The Last Trip to Fakahatchee Strand

This week will be full of ‘last’ trips. Every time I go somewhere or drive somewhere I wonder if it will be the last time I’ll drive by it. When we left Fakahatchee yesterday I was reading a magazine and when I looked up and realized it’d be the last time for awhile I said goodbye while watching the evening sun glisten across the fields.

I wanted to go for one last trip there but my idea was to go see some variegated Guzmania monostachia. Instead Chris and his hiking friend Rich wanted to go to a very distant population of Cranichis muscosa, the moss loving orchid. It was lost for a century when another population was found elsewhere in the Strand. Chris and a group went down to this population about three years ago and let me tell you—it is in the boonies. The tram we took used to be clear-ish apparently, but not this time around. We waded through ferns up to our shoulders and ducked under, over and around Brazilian pepper bushes. Two + miles of that. And the water was still fairly high out there for this time of year, not to mention cold!

cranichis mucosa 2
These are the little plants. They grow on floating logs in the water or in cypress knees in some areas.

cranichis mucosa 1
This is my favorite shot. I used the reverse lens technique on my 18-55mm lens.

cranichis muscosa 4
The flowers are very tiny; the whole plant is not but a few inches tall. They are very non-descript if you walked by them in their non-blooming state.

We didn’t see any animals other than a cottonmouth that swam in this area that Chris is at in the photo. It came out of nowhere, but I heard it splash and saw it go over the log and off into the woods. Very creepy! Oh, and a smaller cottonmouth, very tiny baby that wasn’t going to move because it was too cold. But other than that, only bear scat and nothing else!

bp berry
Brazilian pepper is one of the worst plants in the world. Ok, in Florida. I’m sure in Brazil it is lauded as beautiful and awesome. But, not here. However, I was eyeing a seed pod on a strap leaf fern and thought that it looked pretty cool.

bp berry 2
And so I thought this might be the only nice way I would enjoy a Brazilian pepper.

When we left we caught Mike Owen and Karen Relish and a few other Fakahatchee explorers in the park office. It was good to chat with them since it would be the last time to see them in awhile. There was another person there who took a group photo of us but I don’t remember his name, but I do know his friend read my blog at one point. If you are reading this—send me an email! I’d love to have a copy of that photo!

So, goodbye Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. I’ll miss you…but not your mosquitoes. 😉

The Last Ghost Orchid Trip

It was bittersweet taking our last ghost orchid trip to Little Slough. When Chris found our slough in 2007 (you’ll have to scroll down to May because I didn’t link titles back then) we’d been searching for ghost orchids for several years. We’d tromped all around Fakahatchee Strand looking for various plants and just exploring, not really knowing any different orchids.

When we found this orchid, Campylocentrum pachyrrhizum after a geocaching camping event, we were super excited because we thought it was a ghost orchid. Only, it wasn’t. Close—but no cigar. Sadly, this orchid isn’t even there anymore, it was taken by someone right off the tree. Bummer.

We looked for years and then we ended up knowing someone who’d been to a place and he tried to give us a description of where it was and finally Chris went out there in late April 2007 to try to find it. I stayed home because I had a cold, but when he called me to say he’d found what he thought was several hundred ghost orchid, I was excited! Later, when we got the coordinates from our friend for the original area, we discovered that we’d found a completely new and undiscovered batch of ghost orchids.

We spent that summer documenting the orchids and ended up counting 607 individuals. More or less. Now, probably less, as several have died. We would be tying ribbon on the trees and we’d see, one, two, three–no, wait, seven or eight on a tree. It was insane. That was a pretty awesome and interesting summer.

The next summer we spent several nights out video taping to see if we could get the pollinator of the ghost orchid on video. We ended up being successful. It was pretty insane sitting in the dark with the bugs and having a huge moth buzz your ear. And then we got it on tape—even more awesome!

So, on our trip out last Sunday we were a bit worried for our babies. The freezes we had a few weeks ago were severe enough to knock back mangroves down in the Naples area. It was really bad in the central part of the state. Luckily, they survived for the most part.

old spikes
Two old spikes from last year.

ghost 2
I will miss visiting them.

new spike
A new spike is already forming on this ghost—to the left.

dying ghost
This is one that is on the way out.

ghost 1
We’ve entrusted the slough to our friends Kathy and Randy and a very small handful of others who know the location.

