Eagle’s Eye View

I have been having some luck lately stumbling across eagles in various places.

Maybe they were always there and I never noticed, but I don’t remember seeing them anywhere when I was younger. The only time you might have caught a glimpse is on the way to the Keys.

I saw two at McCarty Ranch Preserve on Saturday. They were far away, but they were there.

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Yesterday, on Indian River Dr., I saw another sitting on a nuclear warning siren.

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Saturday, I did a little bass fishing. This is not my best thing. In fact, I’m terrible at it. Needless to say, I did no bass catching. So I took sunset pictures instead. Yep, I’ll be that guy!

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A Little Time for Me!

Well, ok, I take a lot of time for me, but Tuesday I had some stuff to take care of early and decided to spend the rest of the day roaming around town.

Nothing special, but it is nice to just get out and soak in the world around you.twitter coyote-3twitter coyote

I sat on the tower at the Savannas Recreation Area and listened to the wind blow across the grass for about an hour. Then I stopped at another county park to just stretch my legs some. This place has some bamboo growing. When I am there, it makes me feel like I am of in some tropical jungle somewhere. Silly I know, but I still love the bamboo.

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There are some old river beds in this area and even a stream or two.

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After all this excitement, I seized the opportunity to take an afternoon nap. In all, not exciting and no rare animals, but I felt pretty good about it.

Close to Home

I spent a rare weekend moderately close to home. While it was not some long wandering road trip type weekend, I sure did see some cool stuff.

Friday’s plan was to tackle some research and get stuff done. Well, life threw up some of it’s little road blocks, so I bagged the whole thing and went to the beach. I mean, no sense in beating my head against a wall when it is beautiful outside.

It was a little windy and cool, but when I got there, I was the only person on the beach. I find this to be absolutely glorious. I walked a little and found a place behind a dune where I was protected from the wind and the sand was warm. I put my headphones on and laid back in the sand. No blanket or towel, just the warm sand. The Eagles began playing and I took advantage of my solitude and started belting out my stellar renditions of “Take It Easy”, “Witchy Woman”, “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, etc.

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After a while and some very strange looks from the seagulls, I decided to get back to the world. Imagine my surprise when I stood up to discover about a half dozen people within about 20 yards of me. Standing there, they all turned to look at me and some began to chuckle. Apparently, the beach was crowded with music critics that day, but I don’t care because my buddies, the seagulls, were squawking and singing along.

Saturday morning brought cool temps and clear skies. One of my favorite local musical groups, The Humdingers, was playing at the Ft. Pierce Farmer’s Market and since there is a vendor there that sells the best gyros, it was a win win for me. Good music and good food, although it was crowded, but well worth it.

Next headed south to Jupiter and made a visit to Busch Wildlife Sanctuary. I you have never been here, it is worth the time. The sanctuary’s primary goal is to rehabilitate injured wildlife and restore them to the wild. The animals that are kept at the sanctuary are not able to be released for some reason. Admission is free and they have donation boxes spread around. If you need something cheap and easy to kill a couple of hours during a weekend, this is a great place.

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Then it was off to see another local(ish) favorite group of mine, Uproot Hootenanny, at Artigras. Boy am I glad I went. The some of the artwork was amazing and again the music was awesome. So a win for me again.

Sunday morning found me out early and headed west looking for wild stuff. I finally got a picture of something I have been trying to catch for a while now. Coyotes are shy by nature and it is rare to see one much less get one to sit still long enough to get a picture taken. Well, I saw this one cross the road and after a little pursuit, got a chance. Of the 15 pics or so I took, this is the only one where it is not moving or running away.

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I also found an eagle just hanging out on a pole. I will stop and take photos of eagles every time I see them. They just make me smile and I remember a time that you rarely saw an eagle.

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After this, since the air was cool and the sun was out, I decided to go see if the gators were hanging out on the banks of a local storm water area. Not as many as last time, but a couple.

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Following a little afternoon nap, I finished the day out at McCarty Ranch Preserve doing a little late afternoon bass fishing. It was slow, but landed one fair fish. All in all, it was a good weekend and I was never more than an hour from home.

