Sunday, January 27, 2008

Stealth Hiking

The first thing, we both decided needed to be done, was that little matter of skipping the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation. It was off limits to hiking in January, so I had skipped it, but the farther north I hiked, the harder it would be to get back and do that section. And right now, Amanda was readily available for shuttling me around--she wouldn't be in February.

So we decided to drive down to the reservation and scope it out, perhaps sneaking my way through. One of my guidebooks mentioned, very specifically, that you need a permit issued through the FTA if you entered the reservation on foot, which naturally made me wonder about the legality of entering the reservation via vehicle and leaving on foot.

Was that allowed? I really didn't know, and I didn't want to ask anyone official in fear that they'd tell me no. =) At least I had plausible deniability working in my favor.

But just in case, we considered ways for me to "stealth hike" through the reservation. First, was a good disguise. We decided that I should not look like a hiker, nor should I look homeless. Also, if hiking through looked sketchy, maybe I could do most of my walking on the roads under moonlight, at 3:00 in the morning, when nobody else was around.

Neither of us had ever been to the reservation, however, so we wanted to scope it out first.

The main road, paved, was busy, but we figured I could walk from Billie Swamp Safari to Ah-Tha-Thi-Ki Museum. Surely they wouldn't arrest a simple tourist walking from one tourist stop to another on the reservation?

We drove out past the Billie Swamp Safari to scope out that section of road, and it soon turned into a little-traveled gravel road. That section didn't appear to be well-traveled, so we figured I shouldn't have any problems hiking along it, and that's where Amanda dropped me off--a couple of miles beyond Billie Swamp Safari.

I dressed relatively nice, in clean clothes with a collared shirt. I left the backpack, platypus, and trekking pole with Amanda--those would mark me as a hiker faster than a sign on my forehead would, and I needed to go incognito.

I also left with Amanda my maps and any paraphenalia associated with the trail. If I were searched, such contriband could break my cover. Anyhow, we just drove the section of trail I'd be walking--I knew were I was going.

I took my camera, like any good tourist would, and my wallet--always useful when the police question you and want to see ID--and a small bottle of water I carried in my hands (not a particularly unusual thing for a tourist wandering around the roads of Florida to carry), then I started walking.

Along the dirt road, I saw a few construction workers doing work on a dike as part of the Everglades restoration project, and a few hispanic-looking guys harvesting fronds from the forest who might have more explaining to do to authority figures than I would. ;o)

If an authority figure did question me, I was looking at birds and alligators and enjoying the wildlife, and meeting my girlfriend at Billie Swamp Safari.

Once I passed the Billie Swamp Safari, I continued on to the museum, this time under cover as a tourist walking from one tourist destination to another. I noticed at least one police vehicle that drove passed me, but he didn't even seem to notice me. My camouflage seemed to be working. I blended in with the alligators.

At the museum parking lot, Amanda told me she drove a bit further up the trail, and that the reservation boundary was just another mile or so up the road. "Let's do it," I told her.

So I continued walking, not really having any ready excuse for why I was walking there if I did get questiond. Perhaps just taking a walk in the beautiful light of the setting sun, but I didn't even believe it myself.

Another police vehicle drove past, and again my camo worked. He didn't even slow down to look at me.

Passing one house, a couple of mean-looking dogs came at me, barking like crazy. I did a crazy man yell in return, which seemed to intimidate the, since they stopped in the road and just stared menacingly at me.

I moved on, giving them their distance, and they stayed in the road, sitting there like idiots. Some cars traveling on the road started to honk their horns to scare the dogs out of their way, but the dogs continued to sit and the horns continued to honk.

A few minutes later, I reached Amanda, parked just outside of the reservation boundary, and she asked if all the honking cars were honking at ME, and I laughed telling her no, it was two mean and stupid dogs they were honking at.

I stealth hiked most of my way through the reservation already! Wooo-who! The only section left was about three miles on a very rarely used dirt road to the south end of the reservation, and I'd be done with the Seminoles.

Amanda and I went up to Clewiston to find a cheap motel--the nearest large town with facilities to the reservation, and a good base of operations for the rest of the trail I'd skipped between the reservation and Lake Okeechobee.


Anonymous said...

At least you don't have to worry about being scalped since you did that to yourself already.

Anonymous said...

stealth, something a great green letterboxer is good, why did you think you would have a problem pulling it off here????


Anonymous said...

now that is a crazy way to hike!
What fun.
Hope you got some photos, of your "tourist walk"
...ahem, I mean hike!
Way to go Amanda and Ryan!

Anonymous said...

Is it stealth hiking if you blog about it? ;-)

DIXIE said...

this has me sitting here in the public library, covering my mouth and trying to stifle my own snorts and snickers. The reation of "idiot" dogs are just too much after your "crazy man yell". Seems the stealthy reservation walks are good for your sense of humor. :) keep having fun!

Paul in SF said...

Gee, I just found out about your hike... I was in Jensen Beach, just north of West Palm Beach, visiting my sister this past week -- we drove to Key West and back (3 days)to see my best friend, Sue. Wish I had known... we would've rode west from Jensen Beach to look for you.

Paul in SF

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Sneaky! I likey!

Hike on!
~Twinville Trekkers