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A trip to Lake Leave-It-Alone

There are places in the Everglades that are so pristine you hope no one knows about them but you. Unspoiled. Wild. Mysterious. Inviting.

Friend Butch (Clewiston Museum Director) and I loaded our off-road bicycles into my truck bed at 6:00 a.m. in LaBelle. At sun-up, we were pedaling into Big Cypress Preserve toward a special place we like to call Lake Leave-It-Alone. Deep. Bottomless. Tranquil. Loaded with Thunder Lizards.

Thanks to Butch's good buddy, Ben -- who first showed the spot to Butch -- we had found paradise.

This is the real Florida, I thought. I mean, Florida before civilization, although we were not the only ones caught up in the lake's alluring qualities. In addition to alligators, there were tarpon and snook. That's right, tarpon -- which are saltwater fish -- were slowly breaking the surface with their dorsal fins. The lake wasn't really bottomless, but gave visitors the perception it was because of an underground river connecting the lake to nearby canals that fed saltwater habitats.

There are some who think of Heaven as a place we can visit now, while we're still mortal. This lake may just be the evidence that they're right.