Saturday - Sunday, December 24 - 25
I flew to Birmingham Christmas Eve. On Christmas, we ordered new batteries for the stair elevator, and John and I drove to Tallahassee. John gave me 3 USFS maps for my 2017 hike; Pinhoti Trail, Chatahoochie NF, and Monongahela NF. We watched the Bill Bryson movie A Walk in the Woods, which was boring, and not particularly faithful to the book. The book in turn presents long distance hiking in an unattractive and inaccurate light.
Monday, December 26, 2016
Saint Marks National Wildlife Refuge
We hiked 4 miles, and saw many Alligators, Turtles, and birds. A first sighting for both of us was an Eastern Glass Lizard Ophisaurus ventralis, shiny and dark green with light green speckles. There were three types of ant mounds, including Fire Ants. Birds included Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, a Yellow Crowned Night Heron, Bald Eagles, Common Moor Hens, a Belted Kingfisher, Osprey, Black Vultures, and Cormorants. There were black dog scats with palm seeds, perhaps Red Wolves. The refuge newsletter had a photo of a recent Red Wolf pup. John was impressed with a tree with spines on the bark. We saw some invasive Brazilian Pepper Trees.
Eastern Glass Lizard
Weather Forecast, Tuesday December 27, 4:17 AM EST
Seas are given as significant wave height, which is the average height of the highest 1/3 of the waves. Individual waves may be more than twice the significant wave height.
Tonight through Thursday
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
At the Oasis Visitor Center and on the drive we saw Roseate Spoonbills, Belted Kingfishers, Sandhill Cranes, Crows, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Yellow Crowned Night Herons, Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, Cormorants, Black Vultures, Garr, invasive Ciclids, and Alligators. We arrived at Flamingo too late to paddle out. Few backcountry sites were available, so we reserved two overnight trips. There were far more people visiting the Everglades than I've ever seen. Even along the Tamaimi Trail, US41, cars were parked along the road for a half mile near the Shark Valley parking lot and all of the airboat operators.
Camp: Flamingo , many Mosquitos and Gnats / No-See-Ums
Coop, Tom, Dan, John
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
We paddled west in Florida Bay, and needed to be far out to sea to avoid grounding on the mud flats. Following seas made it necessary to paddle constantly to avoid broaching and shipping water. I was fairly tired by the time we reached East Cape Sable. We saw Crocodiles, Manatees, Dolphins, Cormorants, Brown Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbills, Osprey, Royal Terns, and many more Sea Birds. Mosquitos and Gnats were thick after sunset. There were many nice shells on the beach at camp.
Camp: East Cape Sable
Maps: NGTI 243 Everglades National Park, 39 Lostmans River to Whitewater Bay, www.waterproofcharts.com
Thursday, December 29, 2016
We motored back in flat, glassy, low wind conditions. We again saw Dolphin and many seabirds, including one Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magnificens, black with a red neck patch.
Camp: Long Pine Key
Horseshoe Crab Shell
Friday, December 30, 2016
With strong and gusty winds, we abandoned our plans for camping on the Hell's Bay Chickee, and walked around the various sites in Everglades NP. I also walked a loop from the campground.
Camp: Long Pine Key
Saturday, December 31, 2016
We walked the paths at Biscayne Bay, Shark Valley, and Fakahatchee. We saw Ibis, Wood Storks, a Barred Owl, Black Vultures, Turkey Vultures, Crows, Great and Little Blue Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets, a Bald Eagle nest, Alligator Garr, Alligators, including a cluster of year olds, Dragonflies, and Strangler Figs.
Hotel: Hernando County
Sunday, January 1, 2017
We visited Cedar Key, mostly a town. But there was a state park museum and excellent views from various beaches and a boardwalk at Cemetery Point. Cedar Key is where John Muir recovered from malaria and started to think through his wilderness ethic, that nature had value independent of its potential for economic exploitation.
We then drove to Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, which covers perhaps the lower 20 miles of the river and 26 miles of the nearby coast. The tide was rising, so we really didn't see many birds feeding. On a receding tide, though, one might see many birds feeding in the mud flats. Otherwise, this refuge has a normal complement of wildlife dispersed in coastal pine palm woods. But we did see a Barred Owl. A 28' high shell mound was occupied by archaic period Eastern Woodland Indian cultures from about 6000 years ago. Many of the shells were hauled away for construction materials before the mound was protected. The Nature Conservancy had bought many of the inholdings in the refuge: Thanks! friendsofrefuges.org paddle map
Leaf, Insect Galls
There is also a Cedar Keys NWR which holds many of the islands nearby. Generally, boaters can visit the beaches, but can't hike into the interiors of the islands.
Finally, there is a 5000 acre Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve nearby with 14 miles of trails.
Hotel: Bainbridge, Georgia
Monday, January 2, 2017
We visited Georgia 's Kolomoki Mounds State Park. These mounds were built and occupied between AD 350 to 750. The culture was Woodland Indian: Mississippian settlements were built nearby after this site was abandoned. There are 7 Indian Mounds: Most are quite small, but one is 57' high, with a base of 325' x 200'. Two million cubic feet of soil were hauled from an unknown borrow area to build it! There is also a good museum.
We also visited Providence Canyon Outdoor Recreation Area, were erosion of the soft soils occurred due to farming in the 1800s. Gullies up to 150' deep resulted. On the drive home we saw ~20 Sandhill Cranes in a field.
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
John and I cut overgrowing brush on the Pinhoti Trail between Oakey Mountain Shelter and Maxwell Gap, County Road 70. From the shelter I removed a 3' long, 1' diameter bundle of refuse, including a pad, a quilt, and a couple of gallons of trash, all wet and stinking. The picnic table had been vandalized: To repair the benches, 3 x 6' long 2x6 boards with 2 each 2" dogear chamfers , 20 3¼" deck screws, and a half dozen longer screws will be required. Pliers will be needed to remove a screw, as well as assembly tools. Two additional less damaged 2x6 boards could be replaced on the table top, one with chamfers and one without. We saw a White Tail Deer, a few Great Blue Herons, ~20 Canada Geese, and ~20 Turkeys. I repaired Sale's stair lift.
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Don J, who made pancakes for hikers at Stevens Pass on the PCT in 2003, and who hiked the Grand Enchantment Trail with John and me in 2012, dropped in for a day. We visited the Pinhoti Trail near Cheaha State Park, as well as the arrowhead museum, the stone fire tower, and the CCC museum. We then visited the excellent Anniston Museum of Natural History. John also recommends the nearby Berman Museum of World History.
Thursday, January 5, 2017
We worked around the house in Leeds, and I edited this website.
Friday, January 6, 2017
I flew to San Diego.
After a couple of days in the Everglades, my right ear swelled, reddened, and became tender and itchy. The skin exuded fluid, which sometimes left the skin sticky and formed a crust in some areas. The skin did not peel. A lesser rash formed under my beard under my chin, and the skin under my eyebrows was only itchy. I may have had this issue on earlier Florida trips. Healing was well underway before I left Alabama. By January 18: All swelling and skin crusts are gone. Over the last week, extra tenderness came and went, with pressing the skin over the bone ridge behind my ear causing pain.