Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hiking Through the Florida Scrub

Sunlight through oak trees

Although it was sunny, and not my favorite weather for a hike, it was early enough in the morning to still be fairly tolerable.  I really hoped that we would see white-tailed deer , because the area is just covered in tracks. The deer are usually most active around dawn and we were arrived around 8:30 am, but I still had some hope.  Most of the trails are a kind of habitat known as Florida scrub . The soil has a sandy feel, hard for walking at times,  but great for gopher tortoises  to burrow in.  We didn't see any tortoises today, but did see some other interesting wildlife and wildflowers.
Deer Tracks

Unfortunately today the deer flies were especially bad, but I had hopes that  it meant there were deer close by.  Braving the nasty biting flies and humid Florida heat, we pushed ahead along the trail that was perfumed with the fragrance of sweet bay magnolias which were covered in swallowtail butterflies.
Sweet Bay Magnolia
Meadow Beauty Wildflowers
The path brought us next to a small lake where we saw an alligator's head sticking up. He didn't seem very large, only about 5 or 6 feet, but as I stepped closer to snap his picture he went under.  We had seen a lot of interesting insects and birds. The air was full of the sound of cicadas buzzing as we started heading back to the beginning of the trail. Shawn, my husband, had picked up a long stick to use as a "walking stick to protect him from snakes", which I thought was a little silly. As we stepped along the trail I noticed a small, dark shape curled up right in Shawn's path. If you have ever tried to react quickly to warn someone about something happening so quickly, you'll know how I felt. I couldn't get the words out fast enough as his foot came down right next to a coiled up dusky pygmy rattlesnake, so yes, when words fail : SCREAM. In the same instant Shawn jumped and the snake jumped, thankfully in two different directions.  The snake was obviously peeved, although it moved off the path, it turned around to look at us and began to shake it's tail.  Although they are small, they can deliver a nasty bite and are usually more aggressive than their more visually intimidating cousins. Although shaken, I did manage to snap this picture of the snake:
Not the greatest picture, he had decided he was done with us and was slipping away. Most snakes really want little to do with human contact, and most will go with the "flight" option over the "fight".  Had he actually been stepped on, he probably would have had a very different attitude.

Still shaking a bit from our snake encounter, we walked until we came to this lovely spot where the oaks made a beautiful canopy.

The ground was covered with leaves and these enormous patches of  reindeer moss one of my favorite types of lichen. It's a threatened variety and people love to gather it because it doesn't wither up if you pick it.  This area of the woods was really covered with many varieties of lichens and mosses, which I love and find very fascinating.  As I looked through the trees I noticed something white moving back and forth.  We got very quiet and kept watching as we realized the white things moving were the tails of two deer.  I was really thrilled to see them, but the moment was fleeting because they realized we were watching and moved deeper into the forest.

Being that we are both fairly adventurous people, the snake incident, after the fact, was really an interesting part of the hike.  I probably won't tease Shawn about having his "walking stick" as much now, because it did help him spring out of the way quickly, and I think he'll watch where he's stepping a bit more carefully.


  1. Anna, It sounds like it was a both wonderful and frightening hike. Nature is amazing, isn't it? I loved the pic of the oak canopy, it looks like the perfect place to sit and enjoy nature(hopefully with no snake surprises).

  2. Wow, what a fantastic (read scary) snake story you have there!

    Your hike sounds like it was amazing though and I *think* your unidentified flower is a Mexican Poppy. I could be horribly wrong however, hehe.

  3. Thank you, Fishstikks, I used to know what it was called but for the life of me I can't remember.

    Karrita, it was an amazing spot. I dream of having a house under big oak trees like that (until a hurricane comes!)

  4. What a great nature hike! Glad that both you guys and the snake could go your separate ways with no harm done. You took some great shots. The flower is Rhexia mariana, meadow beauty, as wonderful little wildflower.

  5. Wonderful story and photos! Your descriptions put me right there on the hike with you, and I know just how you feel when you saw the snake. Been there myself. I was hiking in AZ with some friends (years ago) and came upon a big rattler, my first encounter with one. All I could do was turn around and walk away yelling "snake"! Apparently the snake decided to follow me and my friend saved me with a big rock! Thanks for the memories, haha

  6. Ah, thank you for the identification on the wildflower, Lynn! I used to pick those a lot when I was little, but don't see them as often now.

    LF, wow, a big rattler can be pretty scary. We've seen big ones on hikes but from a nice distance, not up close and personal. Glad you had a quick thinking friend with you!

  7. Lovely journey and photographs. Glad Shawn didn't get bitten by the snake!