Off to plan the next adventure.

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Sarasota National Cemetery

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It has been a while since I drove to Sarasota, so imagine my surprise as I passed the Sarasota National Cemetery. I was a little confused because I could not imagine that I had not noticed it in the past. After some reading I discovered that it was not dedicated until 2008. So I had not missed it, it wasn’t there.

Never having been to a national cemetery before and considering the enjoyment I get from exploring cemeteries, I had to stop, pay respects and get to see a national cemetery for myself.

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As I drove in the gate, a bald eagle flew past the car, over the small lake and into the top of the tallest pine tree bordering the property. There he stayed for the duration of my visit. I could not help but feeling he was watching over this place and these people. To be honest, his appearance in that place was a bit emotional.

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Double Eagles Patriot Plaza

Patriot Plaza is a large outdoor auditorium. Lining the sidewalk there are numerous pillars depict the dedication and sacrifices of the men and women in the Armed Forces. The images are etched into the inside of the block making it visible from both sides. I will only post a couple here, but the rest will be in the photo album.

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Also, there are posts that have pictures from various times in history showing scenes from history. If you click the pictures, you can read the description and the photographer on each. Notice these are not watermarked because they are not mine, but I hope to one day take a photo as powerful as these. Again I will only post a couple here and the rest will be in the album.

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After being overwhelmed by the photos and stories I began to wander among the tombstones. For someone like me who has bouts of O.C.D., the perfection of the alignment was soothing. I don’t know how they get them that perfect. I can only assume that there is a dedication to making it right for those that are buried here.

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Overall, this place is immaculate. The grounds are perfectly manicured. I laid on the ground to take a couple of photos while under the auditorium and did not get any dirt on me. The people that take care of the people who protect us are certainly doing a fine job. Sadly, the one unmistakeable fact of this National Cemetery is, at 295 acres, there is room for many many more men, women, sons, daughters, mothers and fathers.

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If you are in the area, I highly recommend you stop and visit this place. For more information you can visit Sarasota National Cemetery

Myakka River State Park.

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I drove over to Sarasota on Sunday to visit Myakka River State Park. I have been reading about it for a while and decided to go before the thermometer climbs back into the unbearable range. From Fort Pierce, where my adventures begin, It is about 130 miles to the park through the middle of the state, so it is not a bad drive.

Myakka River State Park is one of the largest parks covering nearly 58 square miles. From the mid 1800’s through the early 1900’s it was a cattle ranch then bought by the state during the depression and converted into a park.

First time visitors are directed to the visitor center inside the gate. It is a great old building built by the C.C.C.(Civilian Conservation Corps.) as a horse barn when the park originally built. Take the time to stop and look around. Also, watch the short film that tells you about the park and where things are located.

The first thing I did after arriving was go to the Pink Gator Cafe. I needed lunch, it was a long drive. The cafe is located at the end of the road in the park. Honestly, I was expecting microwaved and prepackaged food. What a surprise! The food was fresh, made to order and very good. Combined with an overlook of the lake and it was a great experience.

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This is the same area that you can rent canoes, buy tickets to the lake tour, catch the tram, picnic, get souvenirs or just watch the wildlife. I did get a laugh at a hitchhiker on one of the tour boats.

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Next, I have really been looking forward to seeing the canopy walk and the tower. I was not disappointed. The canopy walk is a short walk through the tree tops leading to the observation tower. At 76 ft., the tower provides an amazing view of the park. I could have stayed up there for a very long time, but it was a bit crowded and I had plenty more to see and do.

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Here is the view from the top of the tower.

Next I walked a bit of the Meadow Sweet Ranch Trail. Found some interesting stuff while wandering off the main path.

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Then out to the bird walk which is a pier out over the Upper Myakka Lake. S0050408 DSCF0416

Over all it was a great day. If I had one complaint it would be that there were a ton of people in the park, but it was a beautiful day and worth the drive.

