Best Day Trip - 2001
Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park
The best part of a trip to the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve is the engendered sense of superiority. As you motor toward Naples on I-75, smirk at the lightweights en route to guided airboat rides. Cackle at the sandal-wearing sissies sauntering through the Miccosukee Indian Reservation's mammoth rest stop. You, stoked for adventure, are leaving the cakewalk behind for the Fakahatchee Strand. To get to the trails, turn off the interstate onto southbound State Road 29. Go about 15 miles (until you hit Copeland) and turn west onto Jane's Memorial Scenic Drive, which becomes a remote dirt road. After driving through a few miles of overgrown forest, you'll come to gated, unmarked paths. Park, strap on your backpack, and start walking. The paths cut through a thick, swampy forest of palm trees, brambles, and tall grass. In some places fallen branches obstruct the trails, which extend for miles and mostly do not intersect. The only noises come from birds calling out as they swoop overhead, the wind rattling through the branches, the rhythmic croaking of frogs, and the occasional mystery animal walking within earshot. More than anything else, the Fakahatchee Strand is the kind of place where you could die and no one would find you for weeks. Though you probably won't run into another hiker, expect to see wildlife; sightings of brown bear, raccoons, birds, snakes, and alligators are common. And if you aren't tough enough, Naples, with its golf-playing, sweater vest-wearing tourists, is only a short drive away.