Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Spider Mama

B was shredding dead branches when he came across this mama wolf spider with a serious egg sac attached. 100_1964crop

Check out this photo from Wikipedia that shows a close-up of their eyes. They have a total of eight in three rows. There are two more that can barely be seen on the top of the head.


Now, that's the camera I want!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Simply Wild About White Flowers

S loves white flowers. When we first moved here, we set aside a space to be the white garden. As the seasons changed and the trees grew, it did not turn into the loveliness envisioned, mostly for lack of enough sunlight. But today, there is still evidence of my passion for white flowers. The pure white with just green, is fitting for the honoring of the Irish, so here is a sampling.







Erlicheer (Narcissus):




Petunias, ready for planting:


Wild Violets: the grass contains hundreds of blooms.


Violet with grasshopper:


Wild Cherokee Rose, just getting started:


Tea Olive--a favorite for its heavenly scent:


B's English Peas:


Wild Plum:


Dewberry Blossom:


Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Awesome Aucilla

It was another gorgeous, late winter/early spring day and we headed out this afternoon to make the most of it. The rains we've had lately caused us to wonder about the condition of the dirt roads that we like to explore. With the assistance of the DeLorme map for Florida, we made our way down the Limestone Road and Brooks Road to Connell Tram Road to SR 59 in Jefferson County. Only in one spot on Brooks Road did B get out and measure the depth of the puddle (and the hardness of the bottom) before commiting the truck and S to the voyage across. From 59 we went to US 98 to the Aucilla Wildlife Management Area.


No maps were available, so we relied on the DeLorme once again. We drove about 9 miles in here, all on dirt roads and met only 3 trucks in a couple of hours. The road is on a narrow dike through the swamp. Vehicles pass slowly and carefully. The road was good and it was good to see water in the right places again. The tannic swamp water was clear in most places and certainly flowing through the culverts under the road and in the narrow places and around rocks. Speaking of rocks, this area has LOTS of limestone rocks. Some are boulders that are washing machine size. This boulder is not that large, but for Florida, it is something notable.


We noticed that we had left the pines at US HWY 98 and this was a hammock area, with the palms and palmetto in with the cypress, maple, sweet gums, buckeye and a few oaks on the higher spots.


Many trees were still leafless and harder to identify. It was difficult to imagine how it looked before the giant cypress trees had been logged long ago, as evidenced by the cut stumps.

The buckeye trees were blooming and we found one growing from one such cypress stump.



The maples were brilliant.


And the Senecio lit up the dark water with its fragrant golden flowers. The light was difficult and the pictures do not do it justice.



Purple wild violets lined the road with a dozen or more blooms in a square foot.


There were some camera-shy wading birds and a few migratory songbirds. We heard several pileated woodpeckers. This hawk was regally perched, no doubt keeping an eye out for his next meal.


And B caught this yellow bellied slider sunning. We had startled several others from their logs.


We imagine this is a rough place in bug season and we hear the ticks get bad. Today, it was awesome!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

A Walk In the Park

Knowing that today was supposed to be an outstanding one for being outside, we planned a hike with a friend. The price of gas has spiked again helping us to think a little more close to home. We decided to explore the Elinor Klapp-Phipps city park on the north side of town. We have been there before, but not recently. It is an area of some 600 acres of hiking/biking/horseback riding trails, along with ball fields and courts. The day turned out to be perfect. It was interesting to see workers setting up for the upcoming Red Hills Horse Trials, a pre-Olympic qualifying event. Huge, circus-sized tents were going up as temporary stables.

We were able to find the bat box that was the project of one of our Eagle Scouts. After nine years, it is still standing strong. Other Eagle projects were evident in the forms of benches, bluebird boxes and trail guides.


We enjoyed the wildlife viewing platform where other than butterflies, the only wildlife we saw was this ladybug on the handrail.


We picnicked by little Lake Victoria where we were entertained by crows, cormorants, anhingas, ospreys (in a nest,) turtles, kingfishers, great egrets, great blue herons, and a small gator.

Along the trail, we passed this big, amazing live oak with all these large branches. This is ONE tree.


We also came upon this wild violet that was nestled in the space where two trees had grown together.

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Once again, we have come upon a lawn gnome in a tree hollow in an unexpected location. It was guarding a pelvis bone of some critter. We wondered if it was marking a geocache.100_1846

This stump appears to have all kinds of faces on it. My first thought was a bull with flaring nostrils. But I also see a precious racoon face where the bull's nose is.  And maybe a schnauzer with a really big frog in his mouth!---And, no, we were not trying the mushrooms!

100_1847bw Including our lunch, we were there for three hours. There were no other hikers. One car. One grad student working on her research project. One bicyclist. Two horseback riders. A few workers at the stables.

The solitude was good for the soul.

While the soccer fields were full of people doing (hopefully) what they wanted to do today, we were right where we wanted to be: enjoying a warm, spring day with a walk in the park.

Old Plank Road History


In 1846, two hotels were built at Newport Spring: the Washington and the Wakulla, to entice and accommodate the folks who came to “take the waters”---to bathe in and drink the mineral water for medicinal purposes. In 1851, a state charter permitted the building of a plank road from Newport to the Florida-Georgia line. The road only ended up going as far as what is now US 27 at Chaires Cross Road in Leon County, with a spur that headed toward Tallahassee. Its purpose was to make easier the transport of cotton from the plantations in the area south of Thomasville, Georgia and around Tallahassee, to Newport where it was taken by river to the port at St. Marks. Only boats with a small draft could navigate the shallow river to take the cotton to the port. While certainly an improvement over the shifting sand, the plank road was no doubt a bone-jarring wagon ride over the boards.

This was taken under the bridge at Newport looking south.


This one is at the same spot looking north up the St. Mark's River.


Though we have found no mention of the road itself in historical writings, since the road was in place in March of 1865, Confederates must have made use of it as they fought and tracked the Union troops who followed the river from the other (east) side from Newport to Natural Bridge where the main battle took place. The Union troops were defeated in that battle and Tallahassee remained Confederate, the only state capital east of the Mississippi to do so. This weekend, the commemorative re-enactment of this battle will take place at Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park.