Cypress Creek Natural Area

er a long conversation with the staff at Environmental Resources Management about the vast Northeast Everglades Natural Area (NENA) trail system, I decided to take a drive there and found an interesting location.

Butterfly

The 2,083-acre Cypress Creek Natural Area is located on the north and south sides of Indiantown Road near Jupiter Farms Road, approximately one mile west of the turnpike. Parking is available at Gulfstream Citrus Road and Indiantown Road. The natural area is part of the Historic Jupiter-Indiantown Trail, the old road that connected Jupiter with Indiantown. The original road was cut in 1899 and was in use until the late-1950s. A hundred years ago, the rugged 16-mile trip to Indiantown typically took two days.

Grassy trail at Cypress Creek Natural AreaI followed the trail that leads east from the main parking lot. At first glance, it didn’t appear to be more than a straight dirt road. Once out of sight of the parking area, the trail wound under tall oak trees along a canal with the usual vegetation and flowers. What piqued my curiosity was a foot trail that led north. I had to find out where it went. Just beyond the main trail was a small meadow with large trees that would’ve made a nice lunch spot. Further along, I spotted a family of raccoons out for a stroll.Raccoons at Cypress Creek Natural Area

Passing through different ecosystems, I came upon an areathat reminded me of a forest from a fantasy movie: tall trees whose branches provided lots of shade over a forest floor covered in leaves, bark, and tall grass. Combined with the threatening weather above, it took on a spooky quality. This would be a good place for a haunted Halloween trail. We could call it “The Psycho Path!”

The Jupiter-Indiantown multiuse trail has been opened since March. There is a parking area for cars and equestrian trailers, a chickee shade shelter with an information kiosk, an equestrian pitcher pump well, bike racks, horse hitches, and mounting blocks located along the trail. I especially enjoyed the wildlife observation platforms that provide nice photo ops.

Lake at Cypress Creek Natural AreaThere are bright blue markers to help you stay on course. It was easy to find my way in, but more importantly find my way out. I turned back in a futile attempt to beat the rain. I’m not sure where the other trails in this area lead to, but I’ll find out when it’s not raining.

For more information about the Cypress Creek Natural Area and the Historic Jupiter-Indiantown Trail, please visit http://www.pbcgov.com/erm/natural/natural-areas/cypress-creek/

Tie Rod end replacement

After 133K miles, I figured it was time to replace the tie rod ends on my 4Runner. I’m not sure if they were original or not, but they looked like it.tie rod end for 4Runner

I’ve done this before and it’s not too difficult. For $98 delivered, I ordered OEM tie rod ends and set off to replace these.

With a vehicle of this age there is one thing that is a must; lubricant! PBblaster, Silly Kroil, ATF, or all of the above will work. I sprayed the bolts and alignment nuts liberally a few days prior.

tie rod end for 4RunnerWhenever I embark on these projects, I find the simplest things often create the most problems. On this job, it was the rusted cotter pins that secure the nut for the tie rod end. Liberal coating of lubricant, even a little bit of a torch to heat it didn’t phase it. It wasn’t budging and I ended up breaking off the ends. Then it was time to break out the real tool; hammer!! I used a screw driver to drive the broken pieces out the other side of the nut.

At least now the 19mm socket could fit over the nut. Loosening took some leverage, but it came off. The new tie-rod ends come with a new nut as well, but you’ll still need to get this one off.

Before removing the tie rod from the steering knuckle, I always loosen the tightening nut on the steering rack first.  This usually requires two wrenches; one on the tie rod and one on the steering rack side.

Once the steering rack side was loosened enough to remove by hand, I set off to remove the tie rod from the steering knuckle. None of my pullers would fit in the tight space. A few well-placed wallops with my hammer knocked it out of the steering knuckle.

Installation was easy, just screw the new one back into the steering rack and then bolt it into the steering knuckle and install new cotter pins.  A  new alignment will be needed, even if you line up the marks close to what they were previously. 4Runner tie rod end

The steering is a little tighter, the clunk in the front end is gone, and now I know those critical parts of the steering section are good for awhile. On to the next project…..

My First Take on Paddleboarding

“You ever done this before?” Dan asked. “No but I have kayaked”. “Well this is more like canoeing than kayaking” he said. “I’ve done that too so I should be good.”

This was my first experience paddle boarding so I was nervous and curious at the same time. Myself and nine other first timers met a boat ramp in Hobe Sound Florida.   As we watched Dan unload the paddle boards we all had the same questions.  Would it be hard to balance? How do I get on this thing? How about off? If I fall off, what do I do?

We picked our paddle boards and the adventure began. Thanks to Dan’s great instructions, we found it’s not that difficult. To launch the paddleboard, place it near the dock. Then sit down on the dock and place your feet on the board. You’re basically using the board as a footrest at this point. Gently, climb on and kneel on the board. This wasn’t too difficult, but you’ll be free floating at this point so stay to the center for best stability.

Ok, we all survived that part. Now was the real test, standing up.  To stand up, you lean forward and almost do a pushup. I gently stood up and the board began wobbling side to side. After a few side to sides, I settled in to a fragile balance and began to make my way.  Paddling helps keep you balanced so moving is good.  It is just like canoeing though; you steer yourself based on the side you paddle.

Once I got into a rhythm the wobbling subsided and I could focus on enjoying being on the water. It’s a bit like riding a bike; once you get going and stop thinking about falling it is fun. I saw stingrays, pinfish, and mullet. One advantage of paddle boarding is that you stand up so you have a much better view of the marine life and surrounding areas.

