Tuesday, June 4, 2013

National Trails Day 6/1/13

Every year there is a national celebration of trails on the first Saturday of June. Whether you bike, hike or paddle, its a good excuse to get outdoors and enjoy nature's offerings.
Due to my hiatus from paddling (cataract surgery) I offered a walk on the Levy Lake Unit of the Barr Hammock Preserve. We would take advantage of the man made dike or berm, to walk a short portion of the 6.5 total miles that this trail/berm entails. This property which totals over 5,000 acres in the south western portion of Alachua County was purchased with conservation monies, via the Alachua County Forever program.
There were three people that signed up for the walk and we met at the trail head at 9 AM to get started. I had already biked half of this property with Buford Nature and SW several months ago, so I was familiar with the northern and western trending route.
This day we chose the southern portion as it was in the shade and thus cooler. The berm encircles a mixed wetland with some woody plants, and trees such as sweet gum, red maple and coastal plain willow along the perimeter of the wetland. Birds were not as present, though we did see three great egrets, and heard red wing blackbirds vocalizing in the wetland.

Almost immediately we came upon these prolific bloomers, a thistle like flower in the Lactuca genera. They occupied both sides of the trail, and had a very light fragrance and ranging up to eight feet tall. Match heads, elder berry, water hyacinth, morning glory, cattails, and sweet clover were in bloom along the berm trail too.

We came upon a water control structure, a remnant from the early cattle farming practices when this property was under private ownership and the area de-watered for more grazing acreage.

This view above is looking to the east away from the wetland prairie. Opposite this structure was a holding pond of sorts on the other side of the berm where we observed a large American alligator slide noisily into the water, and under the water hyacinths.
This is a view to the north looking out over the wetland.

We walked approximately 1.25 miles and then turned around for our return to the trail head. Along the way we saw this small alligator in the vegetation sitting motionless, apparently awaiting its next meal.

I don't know why it is, but the return always takes less time! Back at the trailhead, we recouped and said our goodbyes after a nice 2.5 mile walk.

Until the next adventure, ssssseee you next time!


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