Will sequestration hurt Florida’s National Parks?

Barring a miracle, Friday will see the federal government go through something now being called “sequestration,” a series of across-the-board, indiscriminate cuts to federal programs.

Sequestration was never supposed to happen, though.  It was a time-bomb signed into law to force our government to come up with rational, meaningful reductions before March 1 – something that now seems unlikely to happen.

If nothing happens in the next 48 hours, these cuts will go into effect, and they could have a dramatic impact on national defense, education, housing aid – and, of note for the adventurers among us, our national parks.

Florida is fortunate to have three amazing national parks: Everglades, Dry Tortugas and Biscayne. Like other federal programs, our national parks are scrambling to figure out how they’ll continue normal operations despite significant budget cuts.

Everglades rainbow

Everglades National Park | Photo used under CC license by Flickr user Photomatt28

The New York Times reported Monday that some parks have already begun slashing services – closing roads to avoid paying for plows, closing trails, reducing visitor center hours and closing campgrounds.

[Read more…]

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A Florida “bucket list” for 2013

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, and I don’t have a bucket list.  But I do like making goals (for example, seeing all of the National Parks) and I’m a sucker for a good list.

In that spirit, I’ve compiled a list of adventures I want to experience in the year 2013.  Some are things I’ve never done but feel like I should.  Others are things that I’ve recently discovered.  And a few are things I’ve already done but want to do more of.

Please add your suggestions in the comments section and share with friends!

 

1) Explore the Florida Caverns

Yep, that’s right.  If you’re not a panhandle-ite, you’ve likely never heard of the Florida caverns.  Located in Marianna, these caves are the only ones in the state park system, and park rangers offer “moderately strenuous” guided tours Wednesday through Sunday.  There are also opportunities for kayaking, camping, biking and hiking at the park – I’m planning on making a weekend of it.

Florida Caverns

The Florida Caverns | Photo from Florida State Parks

2) Swim at Devil’s Den in Hawthorne

Situated in the middle of an admittedly hokey-looking themed campground, Devil’s Den holds its own as a unique geological formation and one-of-a-kind dive spot.  The crystal-clear spring waters are almost entirely enclosed in a cave formation, save for a small vent directly above the spring (in the mornings, steam rises up through the vent, giving the spot its underworldly name).  Snorkelers and divers are allowed in the water, but no swimmers or gawkers.  It’s a narrow staircase down to the spring and a small platform from which to enter the water, so they don’t allow onlookers to clog them up for the divers and snorkelers.  Bring some gear and get ready to dive.

Devil's Den

Devil’s Den in Hawthorne, Fla.

3) Hike a section of the Florida Trail

OK, this is one I’ve done (in part) before.  But the Florida Trail runs for 1,400 miles, and I’ve not seen nearly enough of it.  The central Florida section is great for long section hikes, particularly as it winds through the Ocala National Forest.  And there are some wonderful sections in the panhandle, which make for great day hikes along the Suwanee River.  But I’m looking forward to getting out onto the southern sections of the trail in the cool early spring months.  Hiking along Lake Okeechobee sounds like a great February adventure to me.

Florida Trail

The Florida Trail winds all the way up the state and through the panhandle.

4) Kayak the rapids at Big Shoals State Park

Big Shoals boasts the only class III whitewater rapids in the state of Florida, and it’s calling to me for an adventure.  Of course, you can kayak or canoe the river and portage around the shoals, if that’s more your speed.  Make sure to call ahead and check the water levels before you go, as low water makes the river impassible, high water makes it flatwater paddling, and between 59 and 70 feet above mean sea level, it’s whitewater.  The park also has miles and miles of riverside hiking trails (maintained by the Florida Trail Association) with great views of the river.

Big Shoals State Park

Big Shoals State Park | Photo by B A Bowens Photography

5) Dive in Biscayne National Park

There are good reefs to dive all over Florida, but I hear some of the best are at Biscayne National Park.  I’m waiting for some warmer weather, but I couldn’t be more excited to explore Florida’s least-well-known national park.  The park itself doesn’t offer dive trips, but an outside company, Biscayne Underwater, offers daily snorkel and SCUBA trips to reefs throughout the park.  Located in the waters off Homestead, there are plenty of hotels and campgrounds nearby.