We paddled along and then came our main challenge; crossing the river among the boat traffic.  The boats didn’t concern me because it’s a “no wake” zone and they were going very slow.  I could just see falling off in the middle of the channel. The water would be dark, deep and even with a life jacket, I’d be scared.  Some of the group wiped out here, but fortunately I made it.

We made it to our halfway point which was a small beach on the barrier island. Getting off the board was easier than getting on; just walk off the board into the sand. We walked across the sandy barrier island to the Atlantic Ocean.

As we crested the top, we were met with a post card view.  The ocean was sea green and turquoise in color with rolling waves set against a clear blue sky. The water was that perfect temperature to just sit in.  During the trip over we did our best to stay out of the water. Here, the water was so inviting we stayed in.  A few adventurous souls paddled out into the rolling waves with varying degrees of success.

After enjoying some time in paradise, it was time to make the trip home.  The rest was much needed because the return trip was facing into the wind. It wasn’t the strongest wind, but enough that if you weren’t paddling, you were going backwards. Using shorter strokes, I was able to maintain momentum into the wind.

On the way back we saw a large Osprey nest with both parents. They eyed us warily as we went by and we all looked up in awe. You see so much more wildlife when you’re on something that’s quiet.

I mentioned that paddle boarding is like riding a bike and just like riding a bike, you’re most likely to crash in your driveway. I was just across from the dock watching a boat go by when a small wave caught me by surprise and down I went. Fortunately, I caught myself and didn’t end up in the water. Just a reminder from the water gods that I’m not on land yet and to pay attention.

It was time to disembark and Dan warned us about this part. He must’ve seen this story unfold hundreds of times. People start off tentative, gain confidence, then return to the dock and crash. You’re supposed to slowly glide up to the dock and slowly sit down.  I slowly pulled up and promptly sat down. My butt went one way and the board the other. I didn’t go in the water, but it was far from graceful.

Another fun day and I survived in spite of myself. If you’ve been wondering about paddle boarding, definitely give it a try. You don’t need any experience, it’s not that difficult and it’s fun to explore on the water.

 

Myakka River State Park

Numerous friends had recommended that we visit Myakka River state park.  They said we’d love it because of the kayaking and all the wildlife. After all the recommendations, we had to check it out.

Located about 2 hours from the East coast of Florida, it is an easy drive through the center of the state. Along the way you’ll see the historic section of Florida; wide open prairies and cattle ranches.

We had reserved a cabin and sometimes those are a hit or miss depending on the amenities. This one was perfect; decent size kitchen, with a large great room that housed a fireplace, dining room table, and bed.  Out back was a small porch and a picnic table. Of course, it had the most important thing; air conditioning.

Once unpacked, we set off on our bikes to explore. I really enjoy biking around parks because I see so much more by going slow and I can explore trails along the way.  We peddled down the main grade past a bridge with an overlook into a canal. A perfect place to view alligators, but they were not to be found this time.

Continuing on, we saw vast grassed prairies that would be perfect for a giraffe or Rhino to roam. Further along, the road is enclosed by a canopy of trees with that beautiful hanging Spanish moss. Hanging like a sheer curtain, the moss gives the trees such character.

In the “middle” of the park is a large lake complete with a boat ramp and boat tours. A large concession stand and store are conveniently located there too.   A variety of foods were available, but on this hot summer day it was two words: ice cream!!!  Sitting upstairs, we had an unobstructed view of the lake and boat launch. Anhinga, a small gator, herons and the like were easily spotted.

Continuing on, we ventured further away from civilization and found a long boardwalk that had a panoramic view of the area. There wasn’t anyone else out there so it was perfect. Course, I’m sure in the winter when the weather is nicer, more people wil l be there.

The afternoon was winding down so it was time to head back to camp. Late afternoon is always a great time to see wildlife and this was no exception. Numerous hawks flew over and sat in the trees just above us.  A few deer trotted across the road and into the woods.

As we entered the cabin, sweaty and hot from the long ride, we were thankful for the air conditioning. We had heard about a drum circle and great restaurant at Siesta Key so we cleaned up and headed out for a more “civilized” evening.  About 30 minutes away was everything you could want in civilization. Great restaurants, pristine beaches, and more.

Arriving back at the cabin around 9pm, we still had a sense of adventure and knew that there would be wildlife out at night.  A blast of the bug repellent, a couple bottles of water, and a camera and off we went exploring.

I opened the moon roof for a view of the stars and gently drove around the park at a meagerly 10mph. Wow!!! The things we saw that night were unforgettable.  Frogs, snakes, and all kinds of crawly things were everywhere. We couldn’t drive more than 10 feet without seeing something interesting.  We stopped so much and saw so many things, I felt like I should be shooting one of those wildlife by night shows.

One of the most memorable scenes was a barred owl that flew down from the tree into the road, picked up a frog and flew up into the tree. To see that right in front of you is truly unforgettable. I had my camera, but there are times it’s just better to watch life unfold. Yeah, I miss a few shots, but I have some fond memories.

And this was just day one!  The next day we did even more exploring of the trails including a boardwalk that provided a 360 view above the tree canopy.

So my friends were right; Myakka River state park is a very fun place to visit. You can kayak, bike, experience nature first hand and civilization is not far if you need it. For more information, check out their website:

http://www.myakkariver.org/index.php