Hiking Myakka River State Park- Trailhead to Honore then to Bee Island
When Patrick contacted me about taking him and his wife Rachel on a 3 day backpacking trip I was excited but concerned. Did she know what she was getting into? Both were quite fit and competed in marathons and Iron Man competitions so that eased my fears some. It ended up that they were prefect clients! I gave them a list of gear that they should have, proper clothing, etc – they prepared! I let them know that they needed to try and hike a bit before heading out on this trip – they prepared! I followed up with them a few days before and advised that we would have some rain – they prepared! I could not have asked for better clients for this trip!
Rachel not only made wonderful beef jerky but she even had bags weighed and marked in oz. so she knew what she would be carrying! Our only heavy weight was waster. The water pumps are not always dependable and it had been a long time since we had rain. Once we shared out all the food and gear we were on our way. It was going to be a hot humid 1stday on the trail!
We were hiking at an athlete’s pace of appx 3-4 miles and hour. I knew I was going too slowly for Patrick, but his legs were 8 inches longer than mine! He was patient and let Rachel and I hike and did not plow ahead of us. We knew there was a strong weather front coming in and we had to make camp before it hit. It was 8.9 miles to camp from the parking lot and we were a bit late starting out. We stopped a couple times for water and snacks as the first part of the trail was without shade due to a recent controlled burn. We spooked a couple deer, saw wood stork and other birds and eventually we even caught a gentle breeze. There were Osprey nesting on the power lines and baby lubber grasshoppers on the trail; we even stopped to watch a dung beetle for a bit in a dry creek bed. There was no surface water to be found anywhere. It was wonderful to see some of the spring flowers in bloom and even better when the clouds gave us a break from the brutal sun.
We arrived at camp none too soon! We got everything set up – gathered firewood and covered it. And went to the pump for water….and got nothing. It was going to be a tough hike out with such little water in reserve. We decided to dig a shallow trough and line it with plastic to gather water from the impending storm, but as we started digging in a soft area we found we came upon a huge amount of buried garbage! There were cans and other items nearly 2 foot deep. We gathered all the trash from the hole and filled it back in as best we could – bagged the trash to haul out and finished lining our trough to catch the rain water we would need for the next day’s hike.
Dinner was wonderful – Grilled Salmon with Rice, Beef Jerky! We tucked into our tents exhausted and prepared for rain. I had access to the local satellite via my cell phone and often in the night checked the weather. We were having extremely heavy winds and more were on the way. About an hour before dawn I woke Patrick and Rachel and suggested we get all gear packed up to stay dry and leave in one tent and gather in another for coffee and breakfast to wait out the storm. As the storm raged outside we were warm and mostly comfortable in out tent. Once the storm passed it was good to get out and stretch our legs in the morning light! We noticed a beautiful Red-Bellied Woodpecker in a palm over camp feeding young chicks in the hollowed out nest of the tree. Three Swallow-Tailed Kites were circling above and enjoying the changing winds.
We looked at our water collection trough and had enough to nearly fill 2 water bottles – we were quite pleased! After filtering the water and breaking camp we were on our way again, this time to Bee Island Campsite. It was a beautiful hike, the breeze and overcast sky made the hike quite comfortable! As we hiked through the open prairie we still found no surface water, the drought was hitting very hard in this part of Florida. We crossed Powerline Road and dropped out packs for a bit to explore the surrounding area. There were the remains of a small watering hole with very stagnant water, lots of wild flowers and a wonderful breeze. It was a great place to rest up a bit before the final 3-4 miles we still had to travel that day.
Not far past that point we came to a small alcove of trees, and this would normally have been a beautiful spot to stop….except the persons that had left the previous campsite a mess had stopped here to and left a full bag of trash there for the animals to tear apart. In the wind from the previous night trash had been blown all over. We could not leave this mess! We pulled out yet another trash bag and spent the next 20 minutes chasing pieces of trash in the wind cleaning up their mess. We did not have too many nice things to say about this group…soon we were back on the trail, the sun had come out and the temperatures had dropped.
Upon arriving to Bee Island we found it to be a paradise. This has always been one of my favorite stops and we found it well maintained, water pump working and mostly unoccupied. We all took out packs off and leaned back on them, basking in the sunlight and dozed off for a bit. After setting up camp and fetching firewood we met our “neighbors” for the night. They said that they had heard nor seen any signs of wildlife the night before and I was a bit surprised. This had always been a good location for critters to gather! We decided to hike around a bit and check things out. There were not many tracks on the road, a few old coyote and deer tracks but nothing more, the storm probably had the animals taking cover as well! We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing. I taught Patrick how to harvest heart of palm from Saw Palmetto, Rachel started the fire (Patrick had his turn the night before) and we had a wonderful dinner. They sky was clear with lots of stars and a beautiful moon! The winds had not quite subsided and the temperature continued to drop so we all headed for warm sleeping bags and soon we were listening to the creatures of the night as they lulled us to sleep.
Coffee was welcomed in the cool morning chill. We only had about 6 miles to hike out and we were in no hurry. I started checking the fresh plowed firebreaks for tracks and found the road was quite busy during the night. Fox, Rabbit, Coyote, Deer and Hog all used the road as we slept. The fox and the rabbit tracks showed an obvious chase…and from what we could tell the rabbit won!
We had an uneventful, relaxing hike out from Bee Island. We spent many hours out on the prairie hiking back to the trailhead, but we were blessed with good temperatures early in the day and we had crossed to the covered oak hammock before it got too warm and the sun got too high in the sky. We saw more wildlife and birds in the hammock and even came across puddles of water! There were some beautiful flowers; even an early Iris was blooming. We arrived back at our vehicles, tired but pleased with our adventure. Of course there was the celebratory ice cream or adult beverage we had to claim as our prize, they chose the adult beverage! We calculated our mileage, speed of travel and calories burned over the last three days and we were quite happy to say that we burned appx. 3200 calories more than we took in each day! If you want to burn more stored fat than instant calories, this is the way to do it!
For more information on hiking Myakka please visit our website at: http://www.notaclueadventures.com
For map of the trails visit: http://www.myakkariver.org/index.php/park-info/park-map
Myakka River State Park Website: http://www.myakkariver.org/index.php
Our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/notaclueadventures
Additional photos from our trip: http://notaclueadventures.kodakgallery.com/gallery/personal-url/albumView.jsp?albumId=7061395680103#p/2626716680103