Along with changes in terrain, I've also observed changes in mood while walking in our natural Florida landscapes.
Recently I've been out in the woods during dusk, when the sun is disappearing and the trees look black against an orange-streaked sky.
At dusk in the next door woods and around the cabin my mood can becomes peaceful and quiet as I watch for night creatures to come forth.
The wind often dies down and because of lack of light, my vision becomes less important and I do more observing by listening. I hear leaves crackling as they fall and hit other leaves on their way to the ground.
I hear crickets and the scolding of a brown thrasher settling in for the night. A bat squeaks as it flies beneath the live oaks, somehow missing the streamers of swaying Spanish moss.
If I'm still in the woods as it gets darker and darker, my mood may become impatient, because I want to get back to my habitat, my human-made security. I prefer to leave the night creatures to their space.
I experienced this changing of moods during a walk in Goethe State Forest. Starting out to walk in the afternoon left me four or so hours to get out before dark. I didn't think that was a problem.
Entering a trail through an open area of the forest, I noticed the sound and movement of wind in tall reddish-tan rushes.
Puffy white clouds dotted the blue sky. Horses, deer and pigs had left tracks in the brown sandy soil. Gallberry and palmetto palms grew thick between widely spaced slash pines. I saw a silver sheen of light on their leaf tops.
Lots of berries, reds of dahoon holly, inky purple of gallberry,provided a bountifull crop of food for animals.
My mood reflected the energetic waves of wind and positive bounty of nature before me. I only heard a few chips of birds unseen in the extensive cover of the trees and brush.
I continued walking through open places, the evidence of wild pigs rooting in the trail and into the nearby cover leading me to watch for a glimpse of these creatures. I entered an area of pine plantations and to my surprise, came out onto a limerock road. Intending to walk in a loop, I followed the road until I passed a sign and then a bit further along, took a trail in the direction of my parked truck.
After a while the landscape changed from gallberry and palmetto palm understory and slash pines to turkey oak habitat. I'd been walking for what seemed a long way when I came to a dead end at private land.
I went back and took the branching trail, following it out of turkey oak and into pine, laurel, live and water oak terrain. In this area, I could see logging activity, but no one was working as I passed by.
My mood of easy exploration became one of impatience as I kept walking and did not come out where I expected to. Dusk was catching up to me.
The mood of the woods changed too. The wind stilled and the landscape around me became silent. By now I had to give up and return to the limerock road. This trail I was on was not going anywhere but on and on through unfamiliar woods. I hurried as best I could but my feet began to hurt.
At the limerock road I hesitated. Which way? I wasn't sure of my direction.
At this point, I should have retraced my steps back to the trail I took in the beginning. I was sure though, or at least pretty sure, the main road was in the opposite direction.
The darker it got the more the mood changed from a waiting stillness to scurrying, chipping activity. I heard rustling in bushes as I passed and the calls of towhees, crows, cardinals and other birds as they settled for the night. The night creatures would be taking over soon. I needed to get back to my habitat - the truck. My mood became closer to panic and anger at the endless trails and roads that never gave me a break.
At last I did the right thing. I backtracked to the trail I'd taken in the beginning and finally saw my truck parked ahead of me. What a wonderful sight.
I was lucky that I was able to find that original trail, even if it meant walking back over the same trails and roads. My mood was subdued as I drove home. Next time I'll take a map even if it doesn't show all the trails. It would still help me work out which direction I needed to take in relation to the setting sun.
And no, Susan, I didn't have a lighter or extra food or a whistle with me. At least, I did have good boots and a hat.
Until next time, good observing.