Myakka Alone

I think I make hiking a social thing because I get so lost in it. It absorbs me whole, and it is difficult for me to come back to this side of the fence, to go back to the trail head and see the cars parked all in a row.

I like Myakka for its solitude in human terms, because of how few other people wander all the way out into the backwoods. Most stick to the paved areas, or the cycling roads, but even those are sparsely traversed near the boundaries of the park. I encountered three other human beings while out today, and all of them in the near vicinity at the head of Ranch House Road. The other ten miles were filled with different encounters.

I cannot number them. The oak hammocks were hung with golden silk spiders, and in the dew damp morning, orbweavers nocturnal, my spotted sisters, were taking in their webs. As the mist clung to the palmettos like a lover unwilling to leave in the morning, the form of a lone doe appeared like a ghost on the trail before me. She never acknowledged me, and I walked on through a white haze rounding the rust of pine needles and the emeralds of drenched leaves. As the day cleared, a murder of crows shadowed me through the hammock. When the sun burst on the prairie, the blue bowl of the sky filled my vision, and the vultures turned lazy circles, adrift on thermals. The shadows of clouds swept back and away. A step cause an explosion: a covey of quail shot up, their distressed cooing purr filling the air. Black antlion lacewings darted in shadow while their larvae feasted in abysses below. Butterflies like blood drops filled the air. The startlement of feral pigs startled me.

They say the wilderness is quiet. I think that they simply don’t know what quiet is. Even death is a busy occasion, ants dismembering the corpses of palmetto bugs. Perhaps it’s that we don’t know how to read busy-ness when it is not our own busy-ness. All matter is busy. The forest throngs. The prairies hum. The rivers vibrate with activity, from the tiniest unit up… and all I could hear when I came back out from the folk parked at the gift shop was how quiet it was. How still. How far away from everything else. Out there, on the trails sucking with mud, dotted with scat and pig rootings, I felt like I was at the center of the rush. It felt like Times Square felt, the grass buzzing with the wings of thousands of flies and bees, the mockingbirds and crows calling choruses of their own showtunes. I don’t understand this notion of quiet. Alligators are loud. But I do understand the need to get out of the trap of “the work-a-day world.” I just call it the trap of self-importance. In Myakka, I feel faceless in a crowd just as surely as I do in the city. It’s just a different city. It’s the same kind of busy.

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