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  • Archive for June, 2011

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    +On our second to last day of work on the Neches River and the Beaumont Unit of the Big Thicket National Preserve our animal score for the day were these perching swallowtailed kites.

    +Only one other time have I ever seen these birds perched, once on the 8 miles of the Florida Trail between Loop Road and the Oasis Visitor Center several years ago. Normally they are constantly flying, searching for lizards to pick off on the trees.

    +I am so happy to have these birds here in SE Texas so that I can visit them every year when they migrate through. I was definitely bummed to have left Florida in early February 2010 having missed their annual migration by a few weeks. Now I can come visit them a bit closer than Florida.

    +Chris had his good camera since we were working on the boat that day but I just kept the point and shoot. I opted for trying to shoot through binoculars which are reflected in the close up photos. Not great photos but fun to look at anyway.

    +Our project is over and now it is time for a new adventure. Not sure if we will be perched or flying. Or maybe both?

    My musical obsession of late has been The Avett Brothers and particularly their song Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise and of course the lyrics, Decide what to be and go be it.

    So, I’m deciding what to be.

    I am a runner: It keeps nagging at me, this running thing. It was a minor addiction for a few years in 2002-2005 and forgotten. A few 5Ks were run and then I just stopped. But I’ve been running now. I’m following a plan and being strict. No starting over, just picking up where I left off if I miss a few days. I figure I can walk 3300 miles, up and down mountains with 30lbs on my back, I can run for 30 minutes at a time. Heck, I know I can pump out a 30 mile day if necessary, walking, I can surely find it in me to run 13.1 or 26.2.

    I am an artist: I am an artist in whatever sense I want it to be. I create things via pastels, pencils and paint as well as through fiber or through a piece of digital equipment to document life and maybe via pen and ink—errr a keyboard and Open Office. I create and I love doing it. There’s no reason to bound myself to a particular theme or media, I can do it all if I want. Sure, I want to excel in at least one of them, but I can play outside the boundaries. I don’t need to sell my work (though I surely do want to! Hey, Wildscape Photo!) but I can enjoy it and do it anyway regardless of a sale. Perhaps I’ll have a modest collection of work one day that when I am long gone someone will realize is of interest and get it shown to the world—or not. Maybe I’ll do it myself.

    I am a biologist/naturalist/avid learner: I was running with a co-worker the other day and she mentioned one of her life goals was to be a better biologist and eventually call herself a naturalist. She wanted to know about everything, be able to answer the question to “what is it?” when asked. I totally agree! I want to know what dragonflies are what, which eggs lining the leaves are what, and which birds make what call. I just want to know. We, as a general population, live so far from our natural surroundings that we’ve tuned out the natural phenology of life. That’s why I am doing this wildflower project. To know.

    I am an adventurer: with a big side of homebody. I want to go and do but I also love my quiet days spent baking, creating, gardening, piddling and watching the day go by as the light changes throughout the house (or wherever I am living at moment—still a vagabond now!). But, having this taste of hiking and adventure, I want more. And yet I want stability. I’m trying to figure both of these out right now, in my head. Any future children will definitely need to be born with the adventure gene because there will be carrying babies on backs and camping adventures with wee ones. I want to explore the area I live in, and even though we lived in Florida for so long we only touched a small percentage of it. Texas is even bigger! There are chances for adventure in your own backyard (thinking on this as a topic for a blog series) and most people don’t even know about them. And people can’t even appreciate the National Parks with underfunding and other mires.

    I am a vegetarian: but I do love meat. Originally I was going to be a temporary vegetarian starting this last May through whenever I finished working here in Beaumont. But, it isn’t that hard to be a vegetarian. Sure, I find myself seeming to contradict myself to strangers when I say “Mm, I love pepperoni” or “Oh, calamari is so good!” because all they know is that I am a vegetarian. But nearly 31 years of eating meat is still around. Trust me, I still salivate when I smell barbeque or burgers. And people talking of pork in Cuban food…mmm it makes me want to go for a TropiChop, but I don’t need it. I’ve realized that a lot of the weird worries about protein and stuff just haven’t seemed to be of an issue. And so I was about to give up being a vegetarian, letting my experiment lapse, but then I read this article on humane meat and decided to keep on keeping on being a vegetarian. Plus, there are tons of great vegetarian recipes I’ve been wanting to try out and I’ve been lacking a kitchen for 2.5 months, so I need to get in the kitchen and start cooking! I gave up shrimp in college and haven’t looked back (with the exception of one or two minor lapses in judgement) so this whole no-meat thing isn’t too difficult. (I should also admit that I did have fish one night. Chris was cooking up all the fish he’d caught for everyone and I had a small piece. It was delicious and I would probably allow myself to eat fish Chris caught in the future.) Of course I reserve the right to reverse this in the future, but I’ll stick with it for now!

