|Azalea in full bloom in the yard of a home that's all decked out with Christmas lights and garland.
"Key West or Bust" - Days 82 and 83
It has been so warm in north Florida this December that the plants are befuddled. Is it still fall? Has winter come? Or is winter finished already? As I hiked for two days along the roads toward Madison, Florida, I 'heard' all three opinions from the plants I passed.
Some are struggling to affirm the coming of winter - trying to go dormant. Many deciduous trees are still changing color and dropping their leaves. Here's a sweet gum with its leaves turning their distinctive deep purple in strong counterpoint to the soft tones of the Spanish Moss that seems to be strangling it.
Other plants 'believe' winter has come and gone. Azaleas and violets seem the most eager to 'spring to life',
but some of the spring bulbs are joining them. Here's the Atamasco Lily blooming in a pasture.
A third collection of plants has not yet acknowledged a change of season at all. These are the fall bloomers, such as this Asian native, the Harlequin Glory-bower.
The scarlet star morning glory is another of these 'hangers-on'.
It made for lively conversation as I trod the roads toward Madison, where I would get off the trail for a late Holiday break to connect with family.
The chatter was not limited to the community of flora. I passed an unusual road-side pond entirely covered with duckweed where a family of otters was not shy about scolding me for intruding on their dominion.
The bald cypress trees that lined this pond all looked like clones of one another. It made for an interesting photo:
Though the confusion may not be apparent in this scene (the two otters in the photo are in wholehearted agreement with each other), the vegetation species have polar opposite 'opinions' of the situation. The cypresses are among the few flora who insist that it is winter. They've dropped all their foliage and have gone dormant. But the duckweed is a 'hanger-on'. When winter approaches, duckweed produces 'Turions' - special dense shoots that sink to the bottom in order to survive the cold. But on this pond these miniscule floating plants show no inclination that they intend to start that process. They seem to be convinced (by the water temperature) that it's still summer.
Meanwhile, some species simply stand above the fray.
This wise and noble old live oak understands the vagaries of southern climate and has chosen to ignore them. It and the resurrection ferns and Spanish Moss that adorn it do not concern themselves much with the change of season. They are evergreens. They endure the cold spells and exploit the warm.
Finally I offer one last point of confusion - this one entirely from the human perspective. Below is the photo of a 'lake'.
I call it a lake because it is shown as a lake on all three of the maps I consult - a big blob of clear and unfettered blueness on both my Florida Trail Association trail map, on Google Maps online, and in the big, expensive DeLorme Atlas of the state of Florida. Yet I could see little, if any unfettered blueness at all.
What gives? How does one deal with such rampant confusion? Well this roadside sign appeared just when it was most needed, providing a timely solution.
I'll buy it. When mired in confusion, one is wise to seek the counsel of a higher power.
Below are maps of the two days of trekking that brought me from the Aucilla River to Madison, Florida. Included are links to some more photos.
Road walk to Madison, part one at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking near Tallahassee, Florida
Road walk to Madison, part two at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find trail maps for California and beyond