Through the magic of social media, I met Swamp Ape, who is an amazing photographer, for the first time in person on my travels for this public lands project. He and Ralph ‘El Prez’ Duharte of the now-disbanded Florida Hiking Syndicate hooked me up with an incredibly thoughtful 2.5 day itinerary to show me some of the best southeast Florida has to offer. I was overwhelmed by their generosity and support for the Project. It was fantastic to spend time in Big Cypress National Preserve, hike a few miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail (which Swamp Ape thru-hiked in 2017), and chase sunsets in Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park with them!

Name / Trail Name: Jess Karcher / Swamp Ape

What’s your primary activity on public lands? Hiking

What do you do when you’re not adventuring? Kayaking and traveling

Why is Big Cypress National Preserve special to you? Big Cypress is special to me because it’s one of the most beautiful parts of the Florida National Scenic Trail. It’s a section of the Everglades that has a diverse ecosystem teeming with a wide variety of wildlife making a simple hike or even a drive through the dirt roads amazing.

How did you first learn about Big Cypress? I first learned about the area when I was in the 3rd grade and went with my class on an airboat ride. It was not until the past few years that I went out and started exploring it, most recently completing a thru-hike of the Florida Trail, which starts in Big Cypress.

Any other favorite spots you recommend? Yes. If you are traveling in Florida, visit our freshwater springs, Big Shoals, and Aucilla River areas for some great hiking and camping.