Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Misty Mornin' Hop, Part Two

After backtracking from the river and glade, I stepped onto the road’s shoulder and walked across Morris Bridge. A couple cars zipped by, and, as often happens, I wondered if the drivers had any inkling of the natural beauty that sits just off road waiting to be explored:

On the other side of the bridge, I climbed down onto the boardwalk that passes underneath. A great blue heron was standing by the river no more than 15 feet away, but as soon as I reached for my camera it took flight and flapped upstream on its enormous wings. Thus began a one-minute stretch in which I found myself close to several photogenic birds but failed to get any photos.

Soon after emerging from the bridge, the boardwalk empties into a shaded parking lot where a broad-winged hawk was sitting on a low-hanging branch. He did not flinch as I approached holding my camera; however, when I lifted it to snap a picture, he went airborne in the beat of an eye and vanished into the trees.

And when I made it to the trail on the opposite side of the parking lot, I saw a pair of wood ducks swimming in a creek. That would seem to be the perfect place to take a picture, because shouldn’t water slow a creature down? However -- there’s that word again -- when they saw me they managed to go from floating to flying with stunning speed.

With that, I decided to forge ahead and forget about trying to photograph the animals. A minute later I arrived at a live oak with thick, green resurrection ferns growing on its trunk. Knowing that our area’s resurrections had been brown just a week or two before, I interpreted this as a sign of impending spring:

Back on December 6th I wrote about an intersection of trails “from which the Main Trail turns south; the Heartbreak Ridge Trail goes east; and an unnamed side trail goes north…” As I passed the ferns two Saturdays ago, I was walking on the Main Trail and heading for that intersection, eager to check out the Heartbreak Ridge since I skipped it on my prior visit.

After travelling east through pine flatwoods, the Main Trail arrives at the intersection a half-mile from the parking lot, at a spot where the forest abruptly switches from a dry one dominated by softwoods to a damp one dominated by hardwoods. The mucky earth is scoured by the wallows of wild boars:

This forest becomes so dense you could be standing next to a large animal and not see it:

That morning, it was very obvious that some of its sights were early signs of spring:

If you hike the Heartbreak Ridge Trail, you will notice that the sign describes it as “extremely difficult.” This being Florida, that description is clearly an exaggeration, but the trail does have lots of roots that warrant caution and could challenge a mountain biker. Also, you won’t see anything resembling a ridge, but don’t worry: The forest’s beauty makes up for its lack of elevation change.

Approximately five minutes after stepping onto the Heartbreak Ridge Trail you reach an unsigned intersection with another trail. Continuing straight, the Heartbreak Ridge crosses one of its two wooden footbridges before shifting its direction southward:

It took me twenty minutes to hike the entirety of the Heartbreak Ridge. It ends by emptying onto another trail, which I can only assume is the Main Trail because there was no sign to identify it.

I would have kept going to determine whether this “new” trail was indeed the Main Trail, but I had promised to be home at an early hour, so I turned around and made my way back through the morning mist, listening to the insistent chatter of squirrels -- one of whom was kind enough to alleviate my earlier frustration by allowing me to take his picture:

Happy Trails!


  1. Hi! My first visit to your blog and its really fantastic. Really great pics and loved the forest, dense as you said.
    Pity the birds were too clever and fast for you but at least you saw them with your eyes!!
    Will come often, do visit my travel blog when free.

  2. The dense beauty of a southern forest is something we miss here in Utah. Love the white flower. The squirrel is cute. Better luck next time on the bird photos!

  3. This looks much like our Silver River State Park...and also the Cross Florida Greenway. Florida has so many wonderful places.

    Re your comment on Ocala: That's what we get in Ocala during the winter: cold and warm - sometimes on the same day. Fortunately, the winter has been a mild one. And yes, the photo was taken during the Christmas holidays.

  4. I know you captured those bird's in your mind's eye and that is often enough, John. The misty FL forest with awakening buds and climbing ferns is so enjoyable to me because I'm still inhabiting my white wintery world. Your photos are luminous - my favorite is the dense misty forest, and I'm always a sucker for a trail leading into wilderness. Enjoy your weekend, John.

  5. Hi there - really like the image of the tree covered in ferns. Interesting post.

    Stewart M - Australia