Places to Explore

Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park

Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park is one of Florida’s oldest state parks. It was developed in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. You can read more about the CCC here: They helped build many of Florida’s state parks from 1933 through the beginning of World War II.


Guided Hikes and Photo Walks

Are you wanting to take a hike with me, but you’re not sure what kind of hikes I offer? Let me take a few moments to sum it up and help clarify what’s available. I offer two free hikes per month, in addition to private hikes on an appointment only basis.

What’s the difference between a guided hike and a photo walk?

Guided Hikes

As a Florida Master Naturalist, my main goal is to get people out in nature and to help them appreciate all the awesomeness Florida has to offer. On guided hikes, we stop a lot to talk about various plants and animals we see along the way. These hikes are typically 2-5 miles long. Questions are encouraged. It’s always fun when there are other experts on these hikes to point out things I might miss. Guided hikes always take place on the 3rd Sunday of each month and are free of charge.

Photo Walks

If you’re looking to get your camera out and find some beautiful wildflowers, reptiles, or birds to shoot, these walks are for you. Whether you have a professional DSLR or just the camera on your phone, these walks are designed to encourage photographers to get together and enjoy nature. We’ll stop often, whenever anybody sees something they’d like to grab a photo of. These walks are generally shorter, 1-3 miles. They are held on the first Saturday of each month and are also free of charge.

Private Guided Hikes

A perfect adventure for your out of town guests, these hikes are just for you and your guests, up to ten people. As a private, personalized hike, you can choose the pace and the direction you would like to go – photo walk or guided hike. You can also choose from several parks and preserves to find just the ecosystem system you’re looking for. These hikes cost $99.99 for up to three hours of hiking. More information can be found here:

How can you help support the continuation of these hikes?

I attend various art shows around Florida throughout the year to sell prints. These prints are also available online in a wide variety of formats (wall art, photo mugs, calendars, etc.) at I would love to just be able to offer free hikes all the time just to get people out there in nature, unfortunately that doesn’t help pay the bills. 🙂 So to help offset costs and pay for my time, I offer the private hikes and photo prints. I appreciate your support very much! I couldn’t do what I do without it! If you’re looking for a print of a specific plant or animal, I just might have it available so please feel free to ask. I also take commissions if you need me to go find a certain photo to meet your decorating needs.

As always, thank you for exploring with me and I look forward to seeing you on the trails!

Trail Adventures

Springer to Woody Gap

Thanks to amazing friends, I have the first tiny section of the Appalachian Trail done. This was just enough to get a little taste of the trail, an appetizer, an aperitif, a tidbit.

There are so many YouTubers and Instagram personalities out there that romanticize backpacking and long distance hiking. I’m here to tell you, sometimes it’s ugly, mean, and downright painful. It is not all beautiful mountains and sunshiny wildflowers. I’m from Florida. You know what we don’t have here? Hills. Our highest “mountain” stands at 345 feet on Britton Hill. Three hundred and forty-five. That’s barely an ant hill. I did some hiking in the Colorado Rockies. Those are mountains. What I experienced in Georgia was mild compared to the 14,000 feet of elevation out west, but it was still pretty brutal for this flat lander.


June Adventures

The weather is getting hot. If you live here, you’re quite well aware of that fact. I recently wrote a blog post on the fun things we Floridians have to deal with as summer draws near. You can read all about that here:

Guided Hikes and Photo Walks

As the weather starts to heat up, I considered canceling all of my hikes until November, but then I decided I would miss you guys too much and I just can’t do that! So I will continue offering three hikes per month. Two of these are free, and one is paid. If more than twenty people sign up for one of the free hikes, I’ll offer two at the same location. And if more than ten sign up for a premium hike, I’ll offer two of those as well.

Baby alligator at Bird Rookery Swamp in Naples.
What's Blooming

What’s Blooming at Myakka?

