Payne’s Creek Historic State Park and others!


My daughter and I set out for adventure over the weekend and the hopes of seeing something interesting. Well, we did that.

Our first stop was Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. I love this place because you can just never tell what kind of wildlife you are going to see. Today added a new one to the list for me. While driving down the road, I saw this guy crossing. Now I would have loved to have invite several dozen of his cousins to a steam bath of Old Bay, lemon and beer, but since he was a lone straggler, I moved him out of the road and carried on.DSCF2773

As we continued down the road we found some deer enjoying breakfast. My daughter got out of the truck to get a better look at them.





It was still early in the day, so we were off to Payne’s Creek Historic State Park in Bowling Green. I wanted to see the fort site and the grave marker.

Site of Fort Chokonikla 1849.

Site of Fort Chokonikla 1849.

This is a beautiful park. I was surprised by how quiet it was, but the heat index was also over 100. Smart people may have stayed inside! Payne’s Creek has a very nice visitor center/museum along with trails that take you to the site of the trading post and to the historic marker on the spot where two men were killed during a Seminole raid.

Marker commemorating Capt. George Payne and Dempsy Whiddon

Marker commemorating Capt. George Payne and Dempsey Whiddon

Kennedy-Darling Trading Post site from the overlook.

Kennedy-Darling Trading Post site from the overlook.



The trails are loaded with great views of the river, but the best is from the suspension bridge.

Suspension Bridge over the Peace River

Suspension Bridge over the Peace River

On the way home, I decided to detour through Arcadia and visit the ghost town of Pine Level. We got there mere moments before one of the hardest rain storms I have driven through in years. I did not make it to the cemetery or get photos of the hanging tree. I will have to go back!

Pine Level Historic Marker

Pine Level Historic Marker

I also made a sad discovery as well. Some of you may remember the post I made about the Lockett Estate in Basinger. Well, driving by Saturday I discovered that the roof of the barn has finally caved in. I suspect that the walls will follow soon. On an up note, it looks as if someone is doing some work on the site. The fences have been repaired and the grass is mowed.

Picture of the barn in late 2014.

Picture of the barn in late 2014.

Barn in August 2015

Barn in August 2015


In all it was a great day and really long. We covered more than 300 miles and several counties. Here are some other photos of the day. Enjoy!

Viera Wetlands and River Lakes Conservation Area

I have been wanting to go visit the Viera Wetlands for a while, so when it became apparent that I had nothing to do on Sunday, I decided to get upĀ  and make the drive.

I made it the the wetlands just after sunrise. My hope was to catch some wildlife just starting to stir and maybe snag a pic or two. I wasn’t disappointed. Birds and gators were the order of the day.

Certainly not some of my best photography work. I would like to blame it on low light, cloudy skies or bad planetary alignment, but I think I just sucked!

After leaving the wetlands, I drove a little further down the road to River Lakes Conservation Area. While driving, I spotted this pair standing along the tree line really far away. A doe and a young buck. I also saw two other bucks running, but they did not stop to pose for a photo.

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River Lakes has several trails, but it looks like you need to be serious about it. Both north and south are wide open for a long way. With the August heat and heavy rains we have been having, I decided this is a project better suited to the cooler drier months.

I tool this picture of the trail leading south to give some perspective.


When I got back to the truck, I had this crazy crow pecking at my windshield. I am assuming he was eating bugs from the drive, but I can just see explaining the broken windshield to the insurance company. “No really, a crow ate it!”


A Little House in the Woods

A few months ago, while I was out on one of my drive-abouts, I noticed a small house sitting up in the trees along a rarely traveled back road. I could see that it was old and in a bad state, but since it was behind a locked gate in someone’s cow pasture, I began the hunt for the owners.

This is what it looked like from the road.


I spent a couple of months searching tax records, phone calls, email and even random Facebook messages to complete strangers, but eventually it paid off.


I was told that this house was originally in town, but was moved to the present site sometime in the 1950’s and has sat here since. It served as a home to the cowhands on the ranch and I suspect a hunting camp at one point.


The years have not been kind and mother nature is taking it back one vine covered wall at a time.

