Everglades Exploration Network

This thread picks up from Vivian's remark about the FTA's idea of a trail connecting the BCNP and ENP in the 'Gator Hook trail' discussion.

History tells us that there was once a route connecting the Loop Rd. with what is now the Lostman's 5 campsite in the ENP. Dr. C. Tebeau's book Man in the Everglades says this about the Tropical Development Company's Poinciana development in the Lostman's River area in 1925:

"...the Chevelier Corporation was building the 'Loop Road' west into Monroe County. Visitors to Poinciana drove to a point about two miles west of Pinecrest, from which they then walked six miles south to a canoe landing on a branch of the upper part of Lostman's River known as Lostman's 5."

Tebeau's distances don't look right to me. Two miles west of Pinecrest on the Loop is the head of Dayhoff Slough. From there to the nearest hint of a water trail to Lostman's 5 is more like 10 miles as the crow flies. The old Sawmill Road trail just west of Pace's Dike is a better bet, and Pace's Dike at the SW corner is just over 6 miles from the edge of the mangrove country near Lostman's 5.

I won't pretend to know much about any of these areas, having only made a one short and muddy day hike down the Pace's Dike ORV trail. Tom Caldwell has a photo here taken in Gum Slough, and might I guess that this was where the Sawmill Rd trail crosses the slough?

Other connection possibilities also come from Vivian. She has told me that a member of FTA Cypress South has connected New River with Sunday Bay from the Tamiami Trail, and she gave me a link to an article in the Waterfront News about a recent attempt to canoe south from the Loop to Lostman's. Do you still have that link, Vivian?

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btw, don't know if this is the same article, but this is the Waterfront News article from Dec 2002 regarding the sailing canoe (Tony's) & kayak (mine) from October/November 2001 .  I saved the article on my site:  http://shawnbeightol.com/adventures/saileverglades.htm - I believe this was 4 days - from and old email about it: "we did ~60 miles in 4 days: 17, 19 (both under sail), 11, & 13 (latter 2 humping)." - this was the trip where the hurricane came up out of Honduras and had the park shutdown.  The rescue helicopter tried to lift us out but we waved them off (by Tony's radio)...maybe shoulda accepted?  I herniated my C7 disk as we crossed one of the wide open bays in 45 mph winds.  This took me out of commission for a couple years.

The year prior to that, myself and 2 friends pulled kayaks over sawgrass for 3 days just west of the OLD Kirby Storter Wayside Park on an old jeep trail until we intersected the New River (creek) strand and muscled our way down it to the New River and out Sunday Bay.  I started writing that up (will finish one day when I get my journals out of storage): http://shawnbeightol.com/adventures/GR8NWRVR.htm

I've seen pictures of Tony's Lostman's trip. Not a pretty sight, especially in the grass to mangrove transition.

But hey, it looked like a classic Tony trip!

Here's a picture from my Tony trip down the Taylor. Which, if I remember correctly, was the year after the Lostman's trip, you think I would have looked at the Lostman's pictures & reconsidered. But no, that's why we do what we do and go where we go.  It's my current computer wallpaper. Reminds me of why like to get out into the resource!

For ease of identification, I'm not the one standing behind the canoe with a look of frustration...

And that was day 1!

Was it Kalafarski on the ramp that told you about Tony's grassland adventures?

He claims to be getting fishing reports, but I think he's Tony's recruiting agent!

But never say something is not doable until Tony says it can't be done! Hell, they used to say you couldn't sail down the slough...

Yes it was Kalafarski.  And I dug up my pix.  I'll scan the sailing kayak pix this weekend and post them.

Tony did not follow Smuggler's Run, he just did it Tony style, go in a straight line and

damn anything in the way.   HE even said it was hard busting out though the

grass/mangrove barrier.

Follow the Smuggler's Run thread on this website, we HAVE to find that pass.

During high water it's no problem to get from Mitchell's down to Coconut Hammock and it's

no problem from Willy Willy, Smuggler's Run fills in the missing link, just like Spoonbill Pass

did for the Inland Route.   The way to do this is to powerboat the canoes and base camp at

Willy Willy just like we did to document Lost Portage.

Let me press upon you the importance of finding Smuggler's Run:  Given the handy camping

situation down near the bottom of the Stair Steps, shorter slough run and starting at the well

established Michell Landing, surveying and documenting Smuggler's Run would put

Lostman Slough runs at par with Shark Slough.

