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Posts tagged ‘hiking’

A Return to Cypress Creek

The last time we visited Cypress Creek Natural Area, we were thrilled to explore part of its 2000 acres of newly restored sensitive pine forest and wetland habitats. We were even more ecstatic to learn of the county’s continued aggressive preservation and restoration efforts of the area.

Restored Everglades Vista of Cypress Creek Natural Area in Jupiter, Florida

Part of the Northeast Everglades Natural Area (or NENA, which holds approximately 165,000 acres of conservation land in northern Palm Beach Country and southern Martin County), and serving as a buffer for the Loxahatchee Wild and Scenic River, Cypress Creek is a valuable part of the Everglades ecosystem. Managed by Palm Beach County, current restoration activities in Cypress Creek include the removal of invasive non-native vegetation, filling miles of ditches (we continue to witness these efforts), changing the elevations of shell mining pits to encourage re-vegetation of native plants, and improving the Old Indiantown Road grade — now known as the Historic Jupiter-Indiantown Trail — for use as a multi-use trail.

Cypress Creek’s restored Everglades habitat

A Great egret in the restored Everglades habitat of Cypress Creek: I see your brightness, fella

Cypress Creek’s restored Everglades habitat

We recently hiked a different section of Cypress Creek, and saw loads of animal tracks due to the fact that not many humans probably make it out to where we ventured — deer, coyote, bobcat, wild boar. It was a wonderful sight to see, and I hope that the county continues it preservation efforts to protect this critical and threatened habitat, returning it to its full splendor…and providing a home for the wildlife once again. It’s wonderful to witness!

The remnants (slash pines) of a controlled (?) burn

Wading friends: A cattle egret and tricolored heron were inseparable

Overlooking the restored Everglades habitat: We need to get over THERE. Trail was flooded, however… We made it, but it was dicey and involved lots of high-steppin’ through the swamp

Gator check… Good to go. OK for foto session.

Wonderful old live oak canopies of Cypress Creek Natural Area

Hello, You Gorgeous Gator

Lots of people talk to animals…. Not very many listen, though…. That’s the problem. —Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything about alligators,  and I feel withdrawal coming on. So for my sake, here’s a gorgeous gator we encountered on a recent hike in the northern section of the Everglades.

{As always, please click on the image for expansion!}

Florida Everglades Alligator: Helllllo, gorgeous!

Here’s how one of these lovelies appears in the wild — in this case, full and slow after a meal, catching some sun. Which is why we ALWAYS have an eye on the water’s edge throughout our hikes — especially when water and bits of swamp suddenly pop up out of nowhere, *wink*!

While they are certainly admirable and fierce predators, there is absolutely no need to assume that they will eat your face if you encounter one in the wild. We’ve never been bothered by gators — even during mating and nesting seasons. If we see an active alligator mound (nest), we steer clear, knowing a momma gator is diligently protecting her eggs or young. The most disconcerting experiences I’ve ever had with these amazing creatures have occurred when I wasn’t watching the water’s edge as closely as I should have been, to put it mildly — or when we’ve startled or frightened them, causing uproarious splashes into the water amid the silence of the ‘glades.

Leave wildlife alone, because they want nothing more than to leave we humans alone….

Resting at the water’s edge — or, in my words during our hike: “Oops! Lookie there!”

Another view of the big lizard

A Slightly Soggy Swamp Hike

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order. —John Burroughs

This was definitely one of those days — we needed to have our “senses put in order.” During the continued exploration of West Palm Beach’s Grassy Waters Preserve, we finally managed the entirety of the beautiful Apoxee Trail — “beyond tomorrow” in the Miccosukee language (pronounced A-po-hee). We also hiked part of the outer Owahee Trail, looping around to the Apoxee — where we spied the most amazing untouched cypress swamps and waterways. We previously weren’t (mentally) prepared for a flooded-trail hike, but on this day, we knew what to expect, so trusted our boots to do their stuff. Sadly, my sturdy pair lasted until the last half-mile…. Which, out of an entirety of 6 miles, was fairly frustrating. That’s when a startled OH! sounded from ahead on the trail, which one NEVER wants to hear while navigating waters that are the same height as the neighboring swamp / wetlands. Poisonous snakes swim down here. As do alligators. Ker-plunk goes my leg into the deepest section yet. No worries — there was so much beauty to be had, what’s a pair of soppy socks?

