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Trailmix: Outdoors news and notes

Outdoors poll

Last month: The mockingbird is Florida's state bird, but there's a movement to switch to the osprey. Which would you vote for?

>> Osprey 77 percent

>> Mockingbird 23 percent

Total votes: 136

New question: Which outdoors-related gift would you most want this holiday season?

Vote at outdoors.

Discover the Island

Poised at the mouth of Tampa Bay, Egmont Key has a unique natural and cultural history. The Egmont Key Alliance touts the state park's importance with its annual Discover the Island event, slated for Nov. 14-15. The $15 ticket (already available online) includes a round-trip boat ride from Fort De Soto Park to the island and self-guided tours to interpreted sites. There is no charge for kids under 12, but they will need a boarding pass for the shuttle. Only 1,200 tickets per day will be available. Visit for more information.

Stand-up paddlers draw up a poker run

The Sarasota Paddleboard Company, in an effort to turn more people on to the sport of stand-up paddling and paddle surfing, is organizing Sunday's inaugural SUP Poker Run at Siesta Key Beach. Participants can register from 8 to 9:15 a.m. at Gilligans in the Village, with the five-station race beginning at 9:45. Paddlers draw a card at each station and try to build the best poker hand. There will be demo boards on hand for newbies to try out. For more information, visit www.sarasotapaddle or call (941) 650-2241.

Big macks on their minds

The Old Salt Fishing Foundation's Fall King of the Beach tournament for king mackerel is Saturday, with the open-to-public weigh-in from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Madeira Beach ball fields, where there will be vendors and artists. See who walks off with the $10,000 cash prize. Visit for more information.

A peek at reefs

Dr. Heyward Mathews, the founder of the artificial reef program in Pinellas County, will present a slide show on local artificial reefs at 7 p.m. Tuesday as part of a lecture series at Mac's Sports (2126 Drew St., Clearwater). Another presentation, this time on coral reefs, is set for Nov. 24, also at 7 and free to the public. Mathews is an oceanographer who has taught oceanography, marine biology and scuba at St. Petersburg College for 42 years. For more information, call (727) 799-4326.

People | Jim Wilson

Age: 52

What I do: Park supervisor for Pinellas' Fort De Soto Park since 1999. Will celebrate 30 years in park service in January.

Lives: In residence at the park, a stone's throw from the water.

Grew up: In Seminole/Indian Rocks Beach area. Attended Seminole High and St. Petersburg College.

Best part of the job: The location. "This is an incredible piece of property. And I'm a beach bum; (beaches) they've been a part of my life all my life."

Worst part of the job: 3.2 million visitors last year. "When I say that, I mean that's the burden; being responsible for balancing the natural part of the park with the recreational use by so many people. We want to make sure the people are safe and have a good quality time. That's a daily challenge. Restoring habitat, maintaining ecosystems. We need to prevent them from being 'loved to death.' "

Hobbies: "I'm pretty diverse; any watersport there is." Offshore fishing, kayaking, likes to race catamarans, surfs any time he can.

Vacation: "Nowhere where there's snow." He has seen it once, 20 inches worth at a ski lodge in Tennessee.

Last vacation: Went to Hope Town, Abacos in the Bahamas for wahoo fishing, some surfing and plenty of relaxing.

Married: To Linda; will celebrate 25th anniversary in February.

Some day: Owns beach property in Panhandle, where he plans to retire. Then maybe get a small place in the Georgia mountains to spend the summers.

Right now: "A good week for me is when I don't see a traffic light."

On the park's popularity: "It's probably because of the diversity." The Arrowhead wildlife trail showcases the park's diversity, with so many ecosystems represented. About 316 identifiable species of birds have been seen in the park. "On some days there can be 10,000 to 15,000 people on the beach and thousands of resting shorebirds right nearby. We work to balance high visitation with habitat restoration."


{outdoors-related bits and bites}

The humidity is subsiding (eventually, right?), so you've pulled the tent from storage, ready to enjoy the cooler nights and clear views of the stars. Just be smart about where you pitch that tent. Wind and/or rain could make you regret you didn't choose wisely:

• Find as smooth and as dry a spot as possible that will allow for your size tent. Choosing bare ground or dry vegetation minimizes your impact. Avoid soft and damp ground, or putting the tent on easily crushed vegetation. The high spot on slightly sloping ground assures rainwater will run off.

• Remove any sharp objects that could tear or puncture your ground cloth.

• Some campers pitch the tent so the door faces away from the wind, but since this is Florida, you might want to catch more of the breeze if it's still warm. Also, early risers may want the door pointed east, allowing the morning sun to shine in as a wakeup call.

• Make the tent as taut as possible to avoid rattling in windy conditions. Use the guylines for the best stability.

• Check above your tent site for any dead branches or dead trees leaning your way. Old-timers call these limbs "widowmakers."

• Don't set up camp so close to a water source as to frighten wildlife that drink there.

• If the weather looks threatening, choose a protected site over a more comfortable one.

In the end, endeavor to leave no trace if you are camping in backcountry areas.

Trailmix: Outdoors news and notes 11/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 5, 2009 3:31am]
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