On a cool, crisp morning in Central Florida, fog billows in long streamers across rural landscapes, rising from tiny streams, cypress swamps, and broad canals. I’m driving down Fort Christmas Road, watching clouds in miniature stretching the width of a cow pasture. They ride just above the backs of the cattle but just below the lowest branches of longleaf pines with their fluffy needles standing out a vivid green against the deep blue horizon line.
It’s a morning for exploration of a new-to-me hike, Pine Lily Preserve, with a new-to-me friend from the Big O Hike, our wrangler JK. When someone’s not used to my data collection-on-foot in full swing while hiking, I worry about my focus being too intense, but the ramble and camaraderie come easy in the cool of the morning. Dew hangs thickly upon the lovegrass spreading across the footpath. Dew outlines each needle of each pine. And above us, spiderwebs have trapped the morning fog along their taut lines, drops glistening in the rising sun, the angle perfect for full illumination of their exquisite engineering. Small miracles suspended in the sky.
Small miracles hide amid the grasses, too: plump wild bachelor’s-button and delicate sundews with their sticky arms spread wide to capture tiny insects. The yellow crosses of St. Johns Wort and tall lilac hues of Florida lobelia. Not the namesake of the preserve, however – pine lily blooms in summer. No matter. The symphony of grasslands and forest and friendship makes this a satisfying walk, a new discovery worth sharing.