Tuesday February 24 and Wednesday February 25th, 2015
Collier-Seminole State Park
TUESDAY February 24
If it’s Tuesday it’s time for the weekly blood draw. We drive about 12 miles to the Florida Cancer Specialists office on Collier Drive. This blood draw is a weekly one to make sure the cancer drugs are not adversely affecting anything else. The results will be out tomorrow but we don’t expect anything but the usual white blood cells, red blood cells hemoglobin a little low and a couple of other things a little high. The cancer specific numbers are only done once a month. Two weeks from now.
This southern western end of Florida is undergoing a big building boom. The streets, including Route 41, the Tamiami Trail, are torn up all over and the native vegetation is being bull dozed everywhere for more apartments, medical facilities and shopping areas to go up in the flat no vegetation that remains.
I go inside with David but he’s going to have to wait. The air conditioning is so high I am freezing so I came back outside to wait in the car and notice an area across the street that has not been yanked clean yet. It is about a block long and so I go over to walk along next to it and wish it well. As I walk I see a path going along one side so after going to the end of the side facing the office, I turned around, came back and walk down the path along the perpendicular side. There are a couple of places where I can step inside the jungle. And that’s what it is a wonderful jungle of trees and plants. It is dark and thick. No way to walk in further to order to get to the few sunny spots I can see further inside. I do notice some very tall trees with gray shaggy bark and think they might be some sort of sycamore but their leaves are so far above me, I can’t see them. These are tall trees fighting for their piece of the sun.
I feel so much better just walking next to this spot of Natural Florida than being on the street or in the office or its pristine parking lot. I hope the apartment complex I find at the back of this plot owns it and will leave it natural as a sound and visual barrier to the ugliness going up in its place. I wonder if I’m the only one who sees the beauty in this wild tangle of pines, palmettos, palms and perhaps sycamores. Wish I’d brought my camera with me to record this oasis in the middle of a commercial desert.
Back at Winnona I make another round of hummus for our lunch sandwiches. David thaw out the dough for another pizza. When I make the pizza dough I make enough for two and then freeze one so it’s a fairly quick dinner.
It is so yummy that David eats all of his half and these are the two pieces left for me to have for lunch on another day. Looking forward to that!
The weather has improved greatly these last few days. We’ve been able to sleep with our windows open as the day time temperatures near 80 and the evenings are in the low 60’s. Judy has asked about the mosquitoes. So far so good. We don’t often have mosquito troubles in the “winter” in Florida but if it warms into the 80’s they will be out. If so, then there is no sitting outside after dusk unless you are around a campfire. We had no problem in the mangroves on our paddle yesterday but I would not want to be there in a few months. That’s for sure.
WEDNESDAY February 25
Today is Adventure Trail day.
There are 3 trails here at Collier Seminole. I’ve walked the Royal Palm trail nearly daily since we’ve been in the park. It’s part of my “steps” routine.
Last Thursday we hiked the 3.5 mile trail and saw a fabulous diamond backed rattle snake. (click here if you’d like to see that post).
Today we are going to take on the 6.5 mile trail known as the Adventure Trail. We’ve been told to be prepared for mud and maybe even swamp walking. YES!!
The trailhead for this is located 7/10th of a mile south of the park. We check in with the ranger station before we go. They give us a parking pass, record the time we have left and give us the combination for the lock which bars the road. When we return, they take the parking pass so they know not to send someone looking for us.
I unlock the gate and David drives through. I lock the gate behind us and we drive to the parking area. There are two other cars here but we never see another soul all day long.
The trail is a loop and can be hiked in its entirety by following the yellow and orange blazes. Or you can hike to one of the points where it insects the park service road and take the road back. That must be what the other folks did we think. Not sure why an “Indian Village” is marked on here since we saw nothing that indicated there was such a thing.
We take the trail going counter clockwise. We skip the trail to the backpacking camp since it will add another mile and if there were someone there, we would not want to disturb them.
This trail is part of the Florida National Scenic Trail, one of 11 long distance hiking trails in the country. It currently runs 1000 with 1300 miles being planned. It begins inside Big Cypress Swamp south of us and ends at Gulf Islands National Seashore on the far western end of the Panhandle. As we begin the hike, and see the logo we think it’s a quite clever arrow.
