A Day in Bradwell Bay

Glorious Mud Along the Florida National Scenic Trail
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What I wouldn't give for a good foot rub right now.

My shins ache. My legs, covered in a mysterious rash, itch. My soles throb.

Muscles in my back and legs, muscles I'd forgotten I had, cry out, stiff and sore.

All this from a day hike. A seven-mile day hike. In Florida, of all places!

But not like any other day hike I've experienced, anywhere on this planet.

"This trail sucks!" I muttered, as I hopped over a slippery blowdown, one foot caught in thick mud over my boots. Then the other. Standing in water knee-deep, water the color of coffee with cream. A giant sucking sound as I freed one boot, then the next. Thwock! Thwock!

"It's the mud that sucks," said Kent Wimmer, our trip leader, as the next victim struggled through the sticky stuff, slyly hidden under the sullied water of the slough.

This is the Florida Trail — in Bradwell Bay.

Backpacker Magazine called it one of the ten toughest hikes in the United States. I won't argue. I feel sorry for the trio of backpackers, plus the pack-laden dog we left behind us an hour ago. I'm so glad this is a day hike.

"It's the lowest I've ever seen it," said Kent, who's on his fifth traverse of Bradwell Bay. He runs an annual hike for the FTA Apalachee Chapter, and always manages to sucker . . . I mean, convince . . . a few neophytes along each year.

"This is low?" I question, watching as Ralph, behind me, slips and plunges into a mudhole up to his waist.

"Yup," says Jerry."Wait 'til you see the Pond. That's where you take photos to impress your friends."

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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