Saturday, March 19, 2016

Wekiwa Springs State Park: Circles in a Forest

We were able to put on 75 miles on our bikes while staying at Wekiwa Springs State Park. The West Orange Trail beckoned us on for another ride, this time to celebrate with the Irish on St Patty's Day.

But the highlight of our ten days here was being able to step out of the shiny Wildebeest and walk the many miles of wooded trails in the park. I entitle this entry "Circles in a Forest", as I reflect both on the beauty of our hikes, and how the book that I read this week reflects what we experience as we explore the beauty that our state parks work to preserve.

My story starts two years ago when I was starting to downsize in anticipation for RVentures to begin. I had some Hummels that I "gifted" to family and friends. It was fun to be able to give the figurine to the person whose personality and gifts were most reflected in the figurine. "Ride into Christmas" went to my ski buddy, Kaleesha. In turn, she gave me one of her most favorite books, "Circles in a Forest" by Dalene Matthee. 

She fell in love with the South African book when she visited there during high school. The book is set in the Knysna forest in the 1880s and tells of how the destruction of the forest by foresters and gold miners affected both the wildlife and the people of the forest. The Knysna elephant "bigfoot" was especially hard hit. There were an estimated 400 elephants living in the forest in 1880. With the destruction of the forest and the killing of elephants for their tusks, the number of elephants fell to about 12 in 1970. The story focuses on one man's effort to try to save his beloved bigfoot from the people who wanted to take all the timber, gold, tusks .... and ultimately, all the beauty out of the natural forest.

It was special to be able to read about a forest on the other side of the world, and realize that the area around us is faced with some of the same issues. We all need to do our part to protect this precious gift!

Mr Gopher Tortoise is depending on us ...

As well as Mr. Very Large Bug ...

As well as Mr. Alligator who is not going to show himself to Doug today!

We are so fortunate to live in a country that is continually working to preserve the natural beauty that surrounds us in our state and national parks. 

During our last three days in Wekiwa Springs State Park, we also learned of another way that the forests are being preserved ... which seemed, at first glance, not so good. We experienced an ecological burn.

As we set off on a walk one morning, one of our favorite "circles in a forest" was closed off. With many miles of trails around us, we chose another path. From the distance, we could see smoke rising, and as we approached the road to our campsite ...

... we could see and feel the massive heat of the burn. When we talked to the park ranger we learned that fires can be a "healthy" forest event helping to restore the Florida forest to its more natural state. 

A day later, I had a hard time believing that this is a good occurrence, but began to understand after seeing the wild turkeys eating the newly exposed forest nutrients. 

Looking just across the road, I studied the area that the ranger pointed out. It had undergone the ecological burn a year ago. A year later, pine and palm trees remain majestic ...

And Mr. Gopher Tortoise is thoroughly enjoying his new burrow!

Circles in a forest help us to discover the beauty that God has given us to protect!

Until next time ... follow a circle through a forest ... and enjoy all the adventures in your life!

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  1. Compelling book review, Chris, and I love how you tied it into your current location. We had controlled burns in the mountains that surrounded our home in Tucson. Adversity often leads to revitalization!

    1. It is amazing that the book I was reading helped me to appreciate more fully our current surroundings. Never been good at "book reviews" ... seems like a daunting task to summarize a long story in a few words! Glad you enjoyed my humble attempt!