Hike: Portions of Red and Black Trails, Swayback Bridge TOLA, Wetumpka, AL 06/21/2014, 0830-1100CDT
Distance: 6 miles Rating: 4/5
Conditions: Hot (low 90s) and humid. Wind: light & variable. Trails were mostly dry. Encountered a few mountain bikers near end of hike.
Summer in the Southeast means bugs (lots of bugs). Used 40% DEET to repel mosquitoes and ticks (though I have never known ticks to be a problem here). Had several gnats fly into my eyes. The drone of flying insects was a constant chorus throughout the hike. The ubiquitous trail-spanning spider webs were easily handled by my trekking pole. Insects can be a worrisome distraction this time of year, just prepare (mentally, clothing, & repellent) before venturing into the woods.
Gray squirrels and chipmunks were observed throughout the day scampering around the forest floor. The drumming of a woodpecker greeted me at the beginning of the hike. Small lavender wildflowers were the flower stars today... taking center-stage all along the trails. I am not certain of their identity, though they resemble the mint family with small clustered lavender blooms. Did not notice a particular fragrance associated with these blooms. Yellow daisies, Black-Eyed Susans, and Mimosas added the additional colors from GOD's palette.
The greatest surprise was a large Barred Owl flying through the forest canopy within 60' of me and perching in a tall hardwood. Silence accompanied his swoop through the tree tops. Owls are rarely observed during the day. This may have been only the third time I have ever observed diurnal behavior in an owl. He was not close enough to get a quality photo, but certainly close enough for me to enjoy such a wonderful sight.
12 "For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Isaiah 55:12 (NKJV)