Biscayne National Park

The lighthouse at Biscayne National Park | Photo courtesy of Corey Butler

6) Try to find Fort Caroline in Jacksonville

Fort Caroline (the fort) was built in 1564 as part of Fort Caroline (the settlement) by French explorers near present-day Jacksonville.  Fort Caroline (the settlement) was the first French settlement in the United States.  The main defense at the settlement was a fort by the same name – although it was mostly ineffective.  A year after it was built, the Spanish destroyed the fort and built their own on the same spot.  Two years later, the French set the new fort ablaze.  The Spanish rebuilt the fort again (this was all great news for the Spanish construction companies), but abandoned it a year later.  Now, nobody has any idea where the fort is or was.  There’s lots of speculation, and a lot of people think they know, but archaeological digs and satellite images haven’t proven anything conclusively.  I’m going to find it.

Fort Caroline National Memorial

Fort Caroline National Memorial | Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

7) Make a donation to the Florida Trail Association

If you hike in Florida, chances are you’ve been on trails blazed, maintained or built by the Florida Trail Association.  This volunteer army of intrepid hiking enthusiasts keep trails marked, remove fallen trees, build boardwalks and provide information to hikers across the state.  They are partly funded by a federal grant but still rely heavily on donations.  Money is tight for everyone nowadays, but if you’ve got some extra bucks, send them their way.

Florida Trail Association

The folks who pave your trails | Photo courtesy of Florida Trail Association

8) Fly around in a hot air balloon.

Never done it.  Always wanted to.  Hot air balloons are one of the most peaceful ways to see the state (so I’ve heard).  Out in the fresh air, no noisy engine and nothing between you and the ground except a wicker basket and 1,000 feet of air.  Big Red Balloon Sightseeing Adventures offers untethered flights in and around Hillsborough County – a welcomed departure from balloons-for-hire in Orlando, the city with the most balloon companies in the state.  Flights at Big Red Balloon leave every day of the week at sunrise.

Hot Air Balloon Ride

Photo by dfbphotos

9) Check out the remains of the steamboat Madison in Troy Spring

The steamboat Madison was intentionally sunk in Troy Spring in 1863 to prevent it from falling into Union hands.  This Civil War-era ship is still visible to snorkelers and divers at Troy Spring State Park in Branford.  Troy Spring is a first-magnitude spring, one of only 27 in the state.  Better still, kayakers can stop by this park on their way to a number of other springs down river.  Before you go, read this fascinating National Geographic article about the Madison and the sunken boat at Troy Spring (which they speculate may not be one in the same).

Troy Spring Madison

Some remains from the Madison in Troy Spring | Photo by Phil’s 1st Pix

10) Hang Gliding in the Florida Keys

…And you thought hang gliding was for the mountains.  At Paradise Hang Gliding in the Florida Keys, you can soar over the beautiful blue water near Islamorada.  After you’ve been strapped into your glider, you get towed behind a boat until you reach altitude (1,500′-2,500′) – at which point you’re cut free and left to sail back down to earth.  Sounds awesome to me.

Hang Gliding in the Florida Keys

Hang Gliding in the Florida Keys

That’s our top 10 Florida adventures for 2013.  What’s on your to-do list for the new year?

 

 

An interview with Lars Andersen, river guide and Florida author

If you are even moderately involved in the Florida canoe/kayak scene, it won’t take long before you stumble upon Lars Andersen.  His name pops up all over – he’s an author, a river guide, owner of Adventure Outpost, lifelong Floridian and an expert in the natural and cultural history of north Florida.Lars Andersen

With his wife, Lars owns Adventure Outpost, an outfitter and guide service in High Springs.  He offers tours at more than 60 Florida waterways, including the Suwannee, Silver River, Chassahowitzka, and trips to Cedar Key and St. Augustine.

He writes about many of his adventures on his blog, and even wrote a wonderful history of Paynes Prairie in his 2003 book “Paynes Prairie: The Great Savanna,” which also includes a complete guide for hikers, bikers and kayakers.

Lars keeps a busy schedule guiding kayakers down Florida’s best waterways, so I was thrilled that he was able to take some time to answer a few of my questions.  He told me all about his interest in Paynes Prairie, his favorite rivers, and his go-to kayak.

Swimming the “world’s shortest river” at Falmouth Spring

There are so many things to do on, along and near the Suwannee River, I could type until my fingers fall off.

There’s hiking trails,  fishing spots, and miles and miles or scenic kayaking.  But the most uniquely Florida experiences along the river are at the many springs which feed into the Suwannee on its journey from south Georgia to the Florida Gulf Coast.

There’s the wonderful Fanning and Hart springs, and the slightly less lovely Otter Springs.  And further north, there’s Falmouth Spring.

