Monday, October 3, 2016

      As a resident of Florida for about 19 years it has come to my attention within the last 3 that I have not explored much of my home. Acknowledging my own adventurous nature, and recent acquisition of a car, I have taken it upon myself to learn more about the history that surrounds me. Luckily for me, and local inhabitants of Brevard, there are two gems to visit: the Sebastian Inlet State Park and the Sebastian River Preserve. The former rests just south of Melbourne Beach and the latter further mainland in Fellsmere, Florida. Both showcase plants native to Florida’s landscape including tricky palmetto scrubs and expanses of sand hills Oh! And don’t forget the mangroves!
Sebastian Inlet State Park
         Riding up on the Sebastian Inlet Bridge I was taken aback from the splendorous view of both the Atlantic on one side, and the Indian River on the other. At low tide, approximately 5pm, you can see the river actively being sucked out of the inlet. Jetties created by the outward current of water and sediment matched with the southward current of the ocean, draws your gaze to the stark color change of the water a few yards away from shore. To think, after its temporary closure in 1924 after World War II it had to be blasted open again with dynamite in 1947. Over several decades the jetties were extended further out and the inlet deepened. For the regular visitor this vision of dry land in this very spot is near impossible. Peering down into this outlet and into the Atlantic I can’t help but this what this area would look like without this inlet in place.
        At the inlet one can pay to enter either the North or South entrance to the park. From there it is up to the visitor to partake in a slew of activities; from taking a paddle on the Indian River to be among the docile sea cows, turtles, and even alligators, or one can stroll down one of their many trails to bird-watch.
        I chose to take a short stroll down a trail and out along the shoreline to get a different perspective on the inlet. Afterwards, I took my adventure on the road to the Sebastian River Preserve. With up to 60 miles of traversable trails I was a bit overwhelmed. After a couple of hours my wandering eye found peace on the designated ‘Red Trail,’ a 14 mile trail on the southwest part of the preserve. In the hopes of seeing a bear or bobcat, I trudged on through sticky mud. After a while I decided to depart from my endeavor without a bear or bobcat sighting. However, I was graced with the presence of multiple bird species and snakes like the sandhill cranes and Eastern indigo snake.
St. Sebastian River Preserve Pinewoods

            During the 1880s this land was home to multiple homesteads until the 1930s when Joseph Marion Hernandez was commissioned to build the Hernandez-Capron trail. This road was to connect St. Augustine and Fort Capron in present-day Fort Pierce. It ended up connecting Fort Capron to Fort Brooke in Tampa, Florida.  This land has witnessed much change from logging, ranching, and the blooming and wilt of the citrus industry. Envisioning all of these years of historic usage of these lands, it is impossible to ignore the strength and perseverance of the natural landscape to return to what we see today, a truly wild and beautiful Florida. 
St. Sebastian River Preserve Trail
Text and pictures: Caitlin Sawyer

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