Eagles, Turkeys and Deer….I Love Being Out Early.

Sunday morning found me up before dawn on a quest for wildlife, so after a stop at the Racetrac for Dew and a dog, it was off for adventure. I really enjoy being in the woods before the sun burns the morning fog away. It sometimes seems that all the world is up and out for breakfast at that time of day.

Out near Bluefield Preserve, I hit gold. In one field, there were turkeys, deer and several eagles along with several other critters.

I was particularly excited by the eagles in the field. I think it was a pair of adults and a couple younger eagles. I was disappointed that they were so far away.

DSCF9421 DSCF9424 DSCF9433

Here is a video I shot as well. Again, I wish I had been much closer.

Deer were out too.

DSCF9406    DSCF9408

I have been on a quest to get some fair pictures of wild turkeys. They are always far off and moving, but today I got a few better shots of turkeys.

DSCF9419   DSCF9417

Then I caught this one flying over Okeechobee Rd.

DSCF9434

Finally, here are a few shots of some of the other stuff I saw this morning.

DSCF9412 DSCF9437 DSCF9438

It was certain worth getting up early to see such a wide variety of wildlife and never left St. Lucie County.

More Questions than Answers.

I am nosy! When I see an old building or abandoned home, I can’t help but to start wondering what was it, how did it get this way, why doesn’t anyone love it anymore and what is going to happen to it now.

All to often, I never get answers. Either my brain finds something else to fixate on or there just are not a lot of answers to be found.

Recently, I have stumbled across a couple of these old gems and thought I would share them.

These two buildings are just outside Myakka City and side by side. The larger was most likely a packing house of some kind at one time. What looks to be boilers outside.

Myakka barn or packing house

Myakka barn or packing house

Boilers?

Boilers?

Side building

Side building

Front view

Front view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These Buildings are in Moore Haven in the shadow of the bridge. The store front is in a terrible state. I am assuming that they will be torn down because I do not see a way to save them. The interiors are completely rotted including the floor which has left not much more than a brick shell.

Store Front

Store Front

Side by side.

Side by side.

 

The most fascinating building I have found has to be the old bank building. Judging by the windows it served as an antiques store at some point. The structure has started to sag, the floors and roof have rotted and some of the windows have been broken. What is still intact is the vault. In fact, I suspect the vault is holding the rest of the building up. I really hope someone saves it before the bulldozers do there work. It would be a great addition for any area museum. Also, inside the vault, there are the old deposit boxes and some papers.

Front view of bank. It was an antiques and collectible store at one time.

Front view of bank. It was an antiques and collectible store at one time.

What a great prize the vault would be for some museum.

What a great prize the vault would be for some museum.

Deposit boxes and papers visible through broken window

Deposit boxes and papers visible through broken window

Vault still intact

Vault still intact

Old Bank Building. Sagging structure

Old Bank Building. Sagging structure

Snookguy’s Helpful Road Trip Tips

Since I spend so much time wandering the back roads of my fine state, I thought I would post some of my helpful tips for making any road trip better. Generally speaking, a successful road trip is about snacks, driving music, good company and well thought out pit stops. Oh, yeah and eventually getting to your destination.

The Snack Category:

Racetrac has the best fountain Mt. Dew and hot dogs anywhere- I start all adventures with a big Mt. Dew and a delicious hot dog. Not only are they tasty, but it is a good luck ritual. I know that might not be everyone’s cup of tea (or Mt. Dew), but that is how I roll and it has been working pretty well so far. Don’t fix what ain’t broke!

DSCF9325 DSCF9381

Hot boiled peanuts make all trips better-In a pinch, the ones sold at convenience stores will do, but the nuts sold by roadside vendors are much preferable. Now this can be a tricky thing. A bad boiled nut can make for a very long ride. A quality nut vendor will be more than happy to let you have a sample to test for taste and texture. Be sure to quiz the proprietor as to freshness and cooking duration. If you know your nuts, they should too!

The Driving Music Category:

Turn It Up-Good driving music should keep your blood pumping and have you singing out-loud. In today’s era of mp3 players and personal playlists, it is easy to have a good mix on hand to keep the tunes pumping and the miles rolling. I, however, am a little older school. When traveling alone, I keep a supply of cd’s on the passenger seat where they are easy to reach and easy to change.

****Important Note****

During your travels on the back roads, it is possible that you may pass through some communities that do not have an appreciation for the importance of loud road music. Watch your surroundings!

DSCF9382

The Good Company Category:

One for the Road-I maintain this is one of the hardest of human relationships to find. It is harder than dating and more difficult than finding a dentist. No matter how close your friends are, they may not be the best road trip companion. That does not mean they are not great, but they may not meet the criteria for being locked in a 25 square foot box with for several hours.