Our Premium Guided Hike for May is at Myakka River State Park. I like to prepare my hikers with a visual of what they might see on our hikes by pre-hiking our route within a week of the planned hike. This gives me an opportunity to see what’s blooming and to learn about anything I might not be aware of so I have more interesting information to share. Here’s a gallery of what I saw on my pre-hike this month.

Trail Adventures

Summertime Florida Hiking

Sun shining through Sabal palms at Myakka’s Deep Hole

It’s getting hot out there. Hiking in Florida in the summertime can be a dangerous idea if you’re not prepared. There are so many elements that seem as though they’re out to get you. It’s alligator mating season from April through June. Lovebugs abound in April and October, though they’re just annoying and not dangerous. Yellow flies start becoming super annoying around the middle of May, and their bites hurt! Mosquitos are quite wide awake now and they’ll want to have a snack on your blood when you hike in shady, damp areas. Okay, actually they’ll want to snack on you no matter where you hike in summer in Florida. Noseeums swarm and attack with their teeny tiny blood sucking mouths in any area close to the shore, particularly at dawn and dusk. We have mad thunderstorms just about every afternoon. We have truly earned the title of Lightning Capital of the World. All of that, and I haven’t even mentioned the risk of sunburn, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Places to Explore

Myakka State Park – Deep Hole

Deep Hole is a 141 foot deep sinkhole located just northwest of the upper Myakka Lake portion of the Myakka River. It’s easy to see the outline of Deep Hole during the dry season when the land around it is above water. During the wet season, it blends in with the Myakka River as the entire area is under water.

This is a protected area with visitors limited to just thirty per day. To visit, you need to be in line when the park opens at 8am. You’ll need to secure a permit to gain access and receive directions to the area.

When I visited, it was a hot day so the alligators weren’t as plentiful as they would be on a cool, sunny day. There were still well over fifty of them lining the shore, but sometimes there are many more than that.

Alligators at Deep Hole
Places to Explore

O’Leno State Park and River Rise

O’Leno was Florida’s eleventh state park, established in 1940. Like many of the original state parks, it was developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps. This park is full of history and natural beauty. Some of the best hiking trails in Florida can be found here, particularly when combined with neighboring River Rise Preserve State Park’s trails.

Critter Talk

Sharing the Trails with Alligators

If you hike near water in Florida, chances are pretty good you’re going to see an alligator at some point. Those of us who are on the trails a lot are used to it, but it can be scary if you haven’t had much experience sharing the trails with these reptiles. Something that’s important to remember is that a healthy, wild alligator will most likely want nothing to do with you; so the best course of action is to just ignore them and let them go on their way. Alligator attacks in Florida are extremely rare. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission there have only been twenty-four fatal alligator attacks in Florida since 1973. Statistically, you’re more likely to be killed by a cow than you are an alligator.

Places to Explore

Ochlockonee River State Park

A trip through Florida’s Big Bend area and into the panhandle is like a trip back in time.  Urban sprawl has yet to infect this remote area of the state.  Taking a drive across the 220 mile long Big Bend Scenic Byway will take you through miles of longleaf pine forests and along fabulously undeveloped white, sandy coastline.  I didn’t know before I went, but apparently a detailed brochure exists to help you navigate this incredible highway and really take in all it has to offer.  It can be found here:

A drive down the scenic byway is one of many things we did while we were in the area.  We visited several state parks within a couple of hours of Ochlockonee, but here we’ll focus on this one incredible state park.  I realized I was pronouncing it all wrong when a kind ranger gave me a tip to say it right.  He said it’s O-Clock-Knee.  Now you know.

Welcome to Ochlockonee!  Driving down route 319 near the tiny town of Sopchoppy, you’ll end up here at the park.  If you’re planning to camp here for awhile, it may be helpful to know that the nearest Walmart is about forty minutes away in Crawfordville.  The nearest store is a Dollar General, about fifteen minutes away.  There really is nothing around here!