A Visit to Fern Plantation


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Arachnoides standishii

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L to R: Jean, Cindy, Laurin, Andrea, Darla Fern Plantation’s owner, and me.

A few weeks ago I was invited to join some other garden bloggers for a little mid-week meetup at a local nursery. No one had been to it before but I had seen it on Google Maps as it is in our neck of the woods. Fern Plantation nursery had piqued our interest but because it seemed to be by appointment only (and it is) we didn’t really know if we could go and visit. Was it wholesale only? After the invitation from Andrea to join the group I knew that I wanted to go and find out more!

So I took a few hours off mid-day to meet up with the group and I knew most of these ladies via social media or their blogs, and I had met Andrea by chance at a Peckerwood Garden plant sale back in the spring. Other than that I had not met them in person and didn’t know much about them other than what I’ve seen online so it was nice to get to know them a little bit and hang out with some fellow gardeners.

The nursery itself is at the end of a dead-end road and you turn onto the driveway kind of unsure that you are in the right place, despite the signage directing you to the greenhouses. Once I arrived I felt instantly transported to the nursery areas of SW Miami-Dade county, in the Redland area where tropical plant growers abound. Chris and I used to drive those quiet backroads and find random greenhouses to peek into and buy whatever they were growing—anything from orchids and bromeliads to various tropical plants. Ah, I could go for a weekend doing that again!

Cindy was there first, chatting with Darla, and so I joined them while we waited for the rest to arrive. Darla has been into ferns for several decades but only in the last few years has she turned that into the business. There are so many ferns that I couldn’t even begin to name them all but I did see several glorious birdsnest and staghorn ferns that were very drool-worthy. I’m always looking for native plants so I asked about those first and was directed to the growing area for those. I ended up buying two native ferns and two non-native ferns: Dryopteris goldiana – Goldie’s wood fern, Athryium filix-femina – lady fern, Arachnoides standishii – upside down fern (labeled in the photos above), and Microgramma piloselloides – hairy snakefern–and it came in a mounted container as a more ornamental fern. Now to just make sure the deer don’t devour them once I plant them in the ground in the spring!

After our trip wandering the greenhouse we found some Tex-Mex for lunch and to chat a bit. It reminded me of the garden meet-ups I used to go to in Florida through Gardenweb, back when that it was in its heyday. Hopefully another meet-up will work out again in the future! But if you are in Houston and want to visit a very different kind of nursery, look up Fern Plantation and give them a call to drop by!

Red-Spotted Purple Butterfly, Limenitis arthemis astyanax | Wildlife Wednesday


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As seems to be the general case these days, I was digging around on my backup hard drive looking for another particular photo or set of photos and came across our photos from when Chris and I joined my brother and dad to hike the Eagle Rock Loop on the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas back in 2012. You can read day 1, day 2, and day 3 here. For those entries I had put together the photos into a sort of mosaic, mostly trying to conglomerate how many photos I had per post into something more reasonable, a feat that I’ve never really been able to replicate or reduce because if you read my blogs you know there are lots of photos!

That said, I wanted to upload the photos themselves to Flickr instead of having those mosaics and that prompted me to want to have a few select posts about the wildlife, the first being the red-spotted purple butterflies we saw. At the time I didn’t know what they were and probably thought they were related to swallowtails but instead they are in the brush-footed family, Nymphalidae. Despite there being quite a bit of sightings in Texas, I have only seen them or at least noticed them once, this last summer in a ‘burb of NE Dallas. And at that time I didn’t even know what it was until I put it into iNaturalist. But when these photos popped up I knew what they were immediately and that was quite exciting to see! We came across two different groupings, one at the Albert Pike Recreation Area where they were actively trying to enjoy the salt off of our hands, and another group at the trailhead to Little Missouri Falls where they were puddling on the ground.

There are two subspecies of the red-spotted admiral, Limenitis arthemis astyanax – the red-spotted purple, and Limenitis arthemis arthemis – the white admiral. The white admiral is the more northern subspecies ranging from the New England area into the Great Lakes over to Minnesota, and the red-spotted purple ranging in a much broader area from New England and south into the mid-west and dipping into east and central Texas. From what I’ve read the two subspecies will hybridize when their regions overlap and apparently they can also hybridize with viceroys, Limenitis archippus! Viceroys are monarch mimics for those who may know that name. Caterpillar host plants include cherry, vaccineum, and willow species among a few others.

