Tag Archive: forest


Forget Black

The cracks, even the cracks of her feet were black with earth.

Her hair matted with black and hanging limp and wildly at her ears.

Her hands were stained black and there were small scars where the work showed through.

And just when it seemed she couldn’t get any blacker,

her heart stood still with the black mud.

Her eyes shed black tears that smudged her filthy cheeks.

Her mouth oozed.

She had stayed too long in the dark wet. She was one of them.

Yet there she crouched. Sobbing and shaken.

Her precious work torn asunder by those who spoke sharp words of machines.

All she knew lay raped and stranded in the bright sun.

It would be theirs tomorrow. Neat and shiny.

It would be organized and proper and clean.

It was always so sad to see them like this. Naked and lost.

No words would come to stay them from her treasure.

She would silently suffer.

It might kill her….

Yes, she would die if not for the others. They always come.

They take back their own into the dank woods.

Who knows what horrors lie there.

God it must be dreary and strange.

Oh, look, it must be time to go. The sun is sinking.

 

 

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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!

 

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.

Fallen

stock-photo-storm-damage-toppled-trees-in-the-forest-after-a-storm-35982007.jpg (450×358) The sound was eerie.

The crack of bones and branches ringing long through the forest.

I ran to the clearing that wasn’t there yesterday.

There he lay silently broken.

New sky shone on the bed of leaves the forest lay beneath him.

They must have known it was his time.

How long must he have cast shadow on the forest floor? How long must he have held the nests in spring? How many storms had he weathered? We never heard his story.

We will never know how he sang when the wind blew.

We will never smell the scent of his leaves or feel the cool of his roots reaching down into our mother earth.

The others will come.

The feathery fungi will claim him.

He will soften.

He will fade.

He will disappear.

Fallen.

We have recently been nominated for several peer-to-peer blogger awards. These are always a real treat as they come from those who live, work and play here in the blogosphere and it means a lot that we are noticed among millions of blogs!!

 ClaudiaJustSaying…..nominated us for the Kreativ Blogger Award – Thanks so much!

Cindy at Enclosuretakerefuge…nominated us for the Versatile Blogger. She is so sweet!!

I know there were duplicate nominations so I have proposed that we graciously accept the nominations and thank you all for such warm recognition from such amazing bloggers. We are among royalty.

Please continue to enjoy what pour out of us….it’s real, not fiction! This is our lives digitally recreated in type and we hope you like.

“In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” -Baba Dioum

When I first read this quote painted across a wall of the South Carolina Aquarium, I stopped dead in my tracks. I was struck by how much this quote described my life not only as an environmentalist striving to protect ecosystems I had learned about and grown to love, but also as someone who just loves to learn. Think about it… anytime you invest money, energy, time, whatever, don’t you hold a greater interest in the outcome? I can think of many times I’ve been places (forests, museums, aquariums) where I had no clue what I was looking at. But then I opened a field book, read a placard, listened to a talk, and it completely changed the experience from walking around blindly to knowing and, more importantly, caring what I was looking at.

So here’s a little challenge! The leaf below is that of a red maple. A red maple is a common tree species in the United States. Its leaves have five points (the bottom two of which are much more subtle) and red stems. Florida isn’t known for it’s fall colors, but this particular tree’s leaves turn red at this time of year.

Red maple (Acer rubrum)

I know this little piece of knowledge seems insignificant and even silly, but I am confident that, in some small way, it will change the way you look at the world around you. So next time you are driving down the road and see a red tree amongst all the green and brown (in Florida at least), you will KNOW. You can only imagine what a dorky car ride it is when Jacque and I are pointing out plants!! And we love every minute of it 🙂

If you’re like me (God save you) you have already asked your family to boycott the holidays and head to the Ocala National Forest or Honeymoon Island and pretend it’s summer! Any self-respecting Chick with Ticks goes crazy this time of year. Too many malls, boutiques, fancy paper, shiny ribbons, and cashola right out the door!! Not enough tromping, mudding, climbing, trekking, spitting or peeing in the woods if you ask me! “But Jacque, aren’t the holidays all about gift giving,” you ask. NO – BAH HUMBUG – I am totally against spending tons of hard-earned cash on crap you don’t really need and some you don’t really want – what I want to share is memories, mud and beer! So, here’s my suggestions on how to have one helluva holiday season Chicks with Ticks style!!

