Pup Walk – Big Bear? Black Bear? Where were we again?

Entering the wilderness - literally

Entering the wilderness – literally

Black Bear Wilderness Area near Sanford, Florida. I have the picture of the sign on my phone which promptly died – but luckily I had posted it on Facebook and Twitter just in case. I think the gator scared it to death. I had a video on my phone too. I should have known something was up when the phone went all Bermuda Triangle on me and started recording video on its own. Apparently it’s a city phone and the wilderness on a hot day was just too much for it.

But luckily my camera is made of sterner stuff.

If there were any bears, Jynxie and Gizmo likely scared them off with the barkfest in the parking lot as they tried to get me to hurry up and get on the trail.

"Let's go already!" Jynxie on point.

“Let’s go already!” Jynxie on point.

Tinkerbell doesn’t care where I go, she just wants to come along. Princess Miyuki had a moment at the trail head when she stopped and gave me a look that said “Wait a minute. This is real dirt. Where are you taking me? And do I really want to go?” Her preferred environment is at one of our favorite restaurants on Park Avenue.

"This is not Park Avenue."

“This is not Park Avenue.”

Me: You’ll be fine. Dogs have lived in the wilderness for thousands of years.
Yuki: My people lived in palaces.

Once Yuki saw the boardwalk she was fine,

"A runway. I can handle that."

“A runway. I can handle that.”

though trying to juggle four dogs on leashes on a narrow boardwalk while watching for snakes and alligators and trying to snap a picture or two is not the easiest thing. Especially when you have a dog

Gizmo on the Eagle Scout bench

Gizmo on the Eagle Scout bench

(Gizmo, I’m looking at you) who likes to swim and just doesn’t get why I’m not letting him jump into the water.

The Eagle Scouts (God bless them) placed benches every tenth of a mile or so along the first half of the hike. Beautiful views there, except for the ten thousand mosquitoes that lie in wait along the trail.

Yuki enjoying the view

Yuki enjoying the view

The View

The View

Most of the hike, thankfully is in the shade. The good thing about shade is it does shield you from the relentless Florida sun. The bad thing is, it also shields you from the breeze, which you can hear rustle through the tree tops, but seldom get to feel.

Lantana in bloom

Lantana in bloom

Crown of thorns spiders had webs strung across the trail every few feet or so. One considerate spider only took up half the trail, leaving us the other half. After I walked into the first one, I learned to watch out for the others and managed to limbo under most of them. The official poster at the head of the trail called them spiny orb something or other, but to me they are crown of thorns spiders and there are a lot of them. I tried to get pictures, but they didn’t come out that well.

That blob in the middle is a spider

That blob in the middle is a spider

Heard something in here but couldn't see what it was

Heard something in here but couldn’t see what it was

There were some pretty impressive ant hills too.

After the shady bog walk we found a gravel road, which caused Tinkerbell to dash down it for a minute in search of civilization, but alas it only went as far as another creek or one very big puddle.

Road to Nowhere

Road to Nowhere

So we continued into the cypress swamp.

Heading into the swamp

Heading into the swamp

Cypress swamp

Cypress swamp

The boardwalk ends at the St. Johns River. I was expecting a nice, broad bank with maybe a picnic table. Instead I got a glimpse over the railing through the bushes through which we could see the river.

There was also a sign saying “Trail” that appears to point to the St. Johns. There is a picture of that on my dead phone. We had a good laugh over that one.

Glimpse of the St. John's River.

Glimpse of the St. Johns River.

I asked the dogs if they wanted to try the “walk on water” trail and this was their response.

"We'll meet you back at the car."

“We’ll meet you back at the car.”

All the drama happened on the return trip. We saw nothing on the way down. Absolutely nothing except for huge, gorgeous butterflies too quick for me to catch a picture of, a couple of cardinals and squirrels, a hawk soaring. No snakes, no alligators, no water birds even. We passed the slough with the log in it and I even recall remembering a time when the kids and I were walking on a trail trying to determine if the log in the small body of water was an alligator or just a log (it was an alligator). On the way down, it didn’t move. On the way back it moved big time – thwacked the water with its tail, rolled over, then an instant later all was quiet again.

About a minute later, continuing up the same trail, I saw bubbles and ripples and got the camera out just in case it was another alligator (though I was expecting a big turtle). Here came the ripples, pretty fast and I wondered if maybe it was an alligator

The "Holy crap that was an alligator!" picture

The “Holy crap that was an alligator!” picture

I texted “Gator!” so my family would know what happened to me and got “Roll Tide” from my husband and “Go Noles” from my friend Lois, followed by a “Now you’re talking” post from my nephew Jay, a University of Florida alum. So much for sending an SOS to football fans in the South!

Ripples

Ripples

This one wasn’t a gator, just one very disgruntled river otter who appeared almost at our feet (we were up on higher ground), glared at us from across the slough, then ran off into the woods. Tried to get a picture of it but he was too fast and I was in awe. Hadn’t expected an otter. He was a handsome fellow, with an expression kind of like this.

All in all, a lovely way to spend a summer morning.

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