Another check to the butterfly life list!

The Fields Aflame


Sometime in late 2010 I came to know of Florence + the Machine via the Lungs album. I bought the cd and ripped it to upload to my mp3 player and listened to the album on our 2011 Florida Trail thru-hike in the evenings while in the tent. Since then I’ve become a huge fan of her music and have bought her subsequent albums, mostly recently High As Hope, albeit over a year after it was released. I’m a little slow on the music front these days.

It was really one of the songs from that album that I came across on Spotify that sealed the deal to get back into collecting F + M music.

Snippets from my favorite lyrics in the song South London Forever, which is probably my favorite song on the album:

With your black cool eyes and your bitten lips
The world is at your fingertips
It doesn’t get better than this
What else could be better than this?
Oh, don’t you know I have seen
I have seen the fields aflame
And everything I ever did
Was just another way to scream your name

And we’re just children wanting children of our own
I want a space to watch things grow
But did I dream too big?
Do I have to let it go?
What if one day there is no such thing as snow?

Except that green is so green
And there’s a special kind of sadness that seems to come with spring
Oh, don’t you know I have seen
I have seen the fields aflame
And everything I ever did
Was just another way to scream your name

The two particular lines that I love the most:

“What if one day there is no such thing as snow?” —just the way she sings it and the song moves in this portion.

“And there’s a special kind of sadness that seems to come with spring” —I can feel these lyrics because I can completely understand them.

I’ll close with another video of another of my favorite songs on the album:

First Citrus Harvest


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Finally, after all of these years of trying to grow citrus we are being rewarded with fruit! The oranges are from a tree I bought Chris when we were still living in our tiny rental here in Houston circa 2011/2012. The tree finally went in the ground when we moved in to the house and we added to the little grove over the years. The lemon tree we added as as a sacrificial tree for the giant swallowtail caterpillars that were chowing on our smaller trees out back, only we didn’t realize at the time of purchase that they were treated with a systemic pesticide and our act of goodwill was really an act of death. Lesson learned. The systemic is long gone and the tree has since hosted caterpillars and finally a bowl full of lemons this year!

Forest and I have been enjoying seeing them ripen over the last month and I know that I enjoyed coming home and driving up the driveway to the sight of bright yellow ornaments dangling from the tree. But it was time to harvest them and we ventured out yesterday afternoon to pick them off the tree. Forest helped—the lemons were much easier than the oranges to pull—and now we need to make something with them. Lemon curd is definitely on the agenda and maybe some kind of lemon dessert for Christmas. Do share your favorite lemon recipe with me!

Mendenhall Glacier | Juneau, Alaska


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When we were planning our cruise and knew that we were going to be visiting Juneau, I knew that I wanted to visit Mendenhall Glacier. And at first I thought we would just figure out a way to get there on our own. Later when booking our tours, Chris found a whale watching tour with a side stop to the glacier. It wasn’t going to be for as long as I wanted to stay at the park but it would suffice.

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I had vague ideas about the glacier from a former co-worker in Florida who had visited when he went to AK for a work trip. I recalled the photos and that prompted me to be very interested in the glacier. And after some Googling it was quite easy to come across a lot of photos showing changes to the glacier over the last century and decades.

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With about an hour or so to linger at the glacier we made our way from the bus drop off at the visitors center and walked the paved pathway down to the viewing platform. There was a side trail that was a bit longer that would allow a slightly closer view but with Forest tagging along we didn’t think we had the time to get there and back.

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The scenery was gorgeous no matter where you looked.

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And Forest was far more interested in the rock slabs to climb on than he was in the glacier, which at this point is quite far away.

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Back in the summer before we left for our cruise Chris’ mom had dug out a photo album from a cruise she took in the late 60s or early 70s with her family. There were photos of her at the glacier as well and it is a drastic difference in how close the glacier is to her in the photos to how close it is to us in 2019! Pretty dramatic for an approximately 50 year difference.

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I was impressed by the glacier but not super impressed, mostly because of how far away it seemed. You didn’t get that ‘oomph’ that I was expecting. I would get that in a few days time when we went to Glacier Bay—which is still one of the highlights of the trip. That said, if you get the chance to visit the glacier don’t turn up the chance. It is still pretty impressive! And I would say I was probably more impressed when we were out Auke Bay on the whale watching boat and could see further up the glacier into the mountains.

