Where do you look when you hike?

By Allison Vincent

Guided program at CREW Flint Pen Strand on the Purple Trail this rainy season – summer 2021

What is your hiking personality type? Do you have one? Never thought about it? Some would say that where you spend most of your time looking while on the trail says a lot about your interests, like one of those repetitive questionnaires that asks the same question several different ways to find a pattern. For instance, is your head up in the clouds with the birds or are you flipping through your wildflower book while you crouch near the flora? Does every little insect catch your eye, or are you more the type to roll over a downed tree to see what’s hiding underneath? Whatever your type, when you’re out hiking the CREW trails you’ll find a rich assortment of interesting distractions to catch your eye, hold your attention, and spark your imagination.  

If you’re the kind of person that tends to look down while you’re hiking you can fit into several categories. For one, perhaps you’re simply clumsy and/or cautious about wildlife crossing your path – in which case I suggest finding a good hiking stick. However, you might be the type to look to the ground with intention, scanning the earth for a sign of life, whether that be a wandering turtle or a seasonal wildflower. 

CREW Cypress Dome Trails

If you have a practical preoccupation with the ground in front of you – often you’re a quick trail runner or speed hiker who doesn’t slow down for anything, except perhaps a faster runner. You’re on the right track as long as you’re moving fast enough to blur your vision of the verdant landscape surrounding you. You prefer the smells of the trees over the blast of exhaust fumes and therefore opt to test your endurance in the company of wildlife, even if you’re moving too quickly to witness them. That’s alright, because you yourself are a wild thing, gracefully caressing the ground with your quick footsteps under the canopy of trees and sky. You are a trail runner.

Swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius) at CREW with CREW Trust intern Angel Kelley

Then again, maybe you’re one of the many who take their time looking at each leaf and petal, searching through the many layers of green to identify something unique in the abundant chaos. You have the ability to see hidden gems, glowing silently in the leaf litter, distinct in their ecosystem. You admire how they grow, for no one in particular, but simply because we have set aside spaces like CREW for them to do so. They blossom with their seasons, adorning the landscape with pops of improbable colors. They complete their life cycle unaided and unattended, capturing your attention if you’re one of those who seeks out their inherent beauty. You are a wildflower seeker. 

Julie Motkowicz, CREW Trust Education Coordinator, often discovers and teaches about the bugs of CREW – here she’s observing a Malachite butterfly

Then there are the unique people who find themselves seeking out the most diverse group of organisms on the planet, insects. Given that insects represent approximately 80 percent of the world’s species, it’s a fair bet that you’ll find a good collection to observe on each hike. In fact, at any time, it is estimated that there are some 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) individual insects alive. Bug nerds like you probably already know that, which is why you’re out with your macro camera lens, focusing in closely on that mother green lynx spider protecting the next generation in her silken web. You are a bug person.

Photo from past CREW Trust Strolling Science Seminar, Herping the CREW Lands (tickets on sale now)

The last predominant subcategory of those that ‘tend to look down while hiking’ includes the herpetologists. These patient seekers know where to look and also that it’s unlikely to find anything. Not to worry though; when you’re as patient and observant as those in this category tend to be, you’ll eventually be rewarded with a cool snake or mud-soaked turtle when you least expect it. That’s when you impress your friends with your reptile spotting skills and knowledge of their behavior, calming your friends’ nerves with helpful advice about how best to interact with our reptile neighbors (give them lots of space and respect). You are a herper. 

Photographer and CREW Trust volunteer Bill Zaino out shooting on the Red Trail of CREW Flint Pen Strand

Let’s not forget about those who look up to the sky for the birds. You know you’re a birder when you prefer trails with level ground or bring along a friend specifically to walk in front – so you don’t trip. Bird nerds, as you’re often called by your nearest and dearest friends, will sometimes  politely hush hiking friends not so immersed in the sport to allow you to parse out the chorus of warblers, distinguishing their unique calls. You’re an eagle-eyed scout who can often tell a species by their wing shape or flight patterns, counting the number of birds flocking with a best estimate. With all the migratory birds finding their way to or through Florida this season, you’re sure to find your way to the CREW trails soon and often. You are a birder.

