Sunday, December 31, 2006
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
As a ninth-generation native Floridian, I have an indescribable love for the state in which we live. In my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful parts of this nation in many different ways. But what I look around my homeland, I see my beloved native soil being torn apart before my very eyes. The greedy pillaging of our land, commonly known as "progress" or "development," has wreaked permanent destruction upon Florida's land and culture. It is vital that, as responsible representatives, the leaders of our community take a step back and look at what is being lost as we develop our land. Pick up a kayak paddle, lace on a pair of hiking boots, attend the Florida Folk Festival, and go see what true Florida is about. I am sure you will all be horrified by the destruction, too, after you seee what is out there being destroyed. If we do not implement tighter controls on development now, the Floridian heritage will be relegated to history books by the time my children attend school. I am sure you do not want to be remembered as the generation that destroyed Florida.
I had plans to go back out into the swamp and into the swamp with a couple of friends this week, but a cold has just come onto me tonight, and I feel like that sludge that mysteriously forms underneath large items lying on the ground for a long period of time. I have started to feel a little bit better now that I have taken some medicine to tend to it, but it seems that I will be relegated to the house tomorrow...and the weather's supposed to be so beautiful!! Well, at least this hit me after Christ's birthday and not before. I wouldn't want to be sick for that party!!
I really should be getting my rest if I want to fight of this sickness effectively, so I guess I must go try to get some sleep. I would expect updates tomorrow, however, as I will be inside pretty much all day.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
An Untitled Poem
O what this tree
has been through
over the years
of its life.
From age to age
it's had little
But the termites
have crept into
its sprawling limbs.
It is torn,
And every limb
felled from its
is a limb
torn from ours,
never to be
before our very eyes,
but we are blind.
The termites work
within the tree,
while we plunge
our heads into the sand.
They feed off
off of the tree,
and they feed off of us;
feed off our ignorance.
We allow them to eat
our bodies and souls.
We look to the Lord
with a heart
to find what is lost,
and our souls
will never again
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Durbin Creek: Dark brown water and lots of logs. Your typical Floridian swamp run.
This is the fanned-out cypress tree I noted in my story. This is much more impressive to see in real life than in a picture.
The swamp was completely dry except for a few sloughs that still held slippery muck. This is unusual, and we can thank the recent dry weather for the easy hike.
Okay, the brush we went through was a lot thicker than this picture makes it seem. It was interesting trying to maneuver myself through all the vines while holding a 6-foot kayak paddle and snapping pictures at the same time. Fortunately, though, Mr. Sarcasm pointed out, we did not run into any briars. Ow.
This is the open grassy area I was expecting to reach, and where Mr. Sarcasm is standing is nearly exactly where the ruins were supposed to stand.
We walked the entire area, but there was nothing to be found but knee-high brush. It was an enjoyable walk, though.
This is the HUGE cypres tree I have been talking about forever, but have never been able to get a picture with (thanks to that water moccasin that one time :-D). And I still didn't...I let Mr. Sarcasm be the perspective-giver in this one. We estimate this thing to have a diameter of 9 FEET, which makes it about 28 FEET around the entire trunk. Wow. This thing is easily thousands of years old. Do ya'll have any age estimates? Cypress trees grow very slowly, and it would take a LONG time for it to get this big. Do ya'll have any age estimates?
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Hmm, so that's...
3 Precalculus books
2 Very Expensive Graphing Calculators
Innumerable Amounts of Jumbled Papers
1 Publix Orange Soda
1 Cell Phone
and, last but not least...
This is what everybody's favorite Ukranian, Phil, thinks of Precalculus. Umm, turn your head 90 degrees to the right...I took the picture vertically, and I don't feel like taking the time to rotate it in Photoshop.
Dark with power, we remain
the invaders of our land, leaving
deserts where forests were,
scars where there were hills.
On the mountains, on the rivers,
on the cities, on the farmlands
we lay weighted hands, our breath
potent with the death of all things.
Pray to us, farmers and villagers
of Vietnam. Pray to us, mothers
and children of helpless countries.
Ask for nothing.
We are carried in the belly
of what we have become
toward the shambles of our triumph,
far from the quiet houses.
Fed with dying, we gaze
on our might's monuments of fire.
The world dangles from us
While we gaze.
Friday, December 01, 2006
In the dust of the river, the wind
gone, the trees grow still--
the beautiful poise of lightness,
the heavy world pushing toward it.
Beyond, on the face of the water,
lies the reflection of another tree,
inverted, pulsing with the short strokes
of waves the wind has stopped driving.
In a time when men no longer
can imagine the lives of their sons
this is still the world--
the world of my time, the grind
of engines marking the country
like an audible map, the high dark
marked by the flight of me,
light stranger than stars.
The phoebes cross and re-cross
the openings, alert
for what may still be earned
from the light. The whippoorwills
begin, and the frogs. And the dark
falls, again, as it must.
The look of the world withdraws
into the vein of memory.
The mirrored tree, darkening, stirs
with the water's inward life. What has
made it so?--a quietness in it
no question can be asked in.
