The Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve is an expanse of woodland in the far Southwest of the state. It is bounded to the North by Alligator Alley (I 75) and to the East by SR 29, the road to Chokoloskee and Ted Smallwood’s store. The Strand is the Southward progression of the Corkscrew Sanctuary whose waters flow down to the Ten Thousand Islands. The overstory of tall Cypress trees and understory of Annona Glabra, the Pond Apple are adapted to standing in water for years on end. They shelter a great wellspring of plant life including Bromeliads, Pepperomias, ferns and Orchids that are envoys from the tropical world. The Fakahatchee is their beachhead in North America from which they might one day adapt to colonize the continent, if they have not already.
But on this day the Strand was dry, to my great surprise. I have visited five or six times and hiked in water at least knee deep (but a lot deeper when you fall). My friends and I took advantage of the good footing to cover more ground and visit many special places known to our guide Mike Plecas. I didn’t know Mike but he was a great guide who seemed only interested in adventure and not in removing plants or profiting in any way from the Strand.
One of the theories of species diversification suggests plants and animals can reach, for example, the Galapagos Islands by becoming stranded on logs and rafts of vegetation that float over the ocean. When you are in the Fakahatchee you are surrounded by enormous free-floating pieces of Cypress with communities of plants on them including terrestrial orchids. It seems plausible that a hurricane’s tidal (storm) surge could release them.
On one visit I brought out a floating bottle as trash only to get home and discover It was old, probably from the days of logging, which ended in the 1940’s. The bottle is flattened, flask-like and the text in the circle says “the spot bottle” and above that reads “federal law forbids sale or re-use of this bottle”. If you know how to find out about old glass please tell me.
As the Fakahatchee’s fame increases it is not uncommon to walk with European tourists. But I think it’s only a matter of time before it all comes to a screeching halt after one of the Everglades’ massive alligators devours some German. Until then I will make my annual pilgrimage. Here is my main gallery of my photos from that day.