Florida Day Three : A Cold And Windy Hike On The Southern Glades Trail
The skies were clear when I awoke Monday morning. I was excited to return to the Southern Glades Trail. I learned more about the trail and was going to hike down to where it meets the infamous Aerojet canal. It is about a 3 1/2 mile hike. After having a cup of coffee, I left my hotel room at the Best Western in Florida City and quickly learned it was cold. Cold and windy, the temperature was 51 degrees! This is frigid in South Florida.
It is about a 10 minute drive to the trailhead. The planet Venus shone in the morning twilight . I arrived shortly before sunrise and again realized how cold it was when I exited my vehicle. A strong northwesterly wind made it feel colder. I began my hike south on the trail as the sun was rising. There were no ibises feeding on the rotting tomatoes on this cold morning. ( They were the previous morning and more on that in my previous blog)
Well there was no rain this morning. Just the cold and wind as I briskly walked on the trail along the canal. There was very little wildlife activity in the cold morning air. There was a lot of trees and small shrubs on the first 1/2 mile of the trail. I could hear birds in the trees, mainly catbirds but they were not flying to far in the gusty winds. The trees also shaded the trail and I was glad when I came to some open marshes and saw and felt the warm Florida sun.
I don’t think the smaller birds were able to fly in the strong wind. Even some of the larger birds had trouble, I saw an American kestrel and this osprey fly over and both seemed to struggle in the wind.
Even the vultures were having some difficulty flying into the wind. This is one of the many turkey vultures,
and this one of the many black vultures I saw on my 7 1/2 mile hike on the Southern Glades Trail.
A red shouldered hawk that was perched in the tree,
also struggled in the wind when it flew off as I approached.
The trees along the trail on my side of the canla became sparse now and there were vast expanses of marshes. There were still some trees on the other side of the trail.
The warm rays of the sun felt good as I walked in the cool air.
I knew I wouldn’t see any alligators, snakes or turtles with these low temperatures. And as I noted before, the smaller birds were not active and the cold and wind would keep the butterflies, dragonflies and other insects grounded too. However there were still some water birds wading in the deep blue waters of the canal.
There were a few great egrets,
and many little blue herons wading in the cold waters or walking along the banks of the canal stalking their prey.
These birds also struggled flying in the wind. I watched as they flew, with effort into the wind, or, erratically, when they flew with the wind. The little blue herons were most successful. They stayed close to the ground and flew straight.
After about 3 1/2 miles the canal I was walking along joined the larger Aerojet Canal. This canal was used to transport rocket engines from a factory in Homestead to the launch site at Cape Canaveral. They were too large to be transported over the highway. It was part of the massive flood control project that caused considerable environmental harm to the Everglades. Plans are being made to try and reverse the damage.
A trail also followed the Aerojet Canal and now but combined and continued on as the Southern Glades Trail for about 13 miles to Manatee Bay near Key Largo .
I wasn’t going to walk any further on the trail so I began my 3 1/2 mile hike back. I was in for a shocking surprise. The wind was on my back on my hike to the Aerojet canal was a lot colder now that I walking straight into it. It was a constant 25 mph wind with higher gust. At 50 degrees it felt cold! I think this was the coldest I ever felt in my many years of visiting Florida. And I wasn’t dressed for it. It was not a pleasant 3 1/2 mile hike.
As I struggled, like the birds I saw in the cold, I saw more of the vultures and herons as I walked along the blue waters of the canal. I also saw a murder of crows who also were struggling with the wind.
They were on the ground and would only fly off a short distance as I approached. They seemed to be dancing as they dealt with flying in the wind.
I saw one small bird, a palm warbler, it was flying along the shore of the canal in the same direction as I was walking. It had a hard time taking short flights in the wind as I approached. I tried but couldn’t get a photo. We traveled together for a few hundred feet when it flew, with difficulty, across the canal and sat on the shore It had caught a dragonfly in those windy conditions It was a brave little bird, or very hungry.
I would see one more different bird the rest of my hike, one of my dad’s, and now my favorites, a Northern mocking bird. It too, struggled in the wind. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website were more photographs of the birds I saw on my hike are displayed. Florida Day Three morning hike birds. February 14 2022.
On my return hike I was more interested in getting out of the cold wind then exploring the native plants, as i often do. I am by no means an expert and rely on my iPhone PictureThis app, so I may be wrong because it often is. But I did see these flowers on my walk, a pretty white moon flower
and a pretty blue dawn flower. Both of these flowers will soon close up during the day.
There were also some yellow coffee senna flowers blooming along the trail.
There were many trees I was unfamiliar with growing along the trail but these interesting seeds stood out. They were from a bishop wood tree. There were a lot of these invasive tree growing along the trail.
Finally as I neared the trailhead and the end of my cold hike on the Southern Glades Trail I saw a dragonfly venturing out in the windy conditions.
As I said, it wasn’t a pleasant 7 1/2 mile hike, I was cold. But I still enjoyed hiking this new trail and I know I will hike it again in the future and see more interesting wildlife, hopefully alligators and snakes. Here is a link to a gallery with more photo in my blog, or you can explore my photo archives yourself. I have taken a lot of photos over the years. I love to share the beauty I find. Florida Day Three morning hike February 14 2022.
“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”