Archive for August, 2013


Oak

Bleached by sunlight

Her fractured remains littered the banks of the brown river.

Twisted bones bleached white from long days spent worshipping the sun

now tossed about after the storms of summer.

Sluggish sounds of lapping waves the only reverie.

Her age is unknown. Her birth unwritten.

It was so long ago that no one remembers her absence.

They remember her cool sheltering arms.

They remember her strength.

And they smile as they paddle by.

 

As a follow-up to our previous post, I think it’s appropriate to give a little lesson on what to do if you find lightningyourself stuck in a lightning storm. Which is exactly where my husband and I, along with another couple, found ourselves a couple of weekends ago.

We were canoeing the Little Manatee River. It was a beautiful day, and everyone seemed to actually be interested in me talking about wetland inundation and pointing out various tree species. But then it started to sprinkle. That was nice because it was HOT. But then it started to pour. And then we saw some flashes with some rumbling in the distance. We started to get a little nervous when all hell broke loose with STRIKES and BOOMS right on top of us! Just our luck, we were in a METAL canoe in the middle of nowhere.

We decided it would be safer to be out of the canoe than in it. We pulled up onto a bank, and I remembered some safety training we had once had regarding what to do if you get stuck in the middle of nowhere during a lightning storm. Basically you bend over with your butt up in the air and grab your ankles from behind. Obviously this sounds and looks ridiculous, but the idea is that if lightning hits you it will travel through your butt and down your legs rather than through your heart. So with that comforting piece of information, the four of us were hunched with our bums in the air! If only I had a picture…

It was probably the scariest outdoor experience I have ever had (up there with almost stepping on an

We survived!

We survived!

alligator). After each strike we would count the seconds to the thunder, and sometimes we didn’t even get to one. It was over us for what seemed like forever, and our legs were getting so sore from hunching over, but it was the only sense of security we had to get us through the horror! Eventually the clashes grew further apart and it was safe enough to get back into the canoe and haul bum to our pick-up point. There were others who also survived the storm, even though they didn’t know about the sticking the butt up in the air thing. That’s what we get for paddling on a summer afternoon in Florida. The canoe rental place sure must think we are all a bunch of idiots, but at least they are making some money off of us!

Cool *dry* shirt we bought from the Outpost

Cool *dry* shirt we bought from the Outpost

We can’t wait to go back since we didn’t get a chance to try out the rope swing. If you’re interested in paddling the Little Manatee, the Canoe Outpost was a great outfitter. You can visit their website here: http://www.canoeoutpost.com/littlemanateeriver.html

peace river

Peace River overbank

I’m sitting here on my couch because my softball game got POURED OUT for the 4th freaking week in a row. Our Suwannee River work got cancelled because the river is too high. Alafia River State Park isn’t renting out canoes because the overbank flows are unsafe (though a friend of mine went anyways and almost tipped his kayak and lost his quite expensive camera in the process). It’s normal to get afternoon thunderstorms in Florida during the summer, but this is too much!

A few months ago, Jacque and I were driving home from assessing some swamps in Arcadia and she said something to the extent of “those thistles look funny, it’s going to be a REALLY wet summer.” I know this girl has intuition, but really? Can you really tell it’s going to be a wet summer because some spiky plants look funny?! So I made a mental note, half hoping there would be a drought so I could make fun of her. She even put her predictions in writing (https://chicks-with-ticks.com/2013/06/05/something-in-the-air/) so I would have proof if she denied saying it!

marsh

Wet marsh

Well, turns out Jacque should have placed a bet – because she would have hit the jackpot! We have just been pummeled with rain. Overall, the Florida peninsula receives about 40 to 50 inches of rain a year, with most of it occurring during the “wet season” (June – October). Living in Florida is more like living in the Tropics than it is like living in the rest of the U.S. where there are four distinct seasons. Here we really just have two distinct seasons: a wet and a dry (November – May). During the dry season, many of our small streams go completely dry (we call these intermittent or ephemeral systems). Only our larger creeks and rivers are wet all year long. Yup, this is one of the many nerdy things we have been studying over the years.

sat-FL

Florida peninsula, just waiting to be pummeled

horse creek

Horse Creek overbank

Florida is just the perfect storm for storms, if you will -– the excessively hot summer temperatures heat up our large expanses of water, causing water to evaporate and form large clouds that then drop rain all over the state as the winds from the Gulf and the Atlantic blow the storms across the state. And obviously Florida is just hanging out in the middle of those two water bodies, just waiting there in the wide open to get hit by a hurricane. Oh joy! So overflowing rivers and creeks are a very natural occurrence in Florida, and Florida streams are often overbank for a good chunk of the year. These flood events help “shape” the river and its floodplain and help cycle nutrients (food). Throughout Florida’s history, many streams and wetlands have been ditched to get water off a property. This takes away an important ecological component, one that Jacque and I are often working to restore. So maybe all this rain isn’t so bad and I should just hush. And pat Jacque on the back for being right. Again. Dangit!

Plunder Branch near Hwy62

Getting wet is fun!

Have a great weekend everyone! Even if it means getting a little wet 🙂

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