Goodbye Little Slough! We’ll be coming to visit in a few years.

Mushroom-y Thoughts

three mushrooms
One area I’d like to improve upon is my identification of mushrooms. Right now it is nil. Nada. Nothing.

mushroom closeup
They are such intricate creatures, fungi. These are beautiful; the white and brown are such a beautiful combination.

mushroom edge
Find a good piece of rotting material, wood, animal, excrement, whatever—and up grows a mushroom. Sometimes over night.

mushroom group
I’ve been struggling lately with the idea of leaving Florida. I do have a Florida post brewing in my head, but my problem is mostly because it was here in Florida that I really learned to see nature around me. I learned the ecosystems and started learning to identify plants and animals and took a deep appreciation to it all.

mushroom abstract
One of my bff’s Michelle is great at putting things back into perspective. To her, I’ve conquered Florida. I’d disagree—there’s a lot I haven’t done here. But, what I took from it was that there is beautiful things to explore everywhere. Tiny mushrooms exist in Texas. Ghost orchids don’t, but I shall have to find something else rare and exotic. Kemp’s ridley sea turtles might suffice. So, today I sat down and refreshed myself on the eco zones of Texas.

I don’t know how it is in other states, but Texas history and geography is very important in the school education system. Or at least it was when I grew up. I mean, Texas was it’s own country…! We take things seriously. But, instead the Everglades, sandhill regions, and the hardwood hammocks of Florida, I will learn about the post oak belt, the cross-timbers, the piney woods and the Edwards plateau.

And it looks awesome.

Packing, Packing, Packing

Ok, so there isn’t a ton of packing going on this week, especially since Chris got back on Friday and we are just kinda getting back into the swing of things.

Saturday we spent the day in the yard, cleaning it up and getting it ready for the plant sale. It was a big pain but it made the yard look so much better. A big pile formed at the end of the driveway for the trash man (and women if there are any). Sunday we held the plant sale, cloudy as it was. We had our first sale back in November and managed to sell a lot of the orchids. If we’d been as organized as we were this time, we’d of done even better back then.

The one thing we learned this time around was to have back up signs. Apparently the city has sign meanies out there who pick up yard sale signs in the medians. This time we came prepared and put new signs out after they’d picked the first round up! Score for the Aggies!

The best person to come by was a lady who told me to load her car up and give her a price. So, load her car up I did. Chris added the price up and knocked a bit off since she took a lot off our hands and then he even drove over to her house to help her deliver some of them!

The worst person was this guy who thought we must’ve been in a Latin American market somewhere and was trying to make a deal. I was peeved when Chris ok’d him taking a 7-8′ loquat tree and a spoonleaf plumeria for $10. And the loquat had fruit. We’d had the plumeria for $10 and the loquat for $15, which were steals to begin with. The guy came back later when we were about to leave to take a look and he wanted our cotton plant and then he was eyeing the ylang ylang. He wanted the 10′ ylang ylang for $35 (HELL NO) along with the cotton. I told him to take the cotton and we basically shamed him into leaving. Top Tropicals has a 3 gallon pot for $50. Ours is at least 10-15 gallons. This was one plant we weren’t cutting deals on. And some of the orchids, too.

Alas, the ylang ylang is still in the back yard and I’m hoping someone on Craigslist will bite; someone did email me but hasn’t responded to that email yet. Everything else will probably end up on Freecycle soon.

Tonight we put more furniture out on the bulk trash pile for the week since our bulk trash gets picked up this week. I’m pretty sure it’ll be gone tomorrow afternoon since we already had people drive by and take the grill and our porch swing.

Slowly, things will get packed. I can’t believe we have 8 days left at our jobs. The insanity! Our route back to Texas has been planned and tonight we were scouting how we were going to get to Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia to start the trail. So much left to do: planning food drops, getting things at REI, mentally and physically continuing to prepare and well, moving!

So, that is where things are at the moment.

Dinner Island Part II: Macro and Sunset

After going through the rest of my photos of Dinner Island I realized I didn’t have enough macro shots to warrant a separate post. Alas, you’ll get a mix of macro and sunset. I love looking at the little details…



Lichen holding on…

fence 2
I think this is one of my favorite shots. It can be difficult to get light coming in like this, but I love it!

fence 3

fence 4

fence 5

dinner island sunset 4
Probably my favorite sunset shot out of the set.

dinner island sunset 3

dinner island sunset 21

dinner island sunset 1
I didn’t think this one was going to turn out that great when I looked at it in the camera, but I think I like it!

