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Sunday, February 22, 2015


   Last weekend four of us explored a place we had never been, Loop Road in the Great Cypress Swamp.  This 24 miles of gravel, just west of Miami, was once part of the Tamiami Trail. It takes you past the strange places you'd expect in a swamp... hunting camps, paths to nowhere, and the town of Pinecrest (population 6). 
     As we drifted in I thought I could hear the theme from Deliverance playing in the backgound. Pinecrest had a long-deserted gas station, a rusting '52 Dodge, and a purple pant-suited person who emerged from a trailer to question us. She asked me the year of my pickup (we were driving a sedan).  I asked her where the gators were. "All ova", she replied.
    When I told her we were looking for Lucky Cole she lightened up. I actually hadn't seen the guy for fifty years but we both grew up in Miami Springs.
   Several years ago I had read an article about him in New Times. It made him seem like a mountain man without the mountains, keenly interested in guns, gators, motorcycles, and swamp women. He had a weekend beer joint on this wilderness trail and was known for photographing biker mamas, naked, at his hunting camp.

    It was Valentines Day and I suggested that we mosey on over to Lucky's camp for valentine portraits.                                                                                                                                                                                         
                                                                        Lucky's Place

Francesca and Kay thought I was joking.  Dave was not sure.
      A half-mile later, when Dave saw the "Lucky's Place" sign, he stopped the car.  I jumped out to peer over a locked gate. I yelled for the tall boy I had known in the fourth grade.  Lucky was either not there or he could not hear me. I recalled he was drafted by the Army in '67 then discharged from boot camp because he was half-deaf. Some would say this made him, indeed, lucky.
   When I returned to the car and told the girls I could not find him Francesca said, "Lucky for us".

    Two miles further we pulled into a trail parking lot. A family of four stood together smiling gleefully at the sky.  I thought they were experiencing the beginning of the Rapture but then heard what sounded like a swarm of bees.  I looked up and realized they were posing for a hovering camera-drone. Toys like that might put Lucky Cole out of business someday.

   We drove further west on the narrow passage  that's underwater four months of the year.  Suddenly it blocked by a brown animal with a billowing bushy tail. When we got out for a closer look it sat up on its haunches and stared us down. 
 "What is it?" Francesca asked, "A mongoose?"  "No," I replied, "it's a large squirrel like we've never seen before. I think he wants us to leave".       
As we prepared to he left himself. 
Later we learned it was a fox squirrel, a solitary animal that is quite rare.

      We drove on, enjoyed a picnic lunch, hiked through a dwarf cypress forest, and finally looped back to Miami 45 miles east. 
  We never saw any alligators. I think they were eaten by the squirrel.


If you'd like to know more about Loop Road, follow this link:


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