Monday, November 27, 2006
I may go over to Mill Creek Cemetery, where a lot of our family is buried, and just see if they are there. It would make sense, because Domingo and Antonia did live (and die) on his father's land grant in Mill Creek (around what is now Bakersville.) But, still, what happened to the Pacettis at Tolomato Cemetery?
Please, if anybody knows there wherabouts of Private Domingo Pedro Pacetti and Mrs. Antonia Hernandez Pacetti, tell me. Both my mother and I are deeply hurt, and we want to know what happened. Thanks.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
I wrote a while back about my intentions to take a hike through the woods to see about some ruins I had spotted on a topographical map. And I told you I would post about it....And I never did...But here it is! I actually wrote this post a while back , but I just never got around to posting it......
Note: I apologize for the poor quality of these pictures...I just snapped them while I was walking, and didn't pay much attention to them. More pictures will be coming soon from my father, who is a professional photographer. Needless to say, those pictures will be considerably better. Now, sit back and enjoy the story.
A couple months ago, while studying a map of the northern St. Johns County area, I took a close look at what my loyal readers now know as one of my favorite kayaking spots (Durbin Creek.) I was very surprised when I found the mark "ruins" back in the woods off the creek. I did some research and found....absolutely nothing. So I did the only thing a true Florida boy could do: go and see for myself...After all, what's better than spending a day out in the swamp?! After months of continuous nagging aimed at my dad, I finally convinced him to go trudgin' with me. You see, he was raised in Steeltown USA (Pittsburgh,) and he did not have many up close natural encounters when he was younger. As a result, he is not too big on the idea of walking around in a muddy, wild, smelly, nasty swamp that harbors many poisonous snakes and gators. (It's funny because all of those reasons that he hates the swamp are the exact reasons why I love it!!)
I rounded up two other people, my friend Ben and my history teacher Mr. Sarcasm (no, that's not his real name :-D) both of whom seemed very eager to go on a little discovery mission. Unfortunately, Ben had to drop out due to other commitments, so it was left up to me, my dad, and Mr. Sarcasm.
We met Mr. Sarcasm at the Racetrack Road bridge over Durbin Creek at 12:30, and set up all our gear and other accessories, whether necessary or not. My dad and I set off in the kayak to scout out a good place to start our walk, and found it...only about 100-200 yards downstream...We would have been better off walking across the creek.
No matter, the plan was already underway, so we decided not to deviate from it. I dropped my dad off on the bank (well, really just a muddy quagmire between two snags at the water's edge,) and paddled back upstream to pick up Mr. Sarcasm.
After tying the 'yak to a tree, we set off into the deep, dark cypress swamp.
The walk was easier and much drier than usual due to the lack of rainfall this year, and I believe we were all thankful for that. We blew right through that swamp with no problems at all.
On our way to the ruins site, we came across this very interesting "fanned-out" cypress tree. It is hard to see in this picture, but the tree is at least 5 feet (maybe closer to 6) at the base. What could cause this? Current? When would there have been a current sustained long enough to cause this? I think we're all "stumped" by it :-D.
Soon after passing Fanny the Cypress, we came upon a noticeable rise in the land, along with a noticeable increase in the density of the vegetation. We pushed ourselves through branches and vines for about 50-100 yards or so, and came upon a piece of cleared land.
I know this land has been cleared within the last couple of years, because not long ago, it was heavily forested. There was evidence of tractors...but no evidence of ruins. We were all disappointed. After a good walk around, we decided that there was no way anything standing there would have remained after the tractors had destroyed the land. Who knows what could have been there? Maybe it wasn't that old...but what if it was? No matter what, it was just another piece of Florida history gone. And the land in much of these pictures you see here will be permanently disturbed or destroyed by the great "progress" of the Bartram Park development that is overtaking much of southern Duval county as we speak. I find it laughable that many of these developers like to name their wildlife-destroying business ventures after naturalists (William Bartram) and places in natural literarure (Walden Pond.) William Bartram and Henry David Thoreau are rolling over in their graves. And I will be too, when I die surrounded by yankees and condos, remembering what this state used to be like. Oh well, just another disappointment from South New York.
As you can see, my furry friends have been enjoying my citrus more than I have been. Oh well, I guess I can share. You can also see, though, how great the fruit on the higher branches looks! These pictures were taken at night, by the way, in case you didn't notice!
Friday, November 17, 2006
Well, tonight is going to be a cold one down here in The Sunshine State. We're looking at lows all the way down into the high 30s (stop laughing, counterparts in the north) with a possibility of frost in the morning. After reading the Hazardous Weather Outlook posted by the National Weather Service Jacksonville, I decided that it would be best to bring in my young Datils just to be sure they will be okay. I don't mind this little bit of work, especially considering it was cold outside and it was 11 PM (the only time around here when you get a little quiet.) So as I walked into our bakyard, through a few spider webs (sorry for ruining your night's work, my web-weaving friends), and out toward where I keep the Datils. This path takes me by the citrus trees, and I smelled a strong scent of fresh-opened satsuma...