A few things:
-Does anyone else have horrible spam comment issues with WordPress? I NEVER had this problem with Haloscan (which is now closing its doors, so go download all of your comments now!), but I get at least one a day if not more and it is usually on the same post. I don’t want to moderate every comment but this is getting ridiculous!

-We now have a Trail Journal page. It has an RSS button as well. I am planning on copying and pasting on each. I did three posts, repeats of what was on here in order to get the journal listed on TJ, and you can do HTML so it will be easy to c&p. But, TJ has a gear section and we are slowly adding our gear to it. I will let you know when we’ve got it finished and you can have a gander at it.

-We went to Little Slough today to check on the ghost orchids and make it a farewell trip. The ghosts did much better than we thought. A few were already on their way out from a dry spring last year, but only a few had some yellowing on their roots. One even already has a spike! So, things are good there. I’ll bring photos of those later this week. It was a bit bittersweet leaving it, but we have some friends who will keep a good eye on it.

10′ Ylang Ylang Tree for Sale

I think our Ylang Ylang tree is going to be hard to sell. It was grown from seed and is now 10′ tall in a container. It is in the blooming stage already.

If you are in South Florida and want to come by and take a look at it, drop me an email at oceanicwilderness at gmail dot com. Our price is $75 at the moment, but it is worth more than that.

Heck, I have MORE plants so, send me an email.

Destination: Katahdin

I could blame Eliana. After all it was practically this time last year when we went to Payne’s Prairie and met up with them after their epic adventure across North America.

She gave me a few magazines to read on the way home and one of them was Backpacker. I didn’t read it until a few days later, but inside was an article on the Appalachian Trail. It took all of finishing the article for me to develop a plan. When Chris got home from work I brought up my great idea: Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail. He looked at me with a quizzical brow (ok, it was more like, whaatttt?) but we went to dinner and decided it was do-able. The biggest thing was coming up with the money to do it.

We took a few days to sit down and read about it. A magazine article wasn’t going to cut it. We scoured the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website, read Trail Journals and came up with a game plan: save a bunch of money and start doing a lot of hiking. We broke the news to our parents the following weekend and I think they were pretty much stunned. I think they thought we were insane.

Sure, we were giving up jobs that we’d gotten comfortable in. But, he’s 30, I’m going to turn 30 on the trail, we have no real responsibilities other than the cats (which are joining their cousins at my parents house for a few months), no mortgage, no children. We finally reached a point where we had some ability to use our money instead of scrimping and saving and paying off bills. It was now or waiting until we were 60 and our kids went to college. Sure, there are the brave souls who travel the world with their children and take them hiking on all sorts of adventures, but I don’t think I have the money or the patience for that.

Throughout the summer we slowly bought new and better gear. We couldn’t walk in our hand-me-down Kelty external frame pack—well, we could, but the name of the game is light-weight. We tested out different things, and slowly bought everything we would need. We won’t be the lightest pair on the trail, but we’ll be doing 25-30lbs starting out of town each time. Summer time should get us down to 20-25 lbs possibly. The ultra-light hikers do 10-15lbs and sometimes even less than that! But, we choose some comforts over ultra light packing.

So, where does that leave us at present? Well, packing. And selling our plants and a lot of our furniture. We had a plant sale back in November and are having another one tomorrow. It is hard to be getting rid of a lot of them, but I know we can start over again later, especially when we have a house that they can go in the ground. Part of my emotional week from hell last week (the week Ashleigh was born) was also because I gave my boss my four week notice. After nearly six years on the job it was difficult to part ways. That is another post later on, a post about our time in Florida.

We’ve quit our jobs and we have two weeks until we hit the road west to Texas. We’ll stay in Texas for three weeks or so and start probably the second week of March on the AT. We’re bouncing back and forth between my parents and Chris’ mom’s house and trying to get some hiking in while we are there. Texas actually has some hills so that will be good training as opposed to flat Florida.