Next time you’re out hiking CREW trails, take note of where you tend to look. And then try looking elsewhere to discover new interests. There are many other wonderful things to observe out hiking around the CREW Trails this winter. What do you look for on the trails? Will you try something new?

Barred owls nuzzle at CREW Bird Rookery Swamp Trail – a resident hidden in the trees

All CREW Trails are STILL OPEN

Check our website for daily updates regarding trail status

We want everyone to know that all four of the CREW trail systems- Bird Rookery Swamp, Flint Pen Strand, Cypress Dome Trail, and CREW Marsh Trails are all currently open. We are updating our website daily with current information regarding their status. So get out to the trails soon, just be sure to keep a 6-foot distance between yourself and others. As always, your donations and support are greatly appreciated, so bring a few extra bucks to drop in the donation box on the trails. Stay well everyone!

CREW Concert Tickets

Why should you give?

You depend on CREW trust staff and volunteers to use your money wisely to provide environmental education for all ages. We take this job seriously and make sure we provide the best field trip experiences to all.  We emphasize the importance of protecting our watershed that we all rely on to provide water to parts of Lee and Collier counties. The CREW lands protect habitat for wildlife and also provides wonderful recreational opportunities.  

Revenue from last year’s CREW Concert helped to fund the Dr. David R. Cooper Education Fund which directly supports our education programs. This year, proceeds from the concert will support our efforts to develop more trails and education programs at our newest trail system, Flint Pen Strand off of Bonita Beach Road. Check out our free guided walks offered every Thursday through April to get a great introduction to this unique ecosystem – home to bald eagles, ospreys, many songbirds and other wildlife.

Have we mentioned how much fun our yearly concerts are?  Attending the concert is a great way to give back while having a great time with friends and family. Dance to the music of the High Voltage Band (a local group), buy some great food from local food vendors, enter a bid for something special in our Silent Eco-Auction and enjoy a night out with friends and family. Think of all you get and all you contribute to CREW for the cost of your ticket

CREW Flint Pen Strand Trails

Physical Address: 15970 Bonita Beach Road, Bonita Springs, FL 34135

Hours: One hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset

Trails/Facilities: Free – donations appreciated, Open to public

Click to Download: CREW FPS Trail Map

Map created by CREW Trust volunteer Wendy Richardson

 

 Activities:

*There are private properties near the CREW Flint Pen Strand Hiking Trails. The public should remain on marked trails and not enter areas marked as private property.

From Fort Myers: From I-75 S, take exit 116 and turn east on Bonita Beach Road. Travel approximately 3.8 miles and turn left onto Vincent Road. The trail head and main parking lot are on the left. Continue further down Vincent Road and make your first right for the Pine parking lot. A third parking option may be reached by making an immediate right after turning left off of Bonita Beach Road. 

From Naples: From I-75 N, take exit 116 and turn east on Bonita Beach Road. Travel approximately 3.8 miles and turn left onto Vincent Road. The trail head and main parking lot are on the left. Continue further down Vincent Road and make your first right for the Pine parking lot. A third parking option may be reached by making an immediate right after turning left off of Bonita Beach Road.

What you need to know about the Purple Trail

Click this map for a pdf copy

Views from the trails this week

How to make your wildlife observations count

For me, it started with something as simple as an odd bird call.

We heard the loud call at dusk and tiptoed into the backyard. I turned on my phone to record the sound and shushed the kids, afraid we would scare away the bird.

(apologies for the video being sideways- I was a bit excited)

A quick text to a birding friend revealed it was a Chuck-will’s-widow and, while it was new to us, it wasn’t as uncommon as we thought. A little curiosity about our backyard resident led to a bit of research and learning for our family. I added the bird to my lifetime birding list (which is admittedly shorter than I’d like it to be). The experience certainly meant something to my family but, beyond observation, would it count to anyone else?

Making our wildlife observations count is the topic of the CREW Trust’s final Strolling Science Seminar this season. Dr. Win Everham will lead us along the trail at Bird Rookery Swamp in Naples for a hands-on learning experience.

Our everyday observations can be scientific and can help conservation efforts. It’s just a matter of knowing how.