FLASHBACK - Earlier tonight, I heard my dog, Kendall, chasing some critter in the back, but I figured it was just a squirrel (boy do I have a squirrel story to tell you!) I let her inside after giving her a scolding to share her territory with the animals around her. She gave me this look of "Yeah, right."
BACK TO THE STORY - Intrigued and concerned about the unusually stong smell, I looked down and saw opened and partially eaten satsumas strewn across the ground. "Ah dangit!" I said. My first reaction was of anger and frustration, as I saw 12 of our precious satsumas wasted. "Looks like we've had some raccoon visitors," I told my parents. As I went back outside and looked once again at the massacred fruits, I had a sudden sense of wisdom...
You know, these animals need to eat. They sense it getting cold, and, heck, who would turn down free satsumas! Now I really don't feel so angry at the little guys who feasted on my fruit tonight. Perhaps it was their thanksgiving dinner...a little early, but the holidays seem to be getting earlier every year, anyway. This little experience serves as a reminder to me (and now to those of you reading) that we humans are not the only ones living on this Earth. There are others we are sharing this land with - living creatures who have been here longer than we have...Creatures who want to live, too. Though I'm disappointed about the trivial loss of a few pieces of food, those satsumas may have helped some animals survive winter. And that, in my book, is worth all the satsumas in the world.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Here's a teaser fresh from Williams Bay, WI to all of you Floridians who feel season-starved like I do:
Monday, October 30, 2006
Thursday, October 19, 2006
The Satsumas are looking beautiful, as usual. I took these pictures just after a fresh morning rainfall (the same morning rainfall that made me sleep in until 9:00...explanation later), and they were dripping with dewey goodness. They are COVERED with yellow-turning-to-orange fruit! I sure would love to get my hands...er mouth...on one of these now.
The Tangerines are still green, but I am noticing some slight hints of yellow in some of the fruit. I find it unfortunate that the tangerines come in after the Satsumas, because quite frankly, they are not nearly as good, and after stuffing my face with Satsumas for a few weeks, tangerines just seem too dry. Nonetheless, they are a delicious Florida fruit.
One nice thing about the tangerines is that they often drop partially ripened fruit for about the first 2 months before harvest time begins. If you can get at the dropped fruit before the bugs (or your mischevious dog) do, it is a nice taste of the great things to come. Some people find this early fruit a little too tart, but I love it! The fruit you see in the picture below is just one of those droppings, and it is currently being eaten as I write this.
Now on to the Datils! They are looking good for the most part, and I do believe I will get many pods off of them next year. But just in case, I plan to plant another 20-30 seeds or so this January to hopefully raise my plant count to about 7 or 8 for next year. That many plants should bear enough of these little green demons to make 100 pilaus and gallons upon gallons of datil pepper sauce. It's always good to have lots of leftovers for the family...Especially in my family.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
One of the first signs of Warm Summer is the change that takes place on the citrus trees. Depending on the kind of citrus (depicted here are Satsumas growing in my backyard,) noticeable changes in color begin appearing as the weather cools and the days get shorter. Within about a month's time this delicious fruit will turn from a deep green to yellow to bright orange until they are ripe for the picking just in time for Thanksgiving dinner. The tangerines lag a couple weeks behind, and are not ready for harvest until around the middle of December. I will be sure to share the fresh, sweet, juicy, sunshine-filled experience I will have when I open up the first Satsuma of the season as ya'll are scraping the snow off your windshield in the morning :-D.
The second sign of Warm Summer I have seen this year is the increasing prominence of a phenomenon popularly known as the "dog box." This past weekend I was at my grandma's house participating in our annual Halloween taco party (I believe we are the only family on this earth that has such a party) and it hit me: Dog boxes...everywhere. You may be asking yourself What exactly is this "dog box?". You see, some people here in TRUE Florida take great pleasure in spending their Warm Summer in a tree stand waiting for a single shot at one animal. It just so happens that much of my family participates in the sport. Quite apparently, when a deer is shot, they do not lie down easy and die. They enjoy running around the woods, leading the hunters on a wild goose...er, deer...chase through the woods. Fortunately for the hunter, he has his faithful companions by his side just waiting to sniff out their prize. Once the deer is found, the dogs, fresh off their successful hunt, happily climb into their boxes in their master's pickup and enjoy sniffing the fresh Warm Summer air on their way home. I would like to make it a point here to say that I do not hunt, and I could never shoot an animal...though I will never turn down a nice venison steak or burger if it is offered to me :-D.
So there are the typical first signs of the beginning Warm Summer here in Florida...And there's a lot more to come. Enjoy your snow!! Guess what! Blogger's being stubborn again (what a dang surprise!!!!) I will post these pictures tomorrow morning before I head off to school.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Proof that it actually dipped down into the mid 60's at the HurricaneTeen household this morning. Believe it or not, it got down into the 50s yesterday! But back up the the 80s for today. Oh well, it is Florida. Oh, and yes, you know you like that hot pink thermometer receiver. (It was the only one on sale, okay?!)
