As I kept seeing beautiful photos of the Florida Scrub, I knew I wanted to return to the Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park. Luckily the skies were overcast as I turned into the parking lot at 8:45 am. A white pickup truck turned in after me. Both of us expressed surprise at five vehicles in the parking lot of this rarely used park. We started on the trail at the same time, soon headed in different directions. He ran up the sandy hill as I trudged along my flat, deep sand trail.
Inspiration for my Walk
Where did I see the beautiful photos of the Florida Scrub? They are on Instagram, posted by my writer friend, Dorothy L. Harris, known affectionately as the #FlaNatureNerd. She is a talented writer and photographer.
What’s a Florida Scrub? It’s the oldest plant community in Florida and consists of mostly shrubs along with stunted oak trees growing in white sand. Both Dorothy and I live along the Lake Wales Ridge, remnants of ancient sand dunes when the seas were 100 feet higher than today. The long isolation of this area led to the evolution of many plants found no where else in the world.
These plants evolved to survive the harsh environment of the Florida Scrub with adaptations to avoid being eaten like the thorns on the sensitive briar in the image above. Also many plants have waxy, curved or stout leaves, which reduce dehydration.
People are Not Adapted to Florida Scrub
As I started my early morning walk, I had on long pants and a long-sleeved white shirt over a tank top. The sky was overcast, so I wasn’t worried about protecting my head. I did carry a full water bottle. Twenty-four ounces of water is heavy, but I was glad I had it when my 30-minute walk turned into nearly an hour.
My head was turned downward, looking for animal tracks on the road and I missed the signpost, “Restricted Area”. When I noticed a large maintenance shed, I realized I made a wrong turn. Darn it! Now I have to backtrack and will be late for my weight-lifting workout with my trainer.
No one in sight as I slinked back out the restricted road. In contrast, a zebra swallowtail butterfly with white stripes played with me, tempting me to try and get a photograph of his erratic flight. Suddenly, he rested on the damp sand to absorb minerals from the earth, known as “puddling”. I had my photo opportunity.
Soon I was back on the trail, where I went to the left instead of the right. Less than ten minutes later I arrived at the parking lot.
An Unexpected Turn of Events
As I entered the parking lot, I saw the young man in the white pickup, Brandon, finishing a phone call. He seemed agitated. He had found three teenagers who also made wrong turns and spent the night in the scrub without sufficient water. One was so dehydrated, he didn’t have the strength to sit up. Luckily, Brandon, a paramedic, coordinated a rescue plan as I returned to my car.
Although I was enjoying taking beautiful photos of the Florida Scrub, unknown to me, there were others fearful for their lives, lost in the wilderness.
Brandon and I each listened to our intuition on the directions we took that morning. His intuition sent him on the difficult route, running straight up a deep sand hill, bringing him to the aid of those who desperately needed him.
My lack of attention brought me to a sought after butterfly and delayed my return to witness the heroism and caring we all desperately want to see.