Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Sense of Exploration

Note: So Blogger is being stubborn once again, and I cannot post the photos that go along with this story. I will soon, though. Also, this story has a really negative twist at the end. I did not mean for it to turn out that way, but it just did. I just stated what was on my mind. Thanks for reading!

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.


John Cowart said...

It's heartsickening to hear about the ruins being destroyed. But I'm so glad that you have the heart to care about such things. Looking forward to the photos when you can post them.

MinorcanMeteorolgist said...

Thanks, Mr. Cowart. I'm going to try to post them right now...Blogger is a real pain when trying to upload photos, eh?

R.Powers said...

When I was a kid, there was no 312 bridge, no highway bisected Fish Island and A1A in that area was mostly a 2 lane road through scrub oaks. We used to drive a jeep trail deep into Fish Island and explore. I remember finding a coquina lined well and coquina foundation one day. It was just there in the woods just as it had been for centuries.

I've wondered since then, what happened to it after the bridge and all the ensuing development.

MinorcanMeteorolgist said...

ha ha, FC, what do you think happened? I'm pretty sure I know...But I sure wish I could have seen Florida as you did when you were young. It would be really cool to find stuff in the middle of the woods like that.

Apparently, there are many amazing historical sites back in the woods in Julington-Durbin preserve. Prehistoric campsites, a Timucuan burial mound, some 19th century homesteads, and the like. I need to go back in the sandhill out there and try to find them...I figure that if people were there, they would be on high ground, not in the swamp. But guess what the plan was before this became a preserve? All of these historical sites were to be destroyed to make way for a golf course for the wonderful Bartram Park development I have mentioned before. I JUST LOOOOOOVE DEVELOPERS!!!!

Kristen said...

One yankee adding to the anti-developer sentiment. :) I'm a tree-hugger. Family from Vermont, and if that is not Yankee, I do not know what is.

I am visiting your fair State soon, camping, to enjoy the great outdoors.

I deplore the destruction of natural beauty and history wherever it is found.

MinorcanMeteorolgist said...

kristen - thanks so much for stopping by! Of course there are Yankees who hate to see destruction! My dad's one of them! I truly hope you enjoy REAL Florida. It is nice to see that at least somebody comes here to see natural Florida instead of drive right through it to *cough* Orland and Disney *gag* World. Thanks for caring.

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