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A Heavenly Hardwood Swamp

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.”

* * *

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.

Cypress Swamp, Cypress Creek Natural Area, Florida

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.

Hardwood Swamp, Cypress Creek Natural Area, Florida

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.

60 Comments Post a comment
  1. jimbey #

    …. It is *very* easy to get lost there – but what a place to get lost! That’s funny about the mosquitoes – I have yet to get my first bite of the year. Must be all the milkweed I’ve been eating – my blood is TOXIC! (just kidding)

    May 21, 2013
    • LOL… Yep, my all-natural, non-DEET repellant seemed to make those mosquitoes just laugh. 🙂 As soon as I stepped into the swamp, I was nearly yelling…what the…!?!? But of course I stayed.

      May 21, 2013
  2. May I suggest a low tech compass or a high tech GPS unit, and insect repellent.

    May 21, 2013
    • LOL… Yes, that is a wise suggestion, and I had both. Two compasses and my all-natural, non-DEET repellant that brought loads of laughter from our Everglades mosquitoes. 🙂

      I *AM* on the hunt for a hiking GPS unit, though… Any suggestions are helpful! Researching them has been a bit of a bear!

      May 21, 2013
      • I have a DeLorme PN 40, it’s OK, but it isn’t user friendly for a non-geek, and battery life is the pits. I haven’t looked at them lately to see if they have become easier to use. I just had mine down pat, then I had to do a firmware update to enable it to work with the newest maps, and everything changed as far as how it functions, and I haven’t spent the time with it to learn it all over again.

        May 21, 2013
      • Oh, and of course the firmware update that changed everything didn’t come with any instructions at all as far as all the new menus and options, which has lengthened the learning curve considerably.

        May 21, 2013
      • Ugh, that doesn’t help the user-friendly issue!! I’m definitely in the non-geek class (NOT the math / engineer type, to put it politely), so I’ll probably need another brand. But thanks for the info! The search begins anew….

        May 21, 2013
      • I just had an idea, you may want to see if you can download the user manuals of several current models and browse through them to see how user friendly they are. Mine is 5 years old, I’m sure that the newer models are better.

        May 21, 2013
      • That’s a great idea — thanks! And I bet Consumer Reports has something out there, rating them on this particular feature. I hope. 😉

        May 21, 2013
  3. when i was very young, i got lost in the woods; after that i seemed to keep an internal compass working at all times!

    we don’t have the fogs of mosquitoes like in the southern usa.. of course the mosquitoes here carry dengue and malaria, so we have to be on guard for even one.

    z

    May 21, 2013
    • Heh… I sure wish I had that internal compass! I grew up on a tropical island, where I got lost more than once in dense island vegetation. Ocean! Where’s the ocean?! 🙂

      Oh definitely, we’ve had malaria scares here as well. But my all-natural, non-DEET repellant seemed to make our Everglades mosquitoes just laugh. I should have known. And yet, I stayed. Sheesh.

      May 21, 2013
  4. Enjoy, protect, preserve and, luckily, find ones way out of, which I assume you did as you have put this post up 🙂

    May 21, 2013
    • Exactly! And the best ones really are a bit out of the way, aren’t they…? (Which this one was, wink.) 🙂

      May 21, 2013
  5. I imagine you will meet a forest-ranging-tree-hugging poet who loves the forest swamps as much as you do. Then, neither of you will care at all about insect bites.

    May 21, 2013
    • Hahahah — I love it! You’re the best. 🙂 What do they say about visualization and manifestation…? Let’s hope he has a better sense of direction too, wink.

      May 21, 2013
  6. I always love the mosquitos that lick off the deet before biting. Photos are almost painting-like this time. As for Browning, I had my suspicions that you were an incurable romantic, FeyGirl.

    Curt

    May 21, 2013
    • Those mosquitoes…were…just obscene. Yet, I stubbornly stayed. 🙂

      Ah, Barrett & Browning’s story is just beautiful and amazing, isn’t it? I appreciate his dogged perseverance. I would have *loved* to have met them.

      May 21, 2013
      • Obscene is a polite word for what you were thinking. (grin) I know mosquitoes all too well, from the rainforests of West Africa to the wilds of Alaska. And there is nothing like a high Sierra meadow right after snow melt. An army follows in your wake. My worst experience ever, however, was on the Appalachian Trail through Maine where the mosquitoes were joined by black flies and no-see-ums.

        Curt

        May 21, 2013
      • Oh no…. I’ve only been through their fury a handful of times, and briefly — they’re maddening! I can’t imagine contending with them for any length of time. With all your hiking, I imagine you’ve been through it ALL.

        Our horseflies are also nice. 🙂

        May 21, 2013
      • Horse flies are almost as nasty as they come… almost impossible to kill… and they dive bomb your head. They aren’t quite as tough as Tse Tse flies, however.

