Well, it seems this health kick is not tapering off, much to my satisfaction. I've continued running, slowly building up the distance, now around 2.25 miles. Still keeping my distance low as I'm working on strengthening my legs and feet, mainly my ankles, which is where the little twinges of pain show up. Not injury pain, just unused tendon and muscle pain. As a long distance hiker, I'm familiar with working up to greater distance, and know well enough about ornery, lazy muscles.
What's interesting to me is how I'm beginning to need to run. I look forward to it, and especially after a frustrating day at work, it's the perfect way of clearing my head and settling down. I'm pretty slow, but cardiovascularly speaking, I could go for much longer than I have been, now that I've been at it a couple weeks; mostly I'm past the point of having to really think about breathing right, and can relax and let my mind drift freely. I've broken through the first wall, which is pretty cool. I'm quite sure I'll hit my goal of 4 miles within the month, easy.
I also found a cool nature area where I can run some trails. Cym's new blog encouraged me to go take my own walk in the woods, something I myself have also been lacking. The forests here are flooded for half the year or more, so it sorta puts an end to that. There are a few places that have raised trails (grades, they call them), but I like to wander at will and so am not particularly thrilled by that. Anyways, the place, the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center's Alligator Creek Preserve, is pretty nice. They work concertedly to keep out the paper bark tea tree, an aggressive Australian import, so it's basically, more or less, what coastal Florida looked like for ages: mostly cabbage palmetto, with some live oak and slash pine mixed in, and red and black mangroves along the shores, and lots of varied undergrowth.
I wasn't running, just walking, having stopped by on a lark to begin with. No camera, of course. I was pretty amazed with all the wildlife I saw. That's one thing I do like about Florida, especially the bird watching. I started off with seeing an adult bald eagle perched up in an old pine snag. I've seen plenty of them in my time, and they're relatively common around here, and nest nearby, but regardless, it's always a thrill to see one. The sharpness of their gaze, when they turn it on you, lets you really feel you're being seen. A bit later on I spotted a raccoon picking its way along the mangroves by the brackish riverside, despite the noon hour. Then I saw separately two large alligators sunning themselves on their respective pond banks; in the 7-9 foot range, and beefy. On my way to the Three Lakes Trail (which irritatingly only has one lake) I saw two feral pigs browsing not far off into the trees from where I stood, a bit scary, as wild pigs can be unpredictable and vicious, though I suspect probably only if cornered.
Lastly, the highlight of my day, at the one lake, I sat down on a bench, and within minutes noted the osprey circling above. There were two; one shortly flew off somewhere else, but the other one went into a dive, crashing down upon the water's surface and coming up with a large fish, which he flew heavily away with. I've always wanted to see something like that, and though I've seen plenty of hawks and eagles in my life, only one other time have I seen one catch a living thing-- a low flying northern harrier which came up with a mouse or other small rodent. The osprey surpassed that for sure, in being much closer at hand, more visible and more dramatic with long, vertical dive and the the splash of water.