The boardwalk down to Falmouth Spring.

The boardwalk down to Falmouth Spring.

Falmouth is a first magnitude spring, pumping out over 65 million gallons of water a day.  Unlike Fanning, Hart and Otter springs, Falmouth doesn’t visibly connect with the Suwannee; instead, the spring run heads under ground before eventually meeting up with the mighty river.

[Read more…]

An Interview with Marks and Joey Culver, Florida Nature Photographers

I spend a lot of time browsing the Web looking at nature photography.  It motivates me, and inspires me, and challenges me in my own attempts at wildlife photography.

So I thought I was used to the conventions of nature photography – that is, until I stumbled upon the blog of Marks and Joey Culver.  This husband-and-wife team are carving out their own niche as black-and-white film photographers, and they seem to love Florida just as much as I do.

Marks and Joey Culver

Marks and Joey Culver – Photo by Culver Photography

I was so captivated by their photography – and the haunting, antiquated look of much of their landscape photography – that I sought them out for a Q&A session.  They graciously agreed and told me all about their technique, their collection of antique cameras and their fondness for tree roots (yes, tree roots).

F.A.: If I’m correct, you each took a very different route to Florida.  Marks, you were born here, and Joey, you were born in the Netherlands and raised in Africa.  How do you think that changes your perspective on the landscape?

Marks: Yes I was born here in the town of Holly Hill, Fla. My family settled here in the early ’30s. They owned a chicken and cattle ranch, along with a citrus grove. My dad died when I was 7 so I became a farm hand then. My grandparents raised me. Always being in the woods and on the farm gave me a different look on life. Everywhere you looked there was something different. You appreciate that the woods and land,  will take care of you if you take care of them. So, whenever there was free time my grandfather would drag out his cameras and off we’d go. He bought for me my first camera when I was about 9 or 10 years old. From then on I was a camera junkie.

[Read more…]

A hike through Torreya State Park (Florida Trailblazer Guest Post)

I’m so happy to have a fellow Florida hiker guest posting today.  The Florida Trailblazer has been hiking the backwoods of the Sunshine State for a few years now, and, like the rest of us, loves the history, geography, ecosystems and wildlife that make Florida so unique.  I first met up with him on Twitter and eventually made my way to his amazing YouTube channel, which is chock full of videos from hikes on the Florida Trail and state parks.  

Today, he’s writing about Torreya State Park in the Florida Panhandle.  Let him know what you think in the comments section.  And be sure to check out the Florida Trailblazer on Twitter, YouTube and at his blog.  You can also email him at o_rionstarr(at)yahoo.com.  Enjoy!

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Torreya State Park

Photo by Florida Trailblazer

One of the most beautiful and unique State Parks in Florida that I have had the opportunity to explore is Torreya State Park in Florida’s panhandle. The park is named for an extremely rare species of Torreya tree that only grows on the bluffs along the Apalachicola River. This magnificent place is located 15 miles south of Chattahoochee and 13 miles north of Bristol off of State Road 12 on County Road 1641. The High bluffs overlooking the Apalachicola River and Torreya trees are just a couple of the intriguing features there that you’ll discover. The park sits on 12,000 acres of river swamps, high pinelands, extensive ravines and high bluffs along the Apalachicola river. This area has one of the most variable terrains of any in Florida.

It was early morning, the skies were clear and the sun was shining through the trees. The temperature was a cool 45 degrees when we started out. It was autumn and we couldn’t have picked a better time to see this place! It was a stunning array of colored foliage.

Torreya State Park Joe Dunn

Trailhead at the picnic area | Photo by Florida Trailblazer

I’ve never seen so many fall colors in Florida and when you combine that with the terrain, you don’t feel like your in Florida at all!  Once you enter the park, drive past the gate entrance and pay at the self pay station which is only $2. Now that you are in the park it’s time to find some trails and begin exploring! You have some options here as to what trailhead to begin at, as there are a few. As soon as you enter there is a trailhead, however there is no parking available. Continue down the road to the picnic area on the right, or keep driving until you get to the historical Gregory House. On this particular hike we started at the picnic area trailhead for a blue connector trail.

After hiking through the bluffs, ravines and shaded forests we began to hike back up in elevation into the upland pine forest areas. What spectacular views here! We saw deer and plenty of birds in this part. This area of prairie is mixed with grasses and tall pine trees. It’s here where you’ll see cotton plants as well. An old cotton warehouse once stood along the river within the park – a reminder of the days when the cotton industry helped feed the area’s economy.

