New experiences


Back in Florida for the month of October, we had a little too much excitement…  Hurricane Matthew was heading straight towards us after causing lots of destruction long the way.  We watched each update by the forecasters and soon knew we were going to be at the first point of Matthew’s US landfall.






Reach was tucked away in a protected corner of the boatyard and strapped down to cement blocks on the ground.  How did we know it was protected?  With trees to the north, we rarely saw any breeze back there all summer.  Something we used to complain about, but now we were relieved to be there.




The condo we were staying in was on Orchid Island and very solid.  It had hurricane shutters on the sliding doors and we were on the second of three floors not including the parking garage, which would be a good location in case of flooding.  We were also on the south side of the structure and this was beneficial with primary winds from Matthew coming out of the north.





Although we’ve prepped boats many times for a potential hurricane from New England to the Caribbean, this was our first “live” experience.  It was fairly nerve-wracking and one I would not like to repeat if I can help it.  


Of course, Matthew hit around 2 AM in the morning.  We did get some sleep in for a while until the winds were both howling and whistling, all the while rumbling steadily like a train. 


 


The eye of the hurricane stayed offshore and spared us of the strongest winds of the Cat 3 storm.  Most of the wind direction we saw was favorable from the north, reduced by the speed of Matthew’s northerly track.  


When the wind switched to the SW we directly felt the force of the storm on the condo at around 70 mph.  The windows creaked and air pressure changes in the apartment made everything seem like it was shaking (it was quite dark to see, so everything probably was).  The condo lost one hurricane shutter and thankfully the exposed sliding door held.


By morning it was still windy, but the worst was over.  We were extremely lucky.   For some reason this area did not flood significantly, perhaps because we were the first point of landfall and the surge had not built up yet as it did farther up the coast of Florida and the US.  


These before and after photos show the effect at the condo and the beach erosion that was left in the storm's aftermath.



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October brought another new experience for me to join my friend Leslie on an overnight backpacking trip.  I’ve been camping many times before ~ by car ~ so had never packed my own gear to carry in for an eight mile roundtrip hike.  For Leslie, she has backpacked tons of times, yet is gearing up (pun intended) to do some long-term backpacking on the Pacific Crest Trail next year.  




Sharing in her happy obsession, we set out with a well-organized gear list and packed our bags.  


Weighing in at 32-35 lbs each, our packs contained ground cloth, sleeping mats, sleeping bags, tent, safety gear, food and water, since there are no facilities at the primitive camp site at Lake Kissimmee.  






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We started hiking in the early evening and dusk soon caught up with us for some spectacular views.  This site is a mix of meadows, old live oak forest, pine forest, low scrub and swamp.











Luckily, we pitched the tent right at dark, which is when the mosquitos came out with a vengeance.  We quickly changed out of our wet clothes and donning mosquito masks, hung up the food for the night.  This is common protocol and we had more incentive to keep the food far away from camp, since we had heard growling nearby.  There were critters sharing the night with us, including a pack of coyotes chattering/howling and other stealthy stalkers, as cat tracks and a snake seen the next day attested.








Morning was just as beautiful as evening.  Over breakfast we were surrounded this time by birds of all shapes and sizes.  We left the camp site as we found it and set out to hike the four miles back to the trail head. 











We saw at least four bald eagles fly overhead (no photos) as blue-gray gnatcatchers flitted from branch to branch, also trying to elude my camera.  We were hoping to see the elusive scrubjay, but only managed a colorful bluejay instead.  Leslie was a helpful bird-spotter!




Yellow-bellied sapsucker ~ female



Blue-gray gnatcatcher



Deer



Palm warbler



Red-bellied woodpecker



Bluejay



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