    There are many other things I want to be, like being a portrait photographer. That one is itching at me so bad but I feel like a series of hurdles are in the way of this one. However, that shouldn’t stop me. I can still take portraits of people even if I am not making money off of my efforts. I’ve been dreaming of dress up type sessions, like mini-modeling sessions where people can be who they want to be, maybe digging through thrift stores to come up with a persona. I’m particularly interested in the atypical portrait photographer right now, and while I enjoy the typical children and family photography out there, I want to do something different. I’m not sure how to accomplish this but I think I will one day add this to my I am list.

    I’m a work in progress.

    More from our work adventures. Only a few more days out here in the Big Thicket.

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    We came across a similar nest last week but didn’t get a photo. This time we stopped to peek in…

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    There were bird butts in there! The term ‘bird butts’ stems from ‘pony butt’ a baby pony we met in the Grayson Highlands on the AT. It carried over to my niece so she would want to see “pony butt” on video. Now any baby animal ends up with ‘butt’ at the end. So, baby bird butts were silently whining for their mom and their unhatched sibling was waiting patiently to come out (hopefully!)

    Remember the big tupelo we found a few weeks ago? We found something bigger, though still not a champion size. We looked.

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    This cypress was pretty darn large, 232 cm in DBH. To compare, the Senator in Florida is 135″ in diameter and ours is 91″ in diameter. Quite large but not Senator large.

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    It needed a three person hug.

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    The other day we stumbled across a partially variegated beautyberry! Pretty cool find!

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    Found a possum climbing a tree…

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    One of our other coworkers swore he saw a porcupine one day but we are all unsure if it really could’ve been one, though supposedly they are in east Texas…so the running joke now is “it was a porcupine!”.

    And normally we wouldn’t have attempted the following video, as the deepest we got was to our chest with our feet firmly on the bottom of the swamp, but this time we prodded the bottom with a stick and felt a very distinctly steep drop off. I guess we were going to go for a swim! We ditched all but our most essential gear, threw our boots and shovel across the channel and wrapped the GPS up in multiple baggies and off we went! This was our return trip.

    Every day at work is a new adventure!

    I first came into contact with Chel via Marc and Eliana when they stopped over at Chel and Tom’s house on their cross country road trip a few years ago. I started reading her blog and became hooked and through commenting and friending on Facebook we’ve become internet friends. It’s a shame I never actually got to meet up with her while I was living in Florida! She’s got some fantastic bead work and has started a new project called the Common Miracles project. Read on!

    First off, give us an idea of who you are, why you blog and your geographic location.

    I recently turned 37 (but I REALLY don’t feel my age!), I’m a mom to a really cool five-year-old named Gracie, wife to a guy named Tom, a mixed media artist, very amateur gardener, long-distance swimmer, animal-rescuer, and avid reader.

    I started “blogging” in 1997 when it was called online journaling and there were only about 30 of us doing it (yes, thirty!). I was in my first year in grad school, a little emotionally overwhelmed, and needed an outlet without it being person. Fast forward 14 years later and it’s a blog and I’m still writing….

    I live in Southwest Florida. I moved here in 1999, after spending several years in Atlanta (another location which deeply influence me) in college and grad school. My family always vacationed here on Marco Island when I was growing up, but I NEVER thought I would make a life here. But here I am, and I feel deeply rooted to this place, even though the summers are very difficult.


    You make beautiful handmade beads. How did you get started in this creative endeavour? Where can one purchase your beads?
    I always had a weird obsession with Fimo and polymer clay since seeing some beads in high school, but I could never figure out how to transform the hard, crumbly blocks of clay into beautiful patterned beads. In the early 2000’s, I picked the clay up again, determined to figure it out. I spent several years working with the clay before the pieces I made looked marginally better than a Tootsie Roll that got run over by a truck. Then it clicked into place. I started making interesting things and even innovating a little bit, and people were buying my pieces from my neck- I started realizing I might have something.