        May 21, 2013
      • Oh dear lord.

        May 22, 2013
  7. Terrific views of this swamp and you know how much I love a good swamp.
    I am also a mosquito magnet and got nervous just reading about them 😯
    The ones around here I believe are attracted by insect repellent. ;-(

    May 21, 2013
    • Thanks so much! LOVE a good swamp. Love it!!

      Heh… These mosquitoes were ridiculous. But honestly, I’m in SFLA. The Everglades region. In May. I have no excuse, but that didn’t stop my mouth. 🙂

      I always find it hysterical, in hindsight, when I use my natural insect repellent… It’s just an appetizer for them.

      May 21, 2013
  8. My directions are good, but I never tried a swamp, might be tricky. So beautiful photos, Fey Girll.

    May 21, 2013
    • Since most of our swamps have been dredged up (sadly), they’re few and far between…. But the trail markers can leave much to be desired, sometimes! 🙂

      Thanks so very much!

      May 22, 2013
  9. Ha, I thought I was the queen of mosquitoes! They are considered New Jersey’s state bird!! Loved your photos.

    May 21, 2013
    • Heee, really? Actually, NJ has its share of bogs, doesn’t it? 🙂 Very similar terrain in some areas….

      Thanks so much!

      May 22, 2013
  10. marialla #

    My friend call all those biting busy bodies – fascists! Maybe she is right – they certainly are merciless, aren’t they?

    May 21, 2013
    • Hahahah! I love it! I’ll be thinking of that expression every time I’m out there, now. 🙂 They are as merciless and adamant as they come. I could take a lesson from them (well, perhaps in the latter!).

      May 22, 2013
  11. LOL — that swamp must be full of mosquitoes. Lovely shots.

    May 21, 2013
    • I have a very sad feeling I’ll have to dip into my toxic DEET next time!! 🙂

      Thanks so much….

      May 22, 2013
  12. Wow! I would love to spend some time there! For navigation I’m very spoiled here: good old National Forest maps. I will never trust a GPS: life it too important to me.

    May 22, 2013
    • Oh it’s just gorgeous, these areas. You would have a fantastic time! Unfortunately, for the most part they’re few and far between — humans have dredged up so many of these lovely swamps, so they’re a fraction of their original size.

      I too rely on the maps and markings, but in this case… I ran into a sustained burn, and ooops! Where to go. That’s when my sense gets thrown out of whack even more.

      May 22, 2013
  13. I love that you love, the forest.

    May 22, 2013
    • You’re so kind… It really is a place where I can completely relax, breathe, and ground myself. No surprise, look at what I’m surrounded with! 😉

      May 22, 2013
  14. Reblogged this on Jenathon and commented:
    Reblog

    May 22, 2013
  15. The quote is lovely, as are your pictures. Hahaha I’m sure you’ll find someone who doesn’t mind a mosquito infested swamp one day….I can vouch for the fact that they are out there…one of the first outings I had with my future husband was to a wood where we were attacked by mosquitoes!

    May 23, 2013
    • Thanks so much!! And awww, that’s wonderful — I know they’re out there! You’re so sweet. I just have to be ready for ’em, I think. 🙂 I love the fact that one of your guys’ first outings was a mosquito-infested wood, hahah!!! LOVE it.

      May 23, 2013
  16. Caribbean Biodiversity #

    Excellent info on these habitats. I didn’t know about them.

    May 23, 2013
    • Thanks so much…. You would LOVE these spaces, I just know you would. They’re absolutely magnificent! So very peaceful.

      May 24, 2013
  17. What a beautiful spot you found! There are so many such spots in our wonderful world. It just takes a little effort to find them, a lot of work to save them and a lifetime to enjoy them.

    May 24, 2013
    • What a great commentary… You really did sum it up PERFECTLY. I adore this place, but it breaks my heart to think that it represents only a fraction of what used to exist. Hopefully we have more knowledge now – I pray we do, for this beauty.

      May 25, 2013
  18. I’ll trade you for your story the other day about the red admiral butterfly having started out as the red admirable:

    The word mosquito is essentially the same as the word musket. Sounds like the mosquitoes in your swamp were deadly weapons indeed.

    May 24, 2013
    • Wow…. Did “mosquito” really come from “musket,” or have the same origins? Really?

      If that’s the case, I truly have a new respect for these $#%!. Not that I wasn’t already in awe of their power (continued scratching, continued scratching…).