Torreya State Park

Photo by Florida Trailblazer

You’ll mostly hike on flat level terrain through here and notice off into the distance the surrounding border of trees and forests where you just came out of. Since it’s so open, it’s nice to take in the fresh air and sunshine. It is so relaxing and quiet here. As you cross through this area the trail lead you out to a paved road. This is the park road you drove in on, notice the entry gate here as well. By this time the temperature had climbed up to around 70 degrees and the weather was absolutely perfect.When leaving the stone bridge you begin to hike up in elevation.  We were now on the main orange seven mile loop trail that meanders through the park and is maintained by The Florida Trail Association.

Further along we ran into a blue blazed trail that connects to the “Torreya Challenge Trail”. This part of the forest is extremely hilly so be prepared for climbing up and down as you cross over streams and ridges. I only got to explore a little part of the Torreya Challenge Trail on this trip so I am looking forward to checking more of it out on the next visit. The trail starts off as a wide multi-use trail and you begin to traverse down in elevation as you near a ravine. We hiked down this part until we reached an old stone bridge that crosses a ravine. It is part of the main orange blazed trail on your left around the bend. The stone bridge was the first scenic feature of the hike. We couldn’t resist to stop here for a break to take photos and videos.

The stone bridge was built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). This State Park is one of the first in Florida that the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) helped develop.  Truly, this is a must see!  It just has an old rustic feel and I felt transported to another time and place. The ravine, stones and hilly pine forest beside it gives you this impression. You can feel the history here. Walk down the side of the bridge by the water and notice the ravine and rugged terrain as you look up. The water levels were low when I was here, but I’m sure they are higher during the wet season.  From the carved ravine you notice how high water levels have been in the past. Since the water levels were low, I took a walk under the bridge to get another perspective. I took this opportunity to take tons of photos and videos before moving on.

Torreya State Park

Rock bluffs | Photo by Florida Trailblazer

For this hike we continued on the main orange trail and this lead us south toward the front entrance gate. Upon entering, we were instantly surrounded by shaded hardwood hammocks. The trail is a single narrow path and is really well maintained. You’ll hike up and down over bluffs as you cross several creeks and wooden bridges over the ravines. Notice the geography here as you look at the surrounding bluffs and ravines. You can clearly see how the land has been carved out here. I could see the land sloping down back into the Earth. The place will have you marveling in wonder as you observe the terrain.

After taking a small break we continued on the main orange trail which dipped back into the forest, heading southwest. Upon exiting the upland pine forest area, we were immediately confronted with tall rocky ledges.  We took some time to explore the amazing structures and peer down from the high bluffs. The area reminded us of  the US Southwest which includes desert and canyons. When I stood at the bottom of the bluff I couldn’t help but think that it resembled a mini-canyon.

 

We continued along the trail and eventually came upon the Rock Bluffs primitive camping area. Along this part of the trail it’s very rigorous as you climb stairwells ascending into high rock bluffs. I was really taken back by this geography, it isn’t very common in Florida. I remember feeling like I was hiking in a mountain wilderness. We encountered high cliffs and rock ledges overlooking rim swamps which is nothing I’ve encountered along other parts of the Florida Trail. Along the rim swamps we continued and peered down into a meadow of green grasses and cypress trees. It was breathtaking!

Along the high bluffs you begin to see the Apalachicola River, get ready for some truly amazing views! From this area you’ll hike down from the surrounding bluffs toward the shoreline of the Apalachicola River. The trail will lead you along the river banks and I noticed the calm and beautiful water. The Apalachicola River starts high above Atlanta, Ga., in the Appalachian Mountains and flows all the way down and exits into the Gulf of Mexico.

As you hike down along the shore of the river, look up on the other side of the trail. You’ll notice the high ridges that you just came down from. Look at the very top of the cliff and you will spot the Gregory House. The Gregory House, which originally sat across the river at Ocheesee Landing, was built around 1849 by planter Jason Gregory. After the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, the plantation fell into decline. The house was donated to the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1935. One of the many projects that the CCC tackled at Torreya Park was moving and rebuilding the Gregory House. We continued along the shore and began the strenuous hike back up, we couldn’t wait to see this beautiful house up close. You’ll see a blue blazed trail off of the Orange trail, but don’t worry there is a sign and this will lead you to the house.