Where we will end up after the trail is up in the air at the moment, but it will be more than likely Texas. But, like South Texas or somewhere like that. Not Houston. Been there, done that. And we’ll find jobs again, or maybe we’ll actually do something with our photography and try to get something off the ground in that aspect. Who knows? The trail is going to help us out a bit on that part.

As for the trail, here is a brief run-down of what to expect here on the blog:

-I’ll be posting when I get to town, at libraries or hostels, but that will be every 3-5 days and then who really knows if I’ll have the time or not. We’ve decided not to carry an iphone or Blackberry, so we’ll be free from the ‘net a bit.

-When I do post I’ll try to break it down into several posts so that you are entertained. Photos, lots of photos. And videos.

-We are sleeping in a tent. For six months. There are shelters every 8-12 miles, but especially at the beginning they tend to get very crowded. And there are mice. And they run over your face. The tent sounds nicer, now, right?

-It’s going to be hard. There will be up and down days, just like in real life. The trail is a lot of physical work, but it is mostly mental. It rains a lot, it’ll snow, there will be bears. Things will get to you. You just have to let it go and take it one day at a time. You can’t hike 2,178 miles in a day. You do 10 miles to start and work your way up to 20 mile days in Virginia and the more flat states and go from there.

-I’m going to smell. WOO! I’m trying to convince Chris to grow a beard out. Maybe get some shaggy hair going. I wonder if I can grow my leg hair out long enough to braid? haha, I will be taking a razor.

-Food…whatever is light and packs the most calories. This isn’t a time for dieting. We’ll be eating a lot and sometimes we’ll be running a deficit, no matter how much junk we can pack in at town. This is great…I need to lose 20 lbs! We’ll be supplementing with dehydrated meals that we’ve bought online, Mountain House is one of the brands, but we’ll also be eating a lot of sealed chicken and salmon with those Lipton/Knorr rice and noodle packs. And ramen noodles. Dried fruits…that sort of thing.

-We adopt trail names on the trail. Gone are Misti and Chris. I’m going to be Ridley, I think…Chris hasn’t decided yet. Most people let someone on the trail pick the name.

-Really, I can’t cover it all here, but if you have questions, post them and I’ll do a FAQ post.

-Some of my favorite blogs that I’ve read: Postcard (a 2010 hiker), All Right and Half Left (another 2010 hikers and from Florida), Wags (2009 hiker and excellent journal), Ben & Lauren’s 2007 Journal (loved this one because it was a couple.), Joe Liles 2009 journal.

2,178 long miles up the Eastern seaboard….

It all started at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park in January 2007!

Love Thursday

Ashleigh Ryon
Photo courtesy of my Curtis and Stephanie Whitlock

In trying to understand just how tiny Ashleigh is, this really brings it home. Yes, that is my brother’s wedding band on her arm. Her little rib cage makes me want to tickle her ribs, just like my dad liked to do with us, and say “goochy, goochy, goo!” Ah, that will have to wait a few months.

Somewhere in the mess of the past week my brother found time to post a blog chronicling the saga up until her birth. Hopefully he will be able to etch out more time for other thoughts, but I suspect that things will be busy for awhile.

When I am home for my visit in two weeks I know I will be put to work…I think he has a shed that needs to be built. Oh and a spring garden to get planted.

What else I am loving this Thursday:
Meghan had some recent luck during to have someone interested in buying photos she took of their pet dog. Score! I’m also insanely jealous. This is me lighting a fire under my arse—–>fire lit—->getting a move on with putting photos up.

But she also created a super cool portable portfolio that has been featured on the blog of the brand of album she used. Such a cool idea!. I’m totally going to um, borrow that idea…yeah. Borrow. 😉

-The weather. It’s beautiful.

-Seeing several bald eagles on the west coast (of Florida) yesterday. Not to mention the enormous flocks of wading birds right now. Insane, people, insane. The only downside is the roadkill on U.S. 41 from the birds nesting so close to the road. Dead wood storks aren’t a good sight to see.

-Oh, and the fact my husband is coming home tomorrow after three weeks in the Bahamas. Yeah…three weeks. WOOHOO! Officially the longest we’ve been away from each other since we were married. The first week—kinda nice. I mean, it’s good to have your own time. The second week—well, last week was an emotional week from hell. Would’ve been nice to have him around. This week—will be good to have him here! Though, I do like the leg room in the bed! hah!

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