    I’m trying to get my act together with my Etsy shop (my goal for the summer! – it’s at Gingerblue.Etsy.com but in the meantime most of my pieces are sold in small galleries and shops here on Marco Island and in North Carolina.

    Art journaling is a big part of your blog. How long have you been creating art journals and how do they help you creatively?

    Art journaling is pretty new. In a way, I think it’s an offshoot of my interest in scrapbooking. I started scrapbooking in 2006 while I was waiting for Gracie to come home from Vietnam- while we were waiting to complete her adoption, I felt a desperate need to document the process and also begin putting together a tangible history for her to look back on.

    When she finally came home, I no longer had any time to scrapbook (and, I have to be honest, it suddenly seemed very fussy to me) but I still wanted to document our life. As Gracie grew, and she started becoming interested in paints and markers and collage, I found myself loving the process of “playing” alongside her- no rules, no limits. Art journaling was the perfect solution to my desire to document as well as my passion for playing. It’s a wonderful outlet, a way to document our lives, and it’s completely personal and flexible at the same time. I can tell a story or capture a mood or just smush down some paint with no thought at all and it all comes together to tell the story of our life.

    Aside from creating beads, what is your favorite media to work in?

    Paint, I think. Watercolors, especially. But I have a hug box of cheapy acrylics that are always fun to smash around on the page and get my fingers into. I also love Pan Pastels, liquid watercolors, and inks. Pretty much anything bright and translucent.

    Art history is a major part of your background. How do you incorporate the curating side of art to the creating side of art?

    I love to “gather” inspiration. A few times a week I dive through our mail with a pair of scissors and cut out anything that catches my eye. If it’s pattern or color or design, it gets glued into a big blank sketchbook. If it’s just a cool photo or a neat arrangement of words (I LOVE cutting text from catalogues and magazines!) I put it in a box and I later use it somewhere in my journal. I definitely approach my art with probably *too* much of a planning perspective- I spend MUCH more time thinking about and preparing to making art than I do actually making it. But I love the whole process of flipping through catalogs and magazines and searching for something that catches my eye, and then re-arranging it all.

    What artists or subjects do you draw inspiration from?

    The natural world!! Nature, nature, nature. I love being outside, I love gardening, I love flowers, I love water, I love nature. The forms and colors of nature just call to me. I feel caged in if I don’t go outside several times a day.

    Are there particular projects or goals you wish to accomplish in the next 5 years?

    This is tough. A year ago I would have told you my big goal was to go to back to school to get either a PhD in Art History or an MFA in painting. But now I’m not so sure.

    I’d like to be a successful artist, but mostly so I can continue making art and feel good about what I am doing. I struggle a lot with the question of whether or not the things I make are worthy or not. I guess all artists do.

    Right now I’m feeling really drawn to the idea of giving back to the world in some way. Ideally, I’d like to get my Etsy shop open, do more painting and drawing, and be successful enough so that I can give financial and emotional support to other creatives as well as worthy organizations.

    I’d love a gallery or museum show in the future- I won’t lie. But I think this is more rooted to the fact that I’ve always wanted to work in a museum- so the idea of having my work represented in a museum is sort of magical to me.

    For someone getting started in art journaling or bead making, what tips would you give them to get going in the right direction? Are there particular resources you’d recommend?

    Art journaling is fairly easy. DON’T overthink it- it’s all play. Get yourself a journal that feels REALLY okay to work in, whether it’s a hard bound sketchbook with rich, creamy paper or just a marble composition book. Rip out half the pages (trust me on this one- your book will be VERY thick as you add to it!) and prep the remaining pages with gesso. Buy supplies that appeal to you- I love washi tape, watercolor paints, stencils, ink, and markers. Treat the journal as a place where you can let go, not as a place where you “come together”, if that makes any sense. The best thing to do is gather a bunch of magazines and catalogues, glue, some tape, some cheap paint, and just cut and paste and smear paint on and scribble some words and watch what happens. It’s magical. I highly recommend a few books if you need inspiration: Painted Pages by Sarah Ahern Bellemare, “1,000 Artist Journal Pages” by Dawn DeVries Sokol, and “When Wanderers Cease to Roam: A Traveler’s Journal of Staying Put” by Vivian Swift.

