Day 2: Hike to the interior
Today’s post is by Lauren Kircher:
Our first full day could be termed highly successful, although we all learned to start bathing in bug spray. My current bug bite tally, as of last night, is 39. Some of us got a little sun yesterday, but today that wasn’t much of a problem. The rain this morning seemed to have cleared up by the time we were ready to set out for our inland hike to the hypersaline ponds. We geared up and the hike started out well. We did get to see some awesome mangroves that we will visit later in our trip to do some snorkeling. The extensive root system serves as a nursery for many juvenile organisms. We walked across Moon Rock; as the name suggests this area is very jagged with many holes. When tide is high that whole area will be covered. We recognized the genus Salicornia from the salt marshes at home. These reddish succulent plants are able to survive in the high salinity conditions we visited today. They are safe to eat and have a nice salty taste, so we all grabbed a small snack on the trail. We tried to avoid the cacti, poisonwood, and manchineel (plants with toxins) as it came at us from all sides of the trail. Some of us were a little worried about getting wet when we had to step through some mucky spots; however, we were soon visited by several torrential downpours. Nothing was left untouched by the water: socks, backpacks, notebooks. At one point I couldn’t put my raincoat hood up because it was filled with water. Sara and I topped the wetness off by standing under the waterfall created by the roof and thoroughly soaking the rest of our bodies.
After lunch, the there was still some chance of a thunderstorm so we postponed our snorkeling activities in favor of a fish and algae identification crash course. Later in the afternoon, the weather had cleared up once again and we scrambled to make it out in the water again before dinner. Dr. Carlile started off her first time driving the truck with a jolt (so did Dr. Kelly the other day). Riding in the back of the truck is one of our favorite things to do because it feels so great after being in the water. We went out to Rocky Point and swam out to several reefs. We saw a lot more live coral than the other day and more variety of fish and algae including blue tang, longfin damselfish, stoplight parrotfish, bluehead wrasse, Turbinaria turbinata, and fire coral. The colors of the organisms are unbelievable. There’s one seafan that is really green with a vivid purple edge. After our lecture this afternoon we are starting to get the hang of identifying things while snorkeling although we still come back and consult our field guides at the end of the day. When we got back to the truck, we had our first encounter with no-see-ems, tiny biting swarming insects. They come at you from all directions and you can tell they’re there when you feel small sharp pains on any exposed skin. While we were trying to leave the beach, and the no-see-ems, behind the truck stalled twice. We thought we were on our way, when the truck broke down on the side of the road. With the no-see-ems back, we wrapped our heads in towels to protect ourselves. The truck made it back with very little time to spare in getting ready for dinner. We are all having a great time. I am really enjoying learning to snorkel. We may never be fully dry again, though.