Saturday, October 07, 2006
"The Confederate Flag:Should We get Rid of It? J.J. Johnson
- Posted: 02.20.00
Okay, so what’s wrong with me? In celebration of slain Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King’s day (week?) if I watch enough news, I should be out there with my black brethren yelling, screaming and looking to burn every free waving Southern Cross I run across. So what’s wrong? Shouldn’t I be offended as well?In a way, yes. I am. And here’s why:I had ancestors who fought on both sides of that war – which was anything but civil.Surprised?Yes, in Northern Mississippi in fact. Cousin against cousin. One man trying to protect what was his, and one who escaped slavery only to be drafted into taking his cousin’s land away. This little fact, along with all the arguments about Southern Heritage, Southern Pride and Remembering the Gentlemen who in died war gets lost in all the noise about why it’s so “insensitive.”…And I am just fed up with it.More than that, I’m fed up with the yellow-bellied, white guys who don’t have the guts to fight back on the issue. I know, no one wants to get labeled the “R” word. To politicians, it’s a label that’s worse than being called a liar, an adultorer or a draft dodger. And heaven knows, you white guys in the public sector better not even bring it up at work or in public. There’s a civil rights lawsuit with your name on it. Yet, I know how many of you – especially you folks south of the Mason-Dixon line must feel right now.Wanna fight back?Hold my coat for a minute…Where were these protests against OUR Confederate battle flag for the last 135 years? Why are these black people allowing themselves to be manipulated by the media and their left-wing, so-called "black leadership?" Whenever I hear a black person talk about this flag issue, I ask them the same questions. Do you know how long that flag has been flying over those state capitals? Haven’t you seen them there before? The answer from most blacks I talk to out west is, “who cares?”Not good enough for the National Association for the Advancement of Career Politicians (NAACP). Not good enough for these modern-day “Plantation Pimps” who can’t find any other juvenile criminals to fight for so now they retaliate by “dissing” a great hunk of American culture. This is ONLY being done to pander to black voters this political season. You see, back in 1992, folks just decided to burn down Los Angeles while liberal politicians mailed gasoline to the rioters. This time, let’s burn down a heritage instead.I hope some black person is reading this right now and fuming. You should be. If you think the Confederate flag is insulting to you, you are being used, or as we say it in the hood, you bein’ played – for a fool. By who? Not by those evil conservatives, but by the liberal white man. The ones who’ll take your votes, then tell you you’re not good enough to make it on your own.But there is no sense giving you the same argument many of the Southern Ladies and Gentleman are trying to give now. You don’t want to hear them, anyway.Let’s talk about “insensitivity,” shall we?If you don’t mind, some of us with southern roots are going to find every Vietnamese American citizen in this country, bus them to Washington, D.C. and protest to have the Vietnam Memorial removed from the park. Why stop there? On the way to Washington, we might as well grab every citizen with German or Japanese ancestors. With enough noise, we can get rid of that World War II Memorial, too. After all, These people all had relatives who were killed by the men and women America honors at those Memorials. You liberal, nothing-else-better-to-do black folks wouldn’t mind, would you?Yes. Let that sink in real good. That’s what you’re doing to these good people of the South. You are DESECRATING THEIR MEMORIAL… Check that – Our Memorial.What ever happened to Diversity? Tolerance? Must be a one sided thing.Don’t give me that “Symbol of Slavery” bull****. If that were the case, turn in all those 1, 20, 50, and 100 dollar bills. The faces on these bills were men who were leaders when many blacks were slaves. But let’s get down and dirty, shall we?The worst riot in American history was not in Los Angeles. It was in New York, back in 1863. You see, there were a bunch of people who, like during Vietnam, didn’t want be conscripted (read: drafted) to serve in an unjust war. Talk to your President about that. Over 1200 people died in just two days. Most when President Lincoln sent federal troops in to put down the “rebellion.” Oh, by the way, 83 blacks were lynched in those two days – right there in The Big Apple. So, which flag do you really want taken down?But since we’re all told to boycott, will those leftist, black elected leaders in South Carolina boycott the Statehouse while its in session? I doubt it. Will they avoid buying goods in their own state? Doubt it. Our forefathers who wrote the Constitution gave all of us a way to deal with a state’s policies we didn’t like. That’s what the South was fighting for. It was not about slavery. If that were the case, we’d be bombing China right now, and we would not accept license plates made with prison labor right here in the good ol’ USA.Oh…What’s the black population percentage in prison these days, anyway?The multicultural extremists can’t call me racist, but in the black socialist community, they have even uglier words for people who refuse to live on that “plantation,” such as me. Just ask Clarence Thomas.So let that flag wave proudly as a monument to the last Army in this country that actually fought for the Constitution. I am proud to have ancestors who fought with them. And for those people who don’t want their state to fly the Southern Cross, here a solution that’s much easier that protesting……leave.There’s a term for it. Its called “white flight.”
J.J. Johnson –
Proud Black American
Come and Join Southern Patriotism at myspace.com under groups
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
These are some more pictures from my Julington Creek trip a week or two ago.
