Saturday, November 19, 2011

Deception and Distance

We have exciting news!  We have a new addition to our hiking crew.  His name is Sprocket.  He is a seven-month-old otterhound that we recently adopted.  He will be accompanying us on many of our hikes.  With that in mind, we will add a Dog Friendly rating to our current rating system.  So many people like to take their dogs with them when they hike and it is sometimes hard to know what places are good and if they even allow dogs.

Yesterday we went to Marshy Point Park located on the Chesapeake Bay in Baltimore, Maryland.  It is part of the Chesapeake Gateways Network.  A certain someone told us that this place would be a great place to find salamanders.  Little information was available online prior to our visit but when we got there, there were lots of trail maps and other information about the park.  The trails are all relatively short.  Many have boardwalks to give you the ability to see the bay and the Saltpeter and Dundee Creeks that run through the park.  One boardwalk ended abruptly with no ramp or steps to get you back onto the ground except a ramp made out of haphazardly placed 6"x2" boards. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Creature Feature: Eastern Mud Snake

This fascinating species of snake is primarily aquatic, usually only leaving the water in search of prey or finding a mate.  Found from Southern Virginia all the way into Florida, the Mud snake primarily inhabits swamps where there is an abundance of sirens and amphiumas, the Mud snakes favorite prey.  These snakes are very strong snakes but rarely, if ever, bite when handled.  The most common reaction to being handled is that the Mud snake will poke it's captor with its harmless pointed tail.  Moving from bodies of water primarily at night also make this species one that is rarely encountered by people but is also a reason why these snakes suffer a high road mortality rate.  While these snakes are believed to exist in high numbers little is known about their actual population numbers due to their secretive existence.

Lesser Known Fact: Mud Snakes have been witnessed using their pointed tail as an anchor in the mud for extra leverage while subduing prey.

Blood, Sweat, & Gators: Hiking the Florida Everglades

Cuban Treefrog
One of the most memorable aspects about hiking the Everglades isn't actual blood, it's donating it to the mosquitoes.  While the mosquito level was high, at least it wasn't insane everywhere.  Most of the hikes in the everglades are easy access, paved, boardwalks, and a few unpaved beaten paths.  One of the longer trails on our visit was totally flooded which was very disappointing.

Making the trip from the entrance of ENP driving all the way to Flamingo in Monroe county we hit every trail we could.  Most of the trails were in the sun, so be sure to bring some sunscreen.  The shaded trails proved to be the worst for mosquitoes, and after a few minutes on something as simple as the Gumbo Limbo Trail, jogging was the best option to escape the little flying blood suckers.  You may as well leave the bug spray at home because I think that the mosquito just them laughing at you for trying.  So unless you want to wear a full bug protection suit I would highly advise to avoid any shaded trails.

American Alligator
The major attraction to the Everglades is the abundant wildlife.  Everywhere you look there is an interesting bird, reptile, or amphibian.  There is nothing more exciting than seeing an anole scurry away out of the corner of your eye every step you take or having a snake slither across a trail in front of you.  Florida is known for these creatures, but don't expect them to fall into your lap!  During our weekend in the glades we only saw about 10 snakes, and we were actually looking for them!  It certainly isn't like most television shows make it seem.  There are not invasive killer pythons around every turn and deadly venomous snakes aren't falling from the trees.  

Green Heron
If you are a birder, get in your car, book a flight, do whatever it takes to reach the Glades and visit this park! I recommend to go between January and March, which is Florida's dry season, meaning a lot loss mosquitoes!  If you are looking for large mammals this might not be the best place to visit.

American Crocodile
I would also strongly recommend that when you get to Flamingo to give up the dirt trails and try some of the water trails.  This is a fantastic way to get an opportunity to see the endangered American Crocodile.  There are canoes for rent at the boathouse in Flamingo, so while you are there give it a paddle!

Tailless whip scorpion
 There is virtually no challenge to any of the trails in the everglades, everything is flat!  The only issue is that the trails may test your stamina when it comes to the heat or test your patience when it comes to the buzzing blood sucking mosquitoes.  

Florida Softshell Turtle
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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chapin Forest Reservation

Shining Club Moss: Huperzia lucidula
Hike Date:  September 25th, 2011

Going home to visit my family for the first time, I also wanted to show Francis around one of my favorite hiking spots.  When I lived at home, I visited Chapin Forest often since it was beautiful and close by.  To give you an unbiased review I will let him tell you about it.  The area has some interesting geology so I'll let you know about that too.

Baby Northern Water Snake found along the trail
Well, as Ann mentioned, Chapin Forest is beautiful.  I enjoyed getting to hike through the habitat and see a bit of the variation when compared to the usual Maryland mixed oak and hardwood forests.  The trail itself offers some hills but no other difficult challenges such as rough, rocky terrain.  Some of the trails are paved, but all are heavily traveled and according to the laws of this park system, you cannot have any off the beaten path adventures.  Sticking to the trails, getting a view of the Cleveland Skyline, and getting a glimpse of Ohio's nature make this park a great place for a nice day hike.   As with most parks with heavy foot traffic the animals are a bit used to seeing people so spotting some white tailed deer, birds, and a few other local amphibians and reptiles along the trail is almost guaranteed.  Overall, it makes for a nice day out, maybe even bring the family along or take the dog out for a nice day adventure!