Brooker Creek preserve in Tarpon Springs, Florida offers a nice shady walk any day of the week. There is no admission cost. Thursday through Saturday the educational center and store are open. There are hands-on ecological exhibits, including a tortoise burrow replica big enough to crawl through. From the parking lot there are two ways into the woods:
The boardwalk leads straight to the center after passing under an artistic metal helix. It seems to be several strands of metal woven together. One end terminates in a set of flat rings; the other in glass bulbs. What is it?
Across the small field is the bridge over tiny Brooker Creek where alligators are often seen. From there one can walk a short distance to the bird blind or take the dirt trail around to join the boardwalk near the center. From the center a four-mile loop extends into the woods.
At every park I go to I try to look for a pattern that kind of sums up what the place is about – something that makes it unique from all the other parks. Usually I find one. I don't know whether my observations represent a real pattern or whether seeing one example psychologically primes me to see others. This park had several thin trees bent over into arches, in most cases all the way to the ground. I saw them in several different places. I also saw clumps of moss around the bases of many thicker trees located as much as twelve inches above the ground. I suspect that most of the park and its trails are underwater during some seasons. Fortunately it has been very dry in Florida lately. You have to know when to go.
The trails run through white sand, grassy areas, pines, palmetto, and more. There is plenty of variety. Different parts of the path have different names such as Flatwoods Trail, Blackwater Cutoff, Pine Needle Path, and Wilderness Trail. There were even trails with whimsical names such as Preserve Staff Only and Trail Closed. Strangely, these were not on the map. I was tired, thirsty, and in a hurry to get back so I didn't have time to check them out. Perhaps another time.
The main trail loop covers only a very tiny portion of the whole park. It makes me wonder what secrets might lurk out among the trees. What are the Rangers hiding from us?
Highlights: I briefly saw a very fast lizard with pale blue sides and black and yellow stripes running down its back. It looked exactly like a southwestern fence lizard, which are more common in New Mexico than Florida. I also found a sensitive-leaf plant. There are cultivated plants you can buy that will close up immediately with the slightest touch but the wild ones are very slow. I also saw an alligator and a painted stone…
3940 Keystone Road, Tarpon Springs, Florida
Written by Daniel Noe, ChampionOfTheGalaxy.com