Tag Archive: florida


She did WHAT?

Plunder Branch Hwy 62

It’s Perfect! Go Anywhere!

That’s right, settle down, I left. Yeah yeah – I left the amazing team that has been my family for almost 10 years. I had been….well – it’s complicated. Let’s just leave it at – I was ready for something new! The bad news is that we are all scattered a bit. Good news is – well – we still all work together.

“How the heck do you work together if you work at different companies, ” you might ask -well – that’s a very interesting story…so here it goes.jac+kristen+logo

We build streams. You know that – we study, create, monitor, design, and build streams (among a million other things). We work with some fairly awesome contractors. Last year, we built a stream in an undisclosed area with a small firm from a nearby city. They were amazing. The stream was almost 10000′ long and turned out beautifully.

Sadly, we lost more than Jess last year. We lost a great colleague who worked on our stream with the contractor. So, long story short, I now work for the owner as his stream guru. I will literally be building the streams my old team designs!

Yep – we are all lucky people. Not only that, I also get to do some pretty awesome “save the world” stuff too. Oh – add onto that I work for a great guy and have an amazing crew! I IMGP8439will tell more about that later….so don’t worry – the Chicks with Ticks (and John and Josh) will still have wild adventures and stories to tell. You will just have to keep up with us!

Get out there – and GO ANYWHERE!!!

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Repost – Ancient Landscapes

Once connected by an ancient land bridge to the deserts of the southwest, the Lake Wales Ridges State Forest boasts some similar species that were later trapped in this area when the ice receded. The wave action and shallow waters created a most unusual landform which is still visible today from the air.

Hiking out of the scrub and into the cypress dome was quite surprising.

What you will find on the ground is equally interesting. In the midst of shallow grassy marshes, there are two cypress domes. I know – that’s crazy right – cypress domes don’t belong on the ridge. Well, they are there. And they are gorgeous. Of course they differ from the swampy cypress domes in that they rely on water travelling underground through seepage rather than flowing over the surface.

Just standing in the middle of the dome after hiking through scrub habitat dominated by white sand and scrub oaks – sharp things and arid conditions – I looked around in total wonder at the soft ferns and mucky loam I was standing on. This seemed to me to be a very unique kind of forest. I felt lucky to be taking photos while my field partner Kevin rejoiced in the beauty as well.

It’s not hard to admit that we feel fortunate to be able to see these places. Truth is, everyone can as they are part of the Lake Wales Walk In Water WMP and are totally publicly accessible. You can even bring your horses and camp! IMGP0082  http://www.floridaforestservice.com/state_forests/lake_wales_ridge.html

As always, these areas are home to some very special plants and animals. Even the soil can’t be disturbed. Please enjoy with your eyes and take no prisoners!

IMGP0092
The transition from upland scrub to cypress dome!

 

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 🙂

Well, you all might as well know right now that Kristen hates to get up early and I love to sing while I drive. Trouble is, we almost always have to get up early to get where we are going and, well, I am no Carrie Underpants. You can imagine how much fun it is to drive long distances with me singing and Kristen grumpy. So – this day started like most others….me singing some corny karaoke style song and Little Kristen (my nickname for her) closing her eyes trying to pretend she was still in her bed.

We are on our way to Catfish Creek. Yay! We are going to recon the creek to locate a section (reach) of the stream that looks typical so that we can survey it. No, we are not surveyors (duh). We are technically differential measurers or data collectors. This also means that we really don’t know what we are in for and that we don’t really have true surveyor’s skills. This doesn’t matter in what we do! Things can change so much overnight at a stream site….well – that is another chapter!  We haven’t even really surveyed yet (unless you count the busted first attempt in extreme conditions and extreme aggravation at Coons Bay). So I think, “This should be interesting.”‘

We arrive, get escorted by some uninteresting but very helpful person who shows us into GOD KNOWS WHAT! I am dead serious. It’s like a friggin swamp. Really, like a seriously nasty, boggy swamp. This person expects us to wade through this crap to get to the creek bank. Wow. I think to myself that I had no idea what I am in for. In my head I am freaking out. On the outside, I am smiling and wading through the nastiest mucky mud I have seen in a long time. I am not the type of girl to show my fear or shortcomings! That is also another funny story of how Jacque met John!

We wade to the edge of the creek through buttonbush. Now, if you have never seen buttonbush in bloom, let me tell you that you are missing something pretty. The white puff-balls hang daintily from long sturdy bent branches on this creek side shrub. The flowers are so complicated. You will want to see some right after you finish reading this story and can see some at the bottom of the page. I digress.

We get to the edge of this nasty creek to realize….it’s nasty. It’s green and flowing very slowly. I think that I had pictured a crystal clear stream with fish and sand. All I can think is, “What the hell? I am not ready for this!” Instead, I just smile and look around like I know what I am doing! This is advisable in all situations where you believe that the other people involved think you know what you are doing when, in fact, you not only don’t, you really want to leave and wash your hands or say “Would you like fries with that?”.