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I really love this photo Forest and I got together but we had no idea someone was photobombing us in the background! All of the photos that were snapped in that series had her in it and I will have to see if I can edit her out at some point. I attempted to when editing photos to share here but didn’t have the patience with the amount of cloning I was going to have to do to fix it.

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We made a brief stop into the visitors center and gift shop for a few items and to see what their educational display was like but then ducked back outside to see what the small trails near the parking area were like. Again, we had very little time to really explore.

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Gone to seed, fireweed. Chamaenerion angustifolium

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Down by the parking area was a small creek filled with salmon both dead and alive. Chris wanted to spend some time looking at the salmon and Forest and I wanted to explore a small boardwalk that went into the woods a bit so we took off down that trail.

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Green alder, Alnus viridis

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Several piles of fresh bear scat were down below in the grass next to the boardwalk. Based on observations on iNaturalist the general population of bears in the area seem to be black bears.

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The boardwalk wound around to a dirt trail and this really gorgeous scene. Several other people were standing there watching something and we paused. An animal skittered across and at first my brain thought “Otter!” and then, whoa, “NO! Mink!” I had no time to get my camera ready to even take an ‘I saw it’ shot so we just watched for a few seconds as the animal bounced around the edge of the creek and darted off into the vegetation. Apparently the people who had been standing there had been watching it for a few minutes before it sauntered off. High on a pretty uncommon sighting, at least in the Lower 48*, we returned to where Chris was, excited to share what we saw. And it turns out he saw a mink, too! There had to be a den somewhere very nearby. And I just checked iNaturalist—no one has logged a mink in that vicinity.

*We know of a mink that lives around the boat docks at Lake Livingston State Park here in Texas—I think Chris has seen it. And Chris and I have seen a roadkill Everglades Mink on Alligator Alley and saw its potential family member run across right after. We saved the roadkill and turned it into the state wildlife officials. And we had the opportunity to watch a live mink in Fakahatchee Strand several years back. And I guess I should say uncommon in the south—iNaturalist has a lot of sightings in the NE US but not as much in the south.

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Our short time at the glacier was lovely! I hope the next time I visit the glacier isn’t another .5 mile up the hill.

Island Trail Exploration | Martin Creek Lake State Park


Let’s go back to Easter weekend this year where I left a post or two incomplete from our trip to Martin Creek Lake State Park. The promise of spring was so bright—plants were blooming, the earth smelled sweet…ahhh, only a few more months away!

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Annual Blue-eyed Grass, Sisyrinchium rosulatum

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Texas Vervain, Verbena halei

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Green Antelopehorns, Asclepias viridis

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Hercules’ Club, Zanthoxylum clava-herculis

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Black Snakeroot, Sanicula canadensis

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Lizard’s Tail, Saururus cernuus

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On the southeast portion of the park is an island that you can access by a pedestrian bridge. At the time we hiked there were portions of the trail that were a big soggy in places and others that were relatively high and dry. As you’ll see in all of the photos it definitely ranges from wetland to upland on the trails back there!

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Purple Passionflower, Passiflora incarnata

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Chickasaw Plum, Prunus angustifolia

These were a sight to see and such a thicket of them! Unfortunately the fruits weren’t yet ripe so no hungry foraging for us!

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I think this is littlehip hawthorn, Crataegus spathulata but I’m not 100% on that. Hawthorns can be tricky!

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Texas Toadflax, Nuttallanthus texanus

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Small-flowered Catchfly, Silene gallica – non-native but pretty.

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A flock of vultures waiting for something to become available to forage.

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See? A little bit squishy.

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I went back on Easter morning to walk the trails again while Chris and Forest fished and to get better photos of the chickasaw plum thicket—that whole area is plum trees!

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I loved this open field but was annoyed how the crimson clover had taken over. I wonder if it was seeded out here or if it made its way from the roadsides into this meadow over the years and just ran with it?

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I still love this state park. I only wish that the power plant wasn’t directly across the lake because when in operation it is rather noisy plus it is unsightly when in view on the lake. Otherwise, this is a great state park in the northern part of east Texas!

Adventure Reads Part II


One post over the years that seems to have done well was my Adventure Reads post. So, I thought that it was high time to have an Adventures Reads Part II.

