I Wonder As I Wander - Myakka State Forest


I Wonder As I Wander - Myakka State Forest

Guest Post by Nancy Dobias

I don't know how Dora the Explorer and others like her do it.  Born with a tracking gene, they can find their way out of anywhere.  Not so with me.  Today I decided to go  to Myakka State Forest in North Port to check out the wildlife.  The first time I went here, I expected a woods along the river.  I was disappointed when I didn't see the river, but I was blown away when we encountered a six foot Diamondback Rattlesnake crossing the road.   The snake was HUGE.  His girth was enormous!  That's why I decided to go again.  It was a cool day.  It was sunny.  Maybe, just maybe, that snake might come out of hiding and want to get warm on the little-used road.  Maybe I would see him again. Unfortunately he was nowhere to be found.

I decided to park my car and walk into the woods a bit to see what might be there.  I was surprised to find a tree-stand.  Hunting and hiking didn't seem like a good mix to me. Maybe it was being used for other purposes. 

Figuring I should have parked in a designated parking area, I left and instead stopped at a picnic area.  No hunters were in the area.  Instead, there were picnic tables in the woods. 

Because I wanted to know how many tables there were, I followed the trail to see how many tables there were, four tables!  Since I had already started down the trail, I figured I may as well continue to see where it went.  Naturally I started to take pictures.

The path was in great shape and was wide enough for vehicles if they would have been allowed. I continued taking pictures....following various paths. I came across a trail site for gatherings.... and continued to follow a path past it until it led out to the park road. 

Now my choice was to go out to the road and follow it back to my car or back-track on the trails I had taken (like Dora would have done).  I took the trails.  On and on and on I walked, taking split after split after split....  "WHERE WAS MY PATH BACK TO THE PICNIC TABLES???"

I thought I would recognize the split back because when I took the first split, I put the sun at my back (since I was taking pictures) and I took a photo of some kind of animal track that I figured had been attracted to the picnic tables.  I noticed three main "toes" with pointed claws on the front of the foot.  The animal track seemed rather large and I figured surely I would notice it when I got back to this spot.  What I didn't put together was that the animal LIVES here and his track would be EVERYWHERE!  I saw that track where there were NO trails.  I saw that track where there WERE trails.  I took those trails.  WRONG TRAILS!  Stupid cat!  Then I'd have to back-track and try to remember, "Did I go left or right when I did that?"  I was constantly having to decide whether to try a portion of the trail again.  Did I miss an off-shoot???  What if it were just ten yards more? 

For over an hour I walked and walked and walked.  NO THOUGHT OF TAKING ANY PICTURES NOW!  I wanted out of there.   One time I could hear the sound of heavy vehicles and figured a fast road was nearby and then I had to debate whether to go forward or go back.  I turned back.  What if that were River Road and my car was way back in the Myakka State Forest???  Another time I had to choose whether to slop through water and mud  to get to the park road.  I could see the park road, just a short distance away.  "Were there any cotton mouths in that muck?" I wondered.  I turned back.  Eventually I decided my only way out was to go waaaaaaaaay back to that trail site for gatherings.  At least I knew where that path went.  I didn't look for cat tracks.  I didn't look for paths back to picnic tables.  I didn't take any pictures.  I was on a heading and that heading was THE ROAD!!!!  

Oh how good it looked when I finally made it out to the park road.  Of course I did have to hope that when I made the decision to turn left, it would lead me back to my car....

WHAT A DAY....  

By the way, when I finally got home, I got on Amazon and ordered some trail markers that hunters use.  Maybe that'll work.