We look around a bit as if we know what we are doing. We then ask if it is possible to get to the reach via the actual stream. Yeah – like the banks we are supposed to survey from are really a swamp – so we need to go find a spot from which to actually do the stuff we need to do. Plus, we need to measure a reach that is twenty times as long as it is wide (wide is bankfull width). That’s just f-ing great because this thing is probably about 40 feet wide I am guessing. That means we need a reach over 800 feet long. That’s a lot of nasty!

Well, at this point I have to stop. This is where it all really started. Us tromping into hell, acting like we know what the hell we are doing and looking for. Random people believing in us. John believed in us from the beginning….funny thing is, we eventually lived up to that and even believed in ourselves. Once we met his expectations, which were based on our false confidences, he believed we could do more than that and so we did. He led, we followed. All not really knowing who the others were.

When you follow someone you barely know into the creepy swamp, into unknown territory, it does something to you. Does something to your relationship. There are long fibrous tendrils of faith that grow from you to the others involved. When you know that you can walk into the wilderness, under extreme conditions, and you will forget all that and those tendrils coil around your fears and squash them….you have something special. Funny how, after all these years, after all the swamps, snakes, gators, and adventure – those tendrils still grow. To me, sitting here typing this it seems like yesterday that I jumped into the canoe with Little Kristen to begin a part of my life that changed me forever. I didn’t know back then what the world really looked like.. sometimes I wish I was still blind.

Oh, I had glimpsed pieces and parts of what I would later see, but I never saw that thing I would find not long after that first trek into the swamp. You, the reader, have seen glimpses of the world as it really is. You have just forgotten. They say there is a land whose inhabitants live long lives and time stands still. That place is not so far away as you may have read. If I told you how close it was and what it really held, you wouldn’t be here to read the next chapter.

From Another Time (by Kristen)

One of the best things about being a Chicks with Ticks is getting away from it all… venturing into the depths of a pristine forest, following the bends of a small meandering stream, feeling so remote you think there is no way anyone has ever laid eyes on this seemingly untouched spot, except perhaps some early Florida inhabitants. It is that feeling of being connected not only to the land, but also to a time long past. A time when people lived off the land. A time before constant stimulus and connectivity, when you could just… be…

When I can’t be physically connected to the land, I find myself getting lost in novels depicting early life in Florida to fill that void. Novels like “A Land Remembered” (mine and Jacque’s all-time favorite book) or “The Yearling” (which I am currently reading). Or visiting old towns such as Micanopy or Cross Creek, where I can grab a bite at The Yearling Restaurant on my way home (sort of) from Jacksonville. Or taking the backroads, even though they take longer than the highway. Anything to just get away from it all and see or imagine something beautiful.

Yet I live in the city. And I work the majority of my days in an office. I enjoy these things, for the most part, but you can tell when I’ve been away from where I truly feel free, alive, happy for too long. Or when I’ve gotten a small taste of that place, but not enough, and I’m left just yearning for more. It’s painful. I asked Jacque why it is I feel such a longing and am so deeply affected, and she said very simply, “It’s because we are from another time.” It made me cry, because I knew it was true, and I sometimes can’t help but feel that I don’t belong.

You know, my daughter’s name is Allison. She loves to hear all about my Chicks with Ticks adventures. She especially likes it when I relate an exciting story and later she and I share a similar experience. I am proud to hear that she wants to grow up to work with animals and possibly wildlife in particular. She likes to get dirty, but appreciates bright nail polish. She is the epitome of who and what Chicks with Ticks stand for.

This is Allison – The first Official Young Chick with Ticks

I thought it would be interesting to interview her and ask a nine-year old young lady what she thought being a Chick with Ticks was all about and how she felt about me blogging while she swims in the pool at the hotel on our Venice, Florida vacation.

I was pleasantly surprised, a little taken aback, and somewhat humbled by her responses. What I thought would be a cute filler about my daughter turned into an eye-opening exchange that made what I do here much more than just “filler”.

I first asked her what she thought of being a CWT. She quickly did a backflip in the pool and answered that she thought it was cool that you can be funny and naturee. She remarked that it is cool that you can be any age to be like naturee and do outdoorsy stuff. You love that you can be any age and be a scientists.

I asked her what her wildest adventure was. She recalls going to Tennessee to visit my parents last year. She liked that we hiked the waterfalls as a family. She remembers hanging over the ledges and the forest being so beautiful. Her other favorite was caving. She has a friend Rhiannon, and together they create fairytale places in the Withlacoochee forest while we hike and find lime caves to explore.

I asked her who is a Chick with Ticks. She tells me she gets dirty. She doesn’t care what other people think of the outdoorsy things she does. She takes risks and does things that others don’t understand the reason for. Chicks with Ticks are beautiful because they care about our earth. Being a daredevil and taking risks is exciting and makes them amazing – “Like You!” She said to me.

She says she thinks it’s really cool because other people wouldn’t think of making a blog and giving it out to the world. She thinks it’s cool that we share adventures with people who may not be so brave. “Maybe you will inspire others to go out and do amazing adventures some day.”

Off on an adventure…..Allison heads into the forest.

I guess this wasn’t just filler….and, Allison, I hope that one day I inspire even one person to go out and have an adventure. Even if I never hear about it – it will be amazing.