Thirst: 2600 Miles to Home by Heather ‘Anish’ Anderson
I’ve never had a burning desire to hike the PCT. The CDT was always what I wanted to hike next in the compendium of ultimate long distance trails. Even reading Wild didn’t really cement the desire to hike the PCT into my brain like it did to so many people who wanted to traipse in Cheryl’s footsteps. But Thirst fleshed out more of the details of the PCT for me, offering some vivid descriptions of the desert sections, the long-day struggles of hiking Heather went into as she progressed through the Sierras and into Oregon and Washington—the camaraderie she shared with folks who crossed her path along the way, it made me more interested in the PCT than I had ever been.

I wrote about the book in one of my book reports when the book came out but for those who are unaware of who Heather is, she’s most known for her 2013 self supported fastest known time (FKT) record on the PCT as a relatively unknown hiker. Since then she’s gone on to hike thousands more miles including most recently becoming the first woman to do a calendar year Triple Crown—hiking the AT, PCT, and CDT in one calendar year. At the time only 4 people had completed the feat. The logistics from travel and weather are quite complicated. But she did it! Here’s a great article if you are new to Heather and want to get an idea about her: NatGeo Adventurers of the Year.

North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail
This book was very enjoyable and fast-paced. For those unfamiliar with Scott Jurek, he’s an ultra-runner with a long history of trail race winnings. You may know him from Eat and Run, a memoir about his running and running as a vegan. With the long distance FKT frenzy that really kicked off in the early to middle of the 2010s, Scott began eyeing an FKT of the Appalachian Trail, despite not really being a long distance backpacker. He was going after Jennifer Pharr Davis’ FKT of the AT that she set in 2011. With his wife running support for Scott, he set off north from Georgia to FKT the AT. I really loved that they alternated between viewpoints from him as a hiker/runner and from her as the support crew. It isn’t often we get to see what life is like for the support person on the other side of a supported FKT.

The Pursuit of Endurance: Harnessing the Record-Breaking Power of Strength and Resilience by Jennifer Pharr Davis
Since we’re on an FKT roll here, this one is on the same topic—hikers/runners who have set the standards of endurance on long distance trails. Jennifer takes us from Anish to Jurek and then digs even further back to when the idea of setting a record on a long distance trail even began. She chronicles people that I had heard of but new very little about (Scott Williamson) or controversial trail legends (Warren Doyle) and weaves in their stories about their feats of endurance on long distance trails. The book was not what I expected (I was thinking more of an all-round endurance book) but I ended up liking it even more because it was pretty much dedicated to those who have completed endurance records on long trails.

Becoming Odyssa: Adventures on the Appalachian Trail by Jennifer Pharr Davis
JPD has two trail memoirs of her own, the first being Becoming Odyssa about her first hike on the Appalachian Trail, which was not a speed record. It chronicles her hike as a newbie hiker fresh out of college, traveling as a solo woman. She encounters friends, creepy folks, a very disturbing situation at a shelter, but also many other wonderful circumstances. Her writing has definitely improved over the years as she’s written books (I think she has 4 under her belt now?) so this one is definitely of the freshman writing level but otherwise it is a great book to add to your trail memoir collection.

Walking with Spring: The Story That Inspired Thousands of Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers by Earl V. Shaffer
Sad to say that this, the ultimate trail memoir, took me years to get around to reading! I remember one of the first or second shelters we were stayed at on the AT that someone there was reading this book. I may have had a vague idea of who Earl Shaffer was but I hadn’t been heavily indoctrinated into the AT culture yet. Walking with Spring is Earl’s memoir of being the first person to thru-hike the AT, which he conducted to walk off World War II. At that time the trail was in many areas in different locations than it is today, running a bit lower in valleys and sometimes along forest roads, crossing closer to towns. I recall reading that when Earl walked again later in life he was a bit irked by the relocation to ridges away from civilization because it made it more cumbersome for resupply’s. Earl’s book isn’t thick but he has many poetic paragraphs about his time hiking and you can’t help but wonder what the trail would have looked like before it became inundated with hikers.

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel
This was a crazy book! A young man in the mid-1980s up and leaves his home in Massachusetts, drives to Maine, abandons his vehicle, and becomes a hermit in the woods around a lakeshore. He begins stealing bits of items from this summer community along the lakeshore, slowly building up an arsenal of items that will allow him to live a solitary existence in the woods for nearly thirty years. When you get to the part where the author describes the way he had set up to live during Maine’s harsh winters, you wonder at the fortitude he had to survive. This is one of those “Wow, I can’t believe this is real!” books that will have you keeping the page turning!

