While St. Lucie, Fl. is absolutely awesome for beach and intra-coastal waterway access, I don’t normally think of it as a great place for hikes. After all, during most of the year the last thing you want to do is walk through the palmettos in blistering heat, with nothing but the occasional pine tree for shade. Since my parents live on Hutchinson Island and I’ve spent a lot of my childhood and young adulthood looking for things to do here, I’ve discovered that South Florida scrubs are actually really lovely in the wintertime.
The Savannah Preserve State Park stretches over ten miles, and has several points of parking and entry. In the dozens of times that I’ve parked off of Jensen Beach Blvd, I have seen maybe two other people tops. There’s a really great chance you’ll have this gorgeous place to yourself. If it’s rained recently, you’re likely to encounter some wet spots along the way, but there are usually dry enough paths through.
The Savannahs are a place of constant change. Rains come and flood the low areas, leaving only hammocks of pine trees and palmettos, and the raised path, making the savannah look like a swamp. Then dry spells come and turn it into a desert. Fires rage, naturally or controlled, every few years, burning old and dead growth and giving life to new seedlings. At the Jensen Beach entry a burn had been done not too long ago. The pine trees stood dead and blackened, while at their bases new pine trees shot up, all fluffy with baby growth.
The wildflowers were thriving too, on the rich charcoal fertilizer left by the fire. The delicate beauty of a wildflower among the rough grasses always startles me. Another discovery made me so elated my parents laughed at me. Sundews, or drosera, are carniverous plants that attract insects and catch them on the sticky substance they release from their leaves. I am fascinated by all things tiny and beautiful, and sundews with their otherwordly appearance and fascinating nature enthralled me until my parents had left me on the trail.
After walking awhile through the park around the Jensen Beach entrance, my mom wanted to see more water and walk through less of it, so we piled back in the car and went to the entrance on SE Green River Parkway. Here, an attractive and naturally planted waterway divides the road from a path that parallels the park. There are also pathways into the park from here. Malards were wintering in the waterway and we saw a snowy egret and night heron before walking long.
Numerous large apple snail shells scattered along the shoreline indicated the presense of a limpkin. Limpkins eat mollusks, with apple snails dominating their diets. They make a strange call like a scream or a wail, not like anything else I’ve ever heard. I was gratified to finally see the suspected limpkin, surrounded by the largest cache of apple snail shells I’ve ever seen. The snails were on the downstream side of a canal from the wateway across the land path and into the Savannah.
My parents and I disagreed on how so many shells had come to be there. My dad argued that the bird waited at the canal for live snails to be swept downstream. My mom argued that the bird brought live snails to the canal, to use the shallow fast moving water in some way to clean them. I argue that the limpkin eats the snails all over the waterway, and that the empty shells fall back into the water and are swept into the canal. Whatever the cause, there were certainly more apple snails than I’ve ever seen.
Lisa had a lovely time and managed to roll in something yucky and brown.