Who Stops at the Old Grade Trail?

Old grade trail head photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, FL

the Old Grande trail wasn’t cited in the North American Butterfly Association’s magazine article, Destination. It’s a realtively new feature that in 2015 introduced me to the Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, in the Florida Panhandle. The 5 units in the WMA were discussed, with trails maps and specific recommendations. Reading the article at home, I decided to work the Spring Creek Unit. It offered what I was hoping to see, during August.

When I reached Big Bend, I drove into the Spring Creek Unit, stopping at the entrance. A cadre of Palamedes swallowtails greeted me, they just stopping long enough to look up from the thistles, in between nectar pulls. That was enough for me to shout . . . Yes!!! Thank you G-d.

Next, the drive into the Unit, to the trails I had dreamed of back at the table in Pittsburgh. On the way, there was this humble trail sign: Old Grade. Now, who would waste time going down a trail given the moniker, ‘Old Grade?’ What butterflies, blooms and beasts could possibly be seen on this tired, old trail?

That’s what did it. See, my whole 19-year pursuit of butterflies has been done without guides, without experts leading me (’til Georgia in 2015, truth be told). I sort of (certified psychologists please resist the temptation to comment here) got used to it, and cannot complain, because I’ve seen so much, on the wing, on blooms, basking, hiding, mating, instars, and more.

Old Grade is not old at all, it was wondrous!!! I found Georgia satyrs, Palamedes, Monarchs, Black swallowtails, Queens, Long-tail skippers, Variegated fritillaries, Skippers of many species and much more. NABA’s piece noted that the best time is when the Liatris are in bloom. These gayfeathers were just beginning to open their flowers. 10 days later, would have been even better, but that was not the plan.

Do not, Don’t judge a trail by the name They gave to it!


2 thoughts on “Who Stops at the Old Grade Trail?

  1. What an excellent hike you took us on today! It so resonates with my own experiences of solitary forays along trails and through forests and meadows and swamps in search of the elusive beauty they have to offer.
    In my youth and early adulthood I traveled so many trails alone. I tried enticing friends along, but if they did consent to accompany me. they soon became bored and or impatient Wanting only to “Go- Go- Go” with no real purpose in mind than to get from beginning to the end of a trail. They did not carry binoculars or cameras or field guides, and did not care to dally when I stopped to observe or take a picture or look something up in my field guide. I soon learned that I had a much better time traveling these trails alone, even though it was very lonely not to have a kindred spirit who loved the same things I loved and understood what I was searching for .
    It has only been in the last few years that I have met and made new friends who have the same questing nature(pun intentended) as mine. The occasions I get to spend time with them in field work, observing and photographing nature and it’s flora and fauna, are a special time for us. I find I actually prefer small groups of two or three, as each of us go at our own rate, but motion each other to join us when we make a special “find” that we know the others will appreciate. Nirvana at last!
    And as far as new trails and old trails – I will more often choose and prefer the “road less traveled” because the more traveled trails are shared with others who like to bike or hike in nature, or are easier walking for young ones to burn off energy and exercise their lungs as well as their little bodies. These “trail-mates” do not often take the time to stop and see what they are missing – as the trails end is their goal.
    And with the words of Robert Frost echoing in my head , off I go . . . . . . “On the Road Not Taken”

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