Saturday, July 26, 2014

Hiking the Cruickshank Trail - Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Tina at trail headThis weekend we started off by looking for an area that should be relatively dry during the rainy season that we’re in right now, and we found this trail that is just north of Kennedy Space center.  We started our journey by going north from the trail head, which would bring us around this loop in a counter clockwise direction. 

We arrived at the first overlook, a view of the Salt Marsh.  There are binoculars mounted on the platform, and it looks like a great spot for bird watching.  Just after this spot though, the mosquitoes were out in force and there just wasn’t enough of a breeze to keep them at bay, so we headed back to the truck to put on some bug spray.  No worries after that – we were good to go.

Tina on the trailTina suggested that we take the western path to begin with on our second attempt.  The lookout tower was in sight, so that was our first target.  You can tell from the photo that this path is wide and dry.  It’s covered with grass, and we noticed that there were several places where fiddler crabs were living right on the trail.

The view from the lookout tower was kinda neat.  If you open the picture (down below) and zoom in around the center, you’ll see the Vehicle Assembly Building on the Kennedy Space Center. 

Sneaky fiddler crabsJust beyond the the lookout tower was a crane whose job must have been to watch everyone who takes the trail.  He watched us closely as we passed by, and was still there watching when we came back.  What was funny to watch though were these fiddler crabs.  They were on a little patch of sand with a bush between them and the path.  If we peaked from the left side of the bush, they would all scamper to the right; if we peaked from the right, they would shuffle off to the left.

Andy on the trailJust as lunchtime was approaching, we came up on the first covered rest area.  This was a nice cool spot (well, relatively cool anyway) to enjoy a picnic lunch and look at the scenery.  We saw several cranes and herons out in the water hunting for their own lunch, and there was also a school of mullet patrolling the water right next to the shelter looking for something to eat.  I was surprised that they weren’t interested in the piece of bread that I threw to them (I used to fish for mullet with bread balls).

While this spot was a nice place to have lunch, it was getting too hot to continue our hike along the rest of the trail.  It probably would have been fine if there was a breeze blowing, but not today.  We headed back from here and decided to look around the area from a nice air conditioned car.

ManateesTake a look at the satellite view on the map and notice the bright white line weaving itself through the area.  This is a sand/shell/coquina road that meanders through the whole wildlife refuge.  The road doesn’t have a problem with wash-boarding, but there are a couple of small potholes along the way.  Overall it is a nice comfortable drive. 

We took the road to the end and then headed north to take a look at the manatee viewing area.  There were probably 6 or 8 full grown manatees hanging out here, and at least two juveniles that were about half the size of the adults.  This was the perfect spot to end our adventure for the week, so we called it a day from here. 
Natural salt marsh
View from watch tower
Crane by the path
Trail View
Shaded Rest Area
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