Go Anywhere!

As adventurous gals, we like to go to new and exciting places. Sometimes, it’s a lake right behind the office, and others, it’s a remote stream after a miles long hike. What we really like to do is encourage others to take time to go outdoors and see something or experience something that gives you that sense of adventure.

Sometimes, it’s just a walk in a local preserve or park. Some of us are trapped in a concrete jungle and a plastic cube and that’s about as adventurous as it gets. Others of us will take it to the limits and climb rocky peaks or dive the deepest rifts. The important thing is, get out there and see what we see.

The wild isn’t all filled with danger and mystery. There’s a beauty in nature that we can’t fake, print, pixellate or 3-D. The only way to know what tar flower smells like when it’s sticky and blooming is to see it and smell it in the air.

So, as Spring is springing – let’s remember to get out the and GO ANYWHERE!

Then, tell us about your adventures…the good, the bad, and the ugly!

Wild Women

Co-Creator Jacqueline Levine expressing her excitement as Chicks go live

In the beginning, there was John…..(and he wanted to play God)..

 

Here’s one of the first and best! Enjoy!

Is this natural?

This adventure story has a beginning but it really doesn’t have an end. I hope you have the stamina to stick with us until it does. If all goes well, that will be NEVER!! The funny question so many ask is, “Why?”. Why do we do what we do? I thought about it while working in the wilds with Kristen yesterday and I think I have some vague idea of how to answer that question finally.

When we started, we began with a sense of purpose. We were going to make a difference. We were going to create beauty from ugly. We were going to be part of the solution – not run from the problem. In other words, we wanted to make the world look more natural by studying what is natural and then using that information (Kristen’s beloved data) to design “nature” after it was destroyed. Not destroyed as is the end of the world!! Destroyed by development, mining, grazing, farming, and a million other things.

Florida Dragline

What happened you ask? Well, we did that. We helped make some beautiful places out of mud. We made a clear flowing stream out of mine tailings. You know what we discovered. What looked like mass destruction sometimes was actually giving us the opportunity to fix something that was already really messed up. All of the times we looked at an old pasture and thought how awful it was that they were going to mine it – we discovered, after much nerdy study, the mining was allowing us to fix a problem that no one knew was there!

You see, there are about a gazillion things that can ruin a landscape. We can’t go into all that now, perhaps we can do a mini series. “Normal” people (cause God knows we aren’t normal anymore) look at the landscape and think it’s cute. IT’S NOT!! It’s severely affected by ditching, clearing, grazing, farming, compaction and those other millions of things. When they mine it – we can come back in and make it pretty! It didn’t feel so bad once we realized we weren’t helping to destroy the land – but, rather, to make it better.

Once we realized that we weren’t the bad guys and that the mining companies weren’t the bad guys, it made what we do much easier every day. Now I look at a dragline with a totally different mindset. It doesn’t make me want to grab a sign and campaign for them not to destroy habitat – that happened 50 years ago!! They will mine it – give us the resources we need to eat – and we can come in and design the world as it should be!

One day, it is our sincere hope, that you and yours will stand next to a flowing creek, remark at how nice it is that they didn’t mine this land, and we will be hiding in the woods (not in a scary way mind you) and smile knowingly  – because THEY DID MINE IT!!

You know, that Foxworthy guy has nothing on Chicks with Ticks and we thought you oughta know jest how we do it out in the swamps. There ain’t nuttin’ like shooting the breeze with a true Florida cowboy. Not the kind that jest thinks he’s got cowboy boots and a buckle. The kind that cuts out cows and knows a good roper when he sees one.

Some of you are wonderin’ what the hell I’m a talkin’ ’bout. Well, when you tromp out in the Florida wilds, you meet some mighty fine folks. Not all of them know the scientific names for the trees they fell to rotate calfin’ fields. Most of ’em know more ’bout making hay and tellin’ yarns….so here’s some tips so you don’t look like an idgit talkin’ to ’em.

Florida Cowboy Country Y'all

  1. Ain’t is too a word. Always has been.
  2. If you done did something – it’s done.
  3. Spittin’ ain’t rude. It’s necessary when ya chaw or dip. If you don’t chaw or dip – what do ya do?
  4. There ain’t nuttin’ rude about talkin’ bout the weather. Everthang we do is ‘fected by the weather.
  5. Cutting out cows ain’t got nuttin’ to do with knifin’. It’s how we separate cows for thangs like breeding, market, etc…
  6. If ya can’t understand what a cowboy says….jest say, “Yup” a lot, nod, and go “Woowee” ever now and again.  No one will know the better. Jest be polite.
  7. If ya can’t lick ’em, join ’em. That’s right, jest start relaxin’ the ends of all ya words. Make anythang have a twang. Purdy soon, ya’ll will be one of ’em.
  8. Cowboys like purdy women. You don’t gotta be done up. Just a women. That makes ya purdy! Gotta love it!

I hope this lesson comes in handy. i know it will in South Florida where there’s a least one cowboy we spent a lot of time with. Can’t tell ya his name but I know he’s still out there and I can’t wait to visit again and shoot the breeze.

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