautiful trails wound through the forest and were dotted with dense palmetto plants, large oak trees, and a few armadillo companions. I had my trust yellow map that the park rangers provided me with, and my trusty compass to guide my way through the winding trails. Majestic oaks grew along the empty streambed and kept the sunlight to a minimum which was a blessing on this hot sunny day. I hiked for approximately 17 miles before setting up my campsite and resting.
As the daylight began to fade, I pitched my tent and started making dinner. A dinner of dried meat, beans, and fresh carrots replenished my body. As night fell, I began to listen to the night time community. Things could be heard eating, flying, and falling. These intriguing night time sounds made it quite difficult to sleep. When I woke in the morning, I found myself in a soggy mess because the air had leaked out of the inflatable sleeping bag, and I was sleeping a soft, wet moss. There was nothing left to do but rise, make breakfast, and finish my hike to Bee Island.
As I continued on the trail, it snaked by an area referred to as Mossy Hammock and onto an open prairie. I saw burrowing owls, caracaras, and sparrows throughout this prairie. At the end of this prairie was Bee Island. The area was not an island, but an area of sprawling pines. The wildlife here was abundant. I saw deer, raccoons, a gray fox and several armadillos.
I reached Bee Island shortly before sundown and began my journey home. My trip home provided me time to consider on the wonderful hike and the natural beauty I had encountered. Myakka River State Park is a perfect place to hike and camp.