Sea turtle moonlight crawl

Looking down Juno Beach at twilight, I saw a large dark blob slowly emerge out of the rolling surf. More ocean debris, I thought. When the surf subsided, the object continued to move forward. That’s definitely not debris; it’s a sea turtle!

Sea turtle background:
There are five different species of sea turtles that visit Florida’s beaches; Loggerhead, Green Turtle, Leatherback, Kemp’s Ridley, and Hawksbill. A sea turtle’s life is challenging from day one. As a new hatchling, it has to dodge hungry birds, curious humans, and the hot sun on its way to the ocean. If they make it the ocean, they have to outwit the ocean’s larger predators. Throw in the probability of getting stuck in trash or other man-made obstacles and it’s easy to understand why all five species are listed as endangered or threatened.

Privileged viewer:
As you can imagine, the prospect of being able to witness such a magnificent, yet fragile species lay her eggs was quite exciting. After the slow trek up the beach, she found a spot under one of the boardwalks and began digging. It is critical that she is not disturbed which means no lights, flash photography, or even talking.

With amazing quiet and reverence, the impromptu crowd watched her. Surprisingly for almost an hour, people were in total silence or barely a whisper. No annoying ringtones, zero lights or flash photography, even a couple’s little dog was perfectly silent. I was inspired to see a group of strangers show such respect.

One final challenge:
After she finished laying her eggs, it was time to head back to the ocean which was another challenge. She had laid her eggs near a couple of pylons and moving forward required her to navigate a very tight space. Each move, placed her shell against a pylon which was enough resistance to prevent forward movement. The soft sand provided zero traction as she flapped her flippers to move forward. If you’ve ever been stuck in the sand or snow, you understand the scenario.

She’d fling sand everywhere with little progress and then just stop. The only illumination was from a full moon, but you could still see her breathe hard. This was no easy task.
With much effort, she rearranged her position perfectly and had a straight shot to the ocean. She didn’t get that big by giving up and tonight was no exception.


Freedom:
Once free and on the packed sand, she was promptly on the move. While turtles can’t run, I’d classify that last burst as fast walk. She stopped at the water’s edge, waiting for the next wave, which gave everyone a photo op.

She crawled into the next wave and disappeared into the moonlit night amidst applause from an reverent group of onlookers.

As I walked the moonlit beach, I felt humble and yet privileged to be able to view such an amazing feat of life. Life will definitely find a way…..

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/