Grayson Beach State Park in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida – one of my favorite local hiking venues – has the unique distinction of being located between the Gulf of Mexico on one side, and a handful of rare coastal lakes on the other. These lakes are an unusual mix of both salt and fresh water eco-systems.
Dividing the two is a trail through a copse of shrub pines, appropriately called the ‘Hobbit Hole.’ Spaced along the trail are slat gates, barriers to keep hikers off the delicate dunes.
One cold morning – cold for Florida is about 50°F – I went on a hike around the lake trail. The chilly temps were appreciated when I happened upon one of the area denizens. The chance encounter occurred when I went off trail, something I’ve been cautioned not to do on many occasions.
I almost stepped on a snake. My husband thought it was a young cottonmouth. I was glad whatever it was, it was very slow-moving in the cold or this would be a completely different story. Though the encounter wasn’t so perilous that I didn’t risk getting the shot.
(PSA: heed trail signs and don’t stray from the path)