So when are we doing it.

Go to 'Smuggler's Run' category.

Consider this posting from Loop Road Adventures (Facebook Group).  I believe it provides information on accessing today's Cocoanut Hammock (yesterday's Charlie Tigertails Trading Store):

An added incentive:  Charley Tigertail died having hidden/buried his money out there (several thousand dollars) never recovered...1933 Miami News Story and 1933 Evening Independent

Here's a discussion of the sighting of Charley Tigertails (Cocoanut Hammock) from a canoe 3 miles east (about the slough/canoe run that runs SW from 40 mile bend), made by the Dimocks in on or before 1908 (see http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13168/13168-h/13168-h.htm ):

"we changed our course to the northwest and made our way back to the border land between the Everglades and the Big Cypress. Again the islands took on a greater variety of vegetation. Scattering cypress trees and beautiful strands of the same marked our approach to the Big Cypress Swamp. One morning we saw, about three miles to the westward, the top of a wooden building of which Tommy said: "Me think so, Charley Tiger." Following the line of least resistance the three miles became fifteen, and even then we hauled the canoe for half a mile over dry land through saw-grass. It was late in the afternoon when we arrived at a building of boards, across the entire front of which was a home-painted sign: "MR. CHARLEY TIGER TAIL'S STORE." Back of the store was an orthodox Seminole camp, occupied only by squaws and pick aninnies, the men being absent. We camped there two nights and the camera man spent one whole day in getting ac quainted with some Indian girls."

and the map: 


Here's the text of that article:

