Before we started Wild Heart Ecojourneys, I was studying environmental science & biology at Eastern Michigan University. After graduation, I packed about a month's worth of clothes, my fishing gear, my longboard and headed south on Interstate 75 for the beach and the palm trees.
I had a friend living in Bonita that said I could crash on his couch and vacation while he attended university. On my third day (after visiting Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary) I was applying for employment and continuously interested in every plant and animal southwest Florida would reveal to me.
When I met Ian, the first conversation we had was all about animals. I knew I was in the right state for finding wildlife! We worked together for a non-profit and shared a tiny dorm room on the third floor. One day, after work, I mentioned that it would be "cool" to start our own eco-touring company. Little did I know, Ian already had a name in mind, Wild Heart Ecojourneys.
So it began. We were constantly out in the western everglades (even more that we were for our day jobs), scouting and finding prime locations for photography and sight seeing. We also started giving complimentary tours to our close friends to get a feel on how to provide fun, informative experiences.
One day, Ian told me about this big cypress tree in the middle of Picayune Strand State Forest. I had to check it out to see how big this thing really was. Along the way, I encountered an abundance of birds and a huge alligator right at the entrance of the park. I saw so many animals that day I almost forgot about this big tree I was trying to find. I didn't even know exactly where this tree was but I figured one tree out of 78,000 acres... how hard could it be.
When I got out of the Jeep, I started walking in the general direction of where the tree was supposed to be, where we previously scouted via Google Earth. The trail became waist deep with water and I could practically swim. That's my kind of trail! I was so focused on looking down into the water for alligators that by the time i looked up, it was right in front of me. I knew I was in the right location... That's a BIG Tree!
I knew right away this was a special place, a needle in a haystack find. Getting to this tree is like stepping back in time 700 years. You are truly surrounded by pristine wilderness.