This is the log that used to harbor a rope swing that everone who paddles this creek used to take a picture of. Apparently somebody thought it was too much of a hazard to boaters, so they took the liberty to cut it out.
Dark and mysterious...This picture represents what most backwater creeks of north Florida look like.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
This run is filled to the brim with turtles.
Around every bend, you are likely to see a
turtle sitting on a log or swimming in the
crystal clear water. We managed to snap a
picture of these three before two of them
rolled off the log with a splash.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
"Sometimes we take our hometowns for granted. For example, right now the leaves are starting to turn up north, and I would LOVE to see that, but I can't get up there. I'd like to see YOUR hometown or neighborhood or other scenic areas at this time of the year. How does the scenery differ from NC to Virginia or California or Texas? what about the different parts of Florida?
Would you all like to join me in a photographic meme of sorts? I know it's been done on other blogs, but it would be fun to do it again.Ask me in the comment section what you would like to see photos of in my area. Taking into account the driving distances, and other factors, I'll oblige within reason."
So drop me a comment and tell me what you want to see of my homeland (if you haven't figured it out yet, I live in North Florida) and I will post the pictures NEXT weekend! While you're at it, go ahead and visit Laura's blog (linked above) for a nice list of links to other blogs participating in the game. Enjoy!
Saturday, September 30, 2006
Friday, September 29, 2006
I found this...thing...on one of my citrus trees a week or two ago. I have absolutely no idea what it is or where it came from. It appears to be some form of insect larva...or some kind of worm?? I have no idea. If you look closely, it has distinct eye and mouth features, and when I touched it, it reacted very slowly. Does anyone know what this thing could be?
Saturday, September 23, 2006
So this is me in my period dress. Notice that I do not have the re-encator's infantry coat...I'm just having a hard time justifying spending $200 on something that I will only wear a few times a year. And just to clear things up, I don't usually have that smirk on my face. I just put that on when I am dressed up as such. I've got a couple interesting stories from today, but I am going to leave you hanging for now because I need to go take a shower. Trust me, after spending a hot, dusty day like today in thick wool pants and a wool hat can really get you feeling dirty. Goodnight.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
OH and about the title...My father is the treasurer of the Olustee Battlefield CSO, and one time he was talking to a bank representative on the phone to register some kind of bank account. When he received the first bank statement the name on it was "Old Lusty Battlefield CSO." Wow. I wonder what the people who we did business with in the meantime thought.....
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Friday, September 15, 2006
I've written about Julington Creek briefly in my previous posts about Durbin Creek. It is similar to Durbin Creek, but has more development (you can thank Duval County for that) on its banks. It remains a very beautiful and relaxing trip, though, and I always look forward to wetting a paddle in its dark brown, tannin-stained water. We set off from the Hood Landing Boat Ramp near Clark's Fish Camp (I referred to the alligator feed vending machines here, and they still remain. I need to get in contact with the game department and ask some questions.) It was early in the morning (about 7:15, I think) and it was relatively cool for the Florida summer, which made for some nice steam wafting from the glassy surface of the water.
Paddling downstream, the creek narrowed out and the houses on the noth bank gradually disappeared.
After a while, we came upon a house that caught my eye. This was a beautiful house that I thought looked like an old fish camp from the looks of the architecture and layout. A man was feeding some fish in the creek and we stopped and talked for about 5 minutes. As we spoke, the distinctive rapping of a Pileated Woodpecker echoed through the swamp. He told us that he had just retired from the military and was getting his life back together back at home. He spoke of how much the area has changed in the time he was gone (trust me, I noticed) and about his website, FishPile.com When I commented on how nice his house was, he informed me that it was in fact an old fish camp that he had bought for a very low price a while back. He said that he loved it, too, but unfortunately he was going to take it out and build something higher off the creek, because if a flood were to come, he would suffer great losses. I can understand his concern and can't blame him for protecting his property, but I view it as yet another sign of old Florida being destroyed. As we said our goodbyes, he invited us to come back and visit him again. Next time I make this paddle I will be sure to do so, and also to get some pictures of his beautiful house.
As we passed by some other nice backwoods-looking homes (a rarity in this part of town) a couple of men sat and played banjo and fiddle in a bluegrass tune I could listen to for hours. Soon after, we passed under the St. Augustine Road bridge and continued on until a log blocked our path.
Here's some more pictures of this beautiful creek:
Blogger's being stubborn again and it won't let me post pictures. I'll post the rest of the pictures tomorrow.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
I recently turned 16-years-old - apparently one of the most significant birthdays up there with 18, 21, and the over the hill 40 - and I was pestered constantly (by my older sister mainly) about what I wanted to do on that special day. Being the simple person I am, I told her "The family and a cake." And, due to the fact that I am one of the few people in the modern world who prefers peacefulness and solitude over large social gatherings, I tend to shy away from big parties.
I woke up Saturday the 26th, a couple days before my birthday, expecting a simple kayak trip down Juniper Creek that I had planned with my dad. This honestly would have been enough of a birthday "party" for me...especially considering how much of an experience it turned out to be.......
