Black Bear Wilderness Area Revisited

Even though I’ve had a wicked cold this week, I knew I was feeling better when the pups and I decided to venture out despite the cool, drizzly weather. I’m not particularly fond of cool, drizzly weather but I’m less fond of staying inside for days on end and the pups let it be known they were sick of our short sprints between rain showers and wanted a real hike.

Black Bear seemed the perfect antidote.

We were almost there when we got hit by a sure enough rain shower on I-4 but we drove out of it and a quick check of the weather radar showed that was the only band. Wahoo!

Welcome to Black Bear

Welcome to Black Bear

Our last hike here was last summer on a hot, sunny day with a different group of dogs (back then we had Jynxie, now we have Li’l Bit) and a different phone (that hike proved to be too much for my old phone and started its decline).

Selfie 1 - reflection

Selfie 1 – Reflection

It was a great day to try out my new boots (a gift from my wonderful husband).

Selfie 1 - New Boots

Selfie 2 – New Boots

This is a simple hike, an out and back couple of miles. There’s a single trail (we have yet to see anyone on it besides us), a boardwalk through the wetlands (resembles a gymnast’s beam more than an actual boardwalk) followed by a high berm between two waterways, a brief stint crossing a gravel road, and then a real boardwalk into the cypress swamp, ending in a slight view of the St. Johns River.

Why I like hiking with dogs

Gizmo and Li’l Bit on watch

This hike always feels dangerous. For one, we’re usually the only ones on the trail, which is exhilarating and a little spooky. For another, except for the occasional plane flying over, there’s not much else out here. It’s hard to get pictures of wildlife because unlike some parks and trails where the wildlife will pose, this bunch is truly wild. They want nothing to do with posing for pictures and if challenged, there’s nowhere for us to go except the canals on either side (not recommended in Florida with our snake and alligator population) or into the palmettos (not much better). The gloomy weather added to the Forest of No Return feeling.

So quiet

So quiet

Last time we encountered an alligator, spiderwebs every couple of feet across the trail, and a disgruntled otter.

Thankfully, it was too cool for reptiles (though we kept an eye out just the same). No spiders in sight. This was the bird hike. The birds handed us off to each other as we left one territory and entered another. A red-shouldered hawk (a big one) flew along with us but kept his distance once he realized he had been spotted. He let me admire him right up to the point where I took my camera out. Then he was gone.

The wood stork (after scaring us half to death by flapping its wings and chewing us out when we interrupted its fishing session around a blind curve)

Disgruntled Wood Stork

Disgruntled Wood Stork

was kind enough to lead us to its picture when I was trying to figure out what it was…not an egret…not a heron…

Wood Stork

Wood Stork

Usually I prefer happy hikes, full of sunshine, cute harmless furry animals, beautiful flowers.

That wasn’t this hike.

We could film a horror movie here

We could film a horror movie here

No sunshine, no flowers, and the only cute furry animals were the ones I brought with me.

Our last trip out, Yuki refused to walk in real dirt. They may appear to be frou-frou city dogs, but after a year of trips into the wilderness, even the Princess hits the trails with excitement now – to a point.

Take me home now

Take me home now

There were cardinals and red-winged blackbirds flitting about the swamp, but they were also camera shy.

Heading into the Cypress Swamp

Heading into the Cypress Swamp

We just stood for a while and enjoyed the quiet

We just stood for a while and enjoyed the quiet

And the view of the St Johns

And the view of the St Johns

The little dogs enjoying the river view

The little dogs enjoying the river view

Swamp Selfie

Swamp Selfie

Normally I’m not into selfies and the only reason I’m doing this series is because of this challenge. Normally I prefer good lighting, a makeup artist, and a photographer who knows what he’s doing. I definitely prefer that to a close up of me with no makeup, a cold, no hairdresser, on a rainy day out in the swamp.

What the heck

What the heck

But we had a good time and someday I will be much older, perhaps no longer able to run along a slippery balance beam in the wetlands with four dogs on a rainy day, will look at this picture and remember how happy we were and how much fun we had.

By then the little dogs were getting tired and cold.

Can We Go Now?

Can We Go Now?

So we trekked back, uneventfully.

We made it!

We made it!

One Tired Little Princess

One Tired Little Princess Settling in For the Ride Home

For more on this challenge, go here.

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