Monday, June 04, 2018

Exploring Natural Florida

It was pleasant rowing, the cypress and sweetbays shading the creek against the rising heat. There was the flash of a deer’s tail as it headed deeper into the scrub oak. A red hawk soared overhead, looking for breakfast, and when she saw a family of otters sliding down the mud into the water, she laughed aloud at their antics.
The creek widened and grew, joining with other waters until it was a small river. It was cool and restful in a way she’d never imagined Florida. Here was a side that showed itself like violets hidden in the forest, a face different from the mosquito-ridden, pestilent, humid sweat bath of the cities.
Julia was so captivated by the sights that she shipped her oars, letting the current take her, and daydreamed until she glanced over the bow of the boat.
And screamed.
A massive sea creature bobbed in the water off the starboard bow, gazing at her with limpid eyes while it masticated a wad of greenery in its whiskered mouth.
Julia’s hand clutched the front of her dress as her heart raced, but then she shook her head and scolded herself for a ninny. It was a sea cow, large and cumbersome, but not dangerous.
It was, however, curious.
--Smuggler's Bride

When Smuggler's Bride was published in German and Estonian (really!), I received fan mail from overseas readers who'd never read anything about Florida that wasn't set at the beach or a theme park.

While I miss being close to the beach in North Central Florida, I love being close to excellent hiking sites and lots of natural springs and rivers. I've been doing more hiking this year, not just because I enjoy day hiking and I finally invested in the right gear, but because I'm going on a walking tour of the Scottish Highlands this summer.

One of my favorite local hiking spots is San Felasco Hammock State Park, just a few miles up the road from my house. It offers a variety of trails for hiking, biking and horses.  I love to spend the afternoon walking through the woods and experiencing the best of hidden Florida. 

San Felasco also offers rolling terrain on some of its trails, a rarity in Florida. This matters because while I can prepare for hiking distances this summer, there are only two ways I can prepare for the Scottish hills: walking rolling terrain (though ours is nothing close to theirs) and walking the ramps at the University of Florida Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (aka The Swamp). There are ramps at the north and south endzones to move pedestrians to the upper levels, and that gives me a better work-out than climbing the steps at the stadium. It's a more natural rhythm and I can use my trekking poles.

So when I can't get out to the country I get over to the stadium, loaded down with my daypack filled with all the gear I'll be carrying--waterpack, snacks, outer gear, extra socks, first aid kit, journal, a few odds and ends, cellphone...and two large cans of tomatoes.

Why tomatoes? No special reason except they're large cans. I overload my pack now so it will feel lighter and more comfortable when I'm actually hiking this summer in Scotland.

So if you don't see a lot of posts from me this July it's because I'll be trekking the glens and enjoying a change from our Florida summer heat and humidity. More on this as it develops!

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