  • On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me – a really great wetlands plant ID book (please ask to borrow it)
  • On the second day of the Holidays my best friend got from me – a one year pass to Florida State Parks!! (hell yeah)
  • Silver Bells, silver bells – yep – got some of those jingle bells – they are great bear deterrents.
  • Chestnuts roasting on an open fire and I got my neighbor some lighter knot tied in a hand-made bow with a note that said good for one fire and a few good stories. Won’t ever forget that one!
  • Up on the housetop…is a versatile  tarp that can serve as shelter, protection, a slip-n-slide, and 100’s of other useful fun things.
  • Rudolph the red-nosed-reindeer – had too much hooch – so we made some infused vodka in a neat decanter….that’ll be hair of the dog for him.
  • I’m dreaming of a LIGHT Christmas – that’s right – LED flashlights to be exact – or those really cool ones that also have that glowing gas in the handle – my buddy Josh has one that makes me jealous every time we go frog hunting!!
  • Over the river and through the woods – a Gazetteer will certainly make the trip more fun than that stuffy GPS…plus – when you can’t use the GPS – the Gazetteer does the job like it always has!
  • It’s beginning to look a lot like hunting season….go for broke and get that pink camo rifle! It’s okay to be a Chick!
  • I saw mommy kissing someone – and she put on Burt’s Bee tinted lip balm first and MAN her lips were soft.
  • Santa Claus (or some other holiday spirit) is coming to town and he better have a yard stick or other walking stick customized by you for your favorite Chick or Hick! Make it fun – think of interesting things to carve or attach to it.
  • Finally – you know you just can’t go much longer without ordering a Chicks with Ticks T-shirt!

So, ditch the malls and halls and balls and get down to the real business of giving. Then duct tape the family and head for the woods! They will forget it when they smell bacon on the campfire! Happy holidays – they are just beginning!

Well, in the beginning, we really had no idea what we were doing. At least not as it related to surveying. We understood the basic principle but hadn’t really done it right in the field. John wanted to survey a particular stream that he had worked on for another project. Can’t say the name here so we will call it Moon Bay.

John was in a very good mood (at least for now). We parked, and proceeded to the stream to find a reach to survey that represented the “natural” system. Funny thing about Florida, there probably aren’t any truly natural systems left. It’s actually a sad thing. You go miles into the wilderness and voila’ there’s a balloon on a nylon ribbon – deflated and sad-looking – ruining the wildness – making fun of it.

Pristine Creek - by Allison Levine

Anyway, John found what he wanted and we began moving up and down the system flagging each place for survey. John has a back issue sometimes. We were ducking under a lot of trees that had fallen over the stream in the last big round of hurricanes in 2004. He began to lose his sense of humor – this same sense of humor which has us in stitches most of the time.

We finished flagging the reach and went to get the survey equipment. Kristen and I had practiced and thought we pretty much knew what to do. We set up our temporary benchmarks (we are not surveyors so it’s all temporary). We began to shoot the stream survey. John continued to lose his sense of humor. It was hot, uncomfortably messy, vine ridden and lots of ducking and climbing. I remember Kristen and I thought how awful this site was. There was so much to go through, vines, palmettos, and underbrush. This was hell!

Somewhere near the end of the reach, John checked the survey data. There was a problem. A serious problem. At some point someone had made a mistake and now the whole thing was useless basically. John was not happy. I was not happy. Kristen was not happy. This meant that, at some point, we would have to come back. The very thought of fighting this mess of vegetation was too much to bear.

It made me wonder if i could really do this. I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I would never want to come and do this with just Kristen and me. This place was too wild. There were too many dangers. I wouldn’t be able to see her at some points in the survey. Would we ever get this right? It was all too much to even think about. We were mortified.

I would and will never forget this day. I was sweaty and scratched to heck. I was upset and doubted myself. I felt like I had let the team down in some way by feeling this way too. I felt that I had wasted a chance to make an impression on John and Kristen too. How could this had gone so wrong? Now, it had to be done all over again. The fear, the stress, the pain, the risk of busting the survey again…..it just seemed impossible to bear.