As we hiked along the blue blazed trail, we came across some old Confederate gun pits. You won’t find any weapons or guns here but simply markers indicating where they once were positioned. Some literature explains that this area provides high open views of the river, so during the Civil War this was a critical defense point. When Florida seceded from the Union in 1861, the Apalachicola River was a vital transportation artery. The river provided access to vital Southern industrial centers and one of the most prosperous plantation belts in the Confederacy. Part of the Union strategy was to blockade the Southern coastline, choking off commerce and slowly strangling the Confederacy to death. Rivers like Apalachicola could then be used to access the interior of Florida. The Confederates responded by fortifying streams and placing heavy cannons along their banks.  Following their evacuation of the City of Apalachicola in 1862, Southern troops built a series of batteries for heavy artillery along the river. One of these was built in 1863, at Battery or Neal’s Bluff in what is now Torreya State Park.

Torreya State Park

Gun pit area | Photo by Florida Trailblazer

After you pass this area you will come out to a trailhead and you see the the marvelous Gregory House. In 1935 the CCC moved the house to it’s current location and restored it, thinking it could be used as a small hotel. It is no longer a hotel, but they do offer tours. The day we arrived they were renovating it, but we were able to peer into the windows and admire it’s beauty. Be sure to take a break and enjoy the benches on the lawn, they overlook the river below. I remember sitting here and reflecting upon this place and taking in the spectacular view. I could imagine amazing sunsets here!

Torreya State Park

The Gregory House | Photo by Florida Trailblazer

Torreya State Park

The view from behind the Gregory House | Photo by Florida Trailblazer

We walked back over to the blue trailhead and started our descent. We went back down into the ravines and onto the main orange trail once again. We hiked through a portion of the trail that is bottom-land swamp that consisted of vast shades of green foliage and had a tropical feel.  We stumbled upon a blue blazed trail that leads to Rock Creek Primitive Camp and encountered a fellow hiker.  We followed the trail back around to complete the main orange loop trail. At this point we knew we had limited daylight since it was Autumn and the sun sets around 5:30pm, but I really wanted to keep exploring! The park closes at sunset but another amazing fact is that the park borders the central and eastern time zones.  As we were are hiking the trails, we had a chance to “go back in time”.  It was quite a unique experience, and fortunately my iPhone was able to keep updated by using it’s GPS to sync the time.

Torreya State Park

Searching for a Geocache | Photo by Florida Trailblazer

We couldn’t resist so we followed the main orange trail back to the blue connector that links to “Torreya Challenge”.  As an avid geo-cacher I wanted to locate the Torreya State Park geocache. There are 9 State Parks that have a hidden cache and if found, allows you to locate clues for a puzzle.  I’ve located a majority of them and am looking forward to when I can complete the mission and earn my CCC Geo-coin.  It took some time and patience but we were able to locate it and sign into it’s log, another reminder that we were once here. We packed up and prepared for the drive out, but I couldn’t help but feel like I had missed something and that I wasn’t ready to leave. That tells me this was an excellent hiking experience because it leaves you with the feeling of wanting more. This park will keep you coming back because there is so much to see and explore. I am thankful for the opportunity to experience what this wonderful park has to offer . I would love to come back and camp at one of the sites. I am glad to have shared this experience and I hope it inspires you to go out and enjoy this park!

To see even more awesome photos and videos of Florida Trailblazer’s hike through Torreya State Park, check out his blog!

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If you’d like to guest post or review a trail, campground or paddle, we’d love to hear from you.  You can email us at FlaAdventurer(at)gmail.com

Into the depths of the Devil’s Millhopper

Florida is really, really flat.

I know you know.  But sometimes you see something that, by its very un-flatness, reminds you of just how flat everything else is around here.

And that something, in this case, is the Devil’s Millhopper sink hole in Alachua County.

Devil's Millhopper Stairs

Stairs descend into its depths.

The sink hole is part of Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park (the only geological park in the state).  And I know what you’re thinking – Don’t we hate sink holes?  Aren’t they those things that swallow houses and insurance companies refuse to pay for? – and you’re right for the most post part.

But this sink hole is big, and old, and cool.

In fact, it’s very big.  The sinkhole is deep – 117 feet.  If you were to lower the Statue of Liberty into the sinkhole, you wouldn’t be able to see… well, you wouldn’t be able to see her knees.  Maybe that’s a bad example.

But you could comfortably fit an 11-story building into the sinkhole, which could come in handy next time you need to hide an 11-story building.

