Sometimes treasures are hidden where you don’t expect. I was on my way north on 301 to Hillsborough River State Park in Thonotosassa in May of 2016 when I noticed John B. Sargeant County Park on the left. Since I had been to Hillsborough River once before and had never been to Sargeant Park, I decided to check it out to see if it was worth visiting. At first, it appeared to be nothing more than a very popular canoe-launching site. Not having a canoe, I wasn’t interested at the time (you can rent canoes there, but I didn’t have anyone to go with, either). When I found out there was also a boardwalk that stretched out to the river, I decided to stick around.
It was along the boardwalk as it cut through the cypress that I made my first serendipity. In the shallow pools on one side were many brown fish. Some were up to six inches long. They had black spots on the sides and when their nearly transparent fins caught the light just right, they flashed blue. I watched them lazily swim back and forth for a while. A little further, the boardwalk came to the river. This was the second serendipity. The sun on the trees made a beautiful, calming sight while I was sat on the benches in the shade. Numerous tiny water bugs caught the sun and made it seem as if the river was made of sparkling water. There was a good breeze that day and I was surprised at how few flies I had encountered in the woods. It is also apparently a popular spot to go fishing.
Across the river were several birds: an egret, a great blue heron, and two anhingas in a tree. This would prove to be a portent of things to come when I found my third serendipity. The Old Fort King Trail runs all the way from John B. Sargeant Park to Hillsborough River Park. It is open to hikers, bicyclists, and horses. I only went a third of the way before turning back, but along the brook in the forest I saw a turtle, an alligator, and five different species of large birds (I swear one bird was actually purple!). Unfortunately, my camera then wasn’t worth much and all I got were pictures of what look like blurry amoebas.
Even the most boring stretch of woods can have hidden treasures in it that go unnoticed. If the giant orange butterfly didn’t dive bomb me at just the right moment, I would never have seen the large burrow at the base of the tree next to me. If one grapefruit hadn’t fallen out of the tree on the side of the path, I never would have looked up to see all the other grapefruit still growing. I also saw tangerines! The lesson of the day is that treasures are everywhere if you know where to look, and any outing can turn into an adventure.
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.