Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God: But only he who sees takes off his shoes. —
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
In honor of the Victorian poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, who met after a long correspondence on May 20, 1845…and began one of the most celebrated love affairs in history. After much wooing, Browning finally convinced a shy and skeptical Barrett that he loved her “for naught except for love’s sake only.”
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I readily admit that my sense of direction is horrible. Which makes wanting to explore the more off-beaten trails a bit…difficult, to my family’s tremendous concern. There’s a lot of backtracking! But in visiting these places, a vision of natural Florida is allowed — and it’s divine.
Outside of the *ridiculous* number of gargantuan mosquitoes that swarmed as I carefully crept into this lovely swamp, it was a treat. I only hope that any human male who shows an interest in me in the future, will also understand my occasional mosquito attacks (not pretty). And the spider bites. And occasional wasp stings. I should seriously consider paramedics or forest rangers as potential dating material.
A still-dry cypress swamp in the Cypress Creek Natural Area
I recently hiked through one of my favorite habitats, a hardwood swamp. Various hardwood trees and a mixture of hardwoods and Cypress can be found here, including Water hickory, Holly, Maples, Oaks, Cabbage palms and Bay trees, accompanied by a dense understory of vines, ferns and herbaceous plants. Hardwood swamps occur on floodplains or upland areas that are lower than the surrounding area. And it’s home to so much life — the sounds coming from the trees were just lovely.
Looking up into the canopy of the hardwood swamp
Yet another breathtakingly beautiful Florida habitat to witness and love — and above all else, protect and preserve.
On the heels of Earth Day, I wanted to share an *internal* vision of one of the few remaining cypress swamps lining the Everglades…. It’s part of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, and I spend much time there — and you can probably see why. It’s utterly beautiful. Just magnificent. We’re tentatively leaving the dry season here in South Florida (our daily afternoon rains haven’t quite started — that will be May), but the swamp is slowly coming into its glory, thanks to some plentiful April rainfall.
Cypress Swamp, Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
Like most of Florida’s cypress, this area was thoroughly logged in the ’40s — so while the trees aren’t first-generation cypress, they’re beautiful nonetheless — and thankfully, they’re now protected by various federal and state agencies! In this swamp, among the bald and pond cypress there are also pond apple trees, as well as different species of ferns, some twice as large as I stand. It’s just magical. I always picture this land covered by such a vista…. Which, in the human timeline, wasn’t that long ago.
A dense vista
This wetland habitat supports an incredible amount of life, although much less than it did in years past. Butterflies, alligator, snakes, frogs, bobcats, otter, birds of every variety, and raptors make their homes here. Larger predators, including panther and bear, would have freely roamed. And it’s fantastic: You may HEAR the Great-horned owl, but try finding him. If you’re not quiet and gentle out there — and observant — you’ll miss everything.
Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonius)
A Southern leopard frog just missed his meal ticket of a dragonfly, but hasn’t given up… Using his PERFECT camouflage
A Red-bellied Cooter sunning on a fallen log in the swamp = JOY!
A well-hidden and quite harmless Black racer tries to sleep
Looking up into the beautiful young cypress trees of the swamp
National Park Week 2013, Courtesy of the National Park Service
National Park Week is April 20-28, 2013 — So walk, meander, run, bike, or trail-ride your way to your nearest one! Admission to every national park is FREE Monday through Friday.
Love your national parks, national wildlife refuges, and national forests — numbering more than 2,000 — and continue to support them by your mere presence (especially now). And above all else, bask in the beauty of these wondrous spaces!
A Great blue heron rests in the Everglades of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
Heading into the dappled cypress swamp along the boardwalk in the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
The cypress swamp in winter of the Big Cypress National Preserve
The remaining entrance fee-free dates for 2013 are:
- August 25 (National Park Service Birthday, or Pre-FeyGirl Birthday)
- September 28 (National Public Lands Day)
- November 9-11 (Veterans Day weekend)
Everglades Poster Celebrating Marjory Stoneman Douglas
The first-ever EVERGLADES DAY is this Sunday, April 7…. Fantastic! Many thanks to all of those who worked so hard to make this a legislative priority, highlighting and escalating issues surrounding the Everglades, as well as renewing the area’s restoration efforts. What a perfect time to visit and explore the ‘glades — and love this beautifully vital, rare, but endangered and always-threatened ecosystem. Check out the link below for events from Miami to Naples to West Palm Beach!
From the Everglades Foundation:
The first official Everglades Day will be celebrated on April 7, 2013. In addition to recognizing what an important resource this ecosystem is, not only to the state of Florida, but to America, the day will also honor Everglades activist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, as it is designated to be held on her birthday.
The Florida Legislature voted in favor of an Everglades Day on March 7, 2012. From a National Parks Conservation Association press release: “The state’s support for an official Everglades Day will ensure that the Everglades ecosystem remains a top priority for elected officials and all Floridians while honoring Douglas’s legacy for protecting the River of Grass. . . Each time we turn dirt on an Everglades restoration project, we are protecting our drinking water supply, creating jobs and fulfilling a promise to protect our national parks, wildlife, and family memories….”
Some of the sights from one of the event locations, Grassy Waters:
Love and respect this place. Please.
Everglades Vista Along the Hog Hammock Trail
From Audubon Florida:
The Sugar Industry has launched an effort to further weaken Everglades cleanup efforts, load more of the expenses on the taxpayers, and have the Legislature attempt to nullify an important part of Florida’s Constitution. Your voice is needed right now to protect the Everglades — send a letter using the form below.
The House State Affairs Committee will act TOMORROW, Thursday, March 7 on a yet-unnumbered bill the Sugar industry has drafted. This bad bill attempts to insulate Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) farmers from having to do anything more to pay for or clean up their own pollution by codifying in law a dubious claim that Best management Practices (BMPs) are effectively reducing phosphorus pollution.
If the bill passes, the Everglades loses and you lose. Take action right now by sending a letter using the form below….
Click the Audubon Florida link here, to access more info and sign your name against “Sugar’s poison pill.” Help protect this already severely threatened, valuable ecosystem — the only one of its kind on the planet!
Great Egret in Grassy Waters — historically a key component of the Everglades watershed
Cypress Swamp of the Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades