Nature Walks – OMG, it’s almost…!
Hmmm, where did November go? In a couple of days December will show its young face and we go into an entirely different energy. It’s been intense hasn’t it! I’ve spent a few days doing nothing much and then the next day have plenty of energy to gallivant around a bit.
Yesterday, I wandered off to the nearby Princess Place Preserve to see how the post-storm clean-up is coming along. I can report that there has been great progress, all the roads and many of the trails are cleared, at least roughly. As I drove and walked around the Preserve I made some observations: The preserve lies parallel to Marineland and is only sheltered from the ocean by the merest strip of low-lying barrier island. Consequently, much of the preserve’s marsh took a near full brunt storm surge. I found some dried marsh grass on the decking of a bridge where the high spot is a good four feet above the surrounding marshlands. Some of the large live oaks towards the eastern part of the preserve were knocked over; crews are still working to clear downed trees, stacks and stacks of cut lumber and brush are awaiting removal by debris trucks (i.e., the “claw” trucks). Too bad there aren’t some wood-working nuts around here willing to take on some good oak lumber; it makes outstanding furniture and work pieces, being a heavy, densely grained wood. And there are acres of the stuff being piled up in the local landfills / recycle zones around the county.
I managed to get a couple of hikes done yesterday, since I was willing and able to jump / hop over a few downed branches still remaining here and there and already knew the routes from before the storm. The trails are well marked with colored signs, so it’s just basically walking on a grassy strip from sign to sign, although the soil changes to pure sand from time to time. It’s pretty obvious that the little “hills” are really ancient sand dunes that were colonized by various stages of flora, until becoming the oak and hardwood forest that dominates the preserve.
As I walked through one section of oak woods, I noticed there was at least three, perhaps four different kinds of oaks. I could identify for certain the following: Live oak, Turkey oak and Water oak. Long-leaf pine grows in some of the timber and there is a variety of undergrowth, including Sparkleberry, a colorful cousin of the huckleberry, which attracts bears and birds to its small black berries.
My presence flushed three white-tailed deer from their grazing and into deeper cover; it was pretty obvious that few people other than the clean-up crews had ventured into some parts of the preserve for several weeks. I also saw sign of feral pigs, with their bulldozer digging up turf and dirt across the trail, especially in damper areas and some tiny, crisp hoof prints. I could not get across one stretch of marsh as the trail was still under water; apparently the storm surge left some large puddles where the soft soil slumps between mounds of brush and grass.
I managed to drive to one of my favorite spots, Moody Cut, which has a pleasant little picnic area and great open views of the marsh looking out towards the east, south and north. I could clearly see some of the taller buildings near Marineland… I think they’re some condos but couldn’t vouch for it. Florida is a funny mix of wild and tame.
Walking on the Creekside Trail, with good views of Pellicer and Stiles Creek, I could see the strong westerly wind pushing up white caps on the open creek. The tide was still high, with water lapping against the shoreline. It was very refreshing to feel the breeze, which helps in keeping down the mosquitoes. The bugs were back since the temperatures have begin to warm, again, but not as unpleasant as in September. All in all, it was a nice day and for a Sunday, I was surprised not to see more people around. I counted less than ten cars in the main parking area, that with picnickers and visitors walking around. I didn’t see any other people on my various walks… just the odd bird or two in the marsh areas or flying overhead and the deer that I startled. Fortunately the wild pigs stay hidden in the brush during the day. And finally spotted this lovely white dingy with a young family venturing out onto Pellicer Creek, which has a six-mile canoe trail.
This week the temperatures are going to edge into the low ’80’s degree F, something that feels a little odd to this long-time northerner… but agreeable, all the same, as I can get out and enjoy the area or do gardening without needing my wellies and a rain jacket. It actually hasn’t rained for a couple of weeks here. Florida seems to have two weather conditions, sunny or raining. Most of the time, there are scattered clouds and little rain or just the odd wandering shower. I’ve gotten a light tan simply by being out in the sun during my walks; I certainly don’t have to work at it. Getting plenty of Vitamin D this winter season!
The intensity of personal and collective clearings will continue so keep cognizant of your health, getting enough rest and light exercise as you can handle. I’m allowing a huge flexibility in my “schedule” so I can adapt to how I’m feeling in the moment. Being retired does have its benefits.
Enjoy the holiday season. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s all one to me, not having family and all, but I can appreciate the deeper meaning of the season, a time to integrate, celebrate and enjoy the quiet hush before the onset of a new year. Actually, the Gregorian calendar doesn’t make any sense to me any more. I rather flow with the seasons and the ebb / flow of light during the day light hours. I’ll catch onto this Florida thing if I spend much more time here… The only thing here to suggest the season was the Yaupon Holly, with its tiny bright red berries, all the Christmas decoration I need to lighten the spirit.
Blessings and love to all,
All Rights Reserved, Eliza Ayres, http://www.bluedragonjournal.com
Photo Credits: All from Princess Place Preserve, Flagler County, Florida