    Beads… oh, that’s a bit tougher. To be honest, I would recommend skipping the polymer clay, and getting a pack of paper clay (the kind that air dries- available at any craft store), buying some bead rollers (I like the ones from Poly-Tools.com the best), and some alcohol inks or liquid watercolors and going in that direction. I love paper clay- it’s got this great texture, and it feels good to use, and it is very easy to work with. Roll some beads, let them air dry, and then play with your dyes and inks and paints on the surfaces of the beads- they are like mini canvases. Just glaze them with a water-based polyurethane sealer when you are done. As far as books: 1000 Glass Beads by Lark Press, and any of Donna Kato’s books.

    You recently started the The Common Miracles Project. What enticed you to start this project and what do you hope to accomplish with the project?
    I have been doing a lot of research into personal well-being and spiritual philosophy and one thing that kept coming up was how important gratitude was. I’ve never been a big fan of gratitude- it always felt forced so I have never been able to make it a regular practice. Common Miracles is basically an attempt to find the magic in the everyday, and savor the little moments, and maybe figure out how gratitude can become part of my daily life. I invited other bloggers to join in and document their everyday pleasures, as well.

    How do you incorporate creative living with raising your daughter? Do you have any particular craft projects that she likes and enjoys?

    Oh, EVERYTHING. Since she was old enough to hold a crayon, I split my art studio in half, set her up with her own workstation and a ton of supplies. We spend a LOT of time in the studio together- sometimes we work on similar projects (she’s taken an interest in art journaling this summer) or sometimes she pulls out her stencils and markers and I pull out my beads or paints and we just work side-by-side. It’s definitely a shared passion for us, and I love that she has a place she can come and get messy and make messes and just close the door when she’s done and get back into it the next day. She can be creative whenever she feels the whim without having to worry about getting out her supplies or asking me for help. It’s been great for her- I can’t count the time I have gotten up in the morning and found her hours into a project on her own.

    And finally, tell us the five people you’d love to have over for dinner and why!
    Oh, wow. Hmmm…

    Tina Fey, because she makes me laugh and she’s so smart. Amy Poehler, too. I love that my generation of women has these ladies to look up to.

    Martha Beck, because she has the GREATEST common sense and always gives the best advice.

    Shea Hembry– he gave a *FASCINATING* TED talk and he seems like he’d be amazing to have a conversation about art and identity with.

    Elizabeth Berg– my favorite author. Alexander McCall Smith, my other favorite author. Oh, and Mary Oliver, a great poet.

    That’s more than five, but it could be a dinner party!

    Chel blogs at Ginger Blue, sell her bead work at Gingerbluebeads.com and at her Etsy shop and you can participate in her The Common Miracles Project. All photos courtesy and copyright Chel Micheline.

    I inched along long enough that I finally finished the shawl!

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    I’m not quite sure when I will ever wear this. Maybe it will be a take to the movies shawl or a grab to fancy up something when I go out shawl. I dunno…

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    It would also make a great scarf, too, so I like that aspect of it.

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    The yarn grew on me despite being quite slippery at first. I still had some dropped stitches and would have to back track but it worked out well in the end.

    YAY! I go through creative cycles where I make, make, make and then read, read, read…it’s time for the reading part of this. I think I will be burying my nose in a book this week.

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    We initially saw these roses growing along Texas Point NWR and later discovered they are an invasive rose. Originally from China they join a host of other roses that have naturalized across the south, including the Cherokee rose and prairie rose. While they are beautiful, they are like other invasives and smother out native vegetation. Definitely think twice before planting or starting these plants in your own yard and opt for a non-invasive rose! This guy in Tampa had a tree sized McCartney rose! Yikes!

    More information:
    +Texas invasives
    +Galveston Bay invasives
    +USDA plant database

    I had to go home a few weeks ago for an interview so I snagged a few photos of my parent’s backyard while I was at it. The tomatoes were doing great and had a ‘doh’ moment and forgot to take any back with me to Beaumont. Anyway here’s a mini-tour. Hoping some are still on the vines when I get home at the end of next week.

