Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Lime Sink Run Trail at Suwannee River State Park

'Twas the day before Christmas and so we decided to take a hike somewhere. St. Marks NWR was a bit far since we had waited until after noon to decide this. Suwannee River SP is only about 30 minutes away and we have only hiked there once on one trail so off we went to the park.

We decided to try the Lime Sink Run trail as it was the one designated as most "strenuous" and the one that took the most time (at only 30 minutes--lots of short trails there).

It was fantastic and is our new go-to hiking place. Once you veer off from the river and enter the woods, it's magical. Of course we had it to ourselves--it's been my experience over years of camping in state parks that very few people hike the trails. I'm not sure I have ever encountered another human on any state park trail. Of course this could have a lot to do with timing--I'm always there in the middle of the week when kids are in school and many hikers are at work. But I digress.

It's clear that the river at one time was high enough to run through this area. It's very hilly--much of it reminded me of the Eagle Trail at Three Rivers SP--and there is a deep eroded run of rocks and tree roots that has been carved by the water flow. Of course there is no water flow now.

But there are many pools of water deep in the woods. Some are as large as ponds, some are just large puddles. Some are clear, others are covered with algae. This was the first that we came to, a larger one with a clear surface.



During this hike we frightened off what we estimated to be about 100 wood ducks in total. Each time a pool would come into sight, the air would fill with wood ducks flying away. We got wise after about the second pool and tried to sneak up on them, but they invariably saw us before I could possibly get a photo.

Here's a very small puddle of water with green growth on the surface.



I was a bit surprised that we did not see any deer on our hike--maybe next time. There's not much green on the trees this time of year, but the woods near this trail still show some color, mostly from the saw palmettos.



Here's a view of where the water had once flowed through the woods but now only limestone rocks are exposed.



You may notice the strange coloration effect on that photo, with the bottom showing color and the top seeming almost black and white. I'd love to take credit for creating that in Photoshop but in fact it came out of the camera like that. I have been playing with the "dynamic range optimizer" function in the camera and had it turned up a bit, which may explain why it picked up the colors in the foreground and faded those in the background. The tree trunks are in fact mostly gray in color, which may also have fooled the camera. I don' t know how it happened, and only to that photo of all I took, but I kind of like it. Can't take credit for it, though.

We hope to get back soon. One plan is to take a lunch and settle near one of the ponds and be quiet and mostly still. We will still scare off the wood ducks when we arrive but eventually they would likely return. I'm sure deer and other woodland creatures come to those ponds for water, so patience might result in seeing them as well. And there could be worse ways to spend an afternoon...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Foggy Morning

Well, we had summer weather last week, but that came to an end over the weekend. It got colder and rained for most of Saturday night (great for the drought situation, though it's going to take a lot more than one night of rain to make any difference). The front yard was misty with fog on Sunday morning.



It was very cold and breezy today. So, while I finally have my #1 camera back, it's too cold to go paddling!! Maybe later in the week...

Friday, December 14, 2007

Cedar Key, Florida

I was camping at Manatee Springs State Park near Chiefland and decided to take a day trip down to Cedar Key, an area I have long wanted to visit. I knew that one day wasn't going to suffice, but this would give me a chance to suss out the accommodation options for a longer stay.

I had lunch at Tony's Seafood Restaurant (very good!) and wandered the shops, picking up a few Christmas gifts along the way. This shiny tiled statue and mural are between shops near Tony's. Behind the wall is a large pink tiled fish statue.



Then I walked across the canal to the various shops and restaurants and lodging on the Gulf. I decided it would be appropriate to have a piece of key lime pie, so I went into a place that had a back deck looking over the water (called "Ann's Other Place"). I should mention that we are having unseasonably warm and wonderful weather with temps in the 80's with soft breezes, so it was a joy to sit out on the deck and have my pie. Here's what it looked like--the arrow points to where I was sitting. The small arrow on the right points to the kayakers that are mentioned further along in this post.