Driving down to the Ocala National Forest and to the Juniper Springs Recreation Area, we were both looking forward to what we thought would be a nice enjoyable paddle down Juniper Creek. The creek starts at Juniper Springs and snakes through the Juniper Prairie Wilderness, an area largely untouched by man. It is a perfect place to spot many different kinds of subtropical flora and fauna, and to "get in touch" with much of it. We had thought that since this is a fairly large tourist attraction that the trip should be a simple drift for us without any significant obstacles. We were the first ones in the park, and looked forward to a day of relaxation........
We set off from the very nice canoe/kayak launch just a little downstream of the main spring. The water is only a few inches deep, scarcely deep enough to float a boat. The white sandy bottom is speckled by little boiling circles of sand, from which water bubbles up from the Floridian Aquifer. We ducked under some palm fronds and into a vast subtropical jungle, floating down a clear stream so narrow that the kayak would not be able to turn around if necessary......
This is the very nice launch at Juniper Springs Recreational Area. You can see how shallow and narrow the creek is when it enters the jungle toward the left of the picture.
Our kayak and soaked gear after pulling out. Notice the palm tree in the background to the left. This is the only place I've seen palm trees grow in such a wet place, and I actually saw one growing in the MIDDLE of the creek farther downstream. Palms usually like high, dry land areas. It's unusual seeing them right against the water like this.
This is a water hyacinth. Though non-native to the area, it is still a nice looking flower nonetheless.
This is Cardinal Flower. This stuff can grow in big clumps in swamps and I have heard that it can grow up to 5 feet in height. Notice how thick the jungle is in the background...There was a constant sound of wild animals moving about back there. One quite loud and powerful we assumed to be a black bear.
Let me tell you that every single part of this creek is worth a picture. If I took a picture of everything I thought was outstandingly beautiful I would have to upload 1000 pictures onto here. However, the trip was not a easy as we had expected...3 things on the way downstream combined to make our day quite a challenge:
- The stream for the first mile or so if only about 10-20 feet wide. Our kayak is 13 feet long. It's hard to maneuver with that little room.
- The current is quite strong (I'd say around 3 knots), and it wants to push you into obstacles and overhanging branches.
- The branches and brush. We are used to dealing with branches and brush because of our extensive experience with swamp kayaking. However, the current and the fact that there were palm fronds EVERYWHERE did not help us much. We really got up close and personal with the trees and the wildlife that lives in them (i.e. spiders, ticks, and maybe even some snakes)
I regret the fact that I did not take more pictues, but I was so focused on not ramming into the next log that I did not have enough time to pull out the camera and snap pictures for you. However, I did manage to get these:
After heading downstream about 4 miles, we came to a screeching halt. A log, freshly fallen, blocked the ENTIRE stream, and a plethora of brush and trees blocked off any portage route. We had 3 options:
- Get out of the kayak onto the log and pull it over while sitting on the log, and get back into the kayak and continue downstream.
- Get out of the kayaking into the fast-flowing waist-deep water and attempt the pull the kayak over.
- Turn around and go back against the current, and make it all the way back or make friends with a man who happened to have a chainsaw.
While trying option 1, we got rammed into the brush that was piled against the log and turned sideways to the current. Spiders crawled all over us and the current began to spill water into the kayak...a very bad situation. After what seemed like an eternity of maneuvering, untangling branches, and swatting huge spiders, we paddled upstream about 20 or 30 feet and held onto a branch as we considered the next 2 options. The fear of losing our footing in the swift water and getting sucked under the log eliminated option 2. And for all we knew there could be another obstacle like this one farther downsteam. We opted to turn back.
On the way back, we had a few more worries on our hands:
- Paddling against the current was not an easy task.
- Breaking the bad news to all the other paddlers.
- Having no way of contacting my mother, she would be worried sick about us returning a couple hours late from the wildnerness.
- I knew t-storms would develop later in the afternoon.
The first problem was un-avoidable; we just did what we had to do. The second was the same as the first; we just told them plain out that we could not pass and that we recommended them turn around unless they had a chainsaw. Some of these people were families who had never experienced this before. God bless them. We were lucky in the 3rd regard in that, somehow, we managed to get a cell phone signal in a wilderness area where there was no cell phone tower to be seen. We called my mom and told her "uh...we're gonna be a couple hours late" just before I lost signal. And as for the 4th problem.....It rained on us once....and absolutely POURED on us twice...buy you know what? Not a single rumble of thunder could be heard. And we were very lucky.....And a good thing happened on the way back: We passed by a good 7-8 foot alligator who was nice enough to allow us to get close enough for a couple good pictures before slipping into the water and swimming by us. I'll upload those later.
