Now that I am happily able to walk distances again after my successful physical therapy I took my new skill to the Egan’s Creek Greenway. Just like old times I parked on Jasmine Street and headed south from there. Almost immediately upon entering the trail, I spotted a young alligator on the far bank of the canal. Was this the one that Bill Birdsong recently posted hanging out near the spillway? It was not far away, so just maybe so. There is no better way to keep up with Greenway activities than to visit Bill’s Facebook page. Most every day Bill rides his bike through the trails, sets up his camera at strategic spots and posts great photos with fun captions.
Bill’s recent Facebook postings also illuminated another interesting Greenway sight right now, the masses of white flowers I saw along much of the trail. At first, I thought these might be water hemlock, a dangerous toxic plant that signs along the Greenway pointed out. But no, these flowers turned out to be frostweed, according to respondents to Bill’s post. Looks good to me. What attracted my attention to these flowers was the number of butterflies they attracted: gulf fritillaries, monarchs, zebra longwings (our state butterfly), the works. This native wildflower really does a good job of feeding our pollinators.
All along the canals pond turtles were hauled out on any available dry logs and along the banks.When people like me walk by at a regular pace they pay no attention, but when you stop, the turtles are alerted to possible dangers. Plop, plop, they go back into the water to hide. For my part, I try to avoid disturbing them and I feel accomplished when I can quickly take their photo without startling them.
I’m finally using earbuds to keep me company with podcasts while I walk the paths. The plus side is that I am entertained and amused and time goes by quickly. But the negative side is that, with my head involved in a storyline, I sometimes stop noticing what turns I made along the trail. And this time, I got really lost!
There are maps at various intersections along the south part of the Greenway, but they are confusing, at least to me. Although there is usually an indicator, “you are here” on the map, this comes at a place where the trails curve off in all directions—not so easy to follow. Although I had my phone GPS with me, even that was little help. I must not be the only one to get lost since other signs’ “emergency locators” were posted with a number that pinpoints your location if you need to be rescued.
Well, I didn’t need to be rescued, at least, but I sure was getting frustrated at all the wrong turns I made taking me closer and closer to the Greenway entrance at the Marriott Hotel, and further and further from my car parked on Jasmine Street. Finally, though, I tracked back over familiar territory. Yes, there was that same great egret I had photographed before, and there were the white mushrooms. And look, up ahead is the fence that separates the resident adult alligator from people, protecting both the gator and spectators from any negative interactions.
And, wow, there was the large alligator, calmly floating near the far bank, behind the fence. Great! I felt at home again! From there it was only about another 10-minute walk to Jasmine Street. I checked the time at long last. I had been steadily walking for an hour and a half, through three half-hour podcasts and my once ailing hip did not bother me at all!
On the way back up the main path to Jasmine, I saw the same turtles on the same logs, but the little gator was nowhere in sight. A couple of people were entering the Greenway on their bicycles and I told them about the big gator further down the path behind the fence. This couple had a British accent and were at first disturbed about the alligator. “Will it hurt us? Should we turn back?” “No,” I said, just watch it and enjoy this taste of Florida.” They set off on their bicycles and I headed, at last, to my car.
And yes, I enjoyed the real taste of Florida myself, the Greenway, the crisp fall day, the reptiles and butterflies and wading birds. It is so great to be back on these trails again!
Pat Foster-Turley, Ph.D., is a zoologist on Amelia Island. She welcomes your nature questions and observations. [email protected]