Why oh why oh why would Sam be on the phone out there on the trails in a forest instead of just hiking and taking photos and enjoying a beautiful day? Hmmmm? Any thoughts? It is definitely unusual behaviour.
While you mull that question over I will also apologize for two Photo Safari Reports in a row. Also not my usual sort of thing. Generally I only inflict upon you, my loyal and faithful readers, one a week. But this one was a rather different hike and I wanted to be sure I got it all written up before I had forgotten any of the salient details. In fact, I think I will call it A Different Sort of Hike.
The hike started out much the same as every hike with Joy and I choosing a destination, driving there, loading pockets (me) and backbacks (Joy) with all the necessary stuff, then slinging our cameras over our shoulders and our cares far away and hitting the trails with enthusiasm and energy. That part was exactly the same as always.
The first thing that was different this time was that we decided to commit to one and only one trail. Normally we start out that way but then get distracted with interesting things and wander off here, there and everywhere. Nope, this time, we were determined. One trail and one trail only. With that thought in mind we opted for the yellow trail which is a 5 mile commitment. No worries. We can do 5 miles with no problem. Off we went on the yellow trail which is a giant loop. This is what the markers look like. They aren't huge but usually, they are easy enough to spot.
I say usually because one of the things that changed was the landscape itself. Very Different! Right away we found devastation of some sort:
Yikes! What happened here? This isn't leftover hurricane stuff. Normally this area would be so green and lush! More like:
I think that threw us off a little bit. At times it was even hard to determine where the actual trail was as opposed to where it wasn't. However, we saw greener areas ahead and forged on. Eventually, with great relief, we got to the prettier part of the trails and continued on, always staying on the yellow trail. Follow the Yellow Brick Road!
We got lots of insect pictures. And that was different too. A delightful difference:
We saw lots of birds! We saw Birds in the air (for once I was able to track birds in flight! woohoo!):
Birds in the water:
Birds in Trees and bushes (and two on the ground):
Some pretty botanicals too (of the bugless variety):
And two gopher tortoises, one big and one little:
And I'm sure you will agree that after seeing and photographing all of those wonderful things and walking all of those miles which involved many hours, it makes complete sense that we would be getting tired. We were really glad that we were near the end of our hike. Except that, the end of the hike didn't look like the beginning. In general, when you hike a loop, the end looks very much like the start just backwards, which is what we anticipated. But, but, but, it was not. And that was Very Different.
Instead, somehow, mysteriously, we had moved from the yellow trail to the orange trail. Odd. But no big deal, we've been on the very tiny orange trail many times on our way to somewhere else. So down the ravine on one side and up the ravine on the other and we should come out at...where the heck were we? How did we get on the green trail? No matter, we've been on the green trail plenty of times too. We know the green trail. And onward we trudged, for another hour only to find ourselves back at the beginning of the green trail. What? How did this happen?
At this point, I would like to mention that the hurricane last autumn did some real damage to the park and not everything looks exactly the same as it used to. And some of the markers were obscured (or perhaps destroyed?) by fallen trees and brush. Also there are always changes going on, controlled burns, new trails being created, old trails closed for one reason or another. Consequently, many of our usual points or reference simply weren't there. More differences and this time in a bad way. Oh dear.
We were both very dirty, very tired, foot sore and thirsty. We had been hiking for more than 5 hours and 7 miles and we were done. The thing we needed at this point was clear directions to get back. No more circling.
So I did what any normal reasonable person would do. I called for help.
I don't know about any other state parks but in Florida here and there throughout the park are benches. And on each of those benches is a plaque that has the Ranger Assistance Call number on it. And, equally important, a bench number. We were at Bench #13. Which, as it is a low number, seems as if it ought to be close to the beginning, right?
It was wildly embarrassing. We aren't newbie hikers after all. And it wasn't our first time hiking that park or even that trail. I have no idea how we got all ishkabibbled. But the fact of that matter is, that is the fact of the matter. We had no idea how to get back. If we were not so tired, it wouldn't have been such a big deal. We could have just done the trial and error method. You know, keep trying various paths until you finally get the right one. But we were done. In fact, we were over done.
The ranger who answered the phone had every right to call us idiots but refrained. Instead he was very kind, very helpful and gave us clear and relatively easy directions back. I repeated his directions and he confirmed that I understood him correctly. He asked for my name and phone number (don't want anybody lost in the park after dark! That's when the big critters come out to play!) which, of course I happily gave.
Okay. With the directions clear in my head, we set off for what we desperately hoped was the last leg of the trip and this time, with far more confidence, even though our butts were dragging big time. Huzzah Huzzah, it worked. Once we were in the car and on the road, I called the ranger station back to let them know we made it out safely (so they didn't come looking for us) and thanked them in a bigly huge sort of way.
It was quite the adventure! So much for the plan of staying on one trail eh?
Anyway, it's all over and done and we got back safely and I suspect that we won't be hitting those particular trails again for some time. I promise you no more Photo Safari Reports this week and possibly not next week either. We'll take a little break from that.
Hugs all 'round and Peace!
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.