It’s Saturday so I’m not going out on the river today. Even yesterday was too many people. Instead I take an early morning hike over to the spring on what is known as the Wet to Dry Trail. I’m walking it from Dry at the campground to Wet at the spring. The dry section is the Long Leaf pine habitat that I’ve talked about in previous posts from Silver Springs. This habitat once covered the entire southeast but is now rare with serious attempts at restoration which require fire.
The first section from the campground to the road has not been burned recently. It is the home of white tailed deer and gopher tortoises although I don’t see either this morning. I do see fledgling pines and big cones.
Hard to imagine that this little tree will some day make these big cones.
When I get to the park road, I find I’m not the only one wanting to cross over. This fella had two girls he was constantly trying to impress.
The other side of the road shows that this dry trail is marked with both orange and white trail markers. The white is the main park trail which is 13.5 miles long. The orange is a 5.3 mile hike that I’m interested in hiking maybe tomorrow. This section has obviously had a recent burn.
But the ferns are jumping up all over the place. In a month this area will look totally different. So many plants respond very positively to fire.
I’m getting closer to the “wet” part of the trail when I see the area is not burned. The habitat here is different. It is a hardwood hammock with bromeliads, reptiles and amphibians.
Wetter still is the area requiring a boardwalk to hike through it. I leave the sandy trail and walk further into the forest.
The boardwalk takes me right to the spring which unfortunately is blocked by this totally ugly orange net fencing. It appears a piece of the cement walkway has cracked and has yet to be repaired.
I’m very surprised to see a swimmer out this early in the morning. He and I are the only ones here. The color of the spring water is just wonderful.
At one point I can look down just to the edge of the boat launch in the far distance. No one is on the water.
Turns out there are two swimmers, a man and a woman and they appear to be swimming around and around the spring doing various strokes. They are both very fine strong swimmers. I really admire that ability. I can swim but I could use some serious stroke evaluation.
We all hear the thunder which is Florida’s serious warning that rain is imminent. They get out of the water and I head back down the trail at a hustle since I have nothing to protect my camera.
I make it back before the down pour. David is up now. Time for breakfast.
Once it stops raining in the afternoon we both walk back down the same trail to the spring. We don’t take our suits knowing that there will be more people there than we enjoy but it’s good to be outside and few people walk from the spring to the campground. For reasons I don’t understand, most campers drive over.
Walking the campground road to the trail we come upon a mass of mistletoe that has apprently been blown out of the tree in the storm. Too bad it isn’t Yuletide.
Wonder who will eat the berries?
On the way we see things I didn’t see just this morning.
The burned palmetto is already putting out its new “flowers”. To look at that black you would think the plant would have to be dead.
We both commented that the burned fronds remind us of Native American art.
Along the boardwalk I spy jack in the pulpit. This early spring ephemeral is common in the eastern mountains but I never expected to see it here.
More interesting fungi at our feet.
As we expected, the crowds return after the rain. They pour in down the hill from the parking lot. We watch for a while and then head back.
More interesting things on that same section of trail I have walked 4 times today. Racking up the steps.
Many of the palmetto fronds are burned down only so far and then the green remains. In time, the brown will fall off and a strange little green fan trimmed in yellow will remain.
Boy were we surprised to see such an attack of this grass. Any entomologists out there who can tell us who these guys are?
And even stranger a slightly different looking group all over this dead frond.
Once we cross the road to the trail to the campground we see another gopher tortoise having lunch? Dinner? Maybe they just eat all the time. It’s amazing that s/he doesn’t seem to care that we are standing right there watching those chomping jaws.
I can’t get a picture of the chewing action going on here but look at that tongue.
The rarest thing we’ve seen today is this. I can imagine Alaskans see a lot of Florida plates among others since I’ve been hearing lots of RVers talking about going there. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen an Alaska plate in Florida.
Just goes to show you can walk a good trail many times in the course of one day and always see something new and even unusual.