Not sure what the weather holds this weekend, but we’re sure to hit another of my favorite natural areas — one with a lovely, ancient history of habitation, magnificent old growth trees, and one where we spied fresh panther and bobcat prints — so needless to say, I’m excited. May your weekends hold equal anticipation and beauty!

Untouched cypress swamp, where we just missed an otter…

Everglades vista

Flooded Apoxee Trail: Take One

Pileated woodpecker

Apoxee Trail boardwalk — once or twice the swamp was covered!

Everglades vista

Flooded Apoxee Trail: Take Two… For some reason, the male didn’t appreciate the paparazzi at his back

Air plant along the trail: Common to our area, this one was enormous

Flooded Apoxee Trail: Take Three, the doozy

Waterway on the Owahee Trail

A Lush and Rocky Little Trail

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

We recently visited Grassy Waters Preserve and the short Eagle Trail, a narrow trail of sand and exposed limestone outcroppings that loops around Gator Lake, and meanders through wet prairie and cypress. It’s truly a lovely little hike, and reminiscent of some areas of Big Cypress Preserve (adjacent to Everglades National Park). Afterwards, we enjoyed a picnic in the shade, before hitting a longer trail….

Lush Trailhead of the Eagle Trail

The Mini-Mini has taken a beating on our ventures…

Slash pines and palm along the trail

Abundant berries…

Rocky limestone outcroppings

Everglades vista

Vestige of the Everglades: Grassy Waters Preserve

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. —John Muir

Grassy Waters Preserve in West Palm Beach presents the natural history of Florida in its pristine and wild 23.5 square miles. Today, the Preserve serves as the freshwater supply for the city and its associated municipalities — but historically the area was the headwaters of the Loxahatchee River (Seminole for River of Turtles). It was also a key component of the Everglades watershed, which began north of Orlando and flowed through rivers that emptied into the vast Lake Okeechobee, where the lake’s waters flooded into the Everglades Basin and slowly flowed into the Florida Bay. Humans have since severely altered this historic water flow — although efforts have begun in earnest to resolve years of detrimental impact. The Grassy Waters Preserve (GWP) represents a remnant of the once-magnificent Everglades ecosystem.

Numerous hiking and biking trails wind throughout GWP, including the Apoxee Trail — “beyond tomorrow” in the Miccosukee language (pronounced A-po-hee). We weren’t prepared for a flooded-trail hike, so we drove north to the Hog Hammock Trail, where we were delighted to be completely alone for our 5-mile venture, save the critters. What’s wonderful about GWP is the variety of trails offered — long, short, easy, advanced — you have your pick.

Wildlife sightings include alligator, deer, armadillo, wild turkey, feral hog, bobcat, otter, osprey, great-horned owl, hawk, assorted wading birds, and snail kite. The survival of snail kite — the logo for the Preserve — is dependent on the preservation of pristine wetlands like those at Grassy Waters. Sadly, like so many other species, it’s estimated that this amazing bird of prey will most likely face extinction within the next 30 years due to habitat loss and other factors. But at Grassy Waters, snail kite sightings are common — proving that this iconic Everglades resident is allowed the quality habitat it needs for a fighting chance at survival.

These images were taken during our Hog Hammock hike, which we did in its entirety, including the mile-long dead-end trip…. As we were leaving the trail, I was yapping about something terribly important and startled a magnificent great-horned owl, which alighted immediately in front of us. Argh for the failed photo op!

Cypress Tree

Here There be Gators: Adorable but Flighty Juvies!

Outside of the trail…

Entering the trail…

Everglades Vista

Everglades Vista

Nature’s design: Slash Pines

NENA Signage

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