I did go back to Six Mile Cypress Slough, as I said I would. How could I not? I knew I'd found something special. My thanks go out to the students who initiated the whole preserve back in the '70s, high school kids who recognized the value and took it to the county commissioners, convincing them and the citizens of Lee County to tax themselves to save it. Much land has been added to the Preserve since, and it is an extremely valuable wildlife corridor and refuge for birds and mammals of many kinds. Such corridors are increasingly rare in our country, and this is especially true here in Southwest Florida, where rampant development has taken a very large bite out of the forests and swamps. But a place like this gives hope to the cause, and someday, and perhaps even now, roaming Florida panthers may make use of wild strips like this as they slowly repopulate the area.
For this is a place of life. Much of southern Florida is, in a way, half desert. I mean that in the sense that there are wet and dry seasons, and the dry seasons are very dry, often with no rain for months. The dryness for half the year is a major limiting factor on living things here, and of course, those dry adapted species must also be able to handle all the rain in the summer. Further, the soils tend to be poor, sandy soils that drain quickly, holding less water and leaching out nutrients faster. It is the wetlands where the biodiversity really thrives here, and this is one such place. The soils are black as night, full of organic material, and of course, water. Even in the dry season, most of the place is still damp, and of course much remains under water altogether even then.
I came to this place just after dawn, having risen before the sun to make the drive out there, for the double reason that dawn is a time of greatest activity for living creatures and that the inverse is true for the human flocks; therefore, I had come early for the relative solitude. The crowds would come later. I again stuck to the boardwalk the whole way. Someday I plan to do some bushwhacking, or more accurately, swamp wading, to get into quieter zones away from all the people. Perhaps find a well sited hummock or stump, and sit quietly for a few hours, seeing whatever comes and whatever is, grokking the wildness of the place.
There was one pond where I spotted several alligators, small ones like this one, young from a few years back, or so I was told. Most were motionless in the weedy shallows, basking in the sun, but this one swam right past me where I stood on the platform, heading for a dry log in the sun on which to do his own requisite reptilian sun worship. A larger one, maybe a 7 footer, had appeared briefly not long before, gliding across another, larger lake, ducking under the glassy surface hardly as soon as I'd spotted it, having raised the camera excitedly just in time.