In February, I walked the Panther Point Trail around Lake Hancock in Florida. Starting on the southern end, it follows a raised road bed overlooking the lake on one side and a series of pretty ponds on the other. There were many birds, butterflies, and alligators. In the distance, one could see the artificial mountains left over from the phosphate mines of old. Much of Polk County is like this. There was a strong breeze and intermittent shade that day, so it started off very nice.
Eventually, the trail entered a wooded area. Here were cypress swamps and green puddles forming a barrier with the lake. I noticed barbed wire running along both sides of the path, much overgrown with moss. Was it to keep me out or to keep something else in? Maybe it was the balloon I saw. Was this the one the military shot down? I saw osprey, raccoons, and more alligators.
At one point in the trail, I had a wonderful experience. I smelled on the breeze the exact aroma of butter popcorn Jelly Belly jellybeans. It was sort of a butterscotch smell. What was it doing in the forest?
I also saw a plant with scary-looking leaves and a bunch of prehistoric-looking fish sitting on the ground. Did they beach themselves or were they thrown out after someone was done fishing? Why waste so much good fish?
There was also this wooden animal that did not seem at all bothered by the fish. I should be more like this animal.
Beginning to get hot and thirsty after walking for six miles, I turned back. I saw some of the same alligators in the same places and smelled the same jellybeans in the same spot again. By the time I got back to the open area, the wind had died down somewhat, the sun was brighter and hotter, and I was wild with thirst. The gator-infested pond started to look very inviting.
Time dragged on and on and on. The path seemed to grow longer the more of it I traversed. It was endless. Perhaps it was like an escalator that only went north and I was going against the current. Vultures circled overhead.
What seemed like several weeks later, I got back to the car and drank three water bottles in a row. I’d like to say I learned a lesson, but I probably haven’t.
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.