HAPPY SPRING EQUINOX
Spring Equinox this year Bring on the longer days and sunshine but not toooo hot.
Spring Equinox is the time of balance between the light and the dark.
It has felt very dark to me since November 8 and I am very ready for a journey out of that dark.
To mark the day I put on my special shirt which I hope you can read and hike a section of the Florida Trail. I’ve been finding little bits and pieces of it at some of the state parks we stay in and always try to hike them. The Florida National Scenic Trail is a 1300 mile hiking trail that stretches the length of Florida from the Southern trailhead at Big Cypress National Preserve where we have hiked to the Northern Terminus at the Gulf Islands National Seashore near Pensacola where we have also hiked. It is one of only 11 congresionally designated scenic Trails in the United States. The Florida Trail Association began the trail near here in the Ocala National Forest in 1966 and continues to work closing the still existing gaps in this long trail through a very populous state. I’m amazed at their continuing effort.
In my resarch on this section I read that the trail head is across the damn dam and that I should park in the parking lot and walk up and over to it.. In my research on this I find that to walk from the campground would add 2.5 miles to this hike and to walk from the parking lot adds over a mile.. The hike is 8 miles so instead I drive over the dam, look around and park on the far side with the fishermen. I’m not sure where the trailhead is but I follow the orange blazes on the utility poles.
Here’s Ruby looking back at the main part of the dam. By the time I get to the trailhead and look back, I can’t even see Ruby. It was another half mile from my parking place.
Here’s the trail head and there is a truck parked where I should have parked and where you should if you ever come to Rodman Campground to see what Marjorie Harris Carr tried to save and walk the Florida Trail.
So by now I have 3/4 of a mile on my pedometer and I finally enter the woods beside the reservoir created by the damn dam.
Not sure what “recreational use” this reservoir is since nearly 60 years after it was put in the drowned trees are sticking up all over it making it dangerous for any motorized boats. Trees line the dam wall and the shores of the reservoir from where they have been uprooted.
It isn’t a very pretty sight.
But as nature will do, she takes my mind off of all this man created mess with an osprey yelling over my head. We call back and forth a couple of times and then s/he flies out to a nest platform in the lake and calls from there
S/he doesn’t look all that happy. After the fly off, I quit calling so I hope it isn’t me that’s the target of this.
The Ocala National Forest which I am now walking through has many Grimms Fairy Tale looking spots with Spanish Moss hanging down creating dark tunnels.
As I move away from the lake and into the Scrub Pine Forest habitat, I come upon the first of MANY forest roads that cross the Florida Trail here in the National Forest. The first of these is one of the ATV trails that is part of what is known as the Rodman Trail system. Thank goodness it is a Monday and not a weekend or the noise level from those would seriously impact the wonderful serenity all around me.
I’m not very far into my hike when I pass what turns out to be the only bench on this section of the trail. Great idea for the use of a downed tree. I try it out and proclaim it very fine.
The sand pines are getting taller with an understory of scrub oaks.
Oh dear, now what do I do, I’m over two miles into the hike when I come to what looks not like and ATV road or a regular Forest Service road but a fire break. My first clue is that across it the soil is all black and there is a red plastic piece of hazzard tape on the ground as though it had once been blocking the path.
I go across to investigate. Having spent over two weeks at Rainbow Springs beginning the day after they burned the entire park around the campground, my nose can tell this fire is days old.
I see these guys are back to business as usual on the trail so it’s clear the ground is no longer hot. I make the executive decision to continue on.
I do pass one smoking hole and walk up a little closer to see what’s going on.
It’s a root still flaming but with no probability of escaping its confines which is clearly why the forest service left it as the park service at Rainbow did with similar things we saw on hikes there.
Further on, there is hazard tape at the Forest Road on both sides but I continue.
I’ve walked under a mile through the burned area when I cross another fire break and it’s all past. This is a lovely section of the trail and the last of the scrub area before I move into the fantastic Long Leaf Pine area.
The understory is wide open. These are the forests that once covered nearly all the southeast before they were clearcut for “wise use”.
There are small long leaf all around. I am so happy to see them. Soft light filters through the pines and dapples the forest floor.
Just look at the length of those needles. I shake this one’s hand and wish him a long life and perfect health.
Another source of joy on this Equinox Day is the sight of these white bands around some of the Long Leaf pine trees. There are 4 in this picture. They represent trees which have been marked as having evidence of the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, now an endangered species from lack of habitat due to the devastation of its only dwelling place. He’s going to be in big trouble if the Endangered List is eliminated as I have heard is on the list for the scraping of the EPA
The pines are immense, raising like columns to the sky. Such a huge cathedral. My camera cannot capture the ground and the tree tops in one picture.
Sadly for me, I didn’t see or hear the Red-cockaded but here is a picture from Bird of North America. He sure is handsome but that seems like a silly name for a woodpecker with a fine black cap since the red cockade for which the bird is named is a small patch of feathers behind the eye of the male, that is very hard to see in the field if you can even find the bird.
Who decides these things and keeps changing the names?.
Tall Long Leaf Pines as far as I can see with an understory of wire grass. This is ideal habitat for the woodpecker which needs mature pine woods (trees 80-100 or more years old), with very open understory maintained by frequent fires (the pines are fire-resistant).
More white strips, this time 6 in one area.
I spy several cactus in the grasses. That really surprised me when I first came to Florida.
From the pines I pass into an area of very large Live Oaks and palmetto.
This oak is so large that I cannot get a picture of its enormous canopy no matter how far away I get. Majestic is the only word for such a venerable being.
I’m hoping a Florida native can tell me what kind of fruit this is that I find on the ground underneath a medium size tree covered with them.
I was hoping on this section to see or at least hear not only the Red-cockaded woodpecker but the Florida Black Bear which is known to live is this area. The best I could do is see clear evidence that both are here even if unfortunately out of sight. Convenient of the bear to leave evidence right ON the trail.
I’m actually shocked when I see the little trailer through the trees. It’s the white spot on the left. Clearer in person than in this picture. I’ve obviously reached my destination, the Lake Delancy West Campground. I’m earlier than I predicted by nearly an hour.
So I wait for David to come pick me up and chat with these inadvertent camp hosts.
They were in Florida from Michigan and bent the axel of their popup and were stranded here when they were offered this host spot which is very hard to fill becasue of the noise of the ATVers who us this campground for the trails nearby.
While I’m waiting I hear several sandhill cranes calling and follow the sound until I locate this campground visitor. When he stands up tall to look around, he’s significantly taller than the picnic table. This is a big bird.
Even his back is taller than the seats.
David eventually comes after some self induced difficulty but I add another 2 miles and 2 hours to my trip exploring the campground and enjoying the crane.
My total for the day was 23,944 steps and 9.44 miles.
As I walked these steps, I thought about the beauty I was seeing and the significance of this day.
Spring Equinox always brings to my mind nature’s resilience after the harshness of winter, in most places. Carrie lives in Severn Maryland. She wrote today to say that this has seemed like a very long winter. Although I haven’t had to experience the cold and literal dark, these days have seemed dark and harsh. Even though I don’t watch the news, you can’t live and know nothing about the jaw dropping events that seem to occur every day now.
We need Nature’s resilience amidst the struggle. Hopefully beauty will emerge and the threats to our values and safety will decrease as the light increasingly shines on these fear mongers with no moral values. My greatest hope today is that a very new life for all beings will be born from this struggle. I hope we are coming out of the dark before the rebirth into a time of loving and caring for each other and the Earth from which all life springs.
HAPPY SPRING EQUINOX