A Diamond Among Trees

What defines a nature trail? Is it the winding path snaking through acres of protected land? Is it the scenic views of lakes, marshes, or lagoons? Or could it be the wildlife which thrives under every rock, behind every bush or in every tree? No, I dare say those only define a fraction of what truly defines a nature trail. Trees. Yes, trees are the wonders and the beating heart of nature. Of all the nature trails I have hiked on in my young life, I have learned that if you have seen one tree, you definitely have not seen them all.

In my observation, trees are like fingerprints. Unique and bares their own story to tell. If two Birch trees grew up side by side to each other for decades, cut them open, and each will tell you something different. It amazes me the number of visitors that visit these trails and never notice the beauty before them. During my hike at the Hubbard Valley Park in Seville, Ohio, I saw a diamond among trees I vowed to never forget. In fact, I discovered three diamonds as the single trunk spawned three healthy trees.

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In my early days of hiking, trees were ornamental to a trail hike. I was eager for wildlife and scenic views. Trees became background noise simply because they were everywhere you looked. Like most people you being ignorant until you are educated, I Learned just how vital trees were to our ecosystem. Trees have fed, housed, and protected all sorts of vulnerable wildlife. It was then my interest deepened. Now on a hike, I observe trees one by one (at least the one closest to the trail.) On my walk in Ohio, I came across this massive trunk with three trees growing straight up into the sky. Their branches stretched far in every direction. Leaves covered the branches to protect anything beneath from the rainfall. A closer review of the bark showed that the trees split apart young. The bark looked as if it were covered in running veins. The veins wiggle up from the base, and then they split off in two different directions, a fascinating design to be sure.

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The feel of the trio’s bark was intriguing. The bulging veins were noticed but smooth to the touch. You could run your hand across the surface of these trees without a snag or chip. The bark is thick. When you knock on the bark, it’s as solid as concrete.

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I could care less about the look of others as they passed me by while I gawk at the wonderous trio. They are located at the heart of a forest, in a small town in Ohio unnoticed by so many. These trees are continued lesson to me to not just see things but to truly open my eyes and notice because I may never see it again.

Disappointed Preservation at Julington – Durbin Preserve

Great. Just great. Another dead end hiking trail proclaimed as a “natural preserve.” Honestly, what’s being preserved? Grass?

Today I visited the Julington-Durbin Preserve and wasn’t impressed in the least. I don’t know if it was the ninety-nine-degree weather messing with me or what, but I can tell you right now, that is one hike I won’t be taking again. I don’t get what is it about these neighborhood park committees that think dirt, weeds, and tall skinny pine trees are what make a natural preserve. What the hell is being preserved?

 

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Trees and grass…
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more trees… more grass…
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and more trees and grass…
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and more trees and grass…

 

There wasn’t a drop of wildlife running around and to top it off, the preserve is surrounded by brand new shopping malls and gated neighborhoods for the wealthy. Really? They’ve stripped the area of deer, alligators, and birds and want us to believe that they are preserving something. What a great joke…

 

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New fancy homes for the elite.

 

They only wildlife I came across after about a mile of just heat, trees, and burned up grass were the vicious yellow flies. I recently encountered them in Lake City on a hiking trail. They tore my legs up. They bite with purpose, and you have to deal with the aftermath of constant itching and swelling long after you’ve smacked them off your leg. Bug spray? Not a chance. I literally bathed in Off Spray before I started the trail at the preserve and they came at me as if I wasn’t wearing a thing. Thanks to the removal of DEET (common oil ingredient used in bug repellent) in bug sprays, these mother truckers are having a feast on those who are prone to bug bites… like yours truly.

 

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Photo Credit: 30a blog

 

Little did I know, according to 30a website, these little monsters are out and about in abundance during May and June. Perfect. Be aware that they mostly reside near water like creeks, rivers, and lakes. Thank goodness the entire trail wasn’t all swampy, so I got to escape from them.

It is self-evident that this preserve was designed for wealthy joggers and cyclist living in this fancy neighborhood to have a quiet place to jog and clear their head. It was never intended for the actual preservation of wildlife to build a home and produce offspring. It’s an insult really. I wouldn’t recommend it to any real hikers in search of something fascinating in nature.

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Unless you like wild berries.

The Fog of Fort George

I’ve visited Fort George plenty of times throughout the year because I’ve become obsessed with the scenery and how lively it is with jet ski flying through the water, fishermen and their families lining the bridge in hope to catch the next big fish, and children wading in the waters at low tide. Today, however, a dense fog took the scenery hostage and created a very different atmosphere that brought every photographer out to catch the mysterious landscape of the inlet.

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The fog’s blanketing the area caused the scenery to look like something out of an HD music video. On my way to my favorite hotspot, I spotted photographer jumping out of their cars on the side of the road to catch the view of the ghostly waterways.

When I arrived at my favorite spot, I too whipped out my camera to snap what I could. With each passing moment, the fog became denser and started to swallow up the landscape so time was of the essence and I needed to take photos on both sides of the bridge. My travel mascot, Comey, had a blast with the view.

