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[ft-l] A pleasant Sunday hike

Sandy and I were out again on Sunday.  We headed for Split Oak Preserve in 
southeast Orlando.  We hiked the outer perimeter of the north and south loops 
and then hiked the center trail that links the two loops, a total of about 8 
miles.  The weather was nice with sunshine and fresh air aplenty.

Images from the hike:

Life abounding after the land soaks up the needed rains, grasshoppers, toads 
and butterflies adorning the trail: hopping, jumping, flitting about in 
joyous exultation of Nature's fecundity.

Two sandhill cranes with six foot wingspans soaring in formation overhead.

A small black racer slithering through a puddle in the trail, our third snake 
sighting in as many hiking days.

A medium sized alligator, posing in a trailside swamp, but exploding away 
before Sandy could get a good pic.  The splash sounding suspiciously like one 
Sandy heard nearby while wading in knee-deep water at the Wild Persimmon 
Trail on Friday.

More wading in the southern loop.  For about two miles we descend into swampy 
conditions.  Only one choice if we want to keep hiking!  I find that, with 
the right shoes and socks, it is enjoyable to experience the squish of mud 
beneath my bootsoles and the cool squish of water inside the boots.  It's a 
zen-like experience, much like hiking the rock-strewn AT in eastern 
Pennsylvania.  Learning acceptance when out in Nature is one of the lessons 
we hikers must learn.  Our real world existence allows us to control our 
comfort and environment to an amazing degree.  Nature requires us to adjust 
to it, a blessing that sets us free when we learn it.  So I say, bring on the 
water, rain, mosquitoes!  You'll never hear me whine about anything Nature 
dishes out.

Two double trunked longleaf pines, a rare and wonderful sight.

Two boardwalks, one fronting a lake, the other a prairie, with comfy benches 
for wildlife viewing, or just contemplation, or to take a load off weary feet.

Finally, Split Oak itself, a two hundred year old live oak which split and 
fell about fifty years ago.  Nature, with her infinite ingenuity and 
patience, converting minor lateral branches into about a dozen new trunks.  
Each taking the shape of a separate tree, but still being fed by one of the 
two split root systems of the original tree.  In the old days you could hike 
between the two halves, but the county has wisely cordoned off the tree to 
keep it healthy for future generations to admire.

Anybody else hiking out there?

Happy trails,

Solar Bear and Navigator