Friday, April 29, 2011

Conner & Cypress Creek

This may be old news to some, but I was very excited to discover something new to me on the J. B. Starkey Wilderness Park page of the SWFWMD website.  At the bottom of the page, I found a link to Conner Preserve.  I try to stay up to date with local parks, so I was intrigued by a name completely unknown to me.  I clicked on the link:

"Acquired in 2003 for preservation of natural systems, groundwater recharge, water quality and flood protection, the preserve offers a stunning landscape of steep sandhill ridges, expansive marshes, dense cypress sloughs and lush pine flatwoods. The preserve is a vital part of a wildlife habitat corridor envisioned by Pasco County and the District that will eventually connect the Starkey Wilderness Preserve to the Cypress Creek Preserve, making a continuous corridor of several thousands of acres in this region."

How amazing it this?!  Not one, but two parks will be joined to the wonderful Starkey preserve lands in central Pasco County. 

"The [Conner] preserve was a private ranch used for agricultural purposes. Prior to the acquisition, about 43 percent of the natural uplands were converted to pasture and pine plantation. Parts of the preserve are undergoing extensive restoration efforts to reverse the previous alterations. Because of these restoration activities, several areas of the preserve are only accessible on foot." (News Release)

"Cypress Creek is a tributary of the Hillsborough River. Within the property, the creek threads its way through an expanse of cypress and hardwood forests. Slash pine, longleaf pine and palmetto grow on the higher “ridges,” which are collectively known as Florida flatwoods." (Cypress Creek Preserve)

Photo from SWFWMD Conner Preserve web page

Here is what I gathered concerning recreational uses from the website:

Conner Preserve: 2980 acres
      12 mi. unpaved bike trails
      5.2 mi. horse trails
      16 mi. hiking only trails

Cypress Creek Preserve: 7400 acres
     12 mi. horse trails
      5 mi. paved and unpaved biking trails
      Several miles of paved roads for hiking (pump station roads, wooded)

I think that it is interesting to learn about the land and how it is restored and conserved.  It allows me to appreciate the experience of running in these locations that much more.  This is a bit dated, but I still find the Conner Preserve Restoration Plan interesting.

I wish that I had discovered this news earlier because I will have to wait until after summer semester to visit these parks.  I guess that gives me more time to learn about the project.  I can't wait to get back to this part of the state and explore new trails!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


It is fairly common for a black snake to slither away from me on a run in my Cross Creek, but before Monday I had yet to see any of Florida's colorful snakes in the wild.  There was that one time when a striped little one made its way under my car before an early morning cross country practice, but I never got a good look at it.

Along a somewhat forgotten sandy path in J. B. Starkey Wilderness Park, I had my first trail running encounter with Florida snakes.  The sand was tightly packed after an evening storm and I was enjoying the ease of the motions.  The last time I had really run on these trails was in the winter when the sand was loose and powdery.  After rounding a bend in the path, I jumped to the side of the trail.  This is what I found:

In my head I quickly tried to figure out the venomous/ nonvenomous snake rhyme... red and yellow...kill... something Jack...  Then, I realized that the colorful little guy wasn't moving.  I still had a feeling that he was of the venomous variety, so I snapped a picture and continued down the trail.

Later on, past the powerlines, I decided to venture down a horse trail that I had never explored before.  This is what I love about Starkey.  Even though I have been running these trails for eight years, I can still find new places to explore.  This trail was beautiful- grassy, covered, and cool.  I was taking in the scenery when, again, I came to an abrupt halt.  This bigger guy was stretched out across the path and he was most certainly alive: 

I was thankful that he did not seem too bothered by me, but I could not help but image what he would be like if I had stepped too close or stepped on him.  I took a picture of him in hopes of identifying him when I got home.

I finished the horse trail loop and ran the two miles back to the corral from the powerlines.  It was a beautiful clear morning.  Besides the snakes, I saw a few deer and a wild turkey.


When I got home, I took to Google in the hopes of identifing the snake that left his skin and the one that was alive.  I quickly found the Florida Museum of Natural History Online Guide to Florida Snakes.  The skin was most certainly from a Coral Snake and I believe the other was a Corn Snake
Here is the direct link to the Identification page of the Guide to Florida Snakes in case you need it one day.

Coincidentally, I read this passage from The Creek by J. T. Glisson the day before this run:

"But the Ol' Gal's [Mother Nature's] specialty was snakes.  Since back when she loaned one to the devil, they have terrorized or mesmerised those who came in contact with them regularly.  We assumed snakes could be anyplace at anytime, and we were right.  A lady I knew sat on her chamber pot in the middle of the night once and discovered a snake in it.  Little children were taught before they learned to walk never to put their hands or feet anyplace they could not see."  Page 44.

Good rule to follow.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Simple Things

Yesterday I ran outside for the first time since the injury setbacks in December.  I missed seeing the horses grazing in the fog-blanked pastures, the neighborhood cats on their morning patrols, and the stars shining bright in the dark sky.  Out on the roads, I even passed a fellow runner who I have known for at least five years.  I smiled and waved excitedly.  She probably thought I was crazy, but I have greatly missed those simple things.  It is good to be home and running. 

Today, I went to J. B. Starkey Park and RAN.  It felt amazing.  I will make that post and get my pictures together later.

Happy runnng!

Saturday, April 23, 2011


I know that I have been away for a while, but now I should be posting regularly.  The spring semester has ended, finals week has drawn to a close, and summer has begun!  Well, I get a week of summer freedom before the summer semester starts, but hopefully it won't be as stressful as the regular school year.  I should have more time to explore parks and update the blog.

Concerning my running- I am starting to feel like a runner again.  About a week ago I ran 7 miles on the treadmill (so happy!), but I felt quite sick, to the point of using the gym mirrors to scout out a trashcan while running.  I didn't sleep, eat, or drink much for a few days, so fitness took a backseat to my health.  I also had final exams, papers, and paintings to tend to.  I am feeling much better now, and if my running continues to go well, I will attempt my first road run within the next few days! 

These are the paintings that I made in my Painting I class that were inspired by my Cross Creek and the work of Lilian Garcia-Roig:

First painting that I made in this style and this size (36x48 in)

Painting two (36x48 inches)

Study of trees (still wet- 18x24)

Instead of waking up at 5:30 or 6 to run in the woods, I would wake up just as early to paint the woods!  Painting I was the perfect class to take this semester when I was dealing with my injury.  The paintings above proved to be quite therapeutic.