At the other end of the bridge, I feel the scenery is better because there is a wider viewing area to enjoy the entirety of the inlet. Because the fog and the colder weather brought all the usual activity to a halt, it was nice to be able to just take in all Fort George had to offer.

For once, I wasn’t distracted by the sound of people and boats. Instead, I was able to allow my every sense (besides taste) to absorb the atmosphere. The only sound was the echo of cars as the zoomed past on the highway. Without the boats, the low tide was nothing more than a stream with little current. The smell of wet, uncut grass took over as the sixty-three-degree wind swept across the dead field. There wasn’t much visibility for me to gaze out across the water, but I was able to see the Naval base which was lit with hundreds of lights for their ships. The orange lights created a creepy glow in the fog. The only true survivors of the winter we’ve had so far are the few weeds that continue to bloom bright despite the browning grass surrounding them.

After a few more selfies, more landscape photographs, and a slow walk around the field to gaze at every inch of the disappearing landscape, I finally gave in to the wind and heavy fog and returned home. I haven’t been to Fort George in a couple of months and my instinct sang today forcing me to ignore the weather and visit. I am glad that I did because who knows when I’ll get to see such a scene again. Today, Fort George was not the typical play area I’ve been used to all year, it was a day for those looking for something peaceful, mysterious and calming.

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Comey and I chilling on the rocks

Sunset on a Farm

As common as farms are in Florida, in all my years living here, I haven’t been on one officially. I love farm animals. In fact, my favorite is the pig. I use to collect piggy teddy bears (until I got into Pokemon).

My sister stumbled upon some farming homes near one of Jacksonville’s largest warehouse parks. I have to admit its perfect because there is lots of available land and woods for building private properties and farms. We didn’t have access to the farm itself but we got to look at the animals from the sidewalk. My niece and nephew enjoyed the company of the horses, cows and donkeys. I was more interested in the landscape and how magical the sun displayed its beauty on the open field.

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I know that it is risky to have your phone’s lens pointed towards the sun directly, but what better way to capture the golden rays beaming down on the grass? The silhouettes of the piles of manure, the rusted barbed wire fence and the thinning branches of the trees made a composition too irresistible to ignore.

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While my sister dragged her children along the fence to gaze at more horses and mules, I trudged through evergreen and bushes trying to capture the right angel to take photos of sun-burned leaves and more thin branches. Fall has always been known for its beauty of warm colors among trees and grass fields with the yellows, reds, and browns, but the black shadow created from the sun’s setting angle made those colors more lovable.

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I am glad I tagged along for the visit and though I am glad to see some livestock actually running around in the big city, being a nature girl myself, I couldn’t resist the moment to watch nature put on a show using the sun as the ring master and its subjects dancing to its music.

BIG TALBOT ISLAND: The Land of the Tree Graveyardr

Big Talbot Island State Park near Amelia Island is a sight to see with its silent coast line and calm waves crashing up on the beach. Off to the left, you can see Heckscher Drive driving into Amelia Island. On the other side of the water is Amelia Island State Park crowded with trucks and families camping out. Today, Big Talbot had little visitors and I practically had the beach to myself.

Despite the beauty of the quiet beach, the entire shoreline is plagued with fallen trees. Erosion is the biggest enemy to many beaches and other shores disturbed by the constant back and forth of water movement. By studying the beach of Big Talbot, it is clear to see that all these trees lying on the sand, were the victims of years of erosion. Today you can see the next line of trees getting ready to fall.

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Erosion is defined as, “erosion is the action of surface processes (such as water flow or wind) that remove soil, rock or dissolved material from one location on the Earth’s crust, then transport it away to another location. (Wikipedia)” By the look of Big Talbot, it appears that it has been eroding rather quickly for many years. Of course in Florida, we have to deal with hurricane season. All the extra rain and wind doesn’t help the situation. If you visit several beaches along the Atlantic coast, you’ll find that the local beach town or city has taken measure to protect against aggressive coastal erosions such as creating man-made dunes and planting a lot of sea oats grass.

It is unclear why Big Talbot doesn’t seem to have something in place to help the beach from eroding any further. Perhaps the erosion has worked in the favor of creating a beautiful deserted kind of atmosphere. It’s definitely the feel you get when you come out on the beach. Fallen trees, big and small, scattered on the coast in both directions. It looks like a graveyard for trees. The feel is dark, but the scenery is exotic.

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I walked about a half of a mile and the natural placement of the trees just makes you appreciate nature even more. It’s sad to see that these trees died unnecessarily to decades of erosion but they seem to serve a greater purpose while laid out on the coast. Here they bring awareness and tourism. Visitors will see the real life consequences of erosion and how it can affect the environment and the habitat of nearby animals. At the same time, the natural look makes a perfect setting for beach weddings, romantic walks, and a kind of jungle gym for children.

Besides the State Park entry fee, Big Talbot always welcomes any donations that could be helpful toward keeping the beach beautiful. For more information, visit their webpage North Florida Land Trust.