Remember Summer camp?
Well, I've been getting a refresher course this week. The National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key has been conducting its first annual day camp for adults. They don't say senior citizens, but down here in the Keys that's pretty much an assumption. "I don't ask people what they do, I ask them what they did," one man said. We just assume that everyone is retired or "Quitired".
And now we are campers.
On Monday we went to the beach, which doesn't look like the expanse of sand you might expect. Here the beach is kept natural....ie mountains of seaweed... because it hides miniature shrimp that the sea birds feed on. The beach, as well as everything else on the island preserve is here for the benefit of nature. Which is a pretty good cause, right?
We also learned about seabeans that look like a miniature hamburger on a bun. The silly seed floats all the way to Florida from some vine in South America. Wait till the Columbians find out. They'll be stuffing them with cocaine!
On Tuesday we studied scat -- poop -- and passed it around like it was a gourmet treat. We listened to a recording of frogs like it was a symphony and heard a discussion of the importance of controlled burns to the life of the pinelands. Did you know there are some butterflies ( Barttram's Hairstreak) that can't exist if one plant--the pineland croton--disappears? So the preserve needs to plant this plain little croton in the sunny spaces at the edge of the pineland to keep that butterfly alive.
While we were waiting for our plaster to set, we went back to the "nut farm" and planted a tree which will provide a home for native birds. The ground is such hard coral rock here that we had to use an axe to dig the hole. Then we went to an old farm on No Name Key and learned about Sapodilla, a fruit that was grown here at one time. Looks like a fuzzy apple but has a white, sticky sap like gum.
It rained briefly in the morning, which the No-see-ums love, so they chased us all day off the beach and nut farm and woods, no matter how much bug spray we sprayed. But bug spray, sun screen and bug bites made it seem like the summer camp I remember from childhood.
We returned to the beach, picked up our prize paw print plasters, and headed home like smiling, scratching kids. Tomorrow is the last day of camp. Sort of the graduation. We're going kayaking. Can't wait. Summer camp is such fun.