Saturday, January 14, 2017

We Did Not Go To The Beach

Hard to believe, we know.  But we didn't.  The winter winds were still blowing full force down at the beach so instead we went to explore the trails at a local park called Halpatiokee.

One website we looked at stated "This might be the best regional park in South Florida, judging strictly by its natural components." 


Fun Fact:  Halpatiokee is a Seminole word meaning "Alligator water".  We did not see any halpatters (alligators) on this day but we did see the okee (water).  The centerpiece of the park is the South Fork River (photo above).

The landscape along the trails varies from pine flatwoods, oak hammock, scrub and river land.

                  To us, it looked like Florida.

Darlene said that this sign that we saw early in our hike was
a portent of things to come.  Impressive vocabulary = check!

The Crotalaria were blooming in abundance at the beginning
of the trails.

               The often overlooked rear shot.

       A member of the pea family, the plants were loaded up with fresh seed pods.

                    These pods give the plant its nickname of Rattlepod.

  Once they've dried, the seeds rattle inside like the tail of a snake by the same name.

A good portion of the trail that we walked today at Halpatiokee was part of the Florida Trail.

Since we don't tend to read much about where we are going other than how to get there, that was unexpected.  Adding our time in Ocala, we've now probably walked three miles of the 1000 mile path.  Note: We are not much on over-achievement.  Ha Ha

The other day at work, Darlene heard two people say that they found painted rocks in the store.  They were very excited and said they had been looking for them.  We should mention at this point that these rocks were not for sale.  In fact, they are a part of a movement started in our county this past Thanksgiving, by a local family.  Although we thought it neat, we honestly had not given the whole thing another thought until today.

                As we approached the FT sign, we noticed something atop it.

                             It was our first Martin County Rocks rock!

Boy were we excited and suddenly we realized just how excited those people in Target were.

The object of Martin County Rocks is to find one / hide one.  You can find one and hide one of your own for someone to find or you can find one and re-hide it in another location or somewhere else in the same park, etc.  We have yet to paint any of our own but admit that it is quite a catchy little activity.  There are something like 9000 people already involved in it throughout the community.

       It has been a while since Nicole went macro.

                She is definitely out of practice.

Nonetheless, in her attempt to capture the flowering member
of this  microscopic plant, she managed to capture these
submicroscopic bugs.  Cool beans.

One of the first critters we saw was the Longtailed Skipper.  Unfortunately they moved too quickly for us to capture their 'good side'.

So, here's a borrowed photo to show you their uniqueness.

We spotted three different kinds of berries on our journey.

                Wild Coffee - scientific name (get this...) Psychotria nervosa

                                  Beautyberry - scientific name Callicarpa

                                           Black Huckleberry (we think)

                               We also spotted one Caesar Weed flower.

Nearly every inch of the trees in this area were covered in epiphytes.  Good thing they do not harm their host.  The reddish colored ones were new to us and thinner than grass blades. They are called Southern Needleleaf (Tillandsia setacea).

A bit further down the trail we spied something out of place.

   Could it really be?  Our second Martin County Rocks rock.  We weren't even playing!

It was a unique tribute to the Artist formerly known as Prince.

        One of the many bromeliads.  Looks like we just missed the colorful flowers.

                Down the way, we stop to sit on a bench and take in the views.

                  This tree juts out over the water.  Do you see what we see?

     Don't worry if you can't see it.  Darlene is going to bring it down for a closer look.

                                 Who says there is no climbing in Florida?

                                                        Got it!

Our third MCR rock!  Not bad for two girls who were just going for a walk in the woods.

                                  There was a witness to our tomfoolery.

                               Talk about getting it right between the eyes!

We entered what was called the hardwoods section.  Just
look at all of those epiphytes!

                     maple against the palms

Meanwhile, around the bend...

                        Ahem.  Excuse me sir.  Madam.  Did you lose something?

      Did you know that the word armadillo means "little armored one" in Spanish?
         Did you know that it is only the nine-banded variety that carries leprosy?
                        Did you know that this is a nine-banded armadillo?

We were not concerned, however, since we had no plans to handle him or eat him nor did we intend to get close enough for him to spit on us.  Besides, he never did notice us and when he wasn't foraging, this is typically the view we got.

By the way, did you know that armadillos are native to the new world?  This means that the Europeans of the late 15th century gave the armadillo leprosy and not the other way around.

We entered a more wide open section of the trail and there encountered many small birds.

It has been a while since we tried to spot birds in the trees much less photograph them.  How did we ever do it?

Example, there is a warbler in that little twig of a tree.

                                             Yellow-rumped Warbler

Several variations of woodpeckers were around.  We caught
a photo of the Red-bellied Woodpecker.

             There's no bird in that tree.  Nicole just thought it looked neat.

                           Do you see the wooden chickadee in the tree?

                                             Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

                               A black racer snake came out to say hello.

Do you remember that portent from earlier? 

Well, we rounded the corner from bird alley and...

                                 a Gopher Tortoise was waiting to greet us.

Gopher Tortoises are a threatened species on the Endangered Species List.  Like the prairie dog they are a keystone species who shares their burrows with 350 other species.

                  (S)he's had quite the life.  Look at the condition of that shell.

                              Nonetheless, there's still a smile on that face.


                          And that was our time at Halptiokee Regional Park.