So while I am sitting there sipping on water and waiting for my pie, with my camera beside me, two dolphins go swimming by in the near distance! Very cool. First they passed from right to left



and then circled around and headed back to the right.



With a bit of over-cropping and over-enlarging, I discovered that the face of one could be made out in one photo.



Shortly after the dolphins left I saw these kayakers go by, probably heading to a nearby island that is a national wildlife refuge.



I lingered at Ann's for a while enjoying the view.

While I was walking along the road next to the Gulf checking out motels and inns for a future stay, I spotted this dilapidated boathouse/fishing shed, which looked somewhat picturesque. As I tend to do, I decided to make it (almost) black-and-white for posting here.



I hope to get back to Cedar Key again after the holidays to spend more time getting to know the area.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

St. Marks NWR

I stopped here on my way home from a camping trip at Ochlockonee River State Park. I wasn't expecting much--last time I was here not only was there no water, but no birds to speak of either. This time was a little better, and I met some nice other photographers while I was there, one a newbie and one very accomplished. That's always fun.

Last time there were no pelicans in sight, this time they were lined up on the pilings.



I moved in for a closer view.



This park recently had its Monarch Festival. This is the tail end of monarch migration time, and this refuge is a regular stopping point for them. While most have moved on, I did spot a few here and there.



And of course the Gulf Fritillaries were out as well.



I walked around the now-dry lighthouse pond. It isn't completely dry, actually; there are small puddles of water here and there. And a few sandpipers in them.



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This great blue heron was crouching in a strip of grass in what used to be the pond.



I continued on the walk between the Gulf and the pond area to the end. This is the view looking back toward the lighthouse:



And here's what you see if you pivot 180 degrees:



I decided to walk back to the lighthouse--there is a fair amount of water in the marshland near it, particularly at high tide. These snowy egrets were in the grasses in the middle.



This lone egret was near the shoreline, along with a tricolored heron.



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I watched the tricolored heron for a while as it hunted for crawfish or other goodies under the water. Ah, it spotted something.



It goes after it



but misses.



It had better luck a few minutes later, though, after I had moved off a bit.

Three little grebes were swimming around. I do love grebes--so cute!



I then left that area and drove over to the boat ramp to see if there were any interesting birds over there. Nope, only the typical gull perching on one leg on a piling:



I was glad I stopped. You just never know what you will see when you visit this park. There were two bald eagles in their usual spot (too far for a good photo), with one of them swooping down to the ground periodically to gather something for the nest they were building. It's always nice to see eagles!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Kite Surfer in the Gulf

I just got back from a camping trip to St. Andrews SP in Panama City, Florida. It pretty much rained the whole time, but surprisingly, when I went to check out the Gulf in between drizzles, I found that there were many kite surfers out there. Some of these guys were being lifted VERY high up by the kites and they weren't that far from shore...seems like a risky sport but probably fun when it goes right.

So I got some photos of one guy (totally random, he was one of the ones closest to where I was standing) as he was lifted off the water. It wasn't until I got home and looked at them that I noticed that he was having a problem with his right foot having come out of the footholder thingie (can you tell I don't do this sport?) and for the entire time he was up, he seems to be mostly just working at getting it back in, which would be no small feat (no pun intended).

Therefore, the photos had a common thread running through them and so instead of just posting a few of them, I put them all together in a slide show. This is very much not my forte and I only have very rinky Windows software to do it. I didn't even add music. (It's not all that long, only 9 photos.)

Camping info and bird photos will be posted on the other blogs (Paddle Tales and Camping Tent Tales) tomorrow when I am a tad more awake and alert.

So here is our kite surfer with the wandering foot:

Friday, October 19, 2007

Lights Out

As often happens when one lives in a rural area, the power went out tonight for well over an hour. As I was sitting at the dining room table having my dinner by candlelight and reading a magazine (by that candlelight), it occurred to me that the candles were very pretty just glowing away on the table. So off I go to get the camera.

