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The best flava rugelii site I've ever seen is also the scariest site I've ever been to.  Damon & Axel of California Carnivores accompanied me on a trip to the deep south, and we're talkin' DEEP South!  The site is located deep in the forest on dirt roads that don't show up on the maps, and judging by the lack of foot traffic, this spot isn't visited very often, or so we thought!  Being in a very isolated forest far from civilization has both it's charm and danger: one minute, you're in paradise, standing in front of hundreds of thousands of wild plants that are giant and thriving.  In the snap of a finger, you're in survival mode making decisions while adrenaline rushes through your body.

This site was recently burned, and there was a massive amount of seedlings everywhere, which indicates a very healthy and thriving population.   While there are flava sites in the Carolinas that are larger than this site, this is by far the largest population of flavas I've ever seen in the wild.  Literally, as far as the eye can see, there's a "river" of flavas that follow a gentle slope, much like how Darlingtonias are found in seeps:

Notice how they all grow in what looks like a river that's somewhat dried out.  It wasn't extremely wet at this site, but it wasn't dry either:

The usual suspects, Damon Collingsworth and Axel Bostom of California Carnivores:

Some more habitat shots:



I was surprised to find some very bright white S. leucophylla var. albas here.  We've seen a lot of sites in Okaloosa Co, FL, and very few had albas like this:



They weren't really eating much this time of the year which is strange because last year, every single trap was loaded with insects.  The flavas were also not very well fed:

Stunning beauties like this were everywhere, and they were gigantic!

I hear Damon and Axel yelling at me to go back and we had only been there for a good 15 minutes.  Granted, I'm always the one who wants to stay, but in this case I was like "Really?  We literally just got here, C'mon man!"  I stubbornly said I'll be there in a minute-for the love of Jesus, I had barely taken any pictures yet!   But then I saw them running at me frantically, and I wasn't sure of what to make of that, so I took a picture:

Axel: "Mike, did you just hear that?"
Mike: "hear what?"

We paused for a second and heard a creepy whistle that started out in  monotone and then ended with an upglide, followed by a gunshot in our direction!  It continued 2 more times, and worst of all, the sound was coming from the direction of our car, which was not close but not too far away.  I've done a lot of shooting, and it sounded like either a 12 gauge or 20 gauge shotgun, so I knew unless he had sluggers in there, we're safe if we're far away from him.    We did our due diligence prior to "boggin" and knew hunting this time of year is with bow and arrow only, and who goes out to the middle of the forest on a TUESDAY in the middle of nowhere?!     

Okay, to give Damon and Axel credit, they weren't being wussies because it was 100F out there and it felt like 115F, we were definitely in some serious danger.  Damon and Axel were about a 1000 yards from me and because of the hilly nature of the site, a lot of the sound gets absorbed  so it's hard to hear even a loud cry for help or gunshot nearby.  We were in trouble.

 I was pumped with adrenaline and in survival mode, and rationalized that there were two options: creep back to the car carefully while hiding behind trees and scouting the situation, or find another road and follow it back to the highway.  I have a 6th sense when it comes to directions and wasn't worried about getting lost, but we decided it made more sense to see if we can scout out the situation because without water, you're in even more danger.  IT's tough finding drinking water in an area that is as warm and hostile as NW Florida (it hasn't rained much recently).   

We all decided to slowly check out the car after a little bit of time had passed and the gunshots ceased.  As we carefully approached the car, it was still there in perfect condition and nobody was in sight.  Needless to say, we got into the car as quickly as possible and left at BALLER speed on the sketchy dirt road.  

Take home message is that even with a lot of experience and a good size group, people don't realize just how dangerous it is out there.  One second you're in paradise and in the blink of an eye, you're in fight or flight mode.  More to come, this wasn't the only gunshots we heard on the trip!


Edited by meizwang
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Thanks everyone! This site is on public property, and I'm now beginning to suspect that these were warning shots to stay away from the area. It wouldn't be surprising if there a marijuana grow or meth lab nearby...as a matter of fact, we did run into some marijuana plants at one site in Santa Rosa Co, FL! You never know what people will do to protect their operations out there.

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