Mother Nature is putting on a spring show along our area rivers these days, and the Sopchoppy River is one of the best showcases for wildflowers. A great profusion of wild azaleas bloom along the shorelines, some with almost pure white blossoms and others revealing a deep pink. They smell like honeysuckle, much sweeter than the non-native azaleas seen in landscaped environments.
Along the Sopchoppy, especially on the five-mile stretch from Mount Beasor Church Bridge to the Sopchoppy city park, there are also brilliant white fringe trees in bloom and red trumpet flowers on vine-wrapped branches and tree trunks. In the wetter places, Southern blue flag irises draw attention along with spider lilies with their drooping white petals. In addition, all of the shoreline trees are popping out these days in various shades of brilliant green. The dark waters of the river are the perfect mirror for their emergence.
Of course, wildlife is extremely active in spring along the river. Red-shouldered hawks call noisily over the tannin waters and paddlers along the watercourse are serenaded by a great variety of songbirds. If one is quiet, deer can sometimes be seen drinking in the shallows, and on warm days, turtles, snakes and the occasional alligator are often sunning on logs, branches and sand bars. Paddling quietly in a kayak or canoe is a great way to witness spring along the Sopchoppy, although there is also a scenic stretch of the Florida Trail along the river on Apalachicola National Forest lands. For more information about the Sopchoppy River Paddling Trail, log onto http://www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide/designated_paddle/sopchoppy_guide.pdf.
For a taste of local culture, don't miss the 12th annual worm grunting festival in downtown Sopchoppy on Saturday, April 14th. Music, crafts, and, of course, worm grunting demonstrations are all featured. To "grunt" for worms, you first take a stob and... Well, I'm not going to give it away here. Come to the festival and find out. To learn more, log onto http://www.wormgruntinfestival.com/.
The worm-grunting festival kicks off Wild About Wakulla Week (http://www.wildaboutwakulla.com/), nine days of events that highlight the natural beauty and rich heritage of Wakulla County and its various communities, culminating with the Wakulla Wildlife Festival April 20-21 and the Viva Florida 500 activities in St. Marks on Sunday the 22nd. For all of you shutterbugs, I'll be facilitating the evening photography boat tour at Wakulla Springs State Park on Friday the 20th and Lou and Betsy Kellenberger are leading the Saturday morning photography tour. There are lots of other great tours and programs, too. I'll also be at the Tallahassee Writers Association booth at Springtime Tallahassee this Saturday at noon, so stop by and visit!
There are plenty of opportunities to savor and celebrate one of the most beautiful seasons of the year, but you can't do it if you stay indoors. If you're feeling a bit stressed or down, spend a few hours among the spring flowers and waterways. The beauty has a way of seeping inside.