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  • Lisa Parsons

Flatwood in Florida

Longleaf Pines with an Understory of Palmetto Palms

We wild camped within the Grayton Beach State Park preserve. We drove down an un-gated white sand road into the forest and pulled over in an opening along the forest where they were doing restoration. The fog settled in giving the surrounding landscape an eerie quality as the edge trees faded along the skyline. Darkness fell quickly and we settled in for another night in our tight quarters. What seemed doable has become a challenge with two large dogs underfoot and now, sleeping on the bed. I chose to read my book and escape through the pages of a light murder mystery by JA Jance. I guess murder mysteries aren’t light but it is easy to read and takes place in areas in Arizona we have just visited.

We awoke to a patch of shifting sunshine between clouds. The first sun, we felt like we had seen for days. The forecast called for rain so we didn’t hang onto that tease of sun. We decided to mountain bike the trails to tire out our restless dogs. Days of rain, close quarters, and lack of solid ground had worn on us all. We needed to stretch our 12 legs and get some exercise.

Don't Feed the Venomous Snakes.

The trail is called Flatwood. Flat being the operative word. I feel like I’ve left the world of mountains for easy living on the flats. However as we started out I realized how the humidity here makes even exercising on flat land a challenge. Throw in some white sand, a few big mud puddles, and mushy mud and we’ve got a a workout.

Old Road Through the Longleaf Pines

The trail wound through groves of Longleaf pines with an under story of small Palmetto palms. Longleaf pines are native to the southeastern United States and is the cultural symbol of the Southeast. The Palmetto palm is also a native of the southeast. This forest could be a tree farm in the northwest except that we don’t have palm trees as our under story. On the forest floor was also a light colored moss called deer moss. The trail led down to a lake / swamp with a picnic table as a stopping point overlooking the lake.

Now the sun was out and we could feel that humidity and heat ramp up as the Florida sun showed us what it is all about here. Where sweat is expended while standing still and clothes never dry.

Western Lake / Swamp

We looked for signs of gators and didn’t find any. At the trailhead was a sign identifying the venomous snakes in the area as a warming. As we returned on the loop trail to the lake we thought of those venomous snakes lurking in the brush ready to bite a dog nose or snap at an ankle. I come from a part of the U.S. that lacks the kind of danger that lurks in the bushes and waterways. Now I was considering a swim in a lake as a danger sport.

We made our way back to the car on a five and a half mile loop through the Florida coastal forest. Our dog noses were unscathed and our ankles in tact. Riding the terrain here could be done on a beach cruiser through the flat ground and sandy trail. But it was still fun to explore a new kind of riding with the added addition of humidity, poisonous snakes and gators with big mouths lurking in the swamp water.

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