It was going to be hard to make myself do this again. This was horrid. I hated the way I felt – DEFEATED.

Whenever you leave the safety and comfort of the office, gym, or living room to embark on your amazing adventures there are just a few things you need – and don’t need. I thought it would be helpful to share some of my field wisdom before you really mess up.

THINGS YOU DO NEED

  1. Water. Sounds obvious right? Not just for drinking, you can wash hands, rinse eyes, wash off muddy cameras, and a million other things. Don’t leave home without it.
  2. Other shoes. You will need them. Yours will get muddy, torn, broken, or otherwise not feel good to your feet after months of water logging and mud bogging. They will stink and so will you. Slipping into something dry will prevent heel cracking and make the ride home that much more betterer!
  3. Duct tape. Not just for car hoses anymore. You can make anything out of it. Hell, my son carries a wallet made out of it! Mix duct tape with your yard stick and you have a great tool that will last years. Mix ripped pants with duct tape and you save yourself embarrassment. Mix duct tape with open wounds – voila’ first aid.
  4. Camera. A picture is worth a thousand words. When the truck gets stuck, when YOU get stuck, when you see that one of a kind sunset or insect, you won’t want to miss the moment. Something to keep in mind is that they sell waterproof and shockproof cameras pretty reasonably. They take awesome underwater shots, too. This is especially important when a HUGE bowfin attacks your shoes in ankle-deep water. The photos you can take are amazing. TRUST ME. Olympus and Pentax make great cameras for under $300 and they last everything I have done to them so far. Don’t forget to add a flotation cuff – they are waterproof, not floatable!
  5. Backpack – good one! We have a backpack that we have used for years!! This thing has been abused at hundreds of sites. It has been rained on, drug around, dropped, dragged, and stuffed. It’s filthy and who knows what’s in the bottom of it because I have never cleaned it out all the way as it is always in use. Go for a good one – it will be your best friend. When your cheap backpack fails you in the middle of nowhere – use the duct tape!

THINGS YOU DON’T NEED

  1. Expensive sunglasses. That’s right – you will break or lose them. Get some cheap polarized glasses and go for it. In a thousand years, they will find about 80 pairs of sunglasses in the woods and will think some crazy ritual occurred. Nope – just bent over and off they went. Or, the cord broke, or layed them down, or fell and they went flying never to be found again! Also, get a cord that is bright pink or orange!!! This is experience.
  2. Expensive clothing. This mud stuff we keep talking about – yeah – it doesn’t come out. Some – NEVER NEVER NEVER will. Also, blood that has been sitting in there all day from scratches doesn’t either. Some stuff you don’t want in your washing machine. Just go to the thrift store – get your gear there!!
  3. Snake bite kit – yeah – those are not to be used! Do NOT ever attempt to use a snake bite kit on me! More serious injuries and infections have been caused and they are no longer recommended! PLEASE SHARE THIS INFORMATION. Calm victim, isolate bite site, ice or elevate – identify or photo snake if possible. GET HELP – do not waste the precious little time you have furthering the venom into your buddy’s system and your mouth! GET HELP!
  4. Perfume. You are saying, “But Jacque, I want to look and smell my best in the field.” Listen up! Bugs love perfume, bees love perfume, some mammals love the musky smell of perfumes….that’s right – just stink for one minute…no big deal because we will all stink together!! One big happy smelly family! Get over it…..if you can GO ANYWHERE – you can stink there!

    Alli's Adventure Art.....Tennessee Mountains....ticks abound!

  5. Jeans. If you think jeans are the ideal pant to wear in the field – stay home. Even in cold weather, they are not a choice! They will get wet, pull down, rub you raw, make you sweat in places that already stink because you don’t have on perfume, and generally be a drag. Go for something lightweight that dries quickly – you won’t regret it! You will regret wearing jeans. I won’t remind you twice – I will just smile when I see you picking your butt or pulling them up after wading in a little creek!

This is a short list. Of course there are many things you should and could take – keep it simple and light. Don’t over complicate it – the joy is in the adventure and experience. Some of the best experiences will be when you don’t follow these rules! Please share them! We all learn from mistakes – even yours! Remember – you can comment and share your insight or ignorance….it all teaches us something!

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