Well here we are, at it again. Hiking around, taking photos, having fun, getting into trouble. Because that's who we are, it's what we do!
I think I mentioned once, that without any intention on our part at all, each of our hikes seems to have a theme. It might be birds or flowers or bugs. Once it was tiny things of all sorts, another time it was all the washed out trails. Last time it seemed to be surprisingly about bicyclers. This time, I have dubbed our hike the "Holy Crap" hike. But I'll get to that part later.
It started out as a perfectly lovely day. Especially for hiking. There was even a bit of a chill in the air. (hence the sweatshirts). We began at Curry Creek. It's a smallish hike but a perfectly lovely one. The light was amazing and, perhaps because we were the only people there, we saw an usual number of critters. Including a burro but in all honesty, he lives next door to the preserve and I didn't think to get a photo. He was darned cute though.
It was early enough in the day that there was still dew on the flowers and spider webs but there was sun enough for dramatic back-lighting. Ever since I've been taking photos I have this preference for cool weather light. It is just so pretty. The dragonflies patiently waiting for the pictures to be taken, I didn't have the usually fight with wind bobbing the pictures out of focus and we weren't being eaten by mosquitoes. All indicators of a great photo safari day.
It was, in fact, such a terrific hike, that when we found ourselves back at the beginning (it's kind of a giant circle) we weren't ready to call it a day. We wanted more! So we drove to Deer Prairie Preserve. It's technically a park of equestrian trails but it isn't as if they will bar your entry if you don't have a horse with you.
I should have known it was going to be weird, by the way. All of the indicators were right there. We were seeing unusual things. For example, just outside the actual preserve, we saw, all in one area around a pond, an alligator, a cow, 3 turtles and quite a few birds. All of these creatures were within yards of each other. A seriously weird combo. So I think we kind of knew it was going to be an interesting hike! Joy snapped these shots: (and I borrowed them shamelessly from her - thanks Jo!)
We were the only people at Deer Prairie. And that is just the way we like it!
We set out, as we always do, chatting softly, admiring what is around us and taking photos of whatever catches our eye. And there is plenty there to see.
Anyway, so there we were, slowly walking along, probably a little more than a mile down the trail. Having a perfectly lovely time. Tralalala. And that's when it happened.
Joy was just slightly behind me. We were talking about the technique involved with tracking a moving object with a camera (like a flying bird for example). Well I was asking for tips, she was explaining, I was listening.
We rounded a curve and something ran across the trail, from left to right ahead of me. I came to a dead stop and said, "Jo". There must have been something in the tone of my voice because she stopped too. We were absolutely silent for the longest nanosecond on record. It took that fraction of a second for the message to travel from my eyes to my brain and then properly process because I honestly wasn't expecting it. (and sometimes I'm not the sharpest crayon in the box).
It was an animal. That part I knew for sure. Initially I thought dog. Then deer. Then I knew. It was a hog. A feral pig. Undomesticated oinker. Savage bacon on the hoof. Whatever you want to call it, it was bad news.
I turned around immediately and said out loud but in a perfectly conversational tone, "Ok I'm done". Joy turned with me and we started walking back to the entrance.
Wild hogs are not to be trifled with. They are, after all, wild animals. And they have notoriously bad attitudes. It's not as if we were planning to hurt them of course, but they have no way of knowing that. It was obvious to us both that leaving was our wisest course of action.
We walked at a comfortable pace, we weren't running or acting crazy. There was no screaming or shrieking. I'm sure that to anyone observing us, we looked perfectly normal. Which is kind of hilarious. Neither of us has ever been accused of being normal.
As we walked, Joy periodically looked over her shoulder, just making sure that there were no little piggies sneaking up behind us. I kept looking ahead of us, scanning side to side.
As I said, we weren't running, but we weren't dawdling either. Wild hogs are considered the most dangerous of all Florida exotics. And they aren't native to Florida either! I'm not sure who brought them here but they are a problem.
They will eat anything. Literally. They carry diseases. Ick. They damage the soil causing erosion. They damage trees and other foliage. They are kind of like the marauding pillagers in days of old laying waste to all that is before them in their quest for food. There have been human deaths attributed to wild hogs, usually due to blood loss but sometimes from the diseases they pass along. No Thank You!
Back to the story. So there we were, walking steadily toward the trail head, hearts pounding, eyes searching, ears listening, all nerve endings on high alert. We rounded another curve and holy cats, another wild hog runs across our path. This one followed by his entire dang family!
Once again we came to a complete halt. I remember thinking, "Damnit, we are surrounded!"
We stood silently and waited a few minutes. We wanted to be certain that everybody was safely on the other side and that there were no stragglers.
Especially concerning was that there were young hogs in the family. I think anyone with an ounce of sense knows to be extra careful when there is a mama and her babies around. Mamas are especially fierce if they think their little ones are in danger.
Finally we moved forward again, a little more slowly, being even more careful. Joy still checking behind us, me checking before us. Then one more porker crosses the trail. This one wasn't being delicate at all. His crashing through the underbrush at least gave us a very tiny headzup. We stopped one more time. Joy took this photo.
When we could both breathe semi-normally again, we headed on down the trail and, finally, to the safety of the car. It was the longest trail walk we ever took and the scariest for sure.
We both decided that as much as we love that preserve, we will not be going there again for awhile.
It's funny how most people, when they think of dangers in Florida immediately think of Alligators. I've never worried about any alligators I've seen while hiking around. I mean, I'm not stupid about my interaction. I keep a healthy distance. I observe and admire from afar. But I've never felt that I was in danger from an alligator. These little - well not so little really - pigs on the other hand, had me shaking in my sneakers.
So that is the story of the Holy Crap Photo Safari! Exciting for sure, but I don't ever need to do it again.
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.