Spiders, soreness, sweeten success to canoeing Big Cypress
            Waterfront News Writer 
         Paddling a canoe across the Big Cypress National Preserve will earn you blisters, sweat, scratches, sore muscles, fatigue, mosquito bites and an occasional tumble overboard. Thus refreshed, you’re ready for more blisters, sweat, et cetera. 
         What fun!
         Drowning isn’t an issue. The water’s liable to be so shallow that if you don’t fall in you’ll have to go in anyway to push and pull the boat through sawgrass, cattails, spikerush and other grasses that grow taller and denser as the water level grows lower. 
         Four of us in two canoes were out there in early November, and we could watch the water level dropping by the wet marks it left on cypress trunks. It’s the same way you know a tide is falling by looking at dock pilings.
         On the way out Friday we’d had to do a little wet-footed pushing and pulling. On the way back Sunday we had to do a lot of it. 
         If we’d stayed a few more days we might still be out there, waiting for next year’s rainy season.
Those are some of the good parts. Here’s the best part:
         Spiders — shmillions of them, with webs strung between grass stalks. There’s an art to breaking through those while keeping the spiders off your lap. Even so, many fall into the canoes and more climb aboard, not hard for them if you’re in a two-man boat loaded with supplies and camping equipment, making about two and a half knots in an average hour. 
         When spiders start stringing webs across your lap and between your water shoes, it’s time to start removing them. The best way is to grab them by the feet and flip them overboard before they realize what’s going on. 
         Usually that happens twice per spider, per canoe. The paddler in the bow flips it out. It climbs back in. The stern paddler gives it another heave-ho. If that one doesn’t accidentally cripple the poor thing, it will climb into the next canoe. 
         We can see there are many kinds of spiders. We don’t know what kinds they are. There are places where a black widow can be encountered, but evidently not in the wetlands when they’re wet.
         “I think very few spiders here are toxic,” Rob Cava tells us hopefully. As a doctor, right now is the ideal time to mention having a spider venom antidote in his field kit, but he doesn’t say so.
         Presently we witness his emergency procedure for non-venomous spider bites. Don’t attempt this yourself:
         Rob is standing in the stern of our canoe, pushing it with a long bamboo pole through spikerush and pickerelweed when a spider wiggles into his hat to taste his thin-haired scalp. 
         He takes one hand off the pole, reaching for the bite and losing his balance. Our little boat goes wibble-wobble and overboard goes he with a loud splash. 
         The spider escapes, unidentified. Rob stands up, festooned with swamp vegetation and his hat still on his head. His immersion reveals that there’s enough water under us, right here anyway, to sit down and paddle properly. 
         And on we go, the four of us in two canoes. 
         We have various levels of swamp-paddling experience. Rob has only slightly less than the average adult alligator. I’ve done this thing with him four or five times already. 
         Our companions, Chris Dawson and Brandon Schandler, have prior paddling experience but joined us as soft-handed bush leaguers in this type of bush. Brandon had the least paddling experience, more than offset by the hyperkinesis and appalling endurance of a strong-bodied 20-year-old.
         Why do we do this? In great measure, the physical challenge is the thing, but that and curiosity explain only the first time: Been there, done that, you know? 
         Something else takes some of us back again, then yet again year after year. I devote more mental energy to enjoying it than to analyzing it, so this is the hardest part of the story to tell. 
         Rob talks about being thankful for the ability to continue doing this, a logical outlook for a middle-aged medico whose patients keep reminding him that life isn’t long enough. I know that too, but I don’t think about it unless I read the daily paper’s obituary page or keep up with high school and college alumni news.
         I suspect there are fountains of youth in places like the Big Cypress and Everglades — not in the form of Juan Ponce de Leon’s 16th century fantasy but in the achievement of something hard to do, because you think you can and to prove to yourself that indeed you can. 
         It’s important to escape the hurry-scurry of city life, far from sight and mind out here. Once in a while we see an airboat or a plane. Most of the time we can scan a 360-degree circle without seeing anyone but birds, bugs and occasionally an alligator. It feels like being alone on a planet of our own.
         I know we do it for that. I think we also do it just because we like it and we don’t mind the bugs and blisters very much. 
         The first night out, we camped at Cocoanut Hammock, a high ground place well known to airboat-riding hunters. Older maps spell it with an ‘a’ in the middle; others say Coconut. Take your pick.  In 1975, some gents named Mitchell bought land on the north end of it. There’s a rustic cabin with two bunkhouse wings, crank-handle windows, a spacious eat-in kitchen and other amenities. A generator building stands behind the cabin. 
         We discovered the place a couple of years ago, on the eve of deer and hog hunting season when Mitchell’s caretakers were trimming the grass. They told us we would have been welcome to stay if we’d come a few days earlier, but the hunters were about to begin arriving.
         This time we came a week or so sooner, arriving at the hammock just at sunset. The place was vacant, the doors unlocked. Rather than pitch our tents in darkness, we expressed our gratitude to the absent proprietors, prepared the evening meal indoors by headlamp light and unrolled our sleeping bags on the bunkhouse mattresses. 
         Our plan for the second day was to continue south into Everglades National Park, where we knew there would be mangrove stands. On the fringes of at least one of those – we couldn’t know which one until we found it – there should be a current that would lead into Lostman’s River and the Wilderness Waterway.
         Maybe we’ll find it next year. This time we didn’t, and reluctantly turned back to Cocoanut Hammock for a second night in the cabin. 
         We arrived just at nightfall; again we deployed our sleeping bags in Mitchell’s bunkhouse. If we had made it through to Lostman’s, we’d have slept that night and the next in our tents at two of the National Park Service’s campsites before finally landing at Chokoloskee.
         Next morning, we headed back to dry land, struggling mightily at times through tall, dense grasses that we had pushed aside without excessive effort on the trip’s first day. 
         The difference probably was about six inches, maybe more, of water depth. Once the rainy season ends, typically about the end of October, depth declines rapidly. 
         That makes the taller grasses higher and denser, and even the shorter ones more difficult to paddle through. Underwater grasses, exposed to dry air, die and lie upon the water surface. By Thanksgiving, they form wide, thick, soggy carpets that feel like anchors to anyone trying to paddle across or slog through them.
         November usually supplies the best weather, rain-free and with nights occasionally cool. Breezes feel more refreshing than they did a few weeks earlier. 
         Too bad the water level falls so fast. Higher water would have made paddling less tiring. We’d have had more time to find a way through to the Lostman’s River instead of turning back.
         Yes, that felt a little like failure. Pessimists might have raised a banner saying “Mission Not Accomplished” and invited the president.
         Rob Cava, conscious of his duty as trip leader to elevate morale, declared the voyage a success anyhow.  “Our mission was to look for a way into Lostman’s River, and we accomplished that,” he said as we paddled and pushed our way back toward the launching site. 
         Why yes, all agreed: We did look for it, didn’t we? Actually getting onto the river and finishing the trip at Chokoloskee were mere secondary and tertiary goals. The main thing was looking for a way to do it, and look we did.
         In dreams that night, we pinned brass eagles on Rob’s shoulderboards as an audience of spiders cried “Hip! Hip! Hooray!” 
         Then we threw him overboard.

vivian said:

Keith, this is the link I have and it does not work anymore. I remember it was an article involving Tony Pernas and his trip down.