Throughout the day, in the grassy open sections of the trail, we find many lovely wildflowers. I’ve not made an attempt to identify them. I just enjoy their beauty and color.
There are varied habitats along the trail and places where it is barely wide enough to walk. We weave in and out of open grasslands and fern lined paths through tall pines.
We’re at this spot approaching mile two when something races across our path and up a tree to our left. It has a big bushy tail and is the color of a fox. But foxes don’t climb trees, do they? But it’s way bigger than a squirrel.
In these pictures his tail is curled around the tree out of view. It’s really long and busy. Probably at least as long as his body.
We stand absolutely still and watch him for a long time. He watches us. Eventually he comes down the tree and sits on top of a stump still studying us. All of a sudden he literally bounds across the trail in front of us exactly like a fox and through the tall grasses, tail flying. He scurries up a tree further away from which he again faces down and watches us.
We’ve never seen such a creature and have no idea who he is until I come back and google ‘large squirrel in Everglades’. I find out he’s a unique species of the Fox Squirrel called the Big Cypress Fox Squirrel. At one time he was hunted almost to extinction but in 1972 he was listed as a state designated threatened species and he and his habitat are now protected.
We are still in the fairly open habitat and sparse understory the Big cypress Fox Squirrel prefers when we come to mile marker two. Not too far along I find a nice bench and call it a lunch spot. It’s after noon by now.
We continue on when right on the path I see a gopher tortoise. This is her favorite habitat too. Again we stop, stand still and watch her. She’s munching on grasses along side the trail. After a bit, she turns around and walks straight toward us.
She’s coming right to me and is so close I can only shoot a picture down on her.
She brushes right against my shoe. I don’t move. I can feel the pressure. On she goes past David and then she turns and goes off into the grass again. Interesting that she did not turn out into the grass before she passed us. Look how big she is.
She leaves; we leave. We all go on with our business. What fun!
In the trees I can hear the red bellied woodpecker. I manage to find him twice on two different trees or perhaps it is two different birds. One of these pictures is not as clear as the other but I wanted to show his tan face which I have never seen up close before. I hope it’s clear enough for you to see.
As we’ve been walking along, we have crossed the service road about 5 times. Each of these crossings is an opportunity to take a short cut back to the trailhead and the car. After we cross the last one it becomes clear that this section of the trail is not used as much or maintained with any frequency. It’s a serious jungle and I love it.
It soon becomes clear that either the spiders in this neck of the woods are super fast web builders or no one else has been on this trail today as whichever one of us is in the lead is walking through webs. I get a stick and walk along with it out in front of me. I’m sorry to destroy all their hard work but there really isn’t much of a way to go around them if you can even see them before you walk through them. I turn around so David can take a picture of me with my web stick. Notice the dark color at the base of the cypress in the foreground. Clearly the water is sometimes this deep. We were hoping………. but then again, this is winter, Florida’s dry season.
The trail has many obstacles that are much more difficult for the not vertically challenged.
And some that are just mere gates to push on through.
There is a trail in there. I just went through on it. Poor David.
We get to a welcome hardwood hammock where things open up and there are big trees to hug.
We’ve expected to be in mud and water by now and the cypress knees growing right in the path attest to the fact that usually this area is wet. Notice the trail markers on the tree. Turn left now.
Milepost 5. David is taking notes. Notice his web stick.
We are past mile 5 on what we thought was the home stretch of a dry trail with no mud and no swamp walking. And then….
Oppps! Well that wasn’t the sort of swamp walking or swimming we had in mind but things happen.
OK my turn to be in front of the camera. But not for long. Who trusts their camera to a guy who falls off logs? LOL
We burst out laughing when after all the mud we see the bridge over the only thing that might be real swamp walking here, at least at this time of year.
David says he thinks this is Palm Wednesday. The palms and other greenery which have been placed over the mud really do help.
As we are walking down the palm covered mud path I hear an osprey overhead. Once I’m on solid ground I look around and find him with some delicious morsel he’s munching on.
From here we are about half a mile from the trail head. There’s no one left in the parking lot when we return. It’s definitely been an Adventure Hike.