When I originally saw the place, I thought it was just one house. Imagine my surprise when I found out there was a second one hiding further back in the hammock. This one is not as old as the first, but it certainly feeling the effects of time and nature.


One can only imagine how nice it would have been to live there at one time. Orange trees outside the front door, the canopy of the hammock keeping the heat of the day at bay and breezes blowing through the Spanish Moss.

With the beautiful location, it makes me wonder what happened. Why did the people leave? This house looks as if they walked out the door and just never came back. Books on the shelves, dish in the cupboard and toy scattered around.

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The owner had asked me not to go inside since the floors were rotten and ceilings are falling in, but that was not a problem since the windows and in several places, the walls, are gone or broken.

I will hopefully be able to get a little more history and details from the owner. I will update the post when I do.


10 Mile Creek Bridge

DSCF2244I have been slacking lately. I have not been up and out for a sunrise in a long while. I had great intentions of remedying that situation on Saturday morning, but, I am ashamed to admit, when the alarm went off at 5:30 a.m., I just could not muster the energy.

At 7, when I finally got up, I was a little annoyed with myself and decided I needed to sweat a little. So, out the door I went headed to a little place very close to home where I could wander among the oaks, Spanish moss and river swamp.

DSCF2239As you walk the trail, there is a small fork that is overgrown and easy to miss that will take you to the creek and a wooden railroad bridge. I had not been there in a while, so why not?

DSCF2245 DSCF2246 DSCF2249 DSCF2251I did see something that made my mind start to wander and raised questions. Lost among the pile of wood and concrete railroad ties, there was a weathered and faded stuffed bear. I can only guess how it got to this place so far off the path and away from the world. I could only assume that at some point and family was living near or under the bridge. I contemplated bringing the lost bear home and giving it a place to be, but decided against it….for now.

Here is a photo of where the little bear lives now.


And here is the bear’s resting place.

DSCF2242The heat index was 94 when I left the house and it certainly had not gotten any cooler while I was out, so I decided to head home. Unfortunately, the little bear is still on my mind. Who did it belong to? How did it get there? Should I go get it? I guess I may never know the answers to some of those questions.

A Brief Visit to Savannah–Finally!

I first visited Savannah when I was 13 or 14 years old. It happened to be on St. Patrick’s Day and the images of the crowds, the festivities, the cobblestone, the old buildings and history have been with me every since.


I had been trying to get back for a visit for several years, but life kept interrupting. So I can not tell you how happy I was to discover, on our way home from Roanoke, we would have a day to spend wandering the streets of Savannah.


My daughter and I set out early to tackle the city. River Street, Colonial Park, City Market, the Savannah Museum, dinner at The Lady and Sons-we tried to see it all, but honestly, there is no way to truly explore Savannah in a day. I like to get lost wandering back allies and out of the way places that are not on anybodies tour list to see the old architecture that is not covered by paint and facades.


Savannah is clean and beautiful. It is nice to see a place that not only celebrates it’s history, but proudly displays it showing who they are and from where they came. On a Tuesday afternoon, we saw many tour groups with their guides sharing the history, lore and legends of the various locations.

I have to say that one of the highlights for me was our waitress at Moon River Brewing giving us a tour upstairs.


Unfortunately, one of the things I really wanted to do was join the good folks at Cobblestone Tours for one of their haunted history groups , but we just didn’t have the time. On the up side, that means I get to go back!

Below I will post some photos in no order. I had a great day, but don’t take my word for it. If you like history, good food and friendly people, put Savannah on your list of places to visit.

The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, Savannah, Ga.

From just about anywhere in the Savannah’s historic area, you can see the spires of the cathedral. Being fascinated with old buildings and history, they may as well have been neon signs beckoning me.

DSCF2051 Construction began on the cathedral at this site in 1873 and in 1876 the French Gothic structure was completed and dedicated. The spires were added 20 years later and the brick structure was stuccoed.

Sadly, the original interior was gutted by a fire in 1898. All that was left was the exterior and the spires. It was quickly rebuilt and rededicated in 1900. The artwork and building have been restored, updated and repaired several times in the last 100 years, but it retains it’s old world feel.

