Sparky has always wanted to hike the Deep Hole in Myakka River State Park. It's a deep watering hole in the middle of the state park, and there are USUALLY hundreds of alligators sunning themselves and swimming around. The rangers only allow 30 hikers at a time to hike back to the hole and you have to register in then check back out when you leave.
The timing has to be right to see a lot of alligators. The ranger says they don't like cloudy, windy days. You don't want to go when it's an extremely hot day as more gators will probably be in the water than out, so a day in the coolest part of Florida's hot, hot, hot season which are the winter months of December, January, and February and a little later, are best. Sparky had some time one day, not too long ago and the day was starting out in the sixties, with a high in the eighties. This might be a good day to go even if it was a little outside of the optimal viewing time. It was during the week, less foot traffic at the park probably. She wasn't subbing, and anyone else she knew that might be interested was working, so on a whim, she decided to go it alone. She called ahead to see if the hiker list was full. Nope, the ranger said. Not very many were out on the hike today. Hot dog! Sparky decided to head over to the park. First--supplies---hat? check! Water? check....sunscreen? check. And off she went.
Now....if you have been following the blog for awhile, you know that Sparky is directionally challenged, even with GPS. What's worse, is even after visiting a local place many times, if it's out in the boonies, Sparky can still get lost. She thought she knew the way to the park so didn't have her GPS on. Sparky got off at the wrong exit off I-75 and proceeded down a certain road, saw a sign that said Myakka River State Park and thought she was on the right path. Forty-five minutes later, she still hadn't arrived at the park, and the park was nowhere near to be found. (it's normally about a 20 min. drive from the house). Sparky turns on her GPS on the phone, and discovers she has a half hour drive to return back to the park, which she overshot. (Sparky wastes a lot of time continuing to drive thinking she can see something familiar eventually that will give her a clue as to what direction to go.) Ah, nope...ain't gonna happen, says a knowledgable Eldo. Needless to say, Sparky was clueless that day. She finally arrives at the park at 11:45 AM, when the heat is beginning to build.
She checks in and she's off! Sparky was glad she had on athletic shoes. The ranger checked for that before she left, saying that people hike the trail in sandals or flip flops sometimes. BAD idea! The trail is 2.5 miles one way on a deeply rutted sandy tractor trail. Hard on the ankles, hard on the feet if you are not wearing the proper shoes. And hard, if you have a bad ankle with tendonitis, Sparky learns.
Not much to see along the way...no birds...no animals, some farmland.....Sparky encountered two people hiking back, but saw NO ONE along the way, a BIG clue that this was not the best time to hike the trail because of the heat baking the sandy trail. Sparky trudged on....
It was quite the letdown....Sparky only counted about 55 gators. There could have been more, they were all tangled up in each other. While she wanted to walk around the outskirts of the pond to get just a tiny bit closer with her lens, there were two BIG gators swimming in the pond, heading her way. Sparky could tell they were very interested in what she was doing. Being the SOLE hiker at that moment at the Deep Hole, with no one ever joining her in the half hour she was there, Sparky backed
off to the mound of rushes in front of the pond and stood behind them. The gators kept coming. At that point, Sparky decided it was dumb to be at the Deep Hole, by herself, and that wanting to get better pictures was a bad idea. So, with an eye on the two gators that were swimming to the edge of the hole towards her, she headed for the return trail 2.5 mile hike, disappointed that there weren't more gators, and that she couldn't have gotten better photos for the day. Mid day is a terrible time to take photos, you've got that glare from the sun on everything.
The only birds she spotted was a great blue heron at the hole, and the usual egrets fishing at the pond with the gators.
Sparky would like to do the Deep Hole again, but thinks she might want to come in by kayak. The only problem with Myakka River State Park is, that sometimes the water levels are so low, you can't kayak back there. There has been a drought in Florida this spring, so water levels are extremely low at the park. Right now the boat ramp is closed, and there are no airboat tours because of the drought. It's going to take a LOT of rain for the park to recover.
Sparky has seen videos on Youtube about kayaking to the deep hole, and you are REALLY close to the gators if you can navigate your way back there. It just goes to show, with nature, you never know what you are going to see. Sparky was happy she did the hike, but recommends that you go EARLY in the morning to avoid the heat. Wear proper shoes, bring plenty of water, clean your camera lens and BRING A FRIEND. :-)