January 1, 2019
The Matanzas Christmas Bird Count is tomorrow and I agreed to lead the count in the Matanzas State Forest. The person who usually does it was unable to do so. I had never been to the Forest. A permit is required to gain access and I got the permit. After talking to the lead Forester, I found that I could get a permit to drive on the roads that are designated for authorized vehicles only.
Two fellow birders and I went to the Forest the other day to scout. It was amazingly muddy. We did not drive on the “trails” that require the special permit. We had a lot of ground to cover and I said that I would come back with Regis and try the “trails” to see if any were worth visiting during the CBC. The Forest is 330 acres so we wanted to hit the best birding spots on the designated day to count.
The Forester recommended a couple trails would could only walk on, but would take us to the marsh. We did the first trail but goodness knows why. It was like walking through a swamp. In fact, we were walking through a swamp. Sue and I had proper boots for the adventure but poor Amy hung in there and got her shoes very muddy and wet. We saw one bird in the marsh. We decided to nix the wet hike for the CBC. At the end of the day, the car was as muddy as it has ever been including the car mats and Sue, Amy, and me.
Today, Regis and I went back to check out those side trails. I drove and turned onto the first available trail. It was a mess. But, I was in a Jeep and on a bird mission! When I saw the big puddle ahead, I didn’t think twice (or maybe I did) about driving through it with the Jeep. The water turned out to be MUCH deeper than I thought. I tried to keep the momentum going to get through it. We had our windows open to listen for birds and I failed to close them before the “puddle” or small pond. I was on the upside and mud and muck sprayed everywhere including inside the driver side window.
My momentum was stopped by a submerged tree that we did not see. As I came to a stop in the middle of this pond, I turned to Regis and said “you can take it from here”. I was petrified that we were going to spend the next several days partially submerged in this swamp. Of course Regis got the Jeep out of there while I waded through the water removing logs for him. The water was well over the top of my muck boots. Thank goodness I didn’t see a snake.
I was ready to go home but Regis felt we should continue since we came there to see birds. Of course, he may have been a bit wet, but he wasn’t full of mud like me. And, he turned the driving back to me so I could sit in the disgusting mud and muck in the car as well as all over me. But, onward.
There were several pickup trucks driving through the Forest which led to big, big ruts in the big, big, muddy puddles in the road. You could not drive a regular vehicle through this mess. We got through the day just fine, but I will limit where we go on the CBC so we can return alive.
On the way home, we stopped in Tractor Supply to get a boot dryer. I need the boots again tomorrow and they were soaked. We couldn’t find them at first and almost gave up, but Regis went to look one more time. He found the only box left. So, he turned into my hero twice today.
When we got to the checkout counter, the lady asked me what happened to the car. She said she noticed us drive into the lot. When I got home and realized I how much mud I had on my face and clothes, I wondered why she didn’t ask what happened to me.
I spent a while cleaning the inside and spraying off the worst of the muck and vegetation from the outside. Since I will be going back tomorrow, it doesn’t make sense to do more. I guess this week-end will be spent thoroughly cleaning the poor Jeep.
While cleaning the inside, I noticed that the mud sprayed clear through half the car but stopped just short of getting any mud on Regis. Really!
We have driven the Jeep in lots of off road situations all over the country. Regis usually drives while I hold the camera ready for picture taking. We agreed on the way home today that I get the award for getting the Jeep the muddiest it has ever been.
One last thing. As I was asking Regis about how concerned we should be about any damage I might have done to the Jeep by submerging it in that much he water, he said that since the water wasn’t coming up through the floorboards, it wasn’t that bad.
We are off to a great start in 2019!!