Myakka State Forest

Never Too Old To Learn

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Never Too Old To Learn

Guest Post by Nancy Dobias

Saturday I asked Larry to go with me to the Myakka State Forest so he could show me where I might have gone wrong in my inability to retrace my steps back to the picnic tables that I figured had mysteriously "disappeared" in the few hours I had wandered around taking pictures.  For my second foray into the wilderness, I now had my pockets stuffed with brightly colored red/yellow trail markers with which I intended to practice.  Well, we parked the car, walked past the 4 picnic tables, out to the main path, turned left, walked a bit and then I remembered I was to tag one of the bushes.  Larry patiently waited until the task was completed.  Off we started walking.  Surprisingly we soon came to the gathering place for meetings and I couldn't figure out how that happened so quickly.  "It wasn't near those picnic tables!" I protested to Larry.

"Don't worry about it.  Just show me where you went," said Larry.  Then back and forth I led him on the various paths I took, but this time I must not have made the same first turn because the animal track was not visible right away.   I showed him both muddy trails which caused me to turn back.  Larry decided to venture forward on the longest of the paths to see where it would go.  He had to turn back too because it led to one of the highways that borders the forest.  Of course I NEVER would have continued walking in mud that got that DENSE...NO WAY!!! 

Because we were still looking for all the trails that I followed, at every turn Larry would ask, "What did you do here?"  I would take off and he would patiently follow and of course I snapped a few more pictures along the way.  "Hey is that one of those crop circles?" I asked.  

After we walked the trails in a more precise manner than I would have walked them, eventually I finally found the tracks that I should have found right away.  Larry asked me if anything looked familiar about the place and of course, I said, "YES!  There are lots of tracks here!" 

Being the analytical type, Larry put his Buck knife down so we could have a comparison on the size of the track.  The length of the knife was 5 inches....  Because our neighbor thought my other picture resembled the track of a coyote, Larry and I discussed whether a coyote would have a track of this size.   We both thought it resembled a coyote's track in pictures we had seen but are they this big??  We didn't know.

Once more Larry returned to his earlier question.  "Nanc, look around.  Does anything look familiar?"  he asked.  

"I already told you," I answered.  "What more can I add?  Animal tracks...Tracks of animals!"

Then Larry pointed on the other side of the track.  "Look there!" he said.  "What do you SEE?"  Larry asked.  

Wondering what on earth he was talking about, I looked in the general direction he was pointing.  I looked again....  

"A PICNIC TABLE!  THERE'S A 5TH PICNIC TABLE!!!"  I exclaimed.  "Who would have thought??!"  I said.  "You can even see it from the trail!  AND IT'S RIGHT NEXT TO THAT GATHERING PLACE!!  I had the way out if I only would have noticed....

I guess there's more to hiking than just following a trail.

I Wonder As I Wander - Myakka State Forest

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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.