Swamp things. That's what the 6 of us have become as we follow our naturalist guide on a guided tour into the primordial goo of the Everglades .
Rather than admire a cypress dome from the roadside, we have decided to tromp through the sea of grass and stand in the middle of the cypress trees.
As I test the spongy bottom with my walking stick before each step, determined not to sink up to the armpits, I ponder the age-old question: Why am I here?
I guess because a Swamp Tromp is one of the most novel ways of experiencing South Florida's Everglades .
Back at the van is a stack of towels, for what our Flaming Lodge guide, Rob, calls "just in case." He should know.
On a recent trip he sank deeper without realizing it when stopped to talk to a group about the Glades' ecosystem. As he went to step forward, he was immersed in his subject. We do not want to follow our leader into his subject so deeply.
Actually, we find more hard limestone bottom than deep holes in the marl bottom as we shuffle mummy-like toward the trees.
It's been dry recently, so the water only comes up to our knees. Normally, it would be waist deep here.
We're in the section of Everglades National Park known as the Dwarf Cypress Forest, located between the visitor center and Flamingo. At first glance it looks like a fire swept through here, but it's only because the trees are shedding their reddish needles, as they do every fall.
In winter, they will be bare, dead looking, before sprouting green leaves in spring. These dwarf cypress, many not as thick as my leg, may still be hundreds of years old. Poor growing conditions have stunted them.