Now I understand that people travel together all the time. Co-workers, spouses, families, team mates and many others all ride in vehicles together on a daily basis, but those are not road trip buddies. A trip buddy is a special thing.

Here are some of the traits I find important in any highway companion:

  1. Make like Casey Kasem-The buddy, by default, becomes the trip DJ. Remember, the good by-way DJ never has to ask “What do you want to hear?” They just know what tune has been bouncing around your brain. “Remember to keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the pork rinds!”
  2. Tone Def is a Plus-Let’s be honest. At some point, we are going to be singing the wrong lyrics at the top of our lungs to some song that makes us feel sixteen again, so your co-pilot must either a.) Sing the same wrong lyrics. b.) Sing their own wrong lyrics, but not loud enough for you to hear over your wrong lyrics. c.) Just not care how loud you sing or what lyrics you use. They simple embrace you in all your weirdness… “Wrapped up like a douche, another rumor in the night.”
  3. The Snack Shack-Almost as important as musical compatibility, snack compatibility can be a deal breaker. No one wants the pungent aroma of Slim Jims and Doritos to be overtaken by the sticky sweetness of a Cinnabon. Like minds make for like treats.
  4. The Compass Rose-Like the dj, the co-pilot will become the navigator. The most imperative skill of this trusted position is realizing that the time to tell the drive about an upcoming turn is not after you have past the turn. Any other wrong turns, miscues or detours are part of the fun to be embraced and celebrated.
  5. Rest Stop Hero-Well, this is down to the basics of it. The perfect side-seat hero has roughly the same bladder size as you. This makes pit stops a joint effort and a happy time for everyone involved. Also, this gives you someone to provide a disapproving shake of the head as you contemplate a cup of rest stop vending machine coffee.
  6. The Un-awkward Silence-Not all silence is awkward and not every second must be filled with idle conversation. Good music and being lost in thought is ok sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that you don’t care about their dogs latest icky rash, but just not while “Don’t Stop Believin” is pouring from the speakers.
My Road Trip Buddies-They are not talkative, but don't mind my singing

My Road Trip Buddies-They are not talkative, but don’t mind my singing

Three’s Company-It is hard to find one person that fits the bill, but if you can find a third person that fits all the guidelines all the better. The back seat buddy can fill some of the jobs of the co-pilot, but they also become cooler commander and the gate keeper of snacks.

The Pit Stop Category:

It Happens-So this is a less than delicate subject, but it is an important part of any trip. If you spend as much on the back roads as I do, you are going to need a pit stop and gas at some point. So, here are some things I have learned.

Think about it before you eat it-We are all tempted by some sort of gas station munchies at some point, but remember you may be many miles from a clean restroom in the case of gastric distress. If it looks sketchy, it probably is sketchy.

Grocery stores generally have cleaner restrooms than gas stations-In the event you ignored tip #3, Publix, Winn Dixie, Wal-Mart, etc, have a cleaning schedule. Always a better option! This is also a chance to multitask by refilling snack supplies and possibly a delicious Publix sandwich.

Avoid Palm Beach County for gas-Last weekend I discovered that gas in PBC is $.50 a gallon more expensive than St. Lucie County. That is a whole lot of snack money!

The Destination Category:

The Destination is not the End-Now, you have had a great time singing, laughing and snacking all the way to your destination. This is not the end, but a new beginning.

You have to like the company of your buddy (or buddies) enough to enjoy yourself where ever you ended up. Ideally, the laughing and singing does not stop, it simply changes location. Then you do the entire process in reverse back home.

A final thought, always remember that it is just as important to be a good road trip buddy as it is to have a good road trip buddy. Isn’t that one of the most important rules in life? Be someone you would want to spend time with!

 

 

Sunday Drive in the Country

I left the house this morning just after sunrise with the goal of getting a picture or two of some wildlife. After a quick stop at Racetrac to stock up on Mt. Dew, I pointed the truck west with the idea of visiting Bluefield Preserve and maybe Pinelands Preserve as well.

Bluefield Rd. provided some red-shouldered hawks, wild hogs and, my personal white whale, turkeys. Just a side note-I have yet to get a good picture of a turkey.

Turkeys feeding in the early morning

Turkeys feeding in the early morning

Spring season is coming

Spring season is coming

DSCF9335

Grounded hawk

Grounded hawk

Pigs in a field

Pigs in a field

It was when I got to Pinelands that it really got interesting. While I was in the parking area, a small deer wandered into the area. I broke out the camera figuring it would spook and run at any second.

