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[ft-l] Henry Hudson, Babe Ruth and me

Did that subject line grab your attention?  Scratching your head how that can 
be a title for today's trip report to Hontoon Island?  Well, my friends, 
you'll have to spend a few minutes reading this to figure it all out.

The St. Johns River has receded 20" the last two weeks and is within its 
banks for the most part.  Good news for us who've been wanting to hike and 
measure the hiking trails in Hontoon Island in Deland.  A call to the ranger 
station informed us that the trails were no longer submerged.  They were damp 
in a couple places, but definitely accessible for all but the most finicky 
hiker.  Our socks were dry at the end of the hike, a good indication.

To get to the island you park across the river from the park and wait for the 
ferry boat to cross over and pick you up.  We waited about ten minutes to get 
a ride across the hundred yard width of the river.

The trail passed through hydric hammock and flood plain forest for an out and 
back hike of 3.3 miles.  Benches are located in several spots along the 
trail.  About a mile into the hike the trail passes near an inlet called the 
Dead River.  It was here that we spotted several frogs on the trail.  Also, a 
cooter turtle faced us down as we hiked toward it. It stayed on the trail and 
allowed Sandy to take a beautiful close-up photo of it.  Sandy spotted a red 
tail hawk.

Near the turnaround point, the trail ascends the centuries old shell mound 
created by the Timucuan Indians and comes to a picturesque end at a centuries 
old live oak of majestic proportion and 20' trunk circumference.  Adding to 
the utility of this spot, a bench at the oak's base awaits the hiker who 
wishes to reflect and contemplate these antiquities and the beauty of Nature.

On the return hike we noticed a rare coontie growing along the trail.  Though 
you'll see plantings of coontie in many of our state parks, this was only the 
second one (the other being in the Ocala National Forest) that I have seen in 
the wild.  A 3 foot long black racer crossed the trail ahead of us.

Arriving back at the ranger station, we decided to look for the trail to the 
old observation tower.  This, my friends, is where the plot thickens.  It 
turns out the observation tower was destroyed a number of years ago when a 
tree fell on it.  It has been completely removed, thus the short trail to it 
is no longer used much.  When Sandy and I arrived at the spot where the tower 
used to be, we saw a small deer lying in the grass nearby.  Due to its 
initial lack of movement, we thought it was dead.  However as we approached, 
we saw slight movement of its head.  This was obviously an injured or sick 
animal.  It was young, but no longer had its spots.  It was so weak that it 
allowed us to approach within 10 feet.  After some discussion, I stayed with 
the animal while Sandy went to get the ranger.

When Sandy and the ranger returned, the deer became frightened and attempted 
to flee, but only wobbled about ten feet before falling over helplessly.  
After a call for another ranger, and cell calls to the Fish and Wildlife 
Service and a veterinary clinic, it was decided to capture the deer and take 
it to the clinic.  The head ranger asked me and his assistant to circle in 
and attempt to grab it.  Why he didn't request Sandy's assistance too is a 
question we'll allow you to ponder.  As we closed in the deer made a burst 
for freedom and eluded or grasp, but Sandy quickly headed it off and by 
talking softly to it was able single handedly to capture it.  Wow!  Ain't 
that gal somethin'?

The ranger, JIm Ruth, then lifted the deer up into his arms and carried it to 
the ranger station, where Sandy got a wonderful picture.  Check it, and 
others, out at http://gallery.backcountry.net/FLhikes/aaq.  After making 
arrangements, we accompanied the ranger on the fairy ride across the river 
where, still holding the deer he got in the passenger seat of the pickup and 
he and his assistant drove off to the clinic.  We hope that this story will 
have a happy ending with the deer recovering its health, though it was very 
weak and ill.  The ranger has promised to keep us informed and thanked Sandy 
for the capture.

Jim Ruth, by the way happens to be related to Babe Ruth, and what a 
coincidence that one was nicknamed the Bambino and the other helped rescue 
Bambi!  :)  And my dear friend Sandy, she known as the Navigator, is a 
descendent of that famous explorer, Henry Hudson.  So now you understand, I 
hope, the title to this post.  Me?  I'm just a lucky guy who gets to 
experience all these neat adventures.

Happy trails,

Solar Bear and Navigator