Get more info and plan a trip by visiting the website: Myakka River State Park

See more photos in the photo album.

 

 

Do the HOO!

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In my youth, I never gave much thought to the sun. Between sports, fishing,work and the beach, I was constantly soaking in the rays. As I have gotten older, the desire to not have a doctor cutting on me has become fairly important. For that reason, I started wearing sunblock, but sometimes, in the Florida sun and heat, that is not enough.

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Recently I discovered Hoo-Rag. These handy pieces of cloth have become one of the “don’t leave home without it” items in my bag. They are versatile in the ways to use them. For instance, you can wear them like a facemask, beanie, bandana or several other ways shown here.

The Hoos are extremely light weight and breathable, which is imperative to me while I am hiking through the swamp, but I also discovered that they work very well to keep ears, faces and the back of necks warm in cold temps. I really don’t know how that magic works, but I just add it to the plus column.

The number of designs they have is overwhelming. Something for just about everyone. They cover hunting, fishing, flags, patriotic designs, military, skeletons,  holidays, men, women, etc.

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I have been using a couple of different camo versions and I am convinced that the hoo combined with camouflage clothing have allowed me to get very close to some unsuspecting wildlife recently, as seen in these short videos.

On top of the sun protection factor, the multiple designs and uses, the Hoo-rag is also very easy on the wallet. So, stop by their site and I bet you find something you can’t live without. Remember time spent in a doctor’s office is time not spent doing what you love!

Hoo-rag-The Seamless Bandana

 

 

The Battle of Marianna

Many people don’t realize that Florida was vitally important to the south’s war efforts during the Civil War. Florida provided beef, pork, salt, crops and men to the south. While the major coastal ports were under control of the Union, much of the interior were devoutly pro-Confederacy.

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This was especially true in the panhandle where the plantation system was firmly entrenched. One such place was the small, but prosperous, community of Marianna. Located just west of Tallahassee, Marianna sits across the Chipola River and was the home to Florida’s Confederate governor, John Milton. Combine that with the fact that many of the area plantations had converted from cotton to grow food and beef to be shipped north to the southern armies, Brigadier General Alexander Asboth could not pass on the opportunity to conduct a raid on the town when northern sympathizers informed him that there were prisoners being held in Marianna waiting to be shipped to Andersonville.

Setting out from Pensacola, Asboth had roughly 700 mounted troops under his command. As it worked it’s way towards Marianna, the federal column collected livestock, burned crops and barns and freed slaves. Also, they rounded up southern soldiers that were home on leave or wounded.

Asboth arrived in Marianna on September 27th after fighting skirmishes at Eucheeanna and Campbellton. The Union forces encountered fierce resistance from a combined group of home guard units, various volunteer cavalry units, state militia groups, soldiers on leave, the walking wounded and the Marianna Home Guard which was comprised of men too old or too young to enlist all under the command of Colonel Alexander Montgomery.

Fighting raged all afternoon at different points in town including Court House Square and the Chipola Bridge which Confederate Calvary had removed the planking and was holding. The most desperate fighting happened at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church where the Marianna Home Guard and several other volunteers had taken up positions behind the fence of the church.

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Colonel L.L. Zulavsky, who had taken command after General Asboth was wounded, ordered members of the 82nd and 86th Colored Infantry into a bayonet charge in hopes of breaking the resistance. The Home Guard was forced into the cemetery behind the church where the fighting was point blank and, at times, hand to hand.

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Although, out-numbered two or three to one, the confederate forces held and were beginning to push Union troops back until they began to run out of ammunition. Some Confederates began to surrender, but several continued to fight on from some buildings and the church. Zulavsky ordered the church and other buildings burned. After the fire was put out, the bodies of some fighters were found in the rubble.

During the surrender, some Union troops fired upon the prisoners prompting the story of Captain George H. Maynard of the 82nd Colored Infantry, who, according to legend, pulled his revolver and threatened to shoot any man that fired on prisoners. For his actions, Maynard was supposedly awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Unfortunately, after doing some research, I did find a Private George H. Maynard that received the C.M.H. for his actions at Fredericksburg in 1862, but no mention of another George Maynard that was awarded for the Battle of Marianna.