I did make it a point to ask Bill if he would come onto this forum, hopefully he will. There is a wealth of information from some of our members. They have been quietly but deliberately exploring all kinds of connection and routes.

FTA David Denham and I just hiked the 11.5 miles down to Cocoanut Hammock Wed, 3/28/18 and returned the following day.

I am in contact with the Mitchell family and am hoping they will furnish historical information including info on access to WW from their camp.  They did confirm that they bought the camp from Miccosukees in the mid 50s and that it was a trading post (most likely Dr. Charlie Tigertails I mentioned earlier in this thread).

Here's what I wrote on my facebook post about it (https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10156076354850482.1073741...; )

Cocoanut Hammock is a hammock island in the lower Big Cypress (just north of the Everglades boundary). I believe it was once a Seminole Indian Trading post*. It was bought by the Mitchell Family (who were/are mango farmers in south Dade, see http://historymiamiarchives.org/pdfs/Tequesta2004-p50-83.pdf ). They've built a beautiful cabin with all the amenities of home. You would never notice it on a map unless, like the few dreamers, you pore over a Google earth zoomed in, looking for "Smugglers Route" or some other crazy new adventure.

I attempted to reach it a few years ago bicycling down Paces Dike but got turned back by the deepening water and failing daylight hours.

David Denham, a legendary hiker/explorer of the entire KOE (and beyond) system (Kissimmee, Okeechobee, Everglades - http://www.miamiherald.com/latest-news/article1946243.html ) called me just before spring break 2018 and said "its dry enough to reach cocoanut hammock."

I said "I'm in."

Now, from the looks of the log book (hand written names and messages all over the inner plywood walls dating back to at least 1987), hundreds if not thousands of airboaters have reached this remote private property.

Based on my experience hiking 8 miles on boot sucking marl...then descending gradually the last 3 miles to thigh deep water (yes, I checked the water stations, MO214 just below Cocoanut read 2 inches), I can say this hike was one of the toughest in my life.

Not knowing whether the ground water would be sweet or brackish, I packed 6 liters for the 2 days and brought my filter.

Thankfully, the water was sweet and we could dispense with carrying too much water the way back, we just stopped and filtered along the way.

On the way back, I began to feel burning on the outside of my left knee. Analyzing the pain with respect to the wading/slogging action, I concluded that a ligament (Lateral collateral ligament) or connective tissue related to lifting the lower leg had become inflamed. After about 2 miles I was at the point where I could barely hobble. I carry an emergency beacon...but the last thing I wanted was to fail. I called ahead to David who was easily out hiking my crippled hobble and we ducked into a tree island for a break. I took 2 ibuprofen and fashioned a muscle assistance contraption that I used to raise my foot each step for the next 8 miles! It worked like a charm.

The last mile, suddenly my right knee exhibited the same debilitating pain and again I called out to David and I took 2 more ibuprofen and switched my contraption over to the right. My left knee was fully recovered and strong and the device allowed me to finish the hike.

We exited the woods just as the sun set.

That's how we like to do it - the last light, the last strength, the last food, the last water...

*I do not believe the current Dr. Tiger hammock is the site of the old general store/canoe trail and dock. It seems too landlocked.

I believe that the current Cocoanut Hammock was the site of Dr. Charlie Tigertail's camp/general store.

In conversation today with the Mitchell Family (see here for their history as Miami pioneers: ), they confirmed that it was a miccosukee trading post when they bought it from the Miccosukees in the 1950s.

here is a map (https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/323159 ) that puts Ingram Billie's camp at about cocoanut hammock and Dr. Charlie Tigertail's camp on the turner river. Problem is, I think this map has them switched (you'll see some of the numbers are poorly written and possibly duplicated as though not certain). To support my theory that cocoanut hammock was Dr. Charlie Tigertails general store, this page suggests that Ingram Billie's camp was actually on the Turner River: https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/268152

This latter identification of cocoanuts as Dr. Tigertails location is congruent with the Mitchell family record.

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