Tag Archives: Florida Trail Association

Pools of standing water and ground covered with leaves.  It's spectacular to look at, but the Aucilla Sinks are home to multitudes of insects and other critters, like pygmy rattlers.

New Video: The Florida Trail at Aucilla Sinks

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

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Winter came and went; only it seems to not have ever really arrived.  Hiking is an activity best enjoyed during the cooler months, when there are less biting insects on the trails.  We shot this segment at what should have been the end of hiking season, at the end of March.  What we found on the Aucilla Sinks segment of the Florida National Scenic Trail, however, were Summer temperatures, unrelenting mosquitos, and scores of white spotted ticks- the ones that carry the nasty stuff.  You know what, though?  We still had fun.

Pools of water and ground covered with leaves. It's spectacular to look at, but the Aucilla Sinks are home to multitudes of insects and other critters, like pygmy rattlers.

If you wanted to explore hiking trails in the warmer months, you could very well still enjoy yourself.  You just have to be prepared and know what to expect.  The first thing I’ll mention- and I always mention it- is to bring water.  Bring a couple of bottles.  If you’re going on a long hike under a hot sun, you’re taxing your body.  So drink plenty of water.

The next thing you have to worry about is mosquitos, gnats, yellow flies, and all the other fun stuff that flies and bites.  Bites can be uncomfortable, and there is always the risk of catching encephalitis.  I first tied to combat them with a mild, nontoxic bug spray that my wife bought for our son.  It’s the kind of spray that works fine for the bugs you might encounter on a neighborhood stroll, but it was entirely ineffective against the swarms at the sinks.  I had entered the day dead-set against using a spray that contained Deet, but that was all that worked that day.  It lasted an hour or two before we had to reapply.  It is possible to apply too much Deet, so be careful.  If anyone has another solution, please share in the comments section.  Covering as much of your body as possible helps, just make sure you’re using a lightweight synthetic fabric.

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Kent Wimmer, Director of Programs and Policy for the Florida Trail Association.

And lastly, some pests attack not from the sky but from the ground.  I’m talking about ticks.  They’re nasty, and it is no fun to pull them from your skin once they’ve latched on.  Before we started our hike, Gary Hudson (who you see in the video) tucked his pants into his socks.  It’s not fashionable, but it works.  Kent Wimmer, our hike leader, wore gaiters, which were designed to keep snow and mud out of your boots while hiking.  What Kent and Gary both did was to prevent easy access inside their clothes to the ticks.  Kent took the additional precaution of sprinkling sulfur powder on his gaiters as a further deterrent.  Light colored pants and shoes will let you see if there are ticks crawling on you.

These are just a few tips I gathered from our hike that day.  Feel free to add your own tips in the comments section below.

Want to see more of the Florida Trail?  Watch our previous segment on the Trail, where we visit the Sopchoppy River section as well as the Cathedral of Palms and Shephard Spring in the Saint Marks National Wildlife Refuge.  And if that isn’t enough Refuge for you, we explore it more fully in our next EcoAdventure airing in May.

The video features music by Pitx and Bruce H. McCosar.

Stop and smell (or eat) the Sparkleberries

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

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Sawtooth palmetto lining a natural levy above the Sopchoppy River.

IGOR chip- human appreciation 150I was walking with my wife the other day and I asked her, “Did Tallahassee always have so much fall foliage?” She assured me it did.  I guess I remember seeing red and yellow leaves in past fall seasons, just not so widespread.  Ever since I went with Kent Wimmer to shoot a dimensions segment on the Florida National Scenic Trail, I can’t help but notice it everywhere.  You don’t get vast expanses of orange and red, like you do in New England.  Instead, we get these great red and gold highlights popping out of the green.  Why had I not been paying more attention to it before? I guess, just like with the salt marshes that had looked like “just a bunch of grass” to me, I don’t always notice a good thing until I get a camera on it.

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Shepherd Spring is a nice spot to sit and reflect.

The depth of my obliviousness went beyond foliage.  The trails we walked with Kent and the Student Conservation Association (SCA) volunteers were just off of roads I’ve been driving for years.  The woods that filled the distances between destinations contained the Cathedral of Palms, and Shepherd Spring.  Those are both in the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.  A little to the west in Wakulla County, it takes just a few moments to drive over the Sopchoppy River on 319.  But then, a couple of weeks ago, I spent a couple of hours walking alongside it, eating sparkleberries growing by the trail.   It made me think about what I might be driving by when I visit family in Miami or Tampa.  This state has a huge diversity of ecosystems, and I’m realizing that although I’ve lived here over thirty years, there is a lot of Florida that I know nothing about.