Devil's Millhopper Stairs

The park has built a wonderful staircase down into the sinkhole (232 steps), and being at the bottom of a deep sinkhole is an interesting experience.  Once you’ve reached the bottom, you are entirely surrounded by exposed limestone.  A dozen springs empty into the sinkhole from all around you, so that water (albeit modest amounts) cascade into the sinkhole all around you.

Everyone I talked to agree that it has a decidedly Jurassic Park feel to it.  It’s so lush, and so deep, and the sound of the water is so hypnotic that it’s quite easy to forget that you’re in Gainesville.  It’s also a bit cooler than at the surface.  In fact, I’d quite like to camp down there if it was allowed (or if nobody was looking).

Things to do at Devil’s Millhopper:

Besides the sink hole itself, there really are only two things to do.

The first is the education center.  With a ranger on staff, a video on loop and several informational displays, it’s enough to keep you occupied for a few minutes and it’s a good way to learn a little about the geological history of the sink hole.

Devil's Millhopper Welcome Center

The other thing to do is walk around the sink hole.  The half-mile loop around the sink is a nice little walk through a pine forest, though not particularly long or interesting.  Unfortunately, the loop doesn’t get close to the edge or offer any looks into the sink, likely to keep idiots from falling in.

But I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m complaining.  The sink hole is cool enough to justify a trip to the park – really, it would be unfair to expect much else.

Devil's Millhopper Trail

The trail looping around the sink hole.

Foot Bridge on the trail

A foot bridge crossing one of the streams that runs into the sinkhole.

Why is it called Devil’s Millhopper?

Lucky for you, I read all of the information signs (I love those darned historical markers).

A “hopper” is the funnel-shaped part of a grist mill into which farmers dump their grains. The sink hole, of course, is also shaped like a funnel.  Devil's Millhopper bottom

At the bottom of the sink, early adventurers found fossilized bones and teeth, remnants of long dead animals that were exposed when the ground caved in.  Recently dead animal, likely from falling into the hole, added a layer of fresh bones to the depths.

Thus, it was said that the sink hole was the hopper that fed bodies to the devil.

Personally, I don’t buy it.  I’m pretty sure that if the devil has a portal to the underworld somewhere in central Florida, it’s in Starke.

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All in all, this park is definitely worth the visit, especially for geology nerds.  It’s only minutes from San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park, so if you’re in the mood for a longer hike, you can easily do both parks in the same day.

Devil’s Millhopper is located at 4732 Millhopper Road in Gainesville, a few miles east of I-75.  Dogs on leashes are allowed.  Admission is $4 a car. Find it on Google Maps.

It’s time to vote… for Florida Adventurer!

Florida Adventurer Photo Contest

As poll results trickle in this evening, I’ll have my eye on a race that doesn’t end until the end of the month – the Florida State Parks Photo Contest.

Please vote for this photo! (click to go to the voting page)

About a month ago, I posted photos from an up-close encounter with the famed wild horses of Paynes Prairie.  Now, one of those photos is in the Florida State Parks monthly photo contest.

I would greatly appreciate your vote.  It won’t take more than five seconds – there’s no registration, no signup – all you have to do is click “vote” on the photo titled “Walking with Wild Horses.”

While you’re there, be sure to check out the other selected entries for this month.  Just don’t vote for any of them.

To vote, click here, or click the image at the top of this post, or click the obnoxiously large button in the right toolbar (which will be there all month, thank you very much).

Thanks in advance, and I’ll split the cash prize with everyone who votes!

 

 

 

Note:  There is no cash prize.

 

A hike through Bivens Arm Nature Park

I drive by Bivens Arm Nature Park in Gainesville several times a week, but I had never stopped to check it out until last week.

What I found was interesting – a small park with an interesting, though short, hiking trail.  It’s not the type of place to spend a day, or even an afternoon.  But it’s the type of place where you can get outside, clear your head and still be home in time for dinner.

Bivens Arm Nature Park trail

The park is about 60 acres, and the trail just over a mile.  You pass through some interesting ecosystems in that mile, though.  Past imposing oaks and creeks that, despite the lack of rainfall lately, are still flowing with some gusto.

[Read more…]

Photo Friday – Sunset on Gulfport’s waterfront

Gulfport waterfront

The view from Gulfport’s downtown park and recreation center

Gulfport  is a small (12,000 people) city in Pinellas County.  It’s well-known for its artistic community and for its great, non-chain-restaurant dining scene.  There’s weekly farmers markets, seasonal art festivals and lots of little shops and pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods that are fun to stroll year round.  Check it out!