One day I doubled up on a trip to Archer. After meeting with my craft group, I donned walking clothes and turned off of 241 on my way home. Nearby is an outparcel of Goethe State Forest. I've walked in this place many times before, but not recently. I like to visit a little pond there set in the wood, surrounded by many lovely trees such as hickory, maple, sweet gum, live oak, holly and pine.
Sometimes the pond has open clear water, but this time only a few green-covered puddles remained. A single little blue heron hunted its surface. My main purpose for walking in this particular wood wasn't to visit the pond. I had another goal in mind. More than a year ago I found a cave in this same wood. At the time, I didn't do more than look down into what looked like an entrance that a human could enter.
This section of Goethe has a lot of depressions in the ground, often with exposed limestone formations. I thought because it is winter, if only just, I might be able to find this cave again-the theory being that in winter there's less foliage to obscure the landscape. I wasn't counting on the tenacity of catbriar, also called greenbriar. Sure-the grape and Virginia creeper vines don't have mature leaves now, but greenbriar seems to just keep growing, the old leaves staying right there through colder weather. I tried to find that cave. I tramped around, practically in circles, trying to home in on its location. I came upon a lot of openings in the ground, quite often appearing only after I struggled through tangles of greenbriar that all but covered a lot of these limestone formations. At least one of the openings in the ground, although not the cave I was looking for, still was worth finding. It looked to be a natural sinkhole lined with limestone rocks where several types of ferns and mosses grew. I came across many dry sinkholes where animals dug burrows into the sides. One such dirt depression had three hole entrances.
The further I walked the less I picked up my feet, and that's when the vines got the upper hand. I tripped over and got scratched by those nasty greenbriars. Not all of this wood is taken over by briars. In some areas patches of partridgeberry spread across the ground. Although new white flowers were blooming on these plants, a lot more red berries, fruit from last season's flowers, remained. I ate a few and they still tasted fresh and minty.I also saw some small white innocence flowers, white dewberry blooms and viburnum in flower. Wild cherry and sparkleberry leaves were erupting in tender greens. It was windy the day I walked in this wood, and I saw and heard very few birds. One phoebee flew from branch to branch in front of me, and a pileated woodpecker called in the trees ahead of me. A lovely tiger swallowtail butterfly fluttered among the tree trunks.
I observed nature in this part of Goethe, but I never found that cave I was searching for. Maybe some day I'll go back and look again. Beside futile searches, I also helped a friend check on the condition of bluebird boxes sponsored by Alachua Audubon. Some of these boxes are located in Kanapaha Prairie, a private property accessed by permission. We saw sandhill cranes, and were told that about four thousand cranes had been counted there. We also saw spring blooms of toadflax, woodsorrel, corydalis, phlox, false dandelion and wild pepper. The boxes were in good shape. No bluebirds had built nests yet, but several bats found the boxes good for daytime sleeping. Until next time, good observing.