We arrived back at the canoe launch cold, wet, tired, carrying a few ticks, and ready to go home. On the drive home I looked forward to getting a nice warm shower and taking a nap. We pulled into a driveway full of cars. I walked into the house to a call of "surprise" by my family and friends. My response: "Ugh, it's so nice to see you all...but...I need a shower." The rest of my night consisted of food, friends, and laughs. Wow, what a day. I loved it.I would like you to meet my friend Chris:
Thursday, September 07, 2006
I got my interim report card yesterday and I got 3 A's and a C. The C being in Pre-Calculus...that's the hardest dang class I've ever taken. Guess what I'm doing after I finish writing this post? Going back to study for Pre-calc. Oh well. You lose your life when you decide to study higher-level math courses...but I will need it for meteorology, so I better get used to it.
And my Steelers play the Miami Dolphins tonight in the absense of Big Ben Roethlisberger, who had an emergency appendectomy a few days ago...that poor guy has been really down on his luck this off-season.
I've got a couple kayak trip reports to post, and whenever I find time, I will do just that.
Thanks for reading,
Friday, August 25, 2006
I was riding home with my parents after visiting my family in St. Augustine, when my dad and I got into yet another discussion about Florida...Naturally this led to depression and a little anger with me, as it always does. My mom cut in and said, "You two are always so pessimistic." And I couldn't help but say "Mom, what's there to be optimistic about? Florida's gone.....It's dying." There was no response from her, and I know that she feels overwhelmed by the destruction also. And the last couple days has been just full of emotional depression for me, because I am seeing something I truly love being destroyed by outsiders....and even some of our own people...my fellow Floridians. How can they do this to our land?? I just don't see how our leaders, specifically at the county level where I live, can allow this devestation to happen. I have recently read the Durbin DRI and Isles at Bartram Park DRI submissions, two developments that hit particularly close to home for me, as it will promote further destruction of my favorite place in the world, Durbin Creek. Not to mention the fact the William Bartram, a naturalist, would be horrified by the fact that a devlopment was being named after him. Florida's gone forever. Forever. And I never even got to see the half of it.
Thanks for reading my rant.
Now, for the lighter side, I'm going down to Ocala tomorrow to kayak Juniper Creek, a place I've wanted to go for a long time now. It looks like it will be extrememly nice, as it passes through the Juniper Prairie Wilderness. I'll have some pictures and a story, I'm sure.
Well thank you for reading, and I hope to post tomorrow with my creek pictures.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
- You don't know what Chitlins are.
- You cry foul over the sight of a gator in the wild. Even if it's just a 3 or 4 foot baby.
- The sight of a brown patch on your front lawn depresses you.
- You feel uncomfortable telling redneck jokes, thinking that they are "politically incorrect."
- You don't know what the Bonnie Blue Flag is.
- You jump on the table at the sight of a lizard in your living room.
- You were sunglasses in the wintertime.
- You look at a river and see nothing more than a boat highway.
- You put sugar or honey in our grits.
- You don't know what grits are.
- You recoil at the sight of a "racist" Confederate Battle Flag.
- You're afraid to get your shoes muddy.
- You think a Gopher is only a mammal.
- You think "Cracker" is only a derogatory term.
- You build your fancy mansion on an eroding sandbar and then demand compensation when it gets washed away by a hurricane.
- You can't tell a rattlesnake from a cottonmouth.
- You think the word "drawers" refers only to a part of a dresser or desk.
- You think tea is supposed to be served hot.
- You think a Florida Cracker is a baked good.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Oh well, I have a test or a quiz in ever class today, so I need to get back to studying. I hope to post later; we'll see how much homework I will have to eat up valuable time that I could be using on better things :-D. Thanks for reading.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Last night was the summer graduation of the University of North Florida, and my mom was getting her master's degree in rehabilitation counseling. Don't know why she needed it; apparently for more money. Frankly, I don't think we need any more money, I think we need to get rid of some of it. But I digress. After all 806 normal graduates received their diplomas, about 6 or 7 ROTC graduates marched to the front of the arena to receive their commissioning as officers in the U.S. Navy. The leader of the NROTC of UNF began a short speech on their sacrifices that they have given to get where they were. When he read the words "These men and women endured the academic and phycical challenges of their training to defend the constitution of the United States...." applause erupted from almost everyone in attendance, and everyone stood and applauded them...Something they deserve greatly. When the leader attempted to continue his speech above the crown, nobody stopped. The applause got louder. This lasted for about 2 minutes until it finally calmed and everyone took their seat. How encouaging it was to see so many people appreciate our servicemen and women. After their commission was read, they began marching off as officers of the US Navy. From the silence there was a yell. "We hate you!" To this I have to say three things:
1. Whoever you are, you are lucky you were not sitting next to me because my first reflex would be to give you a nice little sucker punch. Even though you were a woman. I don't know if I would have actually done it (likely I wouldn't), but you WOULD have gonnen an earful from my grandma and me.
2. Speak for yourself. 98% of the people in the building just gave these men and women a standing ovation. Quite obviously, WE don't hate them. You do.
3. These men and women will put their lives on the line, just as all of our servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan do every day, to protect your right to say that. They risk their lives to give you the right to insult them. Whethere you agree with the wars we are currently involved in or not, they do not deserve to be insulted because of them
Well there ya go. I am going to try to stay out of politics, but I really thought that this needed to be written.
