the good, the bad and the ugly
This week’s post can not claim the epic proportions of Clint Eastwood’s 1966 film, but its title seemed a logical choice for the collection of experiences and images from last week’s travels. We began in Southwest Florida in the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge on Highway 92. Along the highway, at regular intervals, large artificial dish-like platforms for nesting Osprey sit atop telephone poles . Each Fish Hawk Motel had a family in residence. We stopped along the roadside to observe one such Osprey nest. Mother perched on the edge while three active chicks moved among the nest’s branches. Suddenly, the mother Osprey plucked a large fish from their midst and flew off! We soon located her in an overhanging tree adjacent to the canal that parallels the road .
There she proceeded to wrest bits of flesh from the fish, a Drum, despite hungry calls from her young. Curious about this seemingly odd parental behavior, I did a bit of research. I learned that Osprey parents will often withhold food from fledglings to encourage them to leave the nest. We did observe one young Osprey stretching his wings, so perhaps mother’s plan succeeded. We didn’t stay around long enough to find out. Instead we headed for the evening’s destination, the beach at Marco Island. Florida Gulf Coast sunsets have a reputation for breathtaking beauty. Although the sun set in cloud free skies, the mix of sun, sand and water satisfied our desires.
After a night of camping, we awakened to fog and smoke, but ate a hurried breakfast and headed for our next destination, Janes Scenic Drive, a gravel road that cuts through Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. As we approached our turn-off from US 41 to SR 29, county police cars blocked our way. One of the officers told us that fires in Big Cypress Preserve along I 75 had forced closing of the road and since SR 29 led to the interstate, travel in that direction was prohibited. After explaining that we were only going partway, he allowed us to pass.
If you’re ever in the area, don’t miss this drive. It takes you through the only Bald Cypress-Royal Palm Forest in the world.
A doe and two fawns crossed the road in front of us. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough to capture their images. We stopped frequently along the roadside to explore the woods. Because this is the dry season, we could walk where within a month we would need to wade. We came to an old rockpit, no doubt created by some enterprising but unlucky developer. Nearby, a rusting dragline rusted in tall grass.
Lovely wildflowers dotted the area. Here is one of them:
Then, it was back to US 41, a two-lane road that cuts across Southern Florida from Miami to Naples. We headed east to Turner River Road where we planned to hike on Concho Billie Trail. On our way, we came upon a heartbreaking sight. An adult North American River Otter had become a casualty on this heavily traveled road where people often speed. He made it half-way across, almost to safety in a deep waterway on the far side.
I show you this photo, not to be morbid, but as a reminder that it’s important to drive within the speed limit with all alertness when passing through wilderness areas. I admire this beautiful animal. It is the subject of a book that I am writing for middle-grade children.
Turner River Road runs north of the now nearly dry Turner River Canoe Trail, through the western end of Everglades National Park. It is not unusual to see wildlife along the road or in the canal that boarders it. It wasn’t long before we saw our first wild creature, an Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake. Notice the wide head of this dangerous pit viper.
Here is a picture of its rattle:
I got out of the car to photograph this departing serpent, thankful that it had no interest in me. Like most snakes, it will only strike if bothered. It is a myth that rattlesnakes always shake their rattles before striking, a fact that has motivated me to purchase snake boots before hiking through their habitat in the future.
We hiked part way on Concho Billie Trail, enjoying the wilderness along with its wildflowers, fire-red bromeliads, butterflies, and grasshoppers with an ever watchful eye out for snakes. To the north, smoky clouds reminded us of the as yet uncontrolled wildfires.
On our way back to US 41, and home, we stopped at H.P. Williams Roadside Park. There we found a couple of majestic birds wading and fishing in the low algae-crowded water. The bubbles you see is gas breaking the surface of the stagnant water. We need rain!
In all we enjoyed our two-day trip. Although we saw the good, the bad, and the ugly, in musing over our experiences I realized that life is like that. Lean, fat; poor, rich; in danger, safe; sick, healthy . . . we learn to take the bad with the good. How we fare depends on our deep foundations and our attitude. Do you agree?