Explore a Different Kind of Corkscrew

In the heart of the Everglades ecosystem, the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is home to the largest old growth Bald Cypress forest in North America making it a worthy stop on a cross Florida road trip.

Located 30 minutes east of Naples, The Sanctuary is home to not only a magnificent cypress forest, but a wide variety of plants and animals. Of course, you’ll see alligators and a wide variety of birds.

But, this is also panther habitat so visitors are encouraged to be on the lookout for prints of the endangered cat as well as prints and scat of bobcats and bears. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any of evidence of these mammals.

The 2.25 mile boardwalk winds through the Bald Cypress forest with trees which reach as high as 130 feet and a circumference of up to 25 feet. Their branches are covered with moss, lichens, bromeliads, ferns and even the elusive ghost orchid.

As part of the Florida Birding Trail, songbirds, wading birds, woodpeckers and raptors are visible throughout the trail.

We were even lucky enough to see two young barred owls.

Of course, the cypress trees are the stars, with the Landmark Cypress marked along the trail. Named for environmental heroes, trees bear the names Muir, Roosevelt, Calusa (home of a ghost orchid) and Hemenway, named for Harriet Hemenway who worked tirelessly to convince women not to wear feathered hats.

Three of the Legend Cypress

It’s hard to call a visit to the Corkscrew Swamp a hike. With the numerous stops to view the flora and fauna, take pictures, and learn about the Landmark Cypress, it’s more likely to be a stroll through the forest.

This Audubon Park is open seven days a week from 7:00am to 5:30pm and is well worth the admission price of $14 per person.

Thanks to John for sharing his pictures.

 

Weeki Wachee: Minus the Mermaids

In the summer of 2014, we set out to visit as many of Florida’s springs as possible. So of course, we took a trip to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. We planned to canoe down the river starting at the park, but we found that even on a weekday, it wasn’t possible to rent a boat for a paddle without a very early start.

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Since all canoes and kayaks were rented when we arrived (at about 10:00), we decided to do the next best thing and go in the park to see what the mermaid show was all about. Our verdict: not much! The bubbles between performances were more entertaining than the mermaids, not only for us, but for the children in the audience as well.

We walked around the park, watched the peacocks wandering, and took a few pictures. We decided to pass on the water park…too crowded and not really our idea of a good time anyhow. However, we decided we would definitely return so we could paddle down the river.

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So last month, a couple of weeks after school started, we got up at sunrise and drove to the park. We were certainly there early enough renting one of the first canoes of the day, and I’m so glad we were turned away on our first trip.

Without a doubt, this paddle qualifies as my favorite of all time. The water was absolutely beautiful. The color, the clarity, the fish, the quiet…perfect. There’s no way we would have had the same experience on that July day two years ago paddling and dodging other boats.

Upon our return to the rental facility, we were asked if we saw any manatee in the run. Apparently, they had been making regular appearances. No, manatee. Only otters. This brought oohs and aahs from the staff since it’s unusual to spot otters on the river. We not only spotted them, but watched them dart in and out of the brush along the bank between their sliding through the crystal clear water.

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My first impression of Weeki Wachi Springs State Park: This isn’t anything. My impression this time: We’ll return so we can spend more time paddling on the river. I much prefer the otters to the mermaids!

#BikeYourParkDay

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Happy National Public Lands Day! As a way to explore our parks and other public lands, Adventure Cycling Association encouraged cyclists to get outdoors and go for a ride. Cyclists were encourage to ride in a national or state park, monument, or historic site, river, seashore, recreation area, preserve, forest, wildlife refuge, or parkway.
Last year on this date we were riding on the carriage roads in Acadia National Park, but this year we’re staying close to home (actually close to Orlando) as we await the arrival of Grace, our first granddaughter.

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This didn’t stop us from participating in the Bike Your Park Event. We just rode the West Orange Trail, one of our favorites. And since we were riding on a Saturday, something we rarely do, we were able to enjoy Winter Garden’s Farmer’s Market.

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We also enjoyed stopping in their Visitor’s Center where we purchased some orange juicers like the ones we enjoyed as children and picked up information on Winter Garden’s upcoming music festival. Looks like we may be able to take advantage of this event the weekend of October 7-9 on a future visit with Grace. (I’m sure she’ll be here by then…right?)

Sawgrass Island Preserve

Unfortunately, due to illness, I was unable to accompany John on a first time ride at the Sawgrass Island Preserve last week. We’ve passed this trail numerous times on our trips to visit one of our daughters in Orlando, but only recently stopped to get a quick look in anticipation of a ride later in the week.

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In the parking area, a sign indicates the trail can be used by hikers, cyclists and horseback riders. The trail travels to Lake Yale, located south of SR 42 about ten miles from Weirsdale, and according to John is well used by those on horseback making in less than a desirable surface for bike riding.

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Nevertheless, he said he would return to Sawgrass Island Preserve on foot, especially near dawn or sunset as it appears to be a prime location for observing wildlife. And of course, since the area is also part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, birdwatchers may also enjoy hiking in the trail.

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Sorry I missed the ride, but I can see an early morning hike on the horizon.

Land Bridge Trail

Anticipating a rainy afternoon, we set out for a hike close to home with Meghan and Jon at the Cross Florida Greenway on Saturday. We followed the orange trail for a little more than a mile to the Land Bridge where the trail crosses I-75.

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The most notable feature of the well marked trail was the large trees. Several of which partially blocked the path.

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Upon reaching the bridge, we stopped for a quick selfie before returning on the somewhat longer blue trail.

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The blue trail was similar to the orange trail. Well marked, tree-lined, narrow, flat and easy. A good place for walk on a cool February morning before the afternoon rain.

Thanks John and Meghan for sharing your pictures.