      May 25, 2013
      • The Italian word for a fly is mosca. The diminutive, moschetta, literally ‘a little fly,’ came to be used as a fanciful name for the bolt (the arrow) of a crossbow. Then Italians started using the masculine diminutive, moschetto, for the crossbow itself rather than just its bolt. By the time French borrowed the Italian word in the form mousquet, the scope had expanded to ‘portable firearm,’ which with advances in weaponry came to mean what English, borrowing the French term, called a musket. And so you have another case where entomology meets etymology.

        May 25, 2013
      • Omigosh.

        That is utterly fascinating. Did you study linguistics, or learn that from entomology? I can’t wait to share this with my brother, who studied Latin / linguistics. I’ll have to teach my sieve-brain to retain as much of this as possible if I’m ever on a hike with anyone, too… This is fantastic.

        May 25, 2013
      • Yes, I did study linguistics. I know a lot more about etymology than about entomology, but insects make cuter subjects for photographs than words do.

        May 25, 2013
      • Hah! Very true. I’m still wrapping my brain around the progression; language is just fascinating. Thanks so much again for sharing — that would have been a fantastic bit to use. I’m sure I’ll be linking to it in the near future; my fear of DEET will most likely have me running from these tiny muskets very soon. Today, perhaps. 🙂

        May 25, 2013
      • A Consumer Reports article on insect repellents lists a few that use picaridin or plant oils:

        http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/08/best-insect-repellents/index.htm

        A recent issue of the magazine (which I looked at in my dentist’s office but which I don’t think is available online unless you’re a subscriber) had some more information about repellents using citronella.

        May 25, 2013
      • Ah, thanks so much for this!

        I actually have been using the non-deet “Bite Blocker,” and I think I can hear the enormous mosquitoes (and horseflies) laughing, as they bite…even more. It’s like the Bite Blocker’s an appetizer. On my hike today, needless to say, the “Off” came out. I’ll look for / order that issue, though – it’s worth it!

        May 26, 2013
  19. I laughed and laughed at montucky’s comment. I understand that the GPS is a wonderful tool, but it’s only a tool and can be as fallible as any other. I used one once, in the middle of Kansas while looking for a cemetery. It did just fine, except for the fact that it didn’t alert me to the bridge that had washed out in the middle of the night. Ah, well. Lucky for me that I have an excellent sense of direction in nature. In the middle of a city with no grid, it can be tougher.

    I still can’t get over the whole concept of “swamp”, and its essential liveliness. I grew up imagining every swamp, even the greatest, as “dismal” – filled with muck and scum and dead, stagnant water. Not so much, as I learned on my first foray into a true swamp in Louisiana. I fear I’ve dallied too long for a spring trip back to the Louisiana swamp. Now, I’ll have to wait until fall when it cools a bit.

    Our specialty here are tiny little mosquitoes that can barely be seen. I’ve heard them called “salt marsh mosquitoes”. The city folk get big ones, like the Asian Tiger, that you at least can see to swat. Those marsh mosquitoes? Nothing but a whine in your ear and itching everywhere!

    May 25, 2013
    • I can guarantee you right now… That I would get lost with a GPS. Undoubtedly! First I would have to learn it, and that’s an enormous hurdle in itself… Hahahah! But you’re right. They only get you so far.

      Oh, our swamps are FULL of life. We have different *types* of swamps down here, of course… But in every one, you should hear the sounds. Just lovely. So much life, it’s incredible. Every time I hike through them, I imagine what the land would have been like if we hadn’t dredged them all up in the 20th century. An incredible amount of life – flora and fauna – was destroyed, when we did so. Hopefully with the re-routing of the Everglades waterways…. (Here’s to hoping.)

      But oh, the buggies. I can’t fathom *tiny* mosquitoes! Haa! Everything’s big out there. And this is just the sub-tropics!

      May 26, 2013
  20. I love what you did with these images. It really takes me back to old Florida in the 1940’s. Still no GPS ? What’s with you girl? We can go and have you getting lost now.

    May 29, 2013
    • My iPhone, hoorah! Since I bring my retractable 70-300 on my hikes, I often use the phone for such images. Love the effects! You know much more, though…. 🙂

      STILL no GPS! I’m a moron, honestly! I swear….

      May 29, 2013
  21. BEAUTIFUL little love story there and some warm warm photos of the forest. I am happy to tread softly via your blog. Thanks for sending the message across of protecting our trees. ❤

    June 25, 2013
    • What an incredibly sweet comment…. Thanks so VERY much! It’s hugely appreciated. 🙂 The trees are some of my favorite creatures, as you can see.

      August 9, 2013
  22. Wow what an environment. I feel like I can almost see a dinosaur coming through the trees..

    http://searunner.wordpress.com

    November 12, 2013
    • It really is a beautiful, fascinating — and totally unique! — environment! Very wild, too, when you get out there. 🙂 I just hope that we can continue to preserve these last lovely wilds.

      January 22, 2014

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