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!


Two Very Busy Florida Blossoms

Wildflower photographed by Jeff Zablow in Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, Florida's Panhandle

As I watched, skipper butterflies came and went, each spending considerable amount of time sipping nectar. There were just 2 blossoms left on this plant. That did not matter to their skipper butterfly visitors. It was mid-morning on the Old Grade Trail at Big Bend Wildlife Management Area, in the Florida Panhandle. Northern Florida, very, very close to the Gulf of Mexico.

More and more I notice the botany of my destinations. Flowers become more beautiful to me. Flowers new to me are wondrous: How could I have lived so long without having met you, Seashore mallow?

Morning sun lighting them, a tiny skipper perched in the lower flower. There are no other human within miles, sun, no wind, no rush, no concerns, except . . . Gee! I’ll soon have to leave this OMG! place, maybe never to see it again.