On Saturday April 21st 2018, five cadets and two senior members embarked on a bivouac like no other. The backcountry style bivouac spanned over the course of 28 hours at Myakka State Park, during which the attendees hiked over 12 miles carrying about 20 pounds of gear each.
This trip was no small feat for the participants. During the trip, cadets and senior members carried all necessary gear, including water, food, shelter, lavatory supplies, and other essential survival tools. They also engaged in “leave no trace” practices as they made the trek. The majority of the hike was completed on Saturday before reaching the campsite named Bee Island. Cadets used small breaks throughout the hike to fuel up with snacks and electrolyte replenishment, as well as to reapply sunscreen.
As the cadets were settling into their pace, the group encountered quite the obstacle, wild boar! Luckily, senior member Captain Deer, a seasoned hiker, knew just what to do. To cause the boar to move on, the group made loud noises and clapped to announce their presence. In no time, the boar had vanished and the trek continued.
After the group made a quick stop for some lunch in shaded woodland, cadets headed for the most challenging part of the hike. What lay ahead were miles of open, grassland plains. A narrow trail proved challenging as it was difficult to place both feet flat on the ground while walking. Cadets found themselves relying on Captain Deer’s singing to get them through the hike. Just beyond the plains in a distant tree line, our destination Bee Island campsite, showed its face and we arrived!
After a long day of hiking, the cadets set up their shelters and camp. Some set up hammocks, while others used small lightweight tents. Cadets quickly learned that Bee Island was the wrong name and should be renamed Biting Fly Island! Bug spray was indeed a godsend.
The group was excited to locate a water well with a hand pump, however upon inspection, the water table was so low that water could not be pumped. But that didn’t stop the Sarasota Squadron Cadets! Since the nearby streams and ponds were dry, the cadets tested unconventional methods such as digging for water and cutting into hanging vines which proved to be unsuccessful. By this point, the cadets had used up all of the water they had carried in and now needed replenishment. Luckily, Captain Deer saved the day with a 4-liter gravity-fed water purification system. This system filtered the priming water meant for the pump in order to make it safe for the group to drink. Everyone was grateful.
Later on, after getting a lesson on makeshift latrines and cat holes, the cadets enjoyed eating the MRE’s and freeze-dried foods that were carried in for dinner. After dinner, the cadets had a bit of blazing fun with fire starting. Some went old school with flint, magnesium, dry brush, and a striker, while others chose a different approach with matches, dryer lint, and cotton balls with Vaseline. Our camp fire was a great way to toast the day and the beginning of a good night’s rest. After that, it was lights out.
The next morning, once cadets were awake and all packed up, it was time once again to hit the trail. The trek back was much shorter and a lot less challenging, however certainly not free of obstacles. Although the hardest part of the trail was behind as we were nearing the home stretch, a 6-foot alligator halted us in our tracks! Using the same method we learned with the boar, we made noise to make our presence known to avoid startling the seemingly napping gator. We quickly navigated past the alligator. Luckily, the alligator made no advances and gave cadets just enough adrenaline to power through.
Seeing the Civil Air Patrol van at the trail head was a great sight, and we left Myakka with a greater appreciation for nature and the ability to persevere. When cadets were asked what they thought of the trip, C/MSgt Jacob Anthony had much to say: “The trip was breathtaking. We saw a variety of different biomes (nature and wildlife) as we hiked under the hot sun, we interacted with the wildlife, and learned a little bit about how a mission might be in the back country where we have to walk miles and miles.” C/MSgt Anthony was also quick to point out, “I have a lot more in me than I think, and I underestimate myself too often.” C/ SrA Heston Hartshorn added, “I would definitely recommend this to other squadrons because it is a good opportunity to get to know your self-limits, it is a good workout, and you get to know the people you travel with.”
All in all, it was a great learning experience for the Sarasota Squadron Cadets.
This article was produced from the Southeast Region Online News system. Electronic distribution is made possible through syndicated services. For more information, contact the Chief Editor Lt Col Judy Steele at JSteele@sercap.us.