DSCF9360However, the exact opposite happened. The closer I got with the camera, the closer the deer came. I do not advocate this kind of contact with wildlife, but I initially thought he may have been injured, but it appears that he is just very used to people.

IMG_0239 IMG_0209

I shot some video of this little guy. There was a truck in the parking lot with a dog laying beside it. In the video, please note the complete indifference of the dog.

 

While this was an awesome interaction for me, it is not good for the deer. He is safe in the preserve, but surrounding it is private land with at least two hunting stands within eye-sight of the park. I hope the little guy makes it.

 

Here are some more photos.

The Day of the Otter

I awoke this morning to clear skies and cool temps. A perfect day to explore the woods. I decided to head out west to Paleo Hammock Preserve. I am so happy I did.

I have been trying to be less conspicuous while in the woods by wearing camo and using Hoorags to keeping my face covered. I think today it really paid off. About a quarter of a mile down the trail, I spotted a pair of otters bouncing down the trail and around the corner.

A happy pair of otters.

A happy pair of otters.

I hurried to catch up and when I rounded the corner, I was greeted by an entire family of otters. I stayed at the edge of the trees and I don’t think they even knew I was there. The group rolled in the dirt and bounced up and down the trail. Then they turned and came right back at me. I sat still and started filming. They ended up getting to within about 10′ of me before they figured out I was standing there and darted off into the water.

 

 

 

Before they scattered, they paused for a family photo.

Otter Family Photo

Otter Family Photo

I continued the hike without seeing much else. It has dried a good bit but some of the trails are still pretty wet.

Standing water along the trail

Standing water along the trail

"Trail" is a bit generous

“Trail” is a bit generous

A little water

A little water

It was a good way to spend the morning and I found this great place to sit and take a break.

A thinking spot.

A thinking spot.

A Night of Terror and Death-The 1928 Hurricane

Over the weekend, I took a ride around Lake Okeechobee. While driving, I noticed the work being done to the Herbert Hoover Dike. My mind started to think back to the night the wind and water came.

Hurricane Memorial in Belle Glade

Hurricane Memorial in Belle Glade

In 1928, the big lake looked much different than is does now. The areas near the lake were small farming communities and many of the residents were migrant workers living in little more than shacks.  Instead of the large dike surrounding the entire lake, many places had smaller mud dikes to prevent summer rain from flooding fields. In most places these were only a few feet high. Neither the shacks or the mud dikes would prove to be a match for the coming on-slot of wind and water.

Close up of Belle Glade Memorial

Close up of Belle Glade Memorial

A family flees the storm.

A family flees the storm.

On September 16th, 1928, A hurricane came ashore near Palm Beach bringing destruction like it had in the Caribbean while killing hundreds. As the storm approached the coast, heavy rain began to fall swelling the level of Lake Okeechobee causing the poorly constructed mud dikes to begin to fail. However, the worst was yet to come.

 

After battering the coast and causing extensive damage, the category 4 storm rolled inland with wind gust estimated as high as 160mph. The wind quickly began to push water from the north end of the lake to the south and water began to rise. In some places the estimates were as fast as an inch a minute. Families and neighbors huddled together as whole buildings were washed from their foundations. People were left to struggling in the swirling, debris filled water in absolute darkness. Some survivors recount that the only sound that could be heard was the howling wind.

 

As the eye passed, the process would be repeated on the north side of the lake. Water would rush in flooding Okeechobee City and the surrounding area. Businesses, homes and crops were destroyed while livestock was lost in the dark water. The high water marks would be nearly 12′ in places closest to the lake.

Destroyed buildings in Belle Glade

Destroyed buildings in Belle Glade

 

Once the storm moved away and the sun began to rise the horror of the night would be revealed. Buildings gone, crops underwater, animals drowned, but the lose of human life would be catastrophic. Thousands of dead floated in the dirty water. Entire families died huddled together and neighbors would never be seen again.

Wooden coffins stacked in Canal Point.

Wooden coffins stacked in Canal Point.

As the collection of bodies started, it quickly became apparent that drastic measures were going to be needed. Many of the bodies were unrecognizable and of those that were, there was no one to identify them. With the summer heat and the fear of disease, mass graves were dug. In Palm Beach, at the height of segregation, 69 white victims were taken to Woodlawn Cemetery and buried together. 674 people, that had been determined to be of color (in some cases using only the texture of their hair), were taken to the city’s Pauper Cemetery and buried in an unmarked grave.

Coffins loaded on trucks to transport bodies.

Coffins loaded on trucks to transport bodies.