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    A tiny little spider hanging with the four o’clocks I started from seed.

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    The corner bed has become a jungle so I wanted to see how it felt looking up.

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    Part of the tomatoes…

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    Moss rose that reseeded itself in one of the hanging baskets.

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    The daylilies were peaking…

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    The nasturtiums were going wild!

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    Columbines

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    Mmmm, tomatoes! Zoe loves them and eats the cherry ones off the vine.

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    Chris is a variegated plant nut so he bought more variegated sunflowers to start and they were doing fantastic!

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    Yarrow

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    And of course Daisy Lou was enjoying her time outside, following the squirrels.

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    Hoping to get in the yard some when I get back and definitely hoping the tomatoes are still producing…I wanna eat some!

    Around the gardening world:
    +Chiot’s Run and mushroom gardening
    +Chemical persistence in compost
    +The Peat Free Diet

    What is growing in your garden?

    As we crossed over the bridge at Navarre, across Santa Rosa sound, to Santa Rosa island, we had to squish against the side railing of the bridge for bicyclists who couldn’t manage to get off and walk their bike and share the path and fisherman reluctant to move their poles. Where’s the common courtesy?! We picked our poles up off the grate that was beneath our feet and I pretended I couldn’t see below and notice the ocean. Somehow over the years I’ve developed a small fear of heights, nothing big, only if I think hard about it do I get a little nutty. I was glad to get off the bridge and onto Santa Rosa island.

    The island is loaded with condos, a few restaurants and tourists of course. We appeared slightly out of place as we did in any city we walked through. After a quick restroom break at a gas station we kept walking our sidewalk hike through Santa Rosa island, through the condos and past the joggers and walkers and people with dogs. It was about 3.5-4 miles before we found the beach full-on.

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    We’d made it to Gulf Islands National Seashore! Here we’d be walking on the beach if we so chose or along the road and at some point we’d leave the beach and dip into the dunes for awhile. We knew we were choosing to stop our day at that cross over and for the sake of time that day we didn’t walk on the beach and chose the road instead.

    I would have expected this to be a more crowded area but I suppose in February the beach isn’t a popular destination even in Florida. I would hate to see this at spring break! For the next while we’d be on the beach until we hit the town of Pensacola Beach and then back into primitive beach areas again.

    It was slightly overcast which was nice and kept the sun from beating down on us as we walked west. The dunes were beautiful, but were wrecked by hurricane Ivan seven years ago, so traces of the destruction were seen everywhere. Pieces of asphalt were thrown into the dunes from the old road and where old worn oak trees once stood, many were now dead from the salt water inundation. I was excited be walking along this stretch, finally we were at the beach!

    Along the way Chris’ dad drove by to see how we were and then went further back to find Speaker so he could give him his bag for the night. We were well ahead of Speaker but had already made plans to meet up at some point during the following day so we could finish together. Speaker had been planning to get a ride with us for a bit until he could be dropped off a convenient place to hitchhike back to the Alabama connector and wait for the group several days behind us.

    There aren’t many convenient places to hide behind a dune or tree to take a tinkle but luckily there are a few parking lot areas with restrooms along the way. Some were closed and I had to dash across the street to find one that was open. Along the way we’d run into a few people asking what we were doing and then we’d give them the low-down on the FT. Some offered us rides, of course we could’ve used them at other times but this time we were squared away with a ride.

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    A little before 5pm we found the FT sign that signaled for us to cross the road and go into the dunes so we called Chris’ dad for him to pick us up.

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    You can see the pieces of asphalt in this photo.

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    Another gigantic chunk here. We headed off down the road in our first car ride since our stop in Blountstown. I was excited to be heading for a bed and a good dinner. That night we polished off large plates of Mexican food and retired to a luxurious bed. It’s funny, I kept thinking in my head that we were going to be getting up at 2a.m. to hike up 4,000K in three hours for a summit instead of hiking 18 miles along a beach for a noon-time arrival at Fort Pickens. I couldn’t get it out of my head, I kept thinking we were going to be having this spectacular finale and arrive at Katahdin in the morning! Hah!