After the battle, Union forces began the return to the steamers to return to Pensacola followed Southern troops who had rallied and were in pursuit. Even still, the Union raiders returned with livestock and cattle, burned and disrupted crops and liberated hundreds of slaves. Ending the deepest incursion by northern troops into the heart of Florida during the entire war.

Today, Marianna is a vibrant town that has a strong connection to it’s past. You can walk down the streets were the fighting once happened and read historic markers and plaques that celebrate the towns history. If you go through the panhandle, plan some time to wander and enjoy the tour of old homes and soak in some history.

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Florida Caverns

This week I made a bit of a road trip to Marianna. Florida. I really like the panhandle area, but it is a world away. I decided to camp at Florida Caverns State Park over night. I have been to the park before, but to visit the caves  not to camp.

My plan was a nice fire and a quiet night staring at the stars through the top of the tent. That WAS my plan, but, as I have learned, never tell Mother Nature your outdoor plans. Apparently, she likes to make me the punchline of her little jokes.

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I got a nice fire, I got a beautiful starry sky and I got a bright moon lighting the forest, but what I also got was a cold damp frosty night. By 8 p.m. the temperature had dropped to 35 degrees. It didn’t take me long to decide the tent was out. Fortunately, I just did a little adjusting and made the inside of the truck into a mobile bedroom. DSCF0064

Since it was a short trip basically to pick up my son, I did not get to do much exploring. Also, the Chipola River was very high and many of the trails were flooded. Like I mentioned before, it was cold so I was not looking to wade across any flooded areas.

I will be going back to spend some time though, the park has some stunning scenery and I would like to take the cavern tour again. Here is a video and a few pictures I took early in the morning. Pics are not great, there was a lot of steam coming from the water, so it made photos tough.

 

Through the cypress

Through the cypress

The swimming hole-I'll pass today

The swimming hole-I’ll pass today

Owl

Owl

A small sink with steaming coming out.

A small sink with steaming coming out.

Chiploa River

Chiploa River

Bull Creek Wildlife Management Area

I had been waiting to visit Bull Creek WMA for deer season to end. While it is public land, it is never a good idea to be hiking around trying to sneak up on wildlife while hunters are out there. Besides, the deer hunters get a couple of months a year, I get the rest. So better to respect their time and be a good neighbor.

A friend and I left early to have a full day exploring. On my “To See” list was the old cemetery, the observatory and the lake along with anything else I could find.

I really don’t know much about the cemetery, but it is full of what I am assuming are pioneer families. Also, the most recent tombstone is dated in the early 2000’s so it is still in use.

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While hiking to the observatory, we found this little guy laying on the trail. Fortunately, it was cool and he was more interested in getting a little sun than bothering us.

eagles-12I was very disappointed when we got to the site of the observatory and it was not there. I guess it was dismantled and none of the websites have been updated. eagles-9

We explored Billy lake. It is small, but the cypress is amazing. I have a real weakness for cypress and this place made me smile.

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This is a little video from one of the many little creeks that cross the whole property.

We ran into some local hunters that pointed us in the direction of the remains of the Union Cypress Rail Road. Basically, it is just the rail bed, but you can see where it once ran.

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On a happy side note, I finally managed to get a couple of turkey pictures that I like.

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We burned an entire afternoon and did not see much of the area. It leaves something for the next trip. Bull Creek provides a lot of open space and is crossed by creeks and trails. If you go, be sure to bring lots of water and a good set of shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy. I suspect that even through the driest months of the year, must of the area will be wet and muddy. Most important is to check the hunting dates and closures. Better to be safe. Also, the map provided in the brochure only shows the The Florida Trail. There are many more trails and closed roads that cross the WMA, so be ready to wander a little.

Here are some other pictures of the day.

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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.

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

Deer were out too.

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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.

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Then I caught this one flying over Okeechobee Rd.

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

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