Friday was the last day of exams. I was done normalizing wavefunctions, evaluating a particle in a box, and other physical chemistry concepts and it was time to unwind by hitting the trail! You would be surprised how many places there are to hike, even in the more urban areas of Palm Beach County. Within a 20 minute drive of downtown West Palm Beach, my favorite destination is Apoxee Urban Wilderness Park.
Apoxee lies on the southeastern corner of Grassy Waters Preserve and is bordered to the north by The Solid Waste Authority Conservation Area. From the 1950s on, South Florida’s population experienced a boom, resulting in the urban sprawl expanding westward into the northeastern portions of the Everglades watershed. Grassy Waters and Apoxee parks are a part of a continuing effort by the city to restore these wetlands to their natural beauty. From educating the public to killing forests of invasive Melaleuca and Australian pine, the battle has been long, but the progress is noticeable.
Walking Apoxee Trail is a unique experience. The trail is raised above the waterline either by small levees or long boardwalks, keeping the trail high and dry most of the year. It was Saturday afternoon, overcast with light rain expected–my favorite hiking conditions! As I was going down the trail I noticed a little queen snake at my feet. After a few minutes for a photo shoot I continued on. Meandering through the mosaic of habitats the air was filled with the smell of moist soil and cypress. Dead Melaleuca trees surround the trail, killed within the last few years by crews armed with herbicide and machetes. By contrast, the native bald cypress and Cocoplum with bright green new shoots stand as if trying to reclaim what once was their domain.
I continued along a canal, safely on top of the levee away from several alligators, but surrounded by beauty from orchids along the trail and bromeliads in the trees. Everything seemed to be in full bloom just for me.
On one side of the levee is the canal and on the other, a network of pipelines pouring reclaimed water into the wetlands. These pipes provide on average eight million gallons of water per day for the wetlands to operate the way these wetlands had for thousands of years. Father down the trail I ran into a family of raccoons completely oblivious to my presence until I was within a few yards. By the end of the afternoon I ended up hiking 11 miles and not once did I come across another hiker! Not a bad way to end the semester!