So there we were once again, adventurers, heading out, cameras in hand to traipse through undergrowth and greenery of mysterious origins, braving wildlife of many sorts, blatantly disregarding weather forecasts and common sense.....
Yes my friends, once again, it was a day of Photo Safari! Woohoo!
Last Thursday Joy and I stayed in Venice and headed out to the wilds of Sleeping Turtle Preserve. Sleeping Turtle is 173 acres of barely disturbed nature. It has trails, few of which are well traveled but most of them well marked. While a lot of the preserve is inland, an equal amount of it wends along the lovely primeval looking Myakka River. It does not, however, have bathroom facilities. Therefore it's a go before you go situation.
To start with the fragrance is interesting and complex. Layer upon layer of green and wet and rich loamy earth created from nature composted upon itself. There are tinges of mold and mildew that rather than being being an insult to the nose are instead another wonderful ingredient to the eau du forest. Pine and palm and grasses and honestly even the creatures that live there add another stripe to the olfactory picture.
Because it had rained heavily the night before, we knew that the trails would be a bit mucky. We were not wrong. And since the weather has perversely turned from lovely drier, cooler days back to hotter far more humid days (just to provoke me I'm quite certain) we failed to take into account that muggier also means buggier. Yuck.
For whatever mysterious unknown reason, mosquitoes do not care for me overmuch. It is a rare occasion indeed where I am batting at the little fiends. However, this was one of those rare times. The damned things seemed to think that Joy and I were delightful snacks and they absolutely took hunks out of us. We discovered quickly that, probably due to the dampness, the mosquitoes weren't moving very fast, so as long as we kept moving, we were only tortured when we stopped to take photos.
We could hear birds of every kind imaginable but the jungle/forest is so dense that we didn't see a single one. We did pass a kindly couple who, noting our camera, mentioned where they actually saw a pilated woodpecker via yet another twist in the maze but we neither heard nor saw it. Clearly he had moved on or was well hidden.
Our socks and shoes, and therefore feet, were soaking wet before we had gone 50 feet down the trails. But you know what, once you are wet, you don't really think about it very much. The wild grasses were higher than usual on the trails so we were wet nearly to our knees most of the time. Again, once we got over the tickle of damp foliage at the backs of the knees, it was no big deal.
It was a banner day for toadstools and mushrooms and we both got some interesting fungus photos. (oh that's fun to say) and we were kind of mesmerized by reflections in the river. The water was so still it was like a mirror. Very awesome. Because of the gloom and the wet and the incredible overgrowth around us, most of our shots were darker than usual. It was a very fun and different kind of shoot for us. Clearly we do love a challenge.
For absolutely no credible reason, we are both so foolishly trusting of our our instincts that we really never paying enough attention to trail markers. At one point, we saw marker 7. The next marker we noticed was marker 13. What the heck happened to 8 through 12? Did we miss a turn? It's entirely possible. The rain heavy leaves, grasses and branches could have been obscuring a passageway. No matter, whimsically chose our turns at each intersection.
Sometimes the ground underfoot was just layers upon layers of wet leaves and grasses, otherwise it was mud and muck and sand and yuck. Yes, in this instance the word "yuck" is a noun. We walk right through it as if we were wandering through Nordstrom's. As long as we don't have to worry about gators or snakes we don't concern ourselves with icky stuff. When we are out on our camera hikes, we aren't trying to be beauty queens. We are washable. If we get dirty, we get dirty. No big deal.
Joy was smart and wore a hat. I was dumb and did not. Which meant, she didn't need to wear sunglasses in the more open and therefore more sunny parts and could see without squinting. I found myself either switching back and forth, sunglasses to readers to sunglasses constantly OR just squinting which ultimately gives me a headache. And wrinkles. But honestly at this point, any new wrinkle goes unnoticed. Just join the crowd, I say, what the heck, come on in.
When we noticed the sky growing darker, one or the other of us mentioned that the forecast did predict a possibility of more rain which was excuse enough to say, done! We headed in the direction that we thought was the entrance and slowly made our way, taking photos as we went and lo and behold, our directional instincts must be pretty good because we ended up exactly where we wanted to be.
Tired from hours of walking and fighting bugs, soaked from sweat and the wet ground and greenery, weary of slogging through mud and muck, we felt a little battle worn. As we left, Joy said, DQ? I said "Yeppers". We knew it was going to be a throw the sneakers in the washer kind of afternoon so we did an emergency Dairy Queen drive through. We earned it!
And got some nice photos as well. It was, as it always is, a very fun outing. And honestly doing battle with muck and damp and bugs, just makes us feel more intrepid. Stay tuned for our next photo safari!
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.