Nature Walks – Winter Walks in Florida
I’m a hiker. Have been one since my early 20’s when I first bought a backpack and started walking the trails in the Pacific Northwest. Some four decades later, I’m still a hiker, although I’ve slowed down quite a bit in recent years. Still, I can easily manage four to seven miles on the flat sandy trails of Florida.
Florida is a great place to do winter hiking and camping. While I did walks during the sweltering months of late summer last year, it is much more pleasant to walk when the temperatures in the low ’50’s. Other people think so, too, as Princess Place was far more crowded than usual, with a large contingent of equestrians, other walkers, campers, fishermen, and people bringing in their canoes and kayaks. As a consequence with all increase in human activity, there were fewer birds to be seen. Still, I had a pleasant walk, combining a couple of the hiking trails in a longer loop without moving my vehicle.
Winter in Florida is also when the flowers start. Yesterday, I visited another favorite place, Washington Oaks Gardens State Park. The founder and designer of the garden, Mrs. Young, planted a lot of camellias and azaleas, which are just now coming into joyful bloom. The gardens include shubberies, huge spreading laurel oaks, numerous ponds and trails, as well as a formal enclosed rose garden. I took a turn through the formal gardens, and hiked the Beau Vista Nature Trail, as well. If you are ever in this part of Florida, the park is well worth the visit. I come every couple of weeks or so, as there are always new blossoms and sights to see as the seasons change.
The Coquina Beach of Washington Oaks is now open, again. The beach was demolished by a super storm surge during Hurricane Matthew. The storm surge moved inland to the edge of the oak hammock on the western side of the barrier island. It took months to replenish the basic dunes, clear the parking lot and clean the beach. Fortunately, I had walked this part of the Atlantic Beaches long before the hurricane. Its appearance has changed quite a bit. While the coquina rock outcroppings seem to have been buried in one area, to the south, there is a huge pile of rock further to the north. It is fun to clamber around on the rocks, but wear some sturdy shoes as the rocks are tough on bare feet. Low tide is best for exploring the tide pools and rock formations. This is NOT a swimming beach as there are rock reefs hidden below the water just off shore. For those of you unfamiliar with coquina, it is a form of limestone created by crushed shells. In the past, it has been used as a basic building material. The Lodge at Princess Place is an example of coquina construction. I do believe the old quarries for coquina stone have been closed and the beach rocks are now protected.
Traveling north on A1A, I also stopped by the Sea to River Preserve, yet another Flagler County Park. This park has a couple of ponds, as well as access to the Intercoastal Waterway. There are numerous walking loops available, as well as nooks and crannies holding picnic tables. When I last visited, the main trail was not accessible due to flooding, but the flooding has long since subsided. The trails are in good shape. A picnic pavilion and restrooms are available closer to the parking lot off of A1A. This park is within the city limits of Marineland.
Having walked over eight miles in the last couple of days, I feel pleasantly tired. There is some weather coming in tonight as a cold front approaches, leading to the inevitable thunderstorms and showers that frequent Florida. Time to wrap up in a cozy blanket and read a good book.
Enjoy your weekend wherever you might be,
All Rights Reserved, 2012-17, Eliza Ayres, http://www.bluedragonjournal.com
Photo Credits: Princess Place Preserve, Washington Oaks Gardens, Sea to River Preserve, Flagler County, Florida