This weekend, as the rains from Tropical Storm Barry subsided, I headed out to look for changes due to the storm. There had been no rain for months, so even the 4 or 5 inches dropped by Barry would be a dramatic change.
I considered turning right and heading out to Cedar Key, but Barry was a minor wind storm. There probably wasn't any dramatic angry sea to photograph, so I turned left and headed to nearby Devil's Hammock ... a favorite spot.
The Hammock, which had been so dusty dry the day before, was nicely soggy, but certainly not flooded. I cruised the dirtroads for a while, but the air was so cool, a chilly 70 degrees, that I parked the JEEP and set off into the woods. I carried the tripod just in case, and it came in handy on this solo walk.
The soggy track (closed to vehicular traffic) that I followed twisted and turned as it headed toward the Waccasassa River flowing somewhere ahead. Being an old logging road, it was deeply rutted and the depressions were full of water from good ol' Barry.
I considered slipping my sneakers off and just wading through the puddles, but an abundance of poison ivy and smilax made that idea unappealing. So I walked the track when I could and skirted puddles as they appeared by slipping off the track and into the woods.
It was on one of these puddle avoiding side trips that I glimpsed a massive pine off in the distance. It was too big to ignore so I left the track completely and bushwhacked towards it.
When I got closer, I could see that the pine was dead, but still held branches high above the hardwoods, so it appeared to have not been dead very long. How it escaped being logged, I can't imagine. It's a magnificent straight tree.
Devil's Hammock has only been public lands for a few years and was a working timber land before it's purchase by the state, so it really is remarkable that this tree survived the sawyer.
When I actually arrived at the tree, there was a story to interpret. A massive hardwood tree had fallen so that it's V-shaped trunk straddled the enormous pine shaving off a huge chunk of bark. The impact split the main trunk of the hardwood, so it must have whacked the pine pretty hard.
Yet, it doesn't seem that such a blow or this relatively minor bark damage would kill a pine of this size, so the cause of death is still a mystery. No obvious lightning damage was visible on the pine but there must have been a heck of a storm to snap off the huge hardwood. (This was not a Barry downfall, the leaves were brown and mostly off the hardwood) It was snapped off high up the trunk and the fallen section was still perched atop the break. In the picture above right, I've walked up the angled hardwood tree and am looking back and down at the pine.
So the jury's still out on this mysterious forest scene. Did the hardwood kill the pine? Did a lightning strike kill the pine and then a windstorm slam the hardwood into it? Did the pinebark beetles kill this old pine?
I don't know, but I know this, I'm glad I parked the JEEP and took a hike into a soggy forest and ...
... I will be back.