On Trails: An Exploration by Robert Moor
I loved this book when I read it. I really should re-read it again. When you first pick up this book you kind of expect it to be one thing but it really evolves into this whole other, broader world about trails—how they are formed, cultural uses, historic uses, and how ancient paths are still used to today. Moor steps into the worlds of Navajo sheep herders, traces paths of ancient Cherokee routes in the Smokey Mountains and how some of them later evolved to roads, connects with hunters as they utilize animal trails for hunting, and even heads across the Atlantic to look at mountain ranges that were once connected to the ancient Appalachians and how they could connect as part of the greater international AT. If you are into the outdoors beyond even hiking you’ll find this a fascinating book.

Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout by Philip Connors
Another book I really enjoyed, Fire Season tells the story about how Connors went from being a city living guy to manning a fire tower in New Mexico for part of the year. One season turned it another and then another and before he knew it he had this wonderful background to put together this book. Part history, part natural history, the book weaves in the story of how fire suppression in the US came to be, how the native peoples used fire on the landscape before colonization, and tidbits of fascinating and sometimes sad or scary stories that he experiences while working at the fire tower. Fire towers are becoming increasingly rare to see in many areas due to better technologies—you can often find remnants of them in southern US forests and other areas around the country—but many are still actively used. Another book I highly recommend.

This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undone by Melissa Coleman
This book is part adventure, part sad family tale. If you are familiar with Elliot Coleman of Four Season Gardening fame then you will know the name Coleman. Melissa is one of Elliot’s daughters and she tells the story of her family’s involvement in the back to the land movement of the 1970s, aided by Scott and Helen Nearing. If you’ve ever looked wistfully at ‘living off the land’ this book will set you straight on some of the hard truths. In some ways it was idyllic, in other ways not so much, and of course some of the things are focused on how it affected the family itself but other aspects you know would have affected anyone doing back to the land in the 70s and even now. Tragedy strikes and from there the family dynamic and idyllic lifestyle begins unfolding. A lot of the family is still into farming but other parts of it have moved on. It’s a sad but very captivating story.

Stand Up That Mountain: The Battle to Save One Small Community in the Wilderness Along the Appalachian Trail by Jay Erskine Leutze
Focused in on far western North Carolina, very near the Tennessee border, Jay Erskine Leutze writes how while living in the area he becomes informed about a potential mountain top removal project for mining that would impact his local community in numerous ways. It then becomes an investigative story on exactly what the project is, how it is potentially violating laws, and mixes with a history of the area. Not only is this mining project going to be problematic for local residents, it is also problematic for a portion of the Appalachian Trail viewshed. With that, Leutze is able to garner more attention for the mining violations and get some strength behind the fight to stop the project. The AT is constantly working to fight projects from powerline right of ways to pipeline projects—protecting more than just the narrowing footpath is as important as the viewshed itself. All of these come together in a very page-turning book to find out what happens next and just how hard it can be to fight these types of projects.

Alright, got an adventure book I should? Recommend something to me!

Totem Heritage Center | Ketchikan, Alaska


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Our brief foray into the Totem Heritage Center was enjoyable. Forest was so enthralled by some of the totems outside as we took photos with them that ran up the ramp and really wanted to go in. Chris and I both had a feeling this would not be the place for a rambunctious 5-year old. He loves going to the Houston Museum of Natural Science and even then we are bouncing from exhibit to exhibit, not really able to focus on reading any of the exhibit signs or really getting to absorb it. But he was adamant about going in and since he was free and we only had to pay for me and Chris, we decided to go in.

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Forest really loved this totem because it resembled a dinosaur of sorts. I think it looks more like an alligator.

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I tried to stop and read some of the displays, learning about the tribal cultures of the area.

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The art that was on display was gorgeous and it was super frustrating that we weren’t able to really find a lot of local or indigenous art for sale in any of the towns we went through. I don’t know if we weren’t looking in the right places or what, but it would have been great to have found a piece that represented the trip for us.

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The room that kept some of these old totems safe was very cool. I loved reading the cards and seeing the old photographs, trying to imagine life both tribal and of the white settlers during this time period. And just the sad stories that were shared on some of them, how the totems were taken for various reasons, and how the cultures began fading after colonization. I mean, it’s the same story of what happened in the Lower 48.

