Friday, June 19, 2015

30 Days in June: Day 18, Moonshine Creek and Creek Sink Trails

That's My Motto! 

Rested, reinvigorated and rehydrated, Thursday morning had me out on the trail bright and early. I wanted to walk the Moonshine Creek and the Creek Sink trails at San Felasco Hammock State Park before it got too hot again. It had rained a little bit the night before and more rain was in the forecast later, so the air was heavy and everything was damp. When I took out my cameras I found that the lenses were fogged. They were still cool from the air conditioning in the house and car and when the hot, humid air hit them, condensation formed on everything. I wiped them with my lens cloth, but the metal on the telephoto held the cold and it kept fogging over for almost a half hour. Therefore, I missed my chance to get a picture of the Hooded Warbler and Acadian Flycatcher I saw right by the creek. But I was just happy to have found them.

Starting on the Trail

Sun Rays in the Forest

Moonshine Creek

Moonshine Creek at San Felasco is one of the first trails my family and I hiked when we first moved to Gainesville. It has changed a lot over the years but is still a great place to hike. I like to come for butterflies in the fall and Jack in the Pulpit and Trillium in the Spring. The hurricanes of 2004 took out lots of big trees and then the drought a few years later dried up ponds and swamps. But everything changes. A wet prairie will be flooded one year and dried up the next. A big tree falls and opens up a big patch of sunshine into dark woods and new plants grow there that never could before. Things change. Pine beetles, coral ardesia, and hard winters, dry summers. You can't be sure that the things you saw one year will be there the next. It makes life precious and interesting. It's important to appreciate what you have while you have it, but it is just as important to be able to improvise and adapt when you don't. Change is good for you because it forces you to think in new ways. I'm thinking of our move this way--lots of new places to experience, things to learn and people to meet.

Sadly, this trail has a real problem with Coral Ardesia. Please don't plant this at home. The berries are attractive to the birds and they take over.

Huge Grape Vine

Muscle Wood (American Hornbeam) with Poison Ivy
The trail through the woods was much cooler than I had expected and I started thinking that this was the best way to be active in the hot summer--go to the dark woods! But as I walked lower into the sink area, closer to the creek and the pond, it got wetter and muggier, and soon I had sweat through all my clothes and was having a hard time moving the dials on my cameras because my hands were so wet with sweat. When I stopped to look at something, the breeze I was creating with my motion stopped and sweat would pour down my face. It was intense. But at least there were no bugs! I don't know why, but the mosquitoes were mercifully absent, and somehow I didn't get any ticks.

Tall Trees

Cool, Dark Path
It was lusciously dark and green. And noisy. The tree frogs were barking and the buzz of the cicadas was so loud that my ears were almost numb. When I walked up and out of the woods and I couldn't hear them anymore I felt like I'd been at a concert or had cotton in my ears. It was hard to use sounds sounds to locate birds because they were drowned out by the cicadas. But I'm not complaining. It made the whole experience richer to be buried in the deep, dark woods. I saw a deer from a distance and so many squirrels. I'm sure there were lots more birds than what I saw, but the path was uneven and I had to watch my step in addition to watching the trees. I was on the lookout for snakes, too, but didn't see any. I saw Woodpeckers and Cardinals, Carolina Wrens and Parulas and a big Titmouse family.

Moss Covered Tree Trunk

Watch Your Step

This is Where the Bird Action Is!
What I did see were spider webs, everywhere. I wasn't able to get a photo that showed the perfection of the orb weaver webs in the misty rays of sunshine, but they were stunning. Some of them were 2-3 feet across. I also saw a slug and some snails eating tree fungus.

Giant Webs

Spider Web in the Woods (The photo doesn't do it justice)

Snails Eating Fungus

Carolina Mantle Slug Eating Fungus
When I walk by myself I do a lot of thinking. Sometimes I am composing the blog that I am writing about my hike. Sometimes I'm going through lists of things that I have to do. (I'm making a lot of lists these days). Sometimes I go over conversations that I have had or that I want to have. Sometimes I just look and enjoy. And sometimes I get a stupid ear worm stuck in my brain, a dumb song that goes on and on and I can't shake it. I don't know what brings them on, maybe it's the rhythm of my walking pace, or maybe it's a phrase that pops into my mind and starts it. But in the middle of San Felasco, I had the refrain from "Uptown Funk" playing over and over and over.

I'm too hot (hot damn)
Called police and fireman
I'm too hot (hot damn)
Make a dragon wanna retire man
I'm too hot (hot damn),

It was driving me crazy. It's a fun song, but only once or twice, and not running on repeat in my brain, and definitely not in the woods while I'm trying to listen for Yellow Throated Vireos over the drone of the cicadas. But I was too hot, and the sweat dripping down my face kept reminding me. But I concentrated and eventually I was able to push "Too Hot" out of my brain and I got back to my tranquility.

Web of Tree Roots Extending Across the Forest Floor
Back at the parking lot I saw what I first thought was a gigantic (6 inch long) slug on the ground. But it turned out to be a banana that had been in the sun a while. Hah! But then I almost jumped when I saw the Broad Headed Skink with its head buried in the banana, munching away. Who knew that skinks ate bananas? This one was quite content. And so was I. It was a great morning!

Nom Nom Nom

This Skink Has Been Busy!

 Total: 92 (95) June Challenge Birds and 22 Natural Areas

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