When I entered into the church, the only word that came to mind was stunning. The ornate stone work combined with the artwork, stained glass and the architecture are impressive.

It is certainly worth the time to visit if you are in the area.

Moon River Brewing Company, Savannah, Ga.

I have always been fascinated by the strange and unusual, so when I was recently in Savannah, I had to make a visit to the Moon River Brewing Company. Reportedly, Savannah’s most haunted location.

Originally built in 1821 after the great fire that destroyed much of Savannahn as a hotel, it has seen murders and death. According to our guide, it even served as a makeshift hospital during one of the cities fever epidemics.


My daughter and I, sat for a while enjoying a cool beverage and some snacks. I, then asked our waitress to tell me a ghost story. Then I told a story of places we had been and so it went for a while. Finally, she asked if we wanted to see the upstairs. Well–YEAH!

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We did not get to the 3rd floor though because it is blocked and unsafe. Then we worked our way down to the basement.

I don’t know if the upstairs tour is a normal thing or not, but in my mind it was special treatment that I really appreciate. I highly recommend a visit if you are in Savannah. The beer was cold and tasty on a hot day and the service was great.

As far as ghosts go, I did not see any, but the history in this building is palpable. It would not surprise me if someone from the past is still roaming the old halls.

Rusty Wheels and Warm Memories.

I used to really enjoy listening to Paul Harvey. The reason was simple-he always told you “the rest of the story”. That is the story of my life. Anytime I see an old house, abandoned building or, well, just about anything else, I want to know the story behind it. Most call it being nosy, but I prefer to think of it as curious.


So you can imagine how my mind raced when I drove through a part of town that I rarely get to and saw an old,old car in the yard. It was rusted and broken with weeds and bushes growing through it. I immediately wanted to know the story of the car, but I was hesitant to just pull in the drive way, knock on the door and start asking questions. I promised myself I would do some leg work and come back.

Well, as often happens, life interfered with my plans and the old car fell off my radar. That is until Saturday afternoon. While driving by again, I saw a lady in the yard and decided this was my chance. I did a little fancy driving and whipped around to pull up along the road.

I got out and asked the lady if that was her car. She politely smiled and said, “Yes but my husband does not want to sell it.” I chuckled a little and told her that I did not want to buy it, I wanted to photograph it. Without any hesitation, she said “Ok, pull in the driveway and I’ll meet you over there.”

While I wandered in circles taking photos from different angles, the lady told me about all the times people had tried to buy this car from her husband. Relatives and strangers had attempted to sway his mind with money. Once someone even stole a piece off the car, but there the car still sat.

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Several times, she said she just didn’t know why he wouldn’t sell it. It was just rusting away. Finally, she told me he that this was the car he was driving when they started dating.

I wrapped up quickly to not inconvenience the folks and wear out my welcome. I thanked her profusely and drove away. As I headed down the road, I thought-“Hmmm…..I think I know why he still held on to the car!” No amount of money can replace the memories he gets each day when he sees that old broken down car outside.


Fisheating Creek Wildlife Management Area

I visited the Fisheating Creek Outpost in Palmdale, Fl a few months ago. It was beautiful, clean and inviting, but there were also a lot of people around. After doing some reading, I realized that there are two different locations. One is the outpost and campgrounds, while the other is the WMA near Lake Okeechobee. This is the one I was interested in.

The location is home to an ancient native settlement, Seminole War forts and large quantities of wildlife. History, animals and seclusion? That is right up my alley. I decided to take advantage of the unusually cool weather this weekend and set out on a trek. I was up long before the sun and on the road with the goal of being there at sunrise. Hopefully, I would catch some of the wild residence out and about for breakfast.

I did arrive with the sun and my expectations were high as I stopped at the restroom and startled three deer, but that would be the last moment of quiet for the next two miles.
As I went in the gate, the dog at the FWC station started barking and ran to the fence to let me know he saw me. Then as I got past him, I ran into a cattle blockade of the road. The cattle were very nervous and making a lot of noise. At first, I thought it was because of me, but after I got past them, it could still hear some nervous cows in the distance.

