In February 2023, I visited the Marshall Hampton Reserve in Florida. I circled the pond there first.
I saw many birds and a few alligators, including these unformed gators bubbling from the ground, proving my theory of reptilian abiogenesis!
There were also some oddly shaped plants and a very indecisive fish.
Eventually, I picked up the Panther Point Trail heading south. To my surprise, it cut across a cattle pasture. Cows as big as mountains glared at me as I warily passed between them. I should have taken a picture, but I didn’t dare stop.
Beyond this, the trail was much as I experienced it when I explored the southern half. I again saw raccoons. I again saw alligators. There was water on either side with artistically-strewn vegetation.
I eventually made it to the bridge where I had turned around two weeks prior. There were ospreys and pelicans, but the crows had clearly taken over the conference. How can anyone talk about absolutely nothing for so long? Blah blah blah blah blah!
I enjoyed the sun and breeze for ten minutes before turning back. Suddenly, I heard a commotion in the brush. My heart jumped in and out of my chest. My first thought was humans, and I got into a defensive stance. Then I saw it through the gaps of greenery. It was huge! This was no human! This was no bobcat! This was no pig! My brain raced to make sense of the incomplete data and all it could come up with was “short-faced bear,” but I knew they had died out in the Pleistocene – or had they?
Finally, I realized this was an escaped cow that was now meandering through the swamp. How had it got out? Did it not want to be in my next Happy Meal? I held perfectly still and it passed by.
After my encounter with the swamp cow, I was quite shaken and I still had to pass the main herd on the way back to the parking lot. I found that they had moved closer to the trail. They lined either side of it, all looking at me silently. It was just like the junior high lunchroom. Any one of them could have brushed me aside like a fly, but I persevered and made it through.
The walk back was mostly uneventful, but it was hotter than when I left and I was in no condition to explore the other loop. It didn’t matter. I had seen the swamp cow and lived to tell about it. This was something I was going to tell my grandchildren. This was how I was going to pick up women. I was going to build a career on this. I might even sell shirts. “I survived swamp cow” they would say. I ate some trail mix and drove home.
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.