 

As the days past, the time for segregation was over and nearly 1600 were interred on a sandy ridge near present day Port Mayaca with the last of the recovered bodies burned where the were found. The final death tolls are listed at between 2500-3000, but the real number will never be known due to the fact that the majority of the dead were migrant farm workers which no one knew by name and the inability to identify many of the dead.

Collected bodies loaded onto trucks

Collected bodies loaded onto trucks

 

Fast forward eighty years. The graves would be memorialized and markers placed, except for the 674 souls buried in the unmarked grave in Palm Beach. The pauper’s field would be converted to a dump, a waste treatment facility, sold and roads paved through it. The site was all but lost to time if not for the efforts of Robert Hazard and very small vocal group of activists that doggedly pursued Palm Beach County and West Palm Beach for a marker and historic designation of the site. In 2003, a ceremony was held for the placing of the marker.

Fenced area of burial site

Fenced area of burial site

Plaque marking site

Plaque marking site

Roadway sign in poor repair

Roadway sign in poor repair

Port Mayaca Cemetery is a peaceful place about three miles from Lake Okeechobee on Kanner Highway. It is worth a drive to visit.

Roadside Marker

Roadside Marker

American flag flies over monument.

American flag flies over monument.

Monument stone

Monument stone

The response to the storm and lose of life was the construction on the Herbert Hoover Dike and the permanent end of water flowing south from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades. Today, Floridians are dealing with the environmental impact of the dike and the resulting pollution to the St.Lucie River and the Caloosahatchee River System.

Palm Beach History Online has an excellent page with movie animation showing how the water progressed that night. Visit it here:pbchistoryonline.org

I encourage you to visit some of the links below and read some of the stories in the survivors own words.

Resources:

The Sun Sentinel

National Weather Service

National Parks Service

The Palm Beach Post

The Tampa Bay Times

Florida Memory Project

 

 

Abandoned Florida Article on the Lockett Estate

I recently made a post about the Lockett Estate in Basinger, but I also wrote a little article for Abandoned Florida. It is a great website for photos and information on abandoned buildings and places around the state. Sadly, these once great places have been left to decay and be forgotten over time.

Here is the article-Hope you like it. The Lockett Estate

Royal Air Force Graves in Arcadia, Fl

On a recent road trip, I came across these R.A.F. graves in Arcadia, Fl. I was curious and did a little research.

DSCF8821

I did an article for the folks at Florida Fringe Tourism. Here is the full article. I hope you enjoy.

Royal Air Force Cadet Cemetery

Brevard Zoo-New Year’s Day

2015 greeted me with a rainy dreary morning. With rain the day before and through the night, a hike through the swamp was out of the question. With a little deliberation, I headed to the Brevard Zoo. My thinking was that maybe with the steady rain the crowds would not be to heavy. Boy was I wrong. Many people apparently had the same idea.

Crowds and rain aside, it was a good time. I am still learning with the camera, so I had a hard time getting pics through the fences in some places. I was able to get a fair number of bird pics though. DSCF8961 DSCF8967 DSCF9025 DSCF9045

One of the bird things I saw was this thing. It honestly looks like something conjured up in a movie studio for a cheesy SyFy movie. You know–Trycera-ostrich or something.

DSCF8949

Standing next to a rhinoceros is humbling. It is hard to wrap your head around how big they are.

DSCF8912There is also a full cast of other characters. All in all a good time for a very reasonable price. I recommend it for anyone looking to spend and afternoon or a family trying to entertain the kids.

 

DSCF9118 DSCF9101 DSCF9083

Fisheating Creek Wildlife Management Area and Outpost

In a land of condos,tract houses, strip malls and gated communities, I am so happy when I find those little pieces of things mostly untouched. Fisheating Creek is one of those places.

Sunday’s travels took me to Glades County to the Fisheating Creek Outpost which is a campground and recreation area along the banks of the creek. Poor planning on my part in failing to realize it was a holiday weekend. So, it stands to reason that the campground was a busy place, but the scenery was spectacular.

 

 

DSCF8752

I spent a little time wandering around Depot Lake and took a short hike down the Tree Swing Trail. I kept it short because of the number of people out and about. I prefer my secluded wilderness to be more secluded. There is also a much more challenging trail that enters the WMA near Lake Okeechobee that I will be visiting in the very near future.

DSCF8723

As much as I like hiking, I can guess that the only way to really appreciate the beauty of the river would be by canoe drifting with the flow from the outpost to mouth of the creek at Lake Okeechobee.I hope to make that trip too.

DSCF8714

The Outpost operates the campgrounds and has the hunter’s check in point for the WMA. You can get information on their website:

The Fisheating Creek Outpost

There is some really good info on the FWC site as well:

Fisheating Creek WMA