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Taking a stroll in the Cathedral of Palms. A slight variation in elevation makes this ground a little damper, giving palm trees an advantage over surrounding hardwood trees.

“It’s a lot different than a lot of the other trails in America.” Said Sean Ogle, Field Support Coordinator for the Florida Trail Association, “I’d say it’s the only place that has this many different types of ecosystems in such a small area.” The trail starts in the Everglades and passes through forests, palm stands like the Cathedral of Palms, and along lakes, rivers, sink holes, and salt marshes. The Florida Trail Association web site is a good resource for finding what trails are near you or to plan a trip.  The FTA and its chapters across the state (the Apalachee, Suwannee, Panhandle, and Choctowhatchee chapters fall within the WFSU TV & FM spheres) maintain the trail using mostly volunteer labor.  That includes the students that the SCA sends here from all over the country and locals like George Weaver, the Sopchoppy River trailmaster who guided us in the video.

I can’t wait to see what else I might have been missing out on. You can tune in to dimensions later this month (or check back here) to see my next EcoAdventure, probably in some place I’ve zipped past a million times…

Don’t know what to bring when you go hiking?  Check out this video with the FTA’s Kent Wimmer.
What would you like to see as an EcoAdventure?  Let us know what you’re doing out in the unpaved places of North Florida, we might want to tag along.


Are You Ready to Hike?

Rob Diaz de Villegas WFSU-TV

Tune into WFSU-TV Sunday at 10:00 AM/ 9:00 CT for dimensions, as Kent Wimmer of the Florida Trail Association (featured in the video above) takes us to some of the most beautiful hiking trails in our area.

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If you’re going to go out into wild places, you have to prepare.

Not long after we started doing In the Grass, On the Reef, there was a three day stretch of oyster reef/ salt marsh shoots.  I didn’t feel like transporting my muddy shoes home every day, so I’d hose them off in our loading area and pick them up on the way back out to the coast.  On the third day, I forgot to pick up my shoes.  I wear Crocs on the drive to and from wet field shoots; they’re good footwear for wet feet.  In a mucky salt marsh, though, you’re lucky if you can find them after they get sucked off of your feet.  We cut through a lot of marshes to get to Randall’s study site, a sandier marsh island.  It was a longer walk than it had to be, with my having to stop so often, and I was fortunate not to encounter any shell fragments in the marsh sludge after I decided to walk barefoot.

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Thanks to Kent for spending the day with us and showing us some beautiful places.

Whether you’re working or enjoying yourself in the unpaved places of the world, you have to make sure you’re dressed right and that you have everything you might need.  The video above is specific to hiking on nature trails, but a lot of the gear Kent has with him is similar to what what I bring when I go to Alligator Harbor to tape David and his crew working on oyster reefs.  Light, loose fitting clothing that covers as much skin as possible protects you from the sun’s UV rays and from mosquitos.  Hats and high SPF sunscreen offer additional protection.  And of course, bring plenty of water.

It’s all about the preproduction.  Before I leave the station, I need to not only have make sure that I have all the gear I need (microphones, batteries, recording media, etc.), but I have to know where I’m going, and what it might be like when I get there.  A day of hiking, camping or kayaking for fun is no different.  It’s good to check the weather before heading out- there’s no need to drive three hours to a thunderstorm.  And if you’re hiking, it’s good to know what the weather HAS BEEN in an area, as some of the trails flood.  Like any good producer, you want to get to know your topic before you head to the shoot.  The trail website has valuable information on how best to traverse the trails, as well as letting you know where all the cool spots are (you wouldn’t want to miss out on the Cathedral of Palms, would you?).

Man, what a lot of work goes into a relaxing nature encounter!  Honestly, it’s not that much work, in the grand scheme of things.  And it’s worth it:

 

For more information about preparing for a hike, visit the Florida Trail Association web site.

And here is a direct link to the web site for the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail, for safety information on saltwater paddling.

As always, we welcome your comments.  Have you been hiking on the Florida National Scenic Trail?  Do you have any ideas for upcoming eco-adventures you’d like to see us cover?