A guest post by CREW visitor Keri Harty:
Even though I was afraid, I put my big girl pants on and decided that I couldn’t let my children miss this cool opportunity to see this treasure in our SWFL backyard.
… I now have firsthand knowledge of why everyone says that the trails are a MUST-DO during the rainy season. It was a totally different experience…You have to see it to understand it.
Thanks so much for asking about our recent trip and wet walk to the Marsh Trails! (Or making sure that we made it out alive….LOL!)
We had A BLAST!!! I went with my 10 year old daughter, my 8 year old son, and my brother and sister-in-law. I decided to do the wet walk because my niece who is a FGCU student recently did the wet walk with her class and thought it was awesome. We have visited both the Cypress Dome Trails and the Marsh Trails many times in the winter and spring and have had wonderful adventures, but I was assured by my niece that I was missing an amazing and different world out there by only visiting during “dry” season.
Even though I was afraid, I put my big girl pants on and decided that I couldn’t let my children miss this cool opportunity to see this treasure in our SWFL backyard. I was actually going to go to Bass Pro and buy some camo pants to get myself psyched, but I decided my old jean shorts would do. J As we arrived at the wet part near the observation tower, even my brother and sister-in-law – who are very well traveled – asked if I was sure that it was safe to enter the small trail through the grass and swamp water. While the water is semi-clear in most spots, the sea of tall grass looks so ominous! I was thinking “Children of the Corn” only gator style. LOL!
I have to admit that I was very nervous in the water past the observation deck, but my brave little 8 year old son led the way with his big walking stick clearing all the webs made on the morning dew from the friendly spider residents and watching for anything suspect. (He dreams of being a herpetologist or Everglades scientist or guide, so this was right up his alley.) Since this is the end of the wet season, the highest the water ever got was mid-thigh, but that was CHEST high on my son. Was I a coward for allowing my precious boy to lead me on this adventure? Yes! However, I presented it to him that it was his very first guide through the Marsh Trails and he stood tall and felt very important. Most importantly, he did a great job pointing out the flora and fauna!
Among many other creatures, we saw the most beautiful beetle. It was black and had a top so colorful and sparkly that it looked like a Mardi Gras parade participant. The hawks were screeching above our heads and the frogs were singing around our feet. We interrupted at least 4 different black racer snakes sunning themselves on the trails and it was my sister-in-law (not me) who almost stepped on one and screamed so loud that all the vultures in the trees flew for their lives. My daughter and son tried to revive a dying dragonfly and unfortunately were unsuccessful, but it was a good opportunity to discuss the “Circle of Life” and yes I did start singing the song to lessen their pain.
We found many different kinds of scat. Yes, we were excited about finding poop. Who wouldn’t be? Some we assumed was deer due to the plants in it and some we assumed was maybe bobcat. (It had a lot of hair in it 🙂
We also hiked the Popash Trail, which we had never done before, and that was really awesome as well. We really only went that far back into the trails to find the geocaches, but I am so glad that we did because it was just beautiful. Although, it is also a little scary because it is so remote and the trail so narrow. It was thrilling! As our feet left imprints in the jet black mud, we saw so many paw prints of recent animal trails. Of course we thought they were all bear and panther and estimated each animal to be at least 700 pounds in size, but I am sure most were much smaller. We DID however see human foot prints that looked like someone was walking barefooted. It was very strange. So of course that added to the thrill as we and the children concluded that it was either someone with those toe shoes on OR the Skunk Ape. LOL!
Anyway, I now have firsthand knowledge of why everyone says that the trails are a MUST-DO during the rainy season. It was a totally different experience. Especially in the hustle and bustle of our extremely hectic and busy lives, it was as if we stepped out of time into a magical world that only we were a part of. You have to see it to understand it. Every single student in our county should have the opportunity to visit this jewel. Thank you so much for your encouragement and information to make our visit out there a success. If you get reports of a 40-year-old woman running around the trails with her children wildly laughing, don’t worry, it is just the Harty family back for a visit.
~Keri Harty, October 2013
Note: Many FGCU “Environmental Biology of SWFL” and other classes come to CREW for field trips each semester. Kudos to their instructors for exposing them to the wonders of this amazing watershed and teaching about the important ecosystem services it provides to all of us here in SW Florida. And special kudos to Keri’s niece for encouraging Keri to bring her family out for a wet walk to experience CREW in a whole new way!