Though I didn’t grow up in the country, there were some woods behind my friend’s house on our street, and we spent quite a bit of time there as kids.
Much of that time was passed in a tree house we built in some towering pine trees, but many times, I would go into the woods by myself. I enjoyed the stillness, which was broken only by chirping birds and the sound of my sneakers walking across the dried pine straw. It was cool under the trees, it was calm and as an only child, I enjoyed the solitude.
I was reminded of those times on a recent visit to the Cedar Point Environmental Park, in Englewood. It’s a 115-acre park that’s managed by the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center, and it lies right on the waters of Lemon Bay. The day I went, the afternoon temperatures were in the mid-80s, but walking along the wide trails under the trees, you would have never known it—it felt nice and cool.
The first thing I did was pick up a trail map, which was very helpful. The park consists of five miles of trails with traverse pine flat woods, marshes and coastal hammocks, and the map does a nice job of showing you where all the paths lead.
Right next to the Visitor Center is a Native Plant Butterfly Garden, which I walked through before heading out on the Tortoise Trail. Though that one normally leads directly to Lemon Bay, it was closed off near the end. It was for a fortunate reason, though.
American Bald Eagles have nested at the Cedar Point Environmental Park since 1992. Every September, the eagles return to breed and raise their young, and by April, all are ready to fly to their summer homes and return once again the next fall.
The trail was closed off so humans would not disturb the nesting site, but a viewing tube alongside the trail allowed for eagle watching.
There are several trail access points for Lemon Bay, so I switched course and ended up getting to the water by way of the Big Pine Trail. It was low tide, and a surreal experience to make my way through the mangroves (on a trail) and walk out pretty far past where the water line would normally be at high tide.
Lemon Bay is a Florida aquatic preserve, and with Cedar Park being home to a great number of plants and animals, there is no telling what you may see or hear when there. When I was tired from walking around the trails, I headed to a picnic area, since I had brought my lunch with me.
As I sat under the tall pine trees and ate, I was reminded of relaxing times under similar trees about 800 miles north of there and way too many years ago to count. I wonder if our treehouse is still there.
Debbie Flessner writes the Live Like a Tourist column for the Sun newspapers. You may contact her at email@example.com.