I really enjoyed the museum and if you find yourself in Ketchikan and have some time, do spend an hour there learning about the tribes of the Tongass.

Chilly, Dreary Thanksgiving Weekend


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Oof, we should have gone south for Thanksgiving. Instead we drove to Cooper Lake State Park for the long weekend to camp for the first time this season. We knew in advance that there was potential for rain, including thunderstorms, and for cooler to cold weather. So, we came prepared but I was heavily wishing this was one of those state parks that conveniently had covered picnic table areas at the campsites, but no such luck, our one pop-up tent had to suffice.

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Before we left I wanted Chris to get our bikes together so that we could ride with Forest. He’s getting to the point that I can’t keep up with how fast he wants to ride when I’m walking with him and I’d rather just ride along. Our bikes turned out to need more fixing than anticipated as they were probably about 17 years old, having been bought when we were newlyweds living in Melbourne, Florida! And we haven’t rode them at all since we moved back to Texas and before that it had been several years in Florida where they hadn’t been used.

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Chris managed to get his working but mine was bad enough to warrant a new bike and he found one on sale at Academy and texted me to see if I wanted him to buy it. Sure, I said, and here we were with a bike! Due to the weather we didn’t ride as much as we wanted but it made getting to the bathroom easier than our typical walk and Forest was able to go faster and get more experience. I think if we can get more rides in between now and spring he’ll be able to take the training wheels off!

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It was fairly pleasant when we arrived on Wednesday late afternoon but by Thursday morning the rain and chilly weather had arrived. We set off on a hike (lots of Hercules Club in this park) in the morning, and then detoured into Commerce via the tiny town of Cooper to get Forest a nugget happy meal at McDonalds and something for us to snack on as well. He went 5 years without McDonald’s and out of necessity in Alaska we stopped and he’s become a McDonald’s nugget fiend ever since. And being that it was Thanksgiving and everything else was closed, McDonald’s was the choice—plus it was dry and had the Playplace and Forest was in heaven! We’ve since had to remind him that it is a treat and rarity and not a place we will be going often.

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This was an exciting sight—a Goldenrod gall fly, Eurosta solidaginis!

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Dreary prairie. Given the seedheads in the field, this place was pretty magnificent back in October! Probably pretty great in April/May as well.

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Mantid egg case!

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Lots of honeylocust in this park as well!

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So, we made the best out of a dreary situation by hiking when the chances for rain were the lowest and getting in some trail explorations where we could, bundling up in layers in the process of it all.

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One thing this state park did was were several really large post oak trees! Forest calls lumbering live oaks ‘elephant trees’ because the way the limbs can dangle down and look like elephant trunks, but because we’d been talking about how the state park might be a great place to find wild turkey he began calling the post oak trees ‘turkey trees’!

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At the trailhead parking area we noticed this tree leaning over into the ROW, with limbs low enough to get fruits. From a distance we though persimmon and I put it in iNaturalist as placeholder but the taste and shape and such obviously didn’t lean that direction. It seems to be some kind of pear, though how it got there I don’t know. Bird? Human? I don’t believe there are any native pear species in North America.

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Turkey tree! And after all that, no turkeys were seen!

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We were the only tent campers* until Friday evening, when after we’d spent half the day in Sulphur Springs, we noticed a tent had been set up down the road. We’d gone for a hike that morning and the rain chances for the afternoon were higher and not wanting to be stir crazy in the tent all afternoon we got Tex-Mex in town, found a Braum’s for ice cream (OMG, I miss Braum’s! They aren’t in the Houston area), killed some more time because the showing for Frozen II that still had tickets available wasn’t until 4:20. I think Chris thought Sulphur Springs would be a smaller town than it was and the movie theater wouldn’t be busy, but it was definitely big enough to sell out Frozen II on Black Friday.

*By this I mean, everyone else was in an RV or camper-trailer. It’s rare that there are a lot of tents at a state park.

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The restaurant was really good and some of the better Tex-Mex I’ve had recently and definitely beat out a few restaurants that we go to.

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Andropogon ternarius, split-beard bluestem. I’ve been wanting to see this after a prairie blog I read talked (talks) quite a bit about it. I think I have a new favorite bluestem!

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Mecynogea lemniscata, Basilica Orbweaver egg sacs—I have seen these before but never knew what they belonged to…and thanks to iNaturalist I now do!

