10 Ways to Enjoy the CREW Trails This Summer
by Deb Hanson
Summer is approaching and our schedule of events is empty. The CREW Trust has had a fabulous fall/winter season at CREW this year with the help of our project partners, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) staff who owns and manages the CREW lands, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission biologist who monitors wildlife and habitat at CREW, and our fabulous volunteers and FGCU interns who assist with guided walks, trail maintenance, exotics removal, and many other tasks.
Since October 1st, 2012 over 6000 people participated in our guided hikes, strolling science seminars, school field trips, and special programs for CREW Trust members and the public. Thousands more explored the CREW trails on their own and have connected with the watershed in many ways.
But don’t stay away from CREW just because we don’t have many organized summer programs planned. Come on out and enjoy CREW in a whole new way on your own. Summer is a time for the CREW trails to rest. With fewer footprints along the paths, grass grows taller, wildlife ventures out, and of course – with the arrival of summer storms – the water levels rise. By October, the marsh and swamps of CREW will be wet and green and teeming with animal activity. Summer is truly the most amazing time of year to experience CREW.
So, put on your old sneakers and long pants, sunscreen and bug spray, and try one or more of these suggestions to enjoy CREW on your own this summer:
1. Go for a Treasure Hunt – CREW is home to over 100 geocaches – hidden treasures placed out in the woods along the trails that can be located by GPS coordinates – thanks to local geocachers JunglePete and The Unusual Suspects. If you’ve never been geocaching, grab your GPS unit or smartphone, go to http://geocaching.com for info and CREW coordinates and give it a whirl this summer.
2. Take a Run – running the CREW trails is a lot more interesting than pounding the pavement or hitting the treadmill at the gym. Research shows that running outdoors gives you more exercise due to varied elevation and wind resistance, too. Plus, fresh air and proximity to trees heals and refreshes. Check out the Caloosa Trailheads Facebook page to connect with like-minded folks or find a running buddy, then come run a mile or two or ten at CREW.
3. Track an Animal – hit the trail with one purpose: to track a critter. Summer means rain and softer ground, so tracks are more easily found along the trails. Challenge yourself to locate and identify five new animal tracks this summer. Grab a track field guide or app, a tape measure and a friend, then see what you can learn about animals that come out to play at CREW during the summer.
4. Just Sit There – 99% of the time people come to CREW walk, run or bike the trails. Rarely do people go to one spot and sit still. Yet 100% of the time, if you sit still in one place for more than 10 minutes you will see, hear, and experience more critters than in three hours of hiking. So, pick a trail, find a spot, and just sit there. Watch the magic happen.
5. Spend the Night – CREW has two primitive campsites that are free and available by Special Use License through the SFWMD at http://goo.gl/5wUfJ. If you’ve never been out at CREW at night, camping can give you a whole new perspective about the place. Practice “Leave No Trace” and enjoy the quiet serenity of CREW after dark.
6. Engage Your Senses – most folks walk and look when hiking the CREW Trails. Next time you go, take advantage of the summer humidity and focus attention on your sense of smell. Every animal and plant has a unique scent. Expand your sensory experience by listening and touching, too. Just be sure you can ID poison ivy first!
7. Take the Road Less Traveled – Do you take the same trail every time you come to CREW or have a favorite that you always share with friends and visitors. This summer, take a different trail or loop. Try the Pine Flatwoods Trail at the CREW Marsh or the White Loop/Wild Coffee Trail at the Cypress Dome Trails, or if you’re really ambitious (and well-prepared with water, food, and sun protection) try to get to the north or west tram at Bird Rookery Swamp. Head a new direction and see what surprises await you.
8. Awaken Your Sense of Wonder with a Child – Rachel Carson proclaimed “If a child is to keep his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” So, take a child by the hand and explore CREW, experience bugs and birds, get dirty and wet, spend unstructured time playing in nature. You may be surprised at how much it helps you connect, too.
9. Get Your Cowboy/girl On – Adjacent to the CREW Cypress Dome Trails (and connected via the White Loop) are the Caracara Prairie Preserve Trails, owned by Conservation Collier and the CREW Land & Water Trust. These three miles of trails traverse an active cattle ranch. So, put on your cowboy hat and take a hike through oak hammocks, towering pines, and some beautiful wet prairie. Be prepared to get your feet wet crossing the ditch from the Dome Trails to the Caracara Trails (Oh, and no dogs allowed – to keep the cattle safe).
10. Catch a Sunrise/Sunset – all the CREW Trails are open to the public from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset, so start your day right and head out to the Marsh Overlook early one morning this summer to watch the sun rise over the 5000-acre Corkscrew Marsh. Or, if you’re just not a morning person, try getting there just before dark to watch the sunset filtering through those billowing summer storm clouds. Either way, you’ll enrich your life and your spirit!
However you choose to experience CREW this summer, we’d love to hear from you! Share your adventures with us by posting pictures and comments on the CREW Land & Water Trust Facebook page or send us an email to let us know what you did that was new and exciting.
We’ll be publishing our fall/winter program schedule later this summer, so stay tuned…and have a wonderful time at CREW or wherever you spend your summer!