The Mas(ochis)tic Trail

Saturday June 1, 2013


Whenever Matt and I travel with Brian and Stephanie, we always let them plan the fun activities and outings, and we just tag along once given a date and a time.  It kind of makes sense though, they’ll have much more local knowledge than us since Stephanie, well, loves to talk to the locals, and they’ll both pour over books, magazines, and pamphlets on the area.  I have no idea what’s going to happen when they leave us in a few days to start their journey across the Atlantic.  Not only are we going to lose our weather routers (but we have internet right now, so it’s ok), but we’re also going to loose our cruise ship activity coordinators.  Who’s going to be the one to inform me that Caybrews are going to be served on the lido deck at sunset, or that today’s activity is hiking the Mastic Trail?  I’m pretty sure that each boat thinks that the other is going to change their mind at the last minute and follow the other one.  And if a good weather window doesn’t pop up really soon (one comes up and then disappears almost every day), we might have our wish with Rode Trip following us to Guatemala.

But they haven’t left yet, so once more, all four of us were still together to do a little outing.  Stephanie found out about the Mastic Trail from a magazine she picked up at the laundromat, hiking trails is right up her’s and Brian’s alley, and Matt and I joined in since we miss hiking the trails of Northern Michigan and the Sleeping Bear Dunes area, although we didn’t quite think the trails would be even close to the same.  As we hopped one of the local shuttle buses to take us to the other side of the island, I read up on Stephanie’s magazine article, and how people would come from all over just to hike this trail.  Even though the skies were once more overcast and rain was threatening at any moment, it sounded like we were going to have a great time hiking this beautiful trail.  The shuttle driver dropped us off, after having shown us where the trail would end and we could come back to the main road to catch another one back, and told us to have a good day.  We followed the main road until it turned into the beginning of the dirt path that started the trail.

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 The road leading up looked nice enough.


It started out fine, albeit a little boring for Matt and I.  We attributed it to the overcast and dreary skies and kept walking, waiting for more interesting things to pop up as we got further in.  Every couple of minutes, a little sign would pop up with a letter of the alphabet and an informational tag describing what we were looking at (we must have been doing the trail backwards since we started at Z).  There were Red Birch trees that grew right out of the limestone, and many other things that you had to squint your eyes to see otherwise you might miss it in the overgrowth of the area.  Brian and Stephanie were having a ball, but Matt and I just felt like we were walking through someone’s backyard in Michigan.  The trail felt overcrowded, cramped, and with nothing much to see except whatever was two feet in front of your face.  We missed the great views provided from the trails back home, but then again, maybe we’re just spoiled.

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The roots of a Red Birch tree.

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I think this describes the mood of the day.


There were a few fun moments for us though when we’d come across birds we hadn’t seen before.  Again, it was almost impossible to make them out in the trees through the thick brush, and it was almost a game trying to pin the spot that the sounds were coming from.  It’s a good thing Brian brought his zoom lens, because my little point-and-shoot I was tugging along for the day was not doing the job.

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A Grand Cayman Parrot.

mastic trail - west indian woodpecker

A West Indian Woodpecker.  (Above photos courtesy of Rode Trip)


Any fun was very quickly ended though as we came up on the swamps.  The magazine article had said there would be some light walking through water, so we all prepared ourselves with water friendly shoes.  What we came up to though, were not the small puddles we were expecting.  They were calf deep swamps of brackish water.  Stephanie was the brave one that began to push through the first one, until the thing that scares her most in the world made an appearance right in front of her feet.  A water snake.  She shrieked and jumped up on a log, and being a trooper to make sure she didn’t disturb it any more so a photo could be taken, replaced herself near the back of the group so we’d come across any creepy crawly or slimy things first. (For the record, I love snakes.  If it was me up there, I would have been chasing it around trying to play with it.)  I was the one to take the lead in front of the group, and although there were no more snakes I could see for me to chase down, I did have the unfriendly job of pointing out crabs that we scuttling through the shallow waters, and using my face to collect spider webs.

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mastic trail - Matt n Jess in swamp

(Photo courtesy of Rode Trip)

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It didn’t get much better for me.  Once we finally thought we found salvation on a wooden boardwalk, I stopped for a moment to take count of all the mosquito and spider bites I picked up along the way.  It was when I was looking over all the bumps on my arms and legs that I felt a pinching down by my feet.  Thinking it was stones in my shoes, I ignored it for a minute until it got stronger.  Then finally bending down to take my shoes off and find out what it was, I looked down to see fire ants creeping into my shoes and biting me.  Both shoes were off in a matter of seconds as I hobbled around, trying to pick them off of me and off of my shoes.  It took the help of Matt and Stephanie, but finally they were clean of ankle biters and we could get on our way again.  Not only had Matt been fed up with the trail by this point, but I was more than fed up.  We wished Brian and Stephanie adieu so they could continue at whatever leisurely pace they felt like, and ran the rest of the trail to get out of there as quick as possible.  Watch out Stephanie, your responsibilities of activity coordinator is now on very thin ice.

mastic trail - ants on boardwalk

(Photo courtesy of Rode Trip)

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It almost looks pretty here.

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And I even found a turtle under a non ant filled boardwalk.

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Finally, a way out.



For a view of this trip through the rose colored glasses of Brian and Stephanie, check out their account of it here.

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