How was your Thanksgiving?

I’ve noticed a few people attempting to do a blog post a day for December. I don’t think I can swing that but I’m going to aim for a post every weekday. I think I can manage that!

10 Years Ago – Ocean to Lake Trail Hike


It suddenly hit me about a month ago that we’re wrapping up a decade here in a few weeks. To be honest, and I’ll elaborate more on it in my end-of-decade post later in December, my brain is still stuck somewhere in 2014-2016. It hasn’t caught up to 2019 yet. And then I realized that this Thanksgiving week is our 10th anniversary of our hike of the Ocean to Lake Trail, a side trail of the Florida Trail. Typically most people start on the eastern shore of Lake Okeechobee and then walk to the Atlantic Ocean on Jupiter Island at Hobe Sound Beach. We did this as a prep for our 2010 AT Hike (don’t get me started on that being nearly a decade since we hiked that!) and it was the first and only time I’ve hiked in a hiking skirt. Lesson learned—hiking skirts are not for me.

So, I’ll ‘walk’ you through some of what we saw. I’m doing this mostly because I came across the photos last month when looking for some photos for my friend Eliana and I didn’t realize we had a ton more photos than the handful I’d uploaded onto Flickr. There’s also a ton of videos because we were going to produce videos for YouTube—at that time very few people thru-hiked the O2L section. It is increasingly popular to hike now. I may put together the videos eventually but they are with our older point and shoot and the quality isn’t great. We’ll see.

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Our friend Tom, aka: Gator Man from our geocaching days, met as at the parking lot at Hobe Sound Beach where we left Chris’ car for the Thanksgiving weekend. He drove us to Port Mayaca and dropped us off on top of the Lake Okeechobee levee where we walked down to the water and officially started our hike. It was a drizzly Thanksgiving morning and a smidge chilly as we hoofed it back up the levee and down the other side to started our road walk along SR 76. I think the trail has been re-located since then to start a bit further south but at that time we had to roadwalk before we could get into the main trail at DuPuis WEA

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After our roadwalk we turned at the Port Mayaca cemetery and stopped to read about the mass grave there from the 1928 hurricane which killed several thousand people across south Florida. It is the reason there is now the Herbert Hoover dike around Lake Okeechobee.

DuPuis West Boundary

DuPuis West Boundary
Through the cemetery we took a powerline easement south down the western boundary of DuPuis to find where the trail began in the woods. We still have this horseshoe somewhere around the house!

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Orange blazes—time to start the ‘real’ hiking!

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I’d completely forgotten about seeing this raccoon until I saw the photo!

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By the time we started off down the trail the rain had let up somewhat. If I recall it might have drizzled a bit more throughout the day but the rest of our hike was smooth sailing on the weather front.

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Climbing Maidenhair, Lygodium microphyllum, aka: Old World Climbing Fern, one of the invasive scourges of Florida.

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Toothpetal False Reinorchid, Habenaria floribunda

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Fall-flowering Pleatleaf, Nemastylis floridana

There aren’t a lot of sightings of this on iNaturalist so I was glad to add another entry. My locations are estimates based on where we were hiking each day. And we did take quite a bit of wildflower photos as you will see in the post.

Over the three nights we camped we stayed on the eastern edge of DuPuis the first night, towards the eastern edge of JW Corbett WMA the second night, and just west of Jonathan Dickinson State Park on our final night. I have visions of where we camped for the last two nights but I couldn’t tell you were we stayed that first night. Oh wait—I’m getting vague memories now! But I couldn’t describe them but I see it a bit. Hrmmmmmm.

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Traveling through Corbett the following day we had similar habitats as the day before, a mix of pine flatwood prairies, cypress domes and prairies, and oak hammocks that we hike in and out of. Despite being the tail-end of the wet season there wasn’t a ton of water on the trail and I don’t remember having wet shoes.

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Of course the habitats are jungle-like in areas, with large ferns growing along the ground and bromeliads lining the trees. Ah, good stuff!

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Ah, babies!

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Some great early middle-aged saw palmettos thriving after a fire.

Florida Box Turtles
Common Box Turtle, Terrapene carolina

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Can you smell the mustiness in this photos? Ahhh! The swamp!

Pygmy rattler
Pygmy Rattlesnake, Sistrurus miliarius —-late edit because iNaturalist (read: people who know better than me) tells me this is actually Dusky Pigmy Rattlesnake, Sistrurus miliarius ssp. barbouri and I am not a herper so I’ll trust them.

