Tom Morris led 14 Sierrans to Alexander Springs for a day of snorkeling and swimming. Along the way we stopped so Tom could tell us about the sand pine scrub plant community, an ecosystem unique to Florida, that covers much of the in the Ocala National Forest. This habitat is among the driest and hottest in Florida and Tom pointed out numerous adaptations that the plants and animals have evolved to survive in this harsh environment. The group got to directly experience the stressful conditions, because the day was hot, shade was absent, and the sun beat down on us from a cloudless sky.
Tom ruins lunch with a short lecture about Alexander Springs.
Alexander Springs is a first magnitude spring, the largest in the Ocala Forest. Water discharges vigorously from small caves and vents into a large basin. The snorkeling is spectacular, and most of the group hit the water several times.
Later, Tom led a walk down a boardwalk that allows mud-free access to the beautiful hydric hammock habitat that flanks the spring. We saw lots of interesting plants, including the rare star anise and Atlantic white cedar.
Once again we had to guard our lunches from marauding black vultures. Interestingly, we noticed a guy named John walking around the park pursuing the vultures with a whip. When he got close enough, he would crack his whip and make them (and us) jump. If you want to watch John crack the whip, click on the link. When we begged John to do it again, he willingly obliged. We dubbed John the vulture man.
Some of us know how to travel. Kate and Bill certainly enjoyed the sun and fun of open aired transport.
One of the great aspects to an outing is that you get to know one another much better than attending a meeting (any kind of meeting). In addition to discussing the information Tom provided, we all decided that ice cream is a one of the most important food groups on the planet.
Boy do we love springs-and ice cream!