Friday, November 28, 2008

Hike in the Hammock

November 20, 2008

Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Because I'm posting about our walk a week later, it's taking me a few minutes to clear my brain and see back that far! All the Thanksgiving cooking and eating yesterday has made my brain mush.

Last Thursday we had a wonderful walk on a glorious fall day in Ft. Lauderdale. We visited Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, a preserved fragment of what Ft. Lauderdale Beach may have looked like before mass development. The park is a barrier island - a lush tropical hammock hidden amongst condos and restauarants and bars - a superb piece of "real" Florida.

Most people who visit here only see the outer border of the park. There are always people riding bikes, rollerblading, walking, or fishing along the perimeter of the hammock. I took our kids deep into the interior (well, it's really not that deep). We met at the GINORMOUS (is that word in the dictionary yet?) Banyan tree that sits right next to Pavillion 1. This tree is a paradise for children. There are vines to swing on, big thick limbs to perch on, and little nooks and holes to hide in. This old mama of a tree is not a native, but she has truly made herself at home. We read a lovely story about the life of a tree and then got ready for our walk.

Taking more than 10 children, plus their moms on a quiet, serene hike in the woods is not always possible, so we opted for the noisier, kind of chaotic-type walk. It's more important to me that the kids just get outside and breathe fresh air and get away from tvs and computers, any time spent amongst the trees is worthwhile. The kids in the group ran the gamut, we had the fast walkers who wanted to keep going and really trek, and we had the kids who just didn't want to be there, who wanted the playground instead, but each one of them will now have a memory of walking in the woods in south Florida!!

Along the way through Hugh Taylor Birch park you see many different ecosystems. First, we were in the sandy, upland type environment, full of Wild Coffee, Morning Glory, Strangler Fig, Napal Palm, and some visitors - Surinam Cherry and several types of fig trees (cousins to the Banyan and Strangler) from as far away as Africa. As we walked into the shade of this part of the fores, we, in front, saw a falcon gliding through the branches - maybe chasing a Mourning Dove.

The trail is very overgrown, which lends to its jungle-like feel. As we walked further, we must have lost elevation - maybe a foot, which is alot in this area. Looking down by our feet, hundreds of crab holes dotted the trail. Land Crabs reside in the big holes and Fiddler Crabs in the little holes. The crabs especially like one particular area where there is a big tree that went down and left behind a gaping root hole that is now an ephemeral puddle.

Further along, there is a stretch of dead snags back behind the trail. These dead trees were probably Australian Pines - a non-native that is being eradicated from all state parks due to its invasive qualities. However, these snags make great homes for owls, food for beetles and many others, as well as perches for the birds of prey that visit; and, they add an eerie, mystical quality to the trail.

Next, we came upon some marshy, muddy mangrove areas. Since the park is on a barrier island, the tides come in and affect the freshwater lagoon and flood over some areas of the park. The mud is drying up quite a bit now, we are in the beginning of our dry season here in Florida. The dry air makes the weather beautiful and cool, but turns the grass dry and lowers our water table enormously. The great weather also fills the roads with snow birds (not of the winged variety).

After passing through the "tunnel", the area where the old train may have travelled through, we went up a "hill" (no, our ears didn't pop) and into a hardwood area of the park. Here there are Mahogany Trees, Gumbo Limbo - also known as the tourist tree, and other varieties of tropical hardwood. The hard working Rangers were in there clearing the very overgrown trail and leaving a decoration of leaves and branches behind.

On the way back, the kids opted for the road vs. the trail. As we walked we chanted the "sun, soil, water, and air" song and stopped to see the Letterbox that is hidden among the tendrils of another giant fig tree. The kids then played for a long time at the playground while also chasing off a very hungry and determined racoon. The weather was perfect, as was the company.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to tell me what you think of the blog, I'd love to hear from you! Christy