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Musky Mint, Hyptis alata

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Leavenworth’s Tickseed, Coreopsis leavenworthii

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White Bog Violet, Viola lanceolata

Tree Stand
Typical Florida! Love those pipeworts in the bottom foreground!

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Also, typical Florida. Or typical ‘rural areas’.

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We wound down our second day on the trail by camping about a mile from the eastern Corbett boundary. Our friend Chris aka: FootTrax from geocaching days was planning to visit us the following morning and we didn’t want to have to walk terribly far before we had to meet up with him.

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Panther Ladies’ Tresses, Spiranthes triloba

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Chris met us at the end of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road and the C-18 Canal, bringing us Egg McMuffins from McDonalds and refilling us up on water. It was the first time he would trail angel for us and definitely not his last. He helped us out twice on the main FT in 2011, too.

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Giantspiral Ladies’ Tresses, Spiranthes longilabris

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We said goodbye to Chris and meandered our way through Hungryland Slough Natural Area, weaving in and out of what you can see on aerial imagery was once an area slated for development. This is certainly not the only example of this in Florida. Drain and build, drain and build.

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Loxahatchee Slough Natural Area

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Next, after crossing SR 710, we walked through Loxahatchee Slough Natural Area, which in some areas had some of that evidence of developers wanting to drain the land and of course you don’t have to zoom out far to see where actual development abuts the LSNA. Loxahatchee Slough is part of the headwaters of the Loxahatchee River.

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Once we popped closer to civilization it was time to levee walk along the C-18 Canal until we arrived at Riverbend Park. (We paddled on the river in the park in 2014) Riverbend Park is popular for launching to paddle on the Loxahatchee River but also has several miles of improved trails, which the O2L follows some of those paths. We couldn’t hike fast enough through the park because we were itching to get to Indiantown Road so we could hike a bit down the road to a gas station and small strip-mall where a couple of restaurants were located. It was hiker re-feed time! After dinner we walked across the street to continue on down the trail and stealth camped for the night.

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Narrowleaf Silkgrass, Pityopsis graminifolia
Our final day was going to be spent mostly through the expansive Jonathan Dickinson State Park, one of my favorite state parks in Florida. We had hiked a lot of the trails in the park including this section of the O2L before we so knew what to expect for most of this section.

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Florida Pennyroyal, Piloblephis rigida

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In the river floodplain there are some outstanding cypress knees—this is right after crossing under I-95.

Right Before Hobes Grove Canal

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Tarflower, Bejaria racemosa

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Largeflower Rose Gentian, Sabatia grandiflora

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And then you enter the wonderland that is JDSP! Mostly sandy uplands with just wonderful native plant species throughout the area. I think this outhouse is at the Kitching Creek campsite—a great campsite if this is your stop for the night.

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Yellow Milkwort, Polygala rugelii

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Hairy Chaffhead, Carphephorus paniculatus

Conradina grandiflora
Largeflower False Rosemary, Conradina grandiflora

Success!! We found the Atlantic Ocean!
And then sometime around early evening we finally arrived at the beach!

It certainly felt like a great feat to have walked 63 miles over four days, our longest hike to date at that time. Only four months later we’d be embarking on a 2,179 mile journey from Georgia to Maine that was significantly more difficult than this hike. It was a great trial run, though and it certainly really helped sparked the interest in long distance backpacking.

And as I mentioned earlier, the O2L is now quite popular with the local trail clubs organizing group hikes, trail runners heading out to tackle the trail, and it makes the rounds on social media. This little known side trail is now pretty well known in Florida hiking circles. I’ll end with some updated links about the trail from other folks:

+Ocean to Lake Trail via Florida Hikes! — Sandra and John’s website is where all the Florida hiking knowledge is located. Definitely hit up their website if you are planning on hiking in FL.

+Ocean to Lake Trail via the Loxahatchee Chapter of the FTA

+So you’re interested in hiking the Ocean to Lake Trail & Everything you need to know about hiking the Ocean to Lake Trail via Jupiter Hikes. Jupiter is well-known in the hiking world. He set an FKT record on the main Florida Trail a few years ago (it has since been broken) and the O2L is in his backyard in south Florida so he hikes it often.

+Ocean To Lake Trail via FreeFreaksHike

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