Weekly “What is it?”: The Way

The entrance to The Way trail and boardwalk. Photo credit: Jerry Patee

It’s peaceful out there. At the end of the boardwalk, you can look over one of the few completely undisturbed shorelines in the Perdido Key area. Almost every time I’ve visited, an osprey or bald eagle has flown past, hunting for its next meal.

A bee gathering nectar on a purple liatris flower along the trail. Photo credit: Jerry Patee

Last week I wrote about a new trail in Gulf Breeze, so as a follow up today I wanted to mention a lovely out-of-the-way spot in Escambia County. As part of the class requirements for our Florida Master Naturalist Program, students are expected to complete a final project. These may range from a presentation or demonstration to school curriculum lessons or brochures on a topic of interest. Our main objective, as instructors, is to see that our class participants learned something new that they can share with others. Several years ago, one of our Master Naturalist students took on a large, multi-faceted trail development project that he worked on across all three primary Master Naturalist modules. As the trail area encompassed upland, freshwater wetland, and coastal habitats, it covered all the bases for our classes. The result of his efforts (and his many volunteers over the years) is “The Way” trail, located along Bayou Garcon behind Perdido Key United Methodist Church at 13660 Innerarity Point Road.

White-topped pitcher plants bloom along the edge of the boardwalk in spring and summer. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson, UF IFAS Extension

The trail was completed in 2018, but received significant damage two years later in Hurricane Sally. The trail was just recently reopened to the public, although one portion is still blocked off for repairs. This easily accessible 0.3-mile path covers an incredibly diverse stretch of territory in a relatively short span. Because it traverses all three of those habitat types, you can get a glimpse of a huge variety of interesting native plants and animals in the span of about 10 minutes.

The Way trail is a peaceful spot to catch a sunset. Photo credit: Jerry Patee

Among the more striking species are a cluster of cypress trees near the main entrance, their buttressed trunks and knees rising from the mucky soil. In the more open areas are carnivorous sundews and pitcher plants. The uplands, traversed by a mulched pathway, include saw palmetto, muhly grass, and beautyberry. Plants in the coastal salt marsh include dense stretches of healthy black needlerush and smooth cordgrass.

Native fewflower milkweed along the trail’s edge. Photo credit: Jerry Patee

Wildlife seen regularly include ospreys, eagles, snakes, turtles, and raccoons. A wide variety of interesting insects and arthropods make their homes along The Way, including crawfish, crabs, spiders, dragonflies, and butterflies. Monarchs usually pass through the area, as native milkweed is found along the trail.

As the holidays are upon us and the new year arrives, The Way trail is a lovely, peaceful place to spend time during this busy season and ponder the coming year. Go check it out if you’re in the area!


Posted: December 21, 2022

Category: Coasts & Marine, Conservation, Forests, Natural Resources, Recreation, Water, Wildlife
Tags: Weekly What Is It

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