Monday, April 3, 2017

CREW Marsh Trail

Time goes by sooooo fast when you're having fun. If you're wondering what has happened to us, we have been gone from Florida for well over a couple of months. I thought it was time to get my butt in gear and start blogging again. Before I talk about our recent adventures here is one hiking trip I participated in back in January. I just have to talk about this one. 

It was a gorgeous sunny warm Tuesday morning around 9 when I made my way to CREW Marsh Trail in Immokalee. I was meeting up with a CREW member, and I gathered others as well, to hike one of 4 areas owned by CREW. So far all is well. I arrived in time, about 15 hikers were present, the CREW member was present, and our hiking guide has arrived. So away we go.
Dr David Cooper,Volunteer
& Master Naturalist

The trails offer over five miles of hiking through pine flatwoods, hardwood hammocks, a pop ash slough, and sawgrass marsh. The trails are home to native wildflowers and plants, birds, deer, turkey, the endangered Florida panther, snakes, and Florida black bear.
The trails are open seven days a week sunrise to sunset and are free of charge. Brochures are available for self-guided hikes.
CREWMarshHikingMap8-2014
Sabal(Cabbage)Palm
Nice wide trail

First of all what is CREW? CREW is 60,000 acres of watershed that spans Lee and Collier Counties in South Florida. Like a giant sponge, watershed is an area of land that absorbs rain and ground water and then sheds it into a wetland. This wetland area is called the CREW Marsh. This 5,000 acre Marsh holds the water it receives, protecting downstream areas from flooding during rains and stores water during a drought. The plants in the marsh filter the water, removing pesticides and other substances harmful to humans. After it is cleaned the slow moving water sinks into the ground, recharging the underground aquifer that is the source of drinking water for this part of Florida. The entire watershed also creates a habitat for plants ad animal. The Crew Land & Water Trust was formed in 1989 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the water resources in and around Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW). In December 1990 the CREW Marsh Trail was opened. This 5,000 acre sawgrass marsh is the headwaters of the Imperial River. This expanse of land holds water until it flows southwest and south, eventually ending up in Estero Bay or the Everglades.

Observation Tower
Looking out over 5,000 acres of sawgrass marsh
The aquifer is a layer of porous limestone rock that holds water in its numerous crevices. Most of the 55 inches of annual rainfall the marsh receives comes in the summer and fall. This time of year the marsh is fairly dry.Water in this ditch comes from runoff along Corkscrew Road and flows south into the sawgrass marsh. 
Ditch
Okay now comes the really interesting part. Usually when I am hiking with a group I'm out front with the guide listening to everything he or she is talking about. However, this time I was mid pack about to take a picture of some plants. Then I hear that adrenaline stimulating single word "snake". Yes, it was a snake and to be more precise it was an Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake. As you can see it was lying halfway across the path we wanted to hike.
This is my first eastern diamondback I have ever seen while hiking. What a thrill. These snakes are the largest venomous snake in North America. They can reach 8 feet (2.4 meters) in length and weigh up to 10 pounds (4.5 kilos). This guy was still partly in the brush so we couldn't see the entire body. What we did see was big.

These snakes are pit vipers and generally live in dry, pine flatwoods and coastal scrub habitats from southern North Carolina to Florida and west to Louisiana. It seems I am in the perfect location. They are feared for being aggressive and deadly. In actuality they are highly averse to human contact and only attack in defense. Diamondbacks can strike up to one-third their body length. Their venom is a potent hemotoxin meaning it kills red blood cells and causes tissue damage. Bites are extremely painful and can be fatal to humans. If cornered, the diamondback will feverishly shake their iconic tail as a last warning to back off. This one did not shake it's tail even when it went into strike mode.

Note the bluish colour to this diamondbacks eyes. He is getting ready to shed his skin which can occur several times a year. They add a new rattle segment each time they shed so loosing a rattle won't matter. 

So how did we get past his guy. Well,  at first we were going to take a very, very wide berth around him but when he reared back the CREW organizer put a stop to that. So we took another trail which lead to the spots we came to see. That was amazing. I can honestly say I would not have seen it if I was in the lead. I am always looking up or into the shrubbery not the ground I'm walking on. That was a good wake up call. Bye the way he never did rattle.

As we were getting close to the end of our hike we did come across the biggest grasshopper I have ever seen. This lubber grasshopper can reach 3 inches in length and are flightless. They move from place to place primarily by walking but are capable of jumping short distances. Another great find.
Lubber Grasshopper

What an amazing day, thank-you CREW.

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