Every year I migrate South to Florida to wear out my welcome at my in-laws for ten or so days. Without my usual distractions, I entertain myself by harassing my mother in-law about her excessive amount of cups for two retirees or the fact it is always Christmas when I come down…
On this trip, in an effort to maintain sanity on both sides, I ventured out more, to keep myself out of trouble and seeing more of Florida. I hit the gym, met up with friends, checked out the gun stores, the army surplus stores, and even rode around with a buddy to check out the stellar homes he builds. http://georgedmorissette.com/
I also managed to break away for three good side trips that are worth mentioning to any fellow travellers that need some outdoor stimulation.
Greene Deane’s Foraging Walks – http://www.eattheweeds.com/
Florida is a whole different world from the mountains, and while there is a lot of crossover, there are a ton of different species, both native and exotic. The best way to learn plants is to hook up with an experienced forager, so I follow my own advice and jump on plant walks any time I can. This was my second trip with Deane and it was at Spruce Creek Park, up by Port Orange.
Deane’s walks are great, not only for his encyclopaedic knowledge of plants, but because he teaches at various locations. Spruce Creek offered several different habitats, including one that has salt tolerant species.
The winner of the taste test was the Creeping Cucumber http://www.eattheweeds.com/creeping-cucumber-melothria-pendula/ That is a 10 y.o. girl’s hand, so it is really jelly bean size.
With Sea Purslane coming in a close second.. Maybe first if it was grilled like Deane mentioned. http://www.eattheweeds.com/sesuvium-portulacastrum-maritime-munch-2
As with any foraging class, you can’t just take a class and walk away owning the information. You need to do your homework and start eating it. I bought two Florida foraging books for this trip and read them while I was down here. They were both okay, but I find Deane’s website more useful.
There is also a handy list of forgaging instructors for you travels: http://www.eattheweeds.com/foraging/foraging-instructors/
Permanent Orienteering Courses – http://www.us.orienteering.org/new-o/resources/permanent-courses
While orienteering isn’t as popular in the U.S. as other countries, there are still groups scattered all across the country. Some of these clubs have graciously taken the time toset up permanent courses in their state. For wayward travellers that may not be in town during regular race times, this is a great opportunity to see the local woods, get some exercise, and work on your land navigation skills. I slipped away to two courses that I found on http://www.floridaorienteering.org/
Moss Park Course – It was damn hot, so I decided not to run it, and threw on my pack for both the beginners and advanced course. I had worn long pants and boots, thinking I would be busting scrub, but the vegetation was pretty open, making me wishI had worn shorts and running shoes. Higlights were gopher tortoise and armadillo sign everywhere, and the sandhill cranes that tried to mug me in the parking lot.
Florida Agricultural Museum –
We all make mistakes, but on this day, I was on a roll. I downloaded the map of the Florida Orienteeering page and took time to check the hours of the museum. Unfortunately, I must have forgotten what day it was, as I arrived to see a closed sign at the entrance.
Mistake #1… Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays
Well, like any person that just drove 2 hours would do, I continued on in hopes I could persuade them to let me hike through their woods. After striking out with the farm hand, I got lucky when the manager heard my sob story and granted me permission.
Thankful for the opportunity, I figured it would be prudent if I only did one course and ran it to save time, so I picked the longer of the two. Having not planned for running, I didn’t have a ziploc for my map to protect it from my sweaty hands.
Mistake #2 – Running through the Florida scrub in 90 degree weather, my map was almost obliterated by point #5
And Mistake #3 was assuming the terrain would be similar to Moss Park, so I wore shorts and running shoes..
Three mistakes before I got started meant good times ahead and the chance to pick my poison..
Or slogging trails..
But fortunately, I was able forage for some of these tortuous little bastards on the fly, which I learned from Deane are edible http://www.eattheweeds.com/sandspurs-sandlot-sadists/
Not your typical day of Florida vacation, but I loved it!!
Note: The map shows the controls as numbered, but they must have changed them to letters and not updated the map yet.
Many thanks to Florida Agricultural Museum for indulging a wayward traveller that escaped the in-laws for some respite in the thorny, hot ass Florida scrub.
Looking forward to visiting with the family in the future. Word on the street is that the hours are posted on their website… http://www.myagmuseum.com/