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Once I past the dogs and threaded the beef gauntlet, I then acquired my own personal squawk box. This crow followed me for about a half mile. Screeching and squawking the whole way. Finally he lost interest in whatever I did to upset him and went away.


Between barking dogs, nervous cows and squawking crows, I figured that any self respecting animal in the county had long since decided to run far, far away. Then I looked up and crossing the road ahead of me was a deer totally unconcerned with me and the world in general. My hope was restored.


As I got close to the hammock, I started entering into the historic areas and archeological sites.


Archeologist estimate that the Native Americans know as the Belle Glade People inhabited the area for nearly 2500 years prior to Columbus. They dug ponds and ditches, possible grew corn and constructed mounds and structures. I wandered through looking at some of the information signs and trying to imagine the area 2000 years ago.

The photo on the left is from the top of a mound looking down at the info sign on the right which shows aerial photos and how the land is changing through agriculture and the creek.

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On the left, is the info marker for what was once a hand dug burial pond and on the right is an over view of the area.

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Before I got to the burial pond site, it had to wade through some of the locals. They didn’t want to share the space, but I sweet talked my way in.


The last marker I came to was along the banks of Fisheating Creek. What an amazing view and so peaceful.

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After walking the 2 1/5 miles of the trail and passing all the markers, I thought I had seen all the place had to offer, but I was so mistaken. I came through some trees and was greeted with one of the most amazing vistas I have seen in a very long time. To make it more perfect, there were picnic tables under and oak tree just ahead.

DSCF1681DSCF1679 DSCF1699I sat in that place for a long time feeling the cool breeze, listening to the bees in the wildflowers and trying to decide if I was ever going to go home or if I was going to just live on the banks of that creek forever. Then I caught movement out of the corner of my eye-a lone turkey was wandering through the field. Again, it did not seem to be really worried about me and went about it’s business of breakfast.


I wandered up and down the creek bed trying to get pictures or video to show what it looked like there. Ultimately, I failed to capture the way it looked and felt. I shot a few little videos-no edits, just joined them all together.

I finally talked myself into getting back on the trail and to explore the hammock trail a little. I had read that there had been panther sightings in the area, but I was very very happy to find tracks along the trail. Although, it did make me a bit more cautious wandering under the low branches while on the trail.


While on the trail, I saw the back end of dozens of deer. None of which wanted to posse to get there picture taken.

So here is the practical information. If you go, the main “trail” is actually a road and in really good condition. It is about 2 1/5 miles from the parking area to the last marker (#8), so that makes it a 5 mile round trip(6 miles if you do the hammock trail). It is wide open and unprotected for about a mile and a half or more before you get to the hammock and the Fort Center sites. There are 3 little shelters along the road to sit and relax, but once it is hot, I am sure that stretch of the trail will be brutal. Also, skeeters. Lots of the area is flood plain and marsh-remember to bring the spray. You will want it no matter the time of day. There is a FWC yard near the parking area, but I am sure they do not want to go get you, so plan ahead.

Follow this link for more information on the history and wildlife at Fisheating Creek WMA

Here are some random pics from the day.

Letting Go of the Wheel

Very often I get in the car and just drive. No destination and no objective-just to see what I can find. I can’t tell you how many times I have come to an intersection and thought “Hmmm…..I wonder what is down here?”, and turned down the road. Often I stumble across some amazing stuff.

Well, that is what happened with an old house(built in 1931) in Okeechobee a few weeks ago. I randomly turned and at the end of the street was an old house that had obviously seen a better day.


I took a few pics and discovered that the house was badly damaged due to a fire. Since there were Christmas decorations around and a spot on the wall that looked like where a tree had been, I surmised it was a Christmas tree fire.

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I spent some time taking pictures because, regardless of the “FOR SALE” sign in the yard, I knew that the building was not salvageable.

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My first visit was March 7th. On March 19th, I was out that way again and the house was gone. The bulldozers had done there work and all they left was the “FOR SALE” sign.


I am glad that I followed the steering wheel that day and got to take the last photos of what was once a home.