Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Florida Adventure, Day 3

I made it! Hike day! Today was my day to show the rest of the crew that Mother-Nature can compete with the likes of rollercoasters and NASA. To that end, I wanted a signficant hike with a very Florida Feel to it, all while keeping in mind that we needed to be at the airport later in the day. In short, I wanted to over do it without actually overdoing it.

Using alltrails, shira and I settled on Black Bear Wilderness Area. On paper, it checked a lot of boxes: it was a not-insigificant 7 miles, was a loop and the comments suggested we'd see wildlife. As we drove to the hike I actually experienced a small wave of anxiety as I considered what we were stepping into (one commentor remarked: Extremely difficult today. Mentally and physically. I'm dead!). That was an excellent sign!

I'm pleased to report that the trail delivered in terms of terrain, flora and fuana. The trail winds through palms, palmettos and cypress trees along a series of dykes. For most of the hike pools of black or bright-green covered water are visible. The environment made for a totally foriegn feeling hike, which is very much what I was hoping for. From a more practical level, this also meant that most of the hike was in shade, which made it far more bearable on such a hot and sunny day.

And then there were the Swamp Mallow Roses. There seemed to be acres and acres of these blooming, satellite dish style hibiscus flowers. They were magnificent and I only wish I'd had the time and gear to properly capture their beauty. It's rare to see flowers blooming on that kind of scale.

From a fauna perspective we saw alligators, wild pigs, a couple blue herons and a number of massive golden orb spiders. As we finished the hike I noted aloud that I had to watch for gators on our right, pigs on our left, roots below and spiders above. It was so cool.

Near the end of the hike we came across some run-down infrastucture that appeared to be used to manage water levels in the dykes. I didn't have any luck finding a detailed explanation for their purpose or a sense of how old they were, but it was still cool coming across this mystery.

We absolutely recommend this hike. I wouldn't call it difficult, especially considering it has a whopping 29 feet of elevation gain. Though we were on the trail after several dry days; had the trail been a slog through the mud I might reconsider the difficulty level. This trip report is an excellent one if you want to learn more.

After the hike we made our way to a delish Indian Restaurant and then it was on to the airport. As we approached the airport, we noticed a few drops of rain on the windshield. Look at that, I remarked, we went a whole trip and the rain didn't impact us one bit. Ahh yes, inviting the evil eye.

Initially, the lines at the airport looked long and chaotic, but in no time we were all through security and at our gate. We hit the time for boarding and there was no call for us to line up. Eventually, one of the gate agents made an announcement: there had been lightning within a 10 mile radius of the airport, so the 'ramp' was closed. We'd have to sit and wait for the required amount of time to pass before the airport could resume operations. Mind you, outside it's sunny with only a few puffy white clouds in the sky.

This delay actually gave me the perfect opportunity to ask B. for some help. I explained I was in a bit of pickle: the the pants I was wearing weren't randomly selected. I was actually on a mission: I was field testing them for a review I was planning to post later on the blog. I knew what I wanted to say about the pants but didn't have any photos of me wearing them to post along with the text. Could she snap a few pics of me to highlight the pants?

She sprung into action and conducted an impromptu fashion photo shoot in a very busy Orlando airport. What a treat it was to work with a pro. I consider myself a pretty knowledgeable photographer, but I came away from this experience realizing I know nothing about fashion photography. The ideas she had for highlighting the features of the pants, all while making me look good were impressive. This was all done with a heap of constraints, including lack of time, access to just a few busy parts of the airport and that I was having her shoot with my cell phone versus her own equipment. I couldn't have been more pleased with the results or impressed by her ability.

Eventually the storm came through and we boarded the plane. There was yet one more lightning strike in the area that shut down the ramp, leaving the strange scene of a full luggage cart outside our window getting pelted with rain. Thanks to a break in the weather, we finshed the loading process and got on our way. The flight home was delightfully uneventful.

We had three exhausting and amazing days in Florida. As for next year, maybe the gang will want to go back to something more relaxing, like a rugged backpacking trip.

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