 

One of our volunteers, Tom Mortenson, wanted to learn more about the wildlife in his new Florida home. He set up game cameras, similar to those he had up north, on parts of the CREW Project. That led to his first images of Florida panthers and he now submits the data he collects to the FWC panther biologists. His curiosity led to his contributions as a citizen scientist.

From backyard calls to uncommon sightings, your observations count.

Want to learn how you can also be a citizen scientist? Join us on April 29 at 9 a.m. Tickets are $15 for members, $25 for non-members, and must be purchased in advance (eventbrite.com).

A few tips for geocaching with kids

At last week’s family fun day, two of our volunteers taught my children how to geocache. We decided Spring Break was the perfect time to hit the trails and get a little lost in the woods. Thinking of doing some geocaching of your own, maybe with kids or grand kids? I’ve got a few suggestions that might make your trip go more smoothly.

  1. Download a geocaching app on your smartphone. We used Geoacaching which was very user-friendly; I opted to purchase a one month subscription. You can also get the coordinates from a geocaching website, like geocaching.com. The smart phone app was nice because it helped me lure the teens into going with us.
  2. Wear long pants and long socks. This seems like common sense but my 7 year old was more than happy to wear a pink fluffy skirt and her ladybug rain boots. After tromping off the trails and searching for our first two caches she understood why long pants were a better option.
  3. Let the kids do the leading and the finding – within reason. I insisted on being in the front whenever we ventured off the trails and everyone followed that rule. But once the app alerted us that we were close, I let the kids take over and start searching for the caches.
  4. Make sure you bring trinkets. Some caches have goodies inside and the kids can take something, like a really gorgeous marble, and leave one of their trinkets behind. Also bring a pen to sign your name on the list in the cache, and have the kids come up with a cool geocaching name for your group.
  5. Set a reasonable goal. I said we would try to find four caches, and after our third one (which was a bit difficult, but probably our best memory of the day) the kids were ready to go home. I reminded them of our goal and we trudged on, finding two more caches on our way back to the trail head.

6. Bring water and snacks. A stack of graham crackers can be a lifesaver after you spend twenty minutes off-trail and end up on a service road (that you could have taken the whole time).

7. Be ready to get lost. Not really lost, just enough that the children start to doubt that you actually know what you are doing. My favorite memory of our first geocaching trip was the kids complaining about how certain they were that we were lost. I may have accidentally taken us very far off course but the end was worth it. The cache was in the middle of a beautiful cypress dome and I’d like to think they were thankful (but see tip #6 about why you should bring snacks).

8. Have fun. We identified wildflowers along the way, spotted a lot of lubbers on one section of the trail and definitely learned what poison ivy looked like (and tried to avoid it). Even the complaining was fun mainly because it made me laugh.

So, how much fun did we have? The kids asked to go again. And no one got poison ivy.

 

Interested in learning how to geocache? Come to the Cypress Dome Trails on April 22 and learn how to geocache. For more information, visit eventbrite.com.

 

You’re invited to our first annual Family Fun Day!

As part of our commitment to teaching people of all ages about our mission to protect the watershed and wildlife of the 60,000 acre CREW Project, the CREW Land & Water Trust will host its first annual Family Fun Day on Saturday, April 8 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Cypress Dome Trails, located just 15 minutes east of I-75 at 3980 Corkscrew Road, Immokalee FL 34142.

So, what exactly is going on, and why?

We are passionate about helping families connect with nature. So many students come to the trails on school field trips, and our hope is that they will return with their families. At the same time, we know from leading walks that many people need a guiding hand to help them reach the comfort level they need to walk the trails with family and friends.

On Saturday, when families arrive, children will receive a Nature Passport and travel to 10 different stations. They’ll measure their wingspan to see if they can reach as wide as an eagle, they’ll check out a camping demonstration in our primitive and private camping site, they’ll learn about the birds that might see on the CREW Trails and head out on a guided walk with one of our volunteer naturalists. On the walk, families will learn about the flora and fauna around them and hopefully become more comfortable on the trails and more interested in the ecosystems around them.

This event is free for members and $5 per family for non-members. You can register on eventbrite or at the event. Please wear appropriate footwear for sandy trails and bring water and snacks.

We hope to see you Saturday!

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