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!


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.

Scavenger Hunts

Explore Your World

A walk in nature is the perfect antidote to feeling stressed, fatigued, and generally unhappy. Breathe in the fresh air, and take some time to find something cool and unusual. There’s always something interesting to see, you just have to look a little more closely sometimes. Scavenger hunts are a great way to train your brain to look deeper and seek out hidden nature treasures.

Places to Explore

Ollie’s Pond

When everything was shut down for a Covid-19, I decided it was a good time to check out some local birding hot spots.  Ollie’s Pond is one of those places I put off going to because I didn’t think it would be all that exciting. It’s just a big pond in the middle of a neighborhood.  My expectations were pretty low.  I was pleasantly surprised!  The first time I went, I saw seventeen species of birds. Not a huge number, but it was a fun variety.  Yesterday, there weren’t quite as many birds, but the few I did see were pretty exciting. There were black-necked stilts, white pelicans, and a roseate spoonbill, along with the usual suspects like red-winged blackbirds and osprey.

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!

Critter Talk

But Why Snakes??

You may have noticed I take some photos of some critters that some people feel would be better off left alone.  I do this for a few reasons.  I really just love nature.  ALL nature.  Even the parts of it that some people might deem scary, ugly, or dangerous.

Places to Explore

Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

It was pretty easy deciding which place I wanted to share first.  I have a lot of favorites, but my absolute favorite is easily Corkscrew Swamp.  Cypress swamps are my favorite, and this place has the largest old growth bald cypress forest in the world.  It’s also home to one of the largest nesting colonies of endangered wood storks in the U.S.