I took Canal Street to 1st Street and headed south towards Highway 27. I had to get across the Caloosahatchee River. Moore Haven is a typical small Florida town. Mostly two-lane asphalt paved streets. One–story concrete and some older wooden structures. I came to Highway 27, crossed over the bridge, and turned left along the canal. (The bridge was rebuilt in the mid 1990’s and today I wouldn’t recognize it, a large curving 4-lane span rising high above the canal. It also relocated Highway 27 through town.)
As soon as I crossed the bridge I turned left along the south side of the canal and headed towards the flood gate and Hoover Dike in the distance. I came to a railroad grade and as I was crossing over, I could see a turntable style railroad bridge on the other side of the canal. (This railroad is now owned solely by U. S. Sugar.)
Once up and over the dike, I ate at a small beach area while I watched some people. It appeared to be a large family fishing in the canal. They seemed to be having a great time, two on lawn chairs with feet stretched out, their fishing poles in holders along side. Three children ran about with their small cane poles throwing their lines out and then impatiently trying another spot along the bank a few minutes later. An older teenager scolded them at times to be still or they would scare the fish away.
This was the section of the Okeechobee waterway that went south towards Clewiston. I decided to camp there in some Australian pines. It was a beautiful place but the mosquitoes were very bad that night.
In the morning I decided to pack up early, start hiking, and eat breakfast a little later. I started down the dike for a short distance and came to a gate across the road. There was a sign:
POSTED, FIRE HAZARD, NO ADMITTANCE, U.S. CORPS OF ENGINEERS
That took care of my nice hike to Clewiston on the Hoover Dike. Wait a minute, I had an idea. I crossed over the railroad on my way in here, I’d just take it to Clewiston.
I set my pack down and reached in for the powdered milk without looking. Suddenly I felt something crawling on my hand. I gave my hand a fast pull out and a violent shake. It was just a natural reaction, and it was a lucky thing. A black scorpion was propelled off my hand and onto the ground. Before he could start running I stomped him. Again, another reflex. I looked very carefully in my pack and took everything out the scorpion hadn’t brought along any friends. He must have crawled in during the night.
I have done some research and found out that there are three scorpion species in Florida. The reason I didn’t know or actually care before my trip is because I had spent at least four years in two different boy scout troops in Florida. We hiked and camped all over the Tampa area and the center of the state and never encountered any scorpions. Scorpions can range in length from as little as one inch to a long four inches. They have ten legs but the front pair are not for walking but to hold the food they catch. The most respected part is the stinger on their tail that is held up over their body in an arched, ready-to-strike position.
Scorpions sting with a nerve poison. The good news is that no Florida scorpions are capable of a deadly sting. However it is reported that scorpion stings are very painful, much more than a wasp or yellow jacket. A scorpion sting usually swells up and sometimes the person infected will be dizzy. The only good thing about scorpions is that they eat spiders, mosquitoes, cockroaches, termites and all other varieties of insects. They are also nocturnal.
The Hentz Striped Scorpion is dark brown to tan. It has a greenish yellow stripe along the center of the body 2 to 3 inches long. The Florida Bark Scorpion is dark brown and a flat body up to 4 inches long, and the Guiana Striped Scorpion is yellow, 1 1/2 to 3 inches long and only found in south Florida. No positive ID of the one I just stomped--all I could tell was that it was a squishy dark color.
I repacked all of my gear, ate a Pop Tart, drank some water and got back on the road. The railroad track headed southeast. It didn’t appear to be a main line. I saw a few markings occasionally that let me know that it belonged to the Atlantic Coast Line. I suddenly realized that I could have been walking on the original 1921 Moore Haven and Clewiston Railway.