Back on a Saturday, a couple of weeks ago, Greg and I (our son declined to accompany us, as usual) decided to go walk on the General Van Fleet Trail again, but this time I asked him if we could go to another trailhead. We decided to drive down SR 33 into Polk County, down to the Green Pond Road trailhead, and then we walked South.
The parking area is tiny and you come about it very fast so you might miss it, especially since the road keeps on going across the trail itself. There is, however, a small building that houses a ladies and men's bathroom stalls and it's the real thing, not a Port-O-Potty. It's very clean (well, at least the ladies' room was!). There is also a water fountain outside, including ones for dogs (or cats, I suppose and ferrets, but who would bring their cat or ferret on the trail? well, maybe me if I can convince Greg to let me buy a pet stroller for my beloved kittens. OK, I'm joking.).
Going South from there, the trail is nestled between residential properties. I guess the residents treat the trail as their own backyard. As soon as we set foot on it, an ATV get barrelling down the trail, heading North, that despite the "No Vehicles on the Trail" sign. I took a picture of them. It was teenagers who tried to deflect the potential rebuttal by waving in quite a friendly fashion as they passed, but Greg and I scowled at them. Well, I just looked away and Greg told me he scowled :)
At first we didn't see much flora or fauna, but it was still a lovely part of the trail, not so wide as it is up in Sumter county and really wooded. However, Pixel Peeper wasn't lying, they must have gotten a lot of rain in Polk County this summer because the properties on the side of the trail were quite flooded and I don't think that Hurricane Matthew alone caused this.
|I didn't take a picture of the parking or bathrooms but here are some cows :)|
|(Blurry because I was walking) This is NOT the way to use a pedestrian/biking trail!|
A little further down, maybe half a mile, the houses on each side of the trail seem to disappear and then the wildlife started appearing. We saw gopher turtles, squirrels (sorry, Bless, no picture of squirrels today!), cardinals, butterflies, a dung beetle, and quite a few hawks and vultures.
As I mentioned above, my left heel started hurting pretty badly almost right off the bat so we only walked a mile and a half and then turned around. Walking back to the truck was more arduous for me although I got distracted by my conversation with Greg and the sightings of the hawks. Since we also crossed another road, Greg offered to have me wait there while he went to get the truck and drive it there to pick me up, but, maybe foolishly, I wanted the exercise, so we persevered, but very slowly.
|I think these might be Virginia Salt Marsh Mallows|
|I can't find these in my guides for now... it almost looks like some type of wild cucurbit.|
|Gopher tortoise with its head in the water-filled ditch. We're hoping it was just drinking...|
|Spotted Bee Balm|
|One of the several gopher tortoise burrows we spotted.|
|Peruvian Primrose Willow|
|I think this is a Blue Dasher|
|I don't know what those grasses were but their fuzziness reminded me of... my kittens, of course! Kitten tails?! LOL.|
|Morning Glory (I think)|
|These might be Camphor Weed, not really sure.|
|It really was a gorgeous day!|
|I think this is Possum Haw, aka Winterberry|
|Dung beetle... enjoying some dung.|
|I couldn't wait to get to this marker so we could turn around!|
|Can you see it?|
|Red Shouldered Hawl|
|It and its mate were calling back and forth. Their screams were piercing!|
|This gopher tortoise scrambled to its burrow as soon as it heard us coming...|
|But it just stuck its head in and then sat there with its butt hanging out... "maybe they'll think I'm a rock!"|
|This is pretty much the only sign of "Fall" that we'll see. Florida doesn't really have a "Fall". Most of our oaks lose their leaves in February.|
|This mushroom looked like a hamburger bun! What can I say? I was hungry!|
Near the bathroom, back at the parking lot, there was a gopher tortoise that was busy munching on grass and didn't disappear into its burrow as soon as it saw us. What a change! I was thinking about feeding it some leaves but Greg said it'd probably crush my fingers. Hmm, I changed my mind!
After our walk, I convinced him to keep driving on Green Swamp Road westward to explore a little. We passed a pasture with lots of cows and EGRETS! Sadly there wasn't a spot to park so I could take photos, the shoulders being flooded, and cars driving behind us, but Greg good naturedly found a driveway so he could turn around, and then another one, and we took advantage of a lull in the traffic to stop in the road and I rolled down the window and asked the cows if they could please convince at least one egret to climb on top of one cow. They looked at me, and listened, and then a stampede started! Sadly, a car was coming behind us so we had to start moving again because the egrets had a chance to jump on top of the cows, but Pixel, I swear they were about to and that counts. What?! Yes, it does.
Greg said "I don't understand why you don't just Photoshop an egret on top of a cow and call it a day" and I told him that Vagabonde had already suggested that to Pixel but we were respectable people who didn't cheat (and also I don't have Photoshop and I don't know how to use it). So I will have to keep on driving alone to see if I can spot an egret on a cow first :)
Well, Green Swamp road led us to US 98 and we took it West too, which turned into SW (I think?) and then NW. I was trying to remember where I had seen US 98 on the map before and guessed that it would turn into SR 471, which is the road we usually take South from SR 50 to go to our favorite fishing spots. Well, I was kind of right, as we saw a right turn for N 471 soon enough. I love being right :)
Before then, though, we spotted entrances for the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve right off Green Swamp Rd (although the road is called something else at that point and I don't remember the name of it), so we stopped by to see what was there. The icons on the signage pointed to fishing, hiking, birdwatching, and hunting. There were actually people tent camping there this afternoon, although most spots looked completely flooded. I guess they were either dedicated hunters or dedicated hikers!
As we approached the hunting and fishing weighing and cleaning area, the game warden came out and asked if we needed help. So I asked a question and he gave me a brochure and I wanted to ask more questions but Greg was groaning next to me because he's a man and hates asking questions and advice (what is the problem with those men, anyway?!) and would rather find out by trial and error, I guess. That drives me crazy. So we left and almost got into an argument because he was so annoyed at me, LOL. But we didn't and soon we were having a good time again and joking around.
On SR 98 and then on SR 471, we passed entrances to Cold Creek State Park. I had no idea that we had a state park right there. It's only about 30-35 minutes from our house. Greg said he was thinking about going fishing there the next day and I told him that I wanted to go with him. After all, there is a $4 entry fee per vehicle so we should maximize it, LOL. The park doesn't open until 8 a.m. which works great because we wouldn't have to get up at the crack of dawn either.
|This is the 2nd entrance, a little further down.|
We knew we would be passing Revels' Pond, where Greg went fishing this morning, and we had seen several people stopped on the side of SR 98 to fish in the (what we presumed was) the Withlacoochee River, so I suggested that we stop by Revel's Pond again as it was 5:30 p.m. and Greg still had his fishing gear in the truck, to see if the fish were biting.
They weren't, but I took a few pictures, mostly of the many mushrooms that had popped up everywhere! Oh I wish I knew more about mushrooms because they looked very appetizing!
|Yes, I was obsessed with the mushrooms, that day!|
|I loved how green the moss on this fallen tree was, when all around me the floor was littered with brown leaves.|
|Pale Meadow Beauty|
On the way home, the sun was setting over the lake that's close to our house so I asked Greg to pull over so I could take a cool sunset photo like Pixel, my photography role model (maybe one day I'll see a funny sign to photograph as well!). I didn't have my camera with me, though, so I had to use my iPhone.
When we got home, the kittens were all asleep, not on the freshly laundered new beds that I had gotten them, but on the one long pillow that I use behind me to support my lower back when I sit on the couch. I wish I had gotten a picture, they were like a bouquet of kittens :)