Yesterday’s blog was a bit of a complaint about the crazed zoning here in Florida. So we took the antidote today by going for a run in Starkey Wilderness Park east of New Port Richey.
Sue had a scheduled 1-hour run, but I had run an hour in the heat yesterday and wanted to birdwatch as well. So I packed my binoculars in a backpack and jogged with her for two miles into the woods. While she continued running toward the sun, I slowed to walk and jogged as opportunities to see and hear birds or other creatures came along.
As if on cue, an armadillo popped out of the scrub and sat there looking me in his (or her) armadillo way. But the photo opp was not that inspiring because he was huddled next to a set of gas lines that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.
Sue disappeared up the trail into the rising sun. The woods are beautifully Floridian in Starkey Wilderness, tall pines with low slung palms on the forest floor. The croaking calls of limpkins emerged from the wetlands along the forest floor. Frogs called from the palms and a white-tailed kite flew overhead. The small birds got active too. White-eyed vireos and tufted titmouse.
Meanwhile, the trail got busy with runners and cyclists galore. The trail is flat like most of Florida, but the trail is smooth. Triathletes and road cyclists along hummed along through the woods. I picked up jogging again and reached two miles out. That’s where I decided to wait for Sue to come back.
Exactly why I need these natural connections I have never known. But from the time I was a child the woods and waters of this world have called me, and I come listen. I’m no longer rabid about it like I once was, but I still love seeing and hearing birds in different environments. I take just as much joy observing a white-eyed vireo singing in the Spanish moss as I do when watching the same species, with a slightly different song inflection, singing in the berry bushes of Illinois. It gives me context to feel these subtle differences, to know I’m in a unique and wild place.
The combination run and bird hike was about my speed. My small set of Vortex binoculars was easy enough to carry inside by backpack buffered by a shirt in the event that mosquitoes were a problem. But it shocked me there were no mosquitoes at all. No insects in fact, were a problem. I could walk along listening to the croaking creaking cricketing calls of Virginia rails singing from the black water swamps on both sides of the trail.
Sue arrived back in good stead, accompanied by a pack of chatty runners. We let them pass us by and trotted the last two miles back to the parking lot. But we both really needed a bathroom and I ran ahead because I really, really needed a bathroom.
And once we’d both taken care of that business, we went to find our car on the mile-long loop around the park edge. There we met a woman with her American bulldogs and a pair of Pomeranians. They gave us a nice greeting, and the dogs were so well-behaved I could not resist bending down into Dogland to get some doghugs.
Often you go for one experience and wind up with a bonus of some sort. That’s what I’ve always loved about running and riding. Getting out into the wilderness for a run is just the best.
And the day was just beginning.