I'd like to make a note here...I love these storms and think they are among the most beautiful and awesome things on this earth. BUT I hate to see extremely strong storms make landfall and cause destruction and death. I add this because there have been times that I have been criticized by people who say I love to see storms make landfall and that I love to see the destruction (people said this to me multiple times after Katrina). Another story for another time.
The yellow arrows represent wind shear, which was extremely strong (40+ knots) and there is also a pink circle just below the arrows on the right. That pink circle encloses the center of circulation. As you can see, those upper level winds just blew that deep convection (high clouds) right off the circulation. I'll explain why this happens in a later post. This picture is a lot better when it is viewed in full-size, but Blogger likes to reduce the size of images when you add them, so this is the biggest I could get it.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
"Those of us with even a scintilla of Florida Cracker in our heart will see poignant similarities between us and the gophers (referring to Florida's endangered Gopher Turtle). We are both close to this sandy, old land and we may both be a dying breed. With the passing of either group, Florida will be the poorer." -Reid F. Tillery
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
1. My Datil Pepper plants took an unbelievable turn for the worst while I was in Chicago this past week. I'll post about that later.
2. I have to go back to school Friday. Not dreading it, but summer flew by.
3. I was just finishing up this huge post explaining seabreeze collision and how it affects thunderstorm activity when my internet explorer shut down. I'll have to write about it again and post in a few minutes...
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
These are the bridge pilings I wrote about in my prior post about Durbin Creek. I'm not sure how old these are, but it seems that these are leftovers from the old wooden bride that used to cross here a good long time ago. There is also some wood planking leading up to the water that cannot be seen in the picture. These posts are usually completely submerged (which would explain why they are so well preserved and why we have never seen them before this year), which gives an example of how bad the drought is right now. Since this picture was taken, the water level has dropped another few inches, and is showing no signs of rising.
If we were to take this picture at normal water level from this spot, we would be up to our knees in the creek. It has been completely impassible since March. It's a shame that nobody can get back there and enjoy it this summer.
This is the smaller of the two huge cypress trees that sit within a stone's throw of the creek. This one is set a little bit back into the woods and is visible from the canoe launch. It is 6 feet in diameter, which we estimate would make it at least 1000 years old...Amazing. Unfortunately, this one has graffiti written on the side facing the road, undoubtedly done by somebody who doesn't have the least care about Florida or its wild. Sick...And of yes, about the larger of the two huge cypress trees...there is one farther downstream that we estimate to be 9 feet in diameter (haven't measured it, but it looks about like 9 feet). That one has no graffiti on it because it's set back in the woods where no suburbanite would dare to go...except us. A perfect example of how isolation helps to preserve old-growth trees. It's amazing to see such huge trees back here, and it amazes me even more how they escaped the logging that swept through Florida in the 18 and 1900s. BTW...yes this is the first picture you've seen of me. And it's a horrible one at that. My sincerest apologies :-D.
Hope ya'll are enjoying the blog...And um...*grunts*...feel free to leave some comments.
Monday, July 17, 2006
This is a Roseate Spoonbill (Ajaia ajaja), characterized by its pink-colored hind quarters and spoon-shaped bill. I wish I could have gotten closer for a better picture, but he was way up in the mud along with numerous egrets and herons. They are common in south Florida, but the populations in north Florida are spotty at the best. These poor guys have gone through some rough times in the past; they were prized in the 1800s for their wings, which were harvested and used for fans, and their plumage was also a favorite in the feather hat craze of the early 1900s. A threatened species, they seem to be recovering, and have populations on the eastern coast of Florida and the Gulf Coast of Texas.
This is two trips in a row we have been greeted by dolphins! These guys showed up on our way downstream, a couple miles from the boat ramp, and surfaced again on our way back a couple hours later. Gotta love dolphins, they just love to play around humans.
Well, you don't see that everyday. These are two Army Corps of Engineers barges that are filled wish trash (some of which is labeled "waste oil"...nice to know it's just sitting there in our waterway) just south of the bridge. They are a part of the dredging effort that is ongoing in the Intracoastal. Normally, there are floating in the water, but at low tide, they just sit on the mud like this. Interesting site to see.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
I found this plant growing alone set back on the high tide mark...Some kind of orchid maybe?? I have no idea.
UPDATE: Thanks to FloridaCracker, I now know that this plant is Swamp Lily. I feel kind of stupid living here all my life and not knowing what type of flower this is. But thanks, FC.
This storm was brewing across the river as the sun set. Didn't bring anything but a little thunder to us.
Well, we're taking another trip out to Kendall's Prairie tomorrow, so be on the lookout for a story and pictures.
Friday, July 14, 2006
A big pot of Pilau, complements of my mom and a family "technique" that has been passed down from generation to generation for centuries. This popular Minorcan dish is delicious if it's made right...and it's pretty hard to make it wrong. There really is no recipe for this, more like a technique...Some rice, some tomatoes, some shrimp or sausage, some onion, some datil pepper, some water, and cook until it looks right. Delicious. Now it's made me hungry...I need to go get myself some of them leftovers.