    We did get up at the crack of dawn, mostly to get a roll on the day and try to avoid some of the sun. We were at the drop off by 6am having gotten our McDonald’s for breakfast and having got some for Speaker as well.

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    It was a beautiful morning for a walk on the beach, but the wind was howling and I’d left my warm hat in the hotel and had to rig up a bandanna for my ears. We’d been dropped off and had taken these photos when shortly after we saw Speaker trekking down the beach. He’d stopped shorter than he’d thought and had gotten up earlier in order to meet us at the dune switchover. We gave him his breakfast which he quickly ate and we headed for the dune walk.

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    White poles mark the path through the dunes. Sometimes they can be difficult to follow.

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    We weaved up and around dunes and though I thought it might be tough to walk, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I envisioned.

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    We were walking for those condos. They look closer than they actually are!

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    Along the way we found an area of pines on the bay side of the dunes and eventually the path wound through that. We saw two other people out there exploring and also found a Leave No Trace campsite run by Escambia county. I was surprised to see this and a little sad we didn’t know about it because it would’ve been really cool to sleep in the dunes.

    Eventually we reemerged onto the sidewalk just east of Pensacola beach. We planned to stop at a gas station for a last soda stop and rest when we got into town. We passed a school located on the beach—how cool would it be to teach/go to school there? The playground had a view of the ocean! Eventually we came to the heart of the beach town and stopped at a gas station where we relaxed for a bit on the parking curb. Inside I got a last guilt free soda and cookie and after talking to one of the other patrons inside the store about the FT he came out and talked for us for a bit about the trail. Then another person came out and started talking to us about the FT and said he’d considered it until he heard about the roadwalks, which we confirmed and then we found out that he was also an Aggie! Chris and I both wore our Aggie rings so we were easy to identify in that way.

    Back on the sidewalk jungle we kept our pace towards the west, aiming for Fort Pickens. Soon we left town once again and were back at GINS where we prepared for the beach walk after a last bathroom stop.

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    It was an awesome walk, too! I am so glad we were walking on the beach because it was beautiful! Portuguese man ‘o war were washed up everywhere. Oh, I should also note that throughout the whole beach walk we did see small remnants of the BP oil spill in the form of workers left to respond to any issues that might arise.

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    And a tar ball. Well, several tar balls, most about this big, but there nonetheless.

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    Speaker still trekking it with his homemade bamboo poles from the Suwanee area.

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    Isn’t this view cool? NOTHING blocking a view. No condos, NOTHING! I imagine this is what it looked like when the Spanish explorers landed in the area.

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    For the most part we chose to walk on the wetter sand, dodging waves as they came to shore.

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    And then we spotted our first sea turtle washup. This green didn’t appear to have any blunt trauma damage so perhaps it was oil spill related. No one was around but I had noted where we were in the dunes, near a particularly vegetated dune area, so we could tell someone once we got to Fort Pickens.

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    For size, so still a juvenile.

    We jumped back onto the road so we wouldn’t miss the turns that were coming up once we arrived at Fort Pickens. When we finally started seeing buildings we thought we’d have to pay but it turns out we must’ve bypased the pay station back on the road when we’d initially walked on the beach.

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    Some of the bunkers that were around the area, built into the dunes. We crossed the road here and went to follow some trails through the park on the back side of the island. Another stop at a restroom before we carried on our way. Here we followed a closed access dirt road and then some small trails through scrub vegetation and along a few salt marshes. We crossed through a campground with full of large RVs and got a few weird looks as we walked through. Another couple of bunkers were passed and then all of a sudden it seemed we were at the end of the line.

    There was a large parking lot and a sign and that was it. The end of the Florida Trail. No awesome sign delineating how far it was to Loop Road, no spectacular view, just a parking lot and Fort Pickens itself to the south of the lot. It would’ve been much more awesome to end at the tip of the beach or on Fort Pickens itself.

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    It looks kinda strange to see you’ve walked the entire length of Florida!

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    Chris’ dad and step-mom arrived shortly after and brought us our sandwiches from Subway where we sat in the breezeway near the giftshop eating our lunch. We stopped into the giftshop for a bit to check out what was there, got a piece of paper stamped with the Florida Trail and Fort Pickens on it for a souvenir. Then we decided to check out the fort itself.

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    Definitely not as creepy at the fort at St. Augustine!