Here's my view while I have dinner:



And a slightly closer view of two candles.



And then the lights came on. One dog is presently freaked out by all this but no harm done. Just all part of living in the country.

Flowers in the Yard

We are having too much rain to go paddling these days so I am using the camera elsewhere. A few days ago I pointed it here and there in our yard.

We planted some October daisies earlier this year for the first time and we are loving them! A nice addition to the garden on the side of the house. We have heard that they will spread, which is just fine with us!



Here's a closer view of one of them:



Meanwhile, on the other side of the house we have some husk cherries growing for the first time. So far so good; we are curious about what they taste like and eagerly await their ripening.



Someone gave us some seeds for a variety of mums, which we set in the ground. They are blooming now and are very pretty. They are a bit tall for where they are and so we plan to move them after they are done blooming.



It's pouring rain outside as I write this, which can only help all of the above plants, even if it keeps me stuck inside...

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina

Just got back from a rainy trip to the Smokies. Despite the daily downpour, I managed to get out and about and get some photos (what a surprise!).

I got to the campground and set up and was free to drive around by about 3:00 (campground info and photos at Camping Tent Tales). I decided to visit the Deep Creek recreation area, which was nearby, and which had several waterfalls. (Here's a little something about the area.) I hiked up to Juney Whank falls, which was a good workout to get to a fairly minimal waterfall, but perhaps the drought conditions have made it less than usual.



I visited the campground there and made note of a few good tent sites, just in case I need an alternative to where I was this time (which was ideal). While there I also walked around and enujoyed the stream views.


That was about as far as I got that day, which was the only day with sunshine.

The next morning I got up and decided to take a drive into the Smokies. I have been talking about going to Clingman's Dome, a very high spot, for a long time. And what's a visit to the Smokies without at least driving through the town of Cherokee?



I stopped at the visitors center to get a map, and then continued on. This was the trip on which I was going to practice long exposures of rushing water, and so when I saw a river rushing over rocks, I pulled over and set up the camera and tripod.



Next stop was Mingus Mill, a working gristmill.


As I was walking back to the parking lot, I spotted another small water-over-rocks area.



Nearby was a trail disappearing into the woods.



I stopped at a long pull-out place to photograph this part of the river. This one crow would not move, no matter how close I got, so it ended up in every photo.



And then I turned the camera on the bird itself.



I continued on my drive. But the higher I went, the closer I got into the clouds, and the more mist and rain there was. I had this goofy idea that maybe Clingman's Dome would actually be above the clouds, which would be very cool. So I pressed forward. Unfortunately, when I got to Clingman's Dome, it was socked in with fog from the cloud that surrounded it and I could see nothing. It was cold, wet, and drizzly. The Appalachian Trail passes right by there and I was going to get a photo of it and maybe leave some sort of rock formation for Stacie, just in case she gets to this point on a hike some day, but the short walk to the trail seemed fairly treacherous/slippery under such wet conditions so I passed on that plan. I drove back down the mountain and back to the campground to see what I had forgotten to put under cover and that now would be soaking wet. I stopped on the way to get another bath towel to replace the one that was "drying" over the back of my lounge chair.

The next day I got out and about before the rain came, this time to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway. I was able to get some mountain vista photos.



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I turned around, not wishing to get back into the same driving-in-the-clouds deal of the day before.

I was too early this year for any fall color, except for this little spot along the drive back down the mountain. I pulled into the overlook and then walked back to get this photo. (It would be so nice if even one photo had blue sky instead of white or white and gray...)



Here are the rocks on the other side of the road.



When I got near the bottom of the drive I was able to get one more photo of the cloud effect that sets in whenever it rains.



So, while the weather made this a less-than-ideal trip this time (I visited this area last October and it rained solidly for 4 of 5 days, I sense a trend), I had a great time and enjoyed the scenery immensely. I'm not sure if anyone out there is patient enough to wait for all these photos to load, but thanks for stopping by, however long you stuck it out!