In the Gulf of Mexico. Almost hugging the coast of Florida. Just a short ways away from Fort Myers. Is Pine Island. I’m not sure why it is called Pine Island. The internet claims there’s lots of slash pine trees on the island. But the must be hiding behind all the mangroves, mango trees, and various palm trees. Because while it is really pretty down there. I didn’t see a pine needle anywhere. Which was nice. Cause I can look out my window and see pine trees whenever I want. But I can’t see mangoes.
The Island was inhabited many generations ago by the Calusa (Meaning fierce). A name earned through being a pretty formidable bunch. The Yamasee and the Muscogee Creek however, were apparently tougher. As they managed to kill, enslave, and displace all of the Calusa. With any survivors probably becoming part of the eventual amalgamation of tribes known as the Seminole.
But although the Calusa are no more. On the northern end of Pine Island one can find the Calusa Heritage Trail. It is a relatively easy hiking walk. Only about a mile long. A little longer if you follow a signed marked “nature trail” like I did… I don’t recommend doing so though. Because in retrospect, even though it was clearly marked. I’m not sure it was finished.
But other than the short trailblazing confusion. Everything is wide open and simple to navigate. And being that this is Florida it is all pretty darn flat. The only exceptions being that the Calusa were mound builders. And there are two small mounds that can be climbed via stairs. So if you use a rolator, wheelchair, or are packing large O2 tanks… you may need to skip ’em.
I’d also recommend bringing sunscreen and bug spray. You’ll be walking a bit in the open sun. And if you stop for to long in the shade you’ll here the occasional mosquito buzzing your ears. Pulmonary issues are aggravating enough. You don’t want sun burns or bug bites annoying you too. And some meds can increase the risk of skin cancer if you soak up to much sun. So be careful.
The trail is pretty easy to find. And Google Maps can almost get you there. I say “almost,” because it told me I’d arrived about 100 yards before I actually had. A dotted line on screen. Telling me, I think, to fly over the trees to reach my destination. But thankfully I continued around the bend and there before me was the sign and the parking lot.
If you follow this blog or my social media. You probably have gotten the idea that I enjoy hiking and taking photos. So for me the Calusa Heritage Trail was quite enjoyable. And I think that, other than the mound stairs and one relatively long grassy area, most of my could enjoy it too. Well… as long as you like walking, with a little bit of history thrown in like I do.
There are no crumbling forts or ancient structures to see here. Only some large piles of tree covered dirt, lots of nature, wildlife, and information markers telling you what once was. So it takes a little bit more imagination than some historical locations. But if your on Pine Island, in Cape Coral, or near Fort Myers… and your looking for something a little different than another day on the beach. Then I’d recommend giving it a little bit of your time. I’m glad I did.
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