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    And that was it. We’d finished the Florida Trail to a rather boring ‘summit’. I couldn’t imagine finishing at Loop Road, either, being dumped onto a hardly used road in the middle of Big Cypress.

    We all piled in the car and headed for the hotel where we said goodbye to Speaker and hoped we’d see him again one day. He was planning on hiking for at least another month to piddle around at Trail Days in Damascus and then head to work before starting another adventure later on this year.

    I feel like at the end of the AT we had some time to decompress and understand the hike, staying in Maine for a few days and taking it all in. Here it just seemed to end and there wasn’t really anyone to bounce off the whole affect of the trail, fellow hikers and such. It was just over.

    That night we went and got a good seafood dinner on the beach and a few touristy trinkets. We took Ridley and Panther to the beach for photographs since we’d forgotten to it when we were there the first time.

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    My hair was really long. I chopped it off shortly after getting home.

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    Ahh, enjoying coffee after a long hiatus!

    I will probably do a final thoughts post on the FT in a few days with some of the suggestions I sent to the FTA and our overall thoughts on the trail. It was definitely a different experience than the AT!

    I hope you’ve enjoyed reading our long distance hiking adventures!

    For the first installment: go here

    There will definitely be at least one more, if not two, posts about this tiny little preserve. Had to do some digging to come up with names for some plants and then I still don’t know a few!

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    Had some fun chasing this ant around on what I believe is Rhynchosia tomentosa.

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    And then I spied this Passiflora lutea growing under the taller herb layer. Didn’t see a flowering plant.

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    And while I was down checking the passionvine out I decided to see how an ant feels and show how it looked like a mini-forest under there.

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    Looking down towards the pond in front of the property.

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    A variety of milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa. Good butterfly plant as any gardener should know!

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    Last fall while working in the Sabine National Forest, this plant was completely knew to me and all I could say was that it looked like cilantro or the like. Well, it is parsley hawthorn, Crataegus marshallii, so I was right on the weird description!

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    I think this is Texas azalea, Rhododendron oblongifolium. It was smelling heavenly and most of the flowers were on their way out, though.

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    I think this is a northern crescent butterfly, Phyciodes cocyta. Didn’t have the right lens for this but got as close as I could before it flew away. I always do the general “it was here” shot and then start working my way closer to get a better shot for any animal.

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    Love these guys when they cooperate!

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    It’s too bad some of the sitting areas have fallen into derelict.

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    Next time we’ll cross this bridge and head into the pitcher plant ‘bog’!

    Our project here in the Big Thicket will be wrapping up here in a week or so. Here are some of the cooler things I’ve dug out of our camera. We’re constantly seeing strange and interesting things, though the heat is getting to us now and by mid day we wish we were indoors!

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    A bit out of focus but a cool mantis nonetheless.

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    A creepy spider protecting her eggs

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    A variegated violet

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    Some worm or caterpillar was in this cypress needle covered thing and it must’ve fallen loose from the limbs above because we found it dangling at about 5′ above ground. By the time we left it had pulled itself up another 10′.

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    Getting ready to work on a plot

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    This is the sweetest dog. If it were a dog friendly hotel we were staying in someone would’ve taken her home by now. Our coworker may be taking her at the end of the project. Anyway, we had to come down a bayou to a picnic area where this dog and its mom were staying. The mom takes off every time and this dog stays around mostly. She started off skittish but now is accustomed to us and will accept food. First we gave her scraps of our own food and then we started taking dog food. Apparently she became spoiled with wet dog food and now refuses dry food. Very sweet dog!

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    Some tall cypress knees! At least 5+ feet! Can’t imagine how deep it gets when there isn’t a drought! View it Large on Black

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    Chris measuring trees with his calipers.

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    Walking in Village Creek. This creek is low so we have to drag the canoe in some areas. Plus, the water feels good, albeit bathtub warm sometimes, in the afternoon heat.

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    Lots of downed logs to go around in the creek, too.

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    We had some thick clay at one of our plots so while I was busy getting plants identified Chris had some fun making a face for the tree. I think the Spanish moss mustache is perfect!

    Love being outside but the heat is becoming unbearable. And the spiders are getting ginormous. And we’re eaten up by chiggers. You know, the usual outside stuff.

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