Thursday, October 19, 2017

Corkscrew Swamp Revisited

This was about the third time John and I have visited this swamp.   Our expectations of what we would see there this time were low because of the damage incurred by Hurricane Irma.  Sections of the boardwalk had been destroyed by large trees.  There was only one small loop on which we could walk to view the swamp.
According to a park ranger whom we met while there, the water level in the swamp is the highest he has seen in about 15 years.  At 4 feet not many wading birds are eager to be here at this time as the fish are harder to find.  However we did espy one blue heron.
As I mentioned earlier, many large trees had fallen in the swamp.  There was a blessing to be found in that,  because it opened up the swamp to a lot more light.  We noticed quite an array of wildflowers which seemed to be taking advantage of the extra sunlight.
We also saw patches of purple morning glories, blooming pickerel weed and water lilies.  My brother Marcus declared that it all was still quite beautiful, and I would have to agree.
We had lunch in the small town of Immokalee, which had also experienced a lot of destruction from the storm.  In the town were many buildings with blue tarps on the roofs, an indication that they had to either be replaced or repaired.  After lunch we drove over to Lake Trafford in search of an air boat ride over one of the many marshes in the area.  We had neither the time or desire to drive further south into the Everglades as we would continue to find many more parks and preserves closed due to storm damage.
We had a wonderful boat ride through a swamp, thank to the Air Boats and Alligators Company.  Our driver stopped at different places to point out flora and fauna.  Pictured above is a swamp lily, the one white spot in the mass of green foliage.
He also stopped the boat to allow the bittern in the picture above to give us a close look over.  Many herons, and egrets, took to the sky from their watery havens as our noisy boat approached.  On the lower branches of trees and shrubs we saw a few anhinga drying out their wings.   And hanging out in the high tree tops were the ever watchful osprey.  There were also many sightings of  alligators in the water.
Our driver pointed out an alligator nest, it is in the lower left corner in the picture above.  It was a brownish mass of twigs and grass.  That organic mess serves to keep the eggs warm and covered until the babies are ready to emerge.  He said that about a week ago there were about 30 hatchlings swimming around in this area.
That was our two day trip to southern Florida, we certainly saw and experienced a lot.  It was a good trip, and if you are a Floridian you should certainly get out and explore the wonders of your state! 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Visit to Southwestern Florida

Last spring my brother, Bishop Marcus Lohrmann, became Interim Bishop for the Florida Bahamas Synod.  We promised him that while he was in this area we would take him to our favorite spot in the state, Corkscrew Swamp.  Marcus had a busy work schedule last week with the synod assembly and thought that after that, and the election of the new bishop was accomplished, he would take some time off and go on a road trip with us.  We knew that Hurricane Irma had hit southern Florida hard- even had learned that Corkscrew Swamp had only part of its boardwalk open, but still decided to visit that area anyway.
After driving a couple of hours Sunday afternoon we were ready to stop for the night, and most fortunately chose Bonita Springs.  We happened upon a wonderful beach there where, after securing  a spot for the night ( we soon learned that most hotels were full and should have had reservations because disaster crews are still present taking care of damages from the storm) we chose to walk.   The beach was quite busy with many people in the water, in the picture above two fishing poles are hanging out at the water's edge. Not sure how successful is that mode of fishing!  The beach was quite littered with a few varieties of shells,  but we were interested only in a good walk.
A lot of the beach houses showed some damage from the storm.  The one pictured above looked like it had some kind of reconstruction work going on the inside.  Most of the homes and condominiums along the beach are not quite as ostentatious as that one!  For supper we ate at a restaurant which gave us seating at the water's edge.  One small alligator in the bay eyed us sleepily as we ate our meal.
Would you believe that we started our day at a church Monday?  Remember, we had the Bishop traveling with us and he felt a need to check out the local Lutheran church (ELCA).  Christus Victor is the name of the church, and Pastor Tom Slater was in the office.  We had a good visit with him and toured the park next to the church, which the church owns.  In the park there is a small lake with plaques noting the stations of the cross around it.  The park also has an outdoor worship area which still has a lot of brush laying around from the storm.  Our adventures of the day continues in the next posting on this blog site.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Hurricane Irma

Just an update on the past week or so.  We did make it back to Tampa and this posting is to share with you the damage that Irma did in this area.  However, when reviewing the pictures on my camera I realized that I have not shared with you something fascinating which happened on our trip home from Panama City.  We were on highway 98, called the Big Bend Scenic Highway- essentially a coastal road.  Just outside of the harbor town of Carrabelle we noticed many butterflies, of all sizes and colors hitting our windshield, and of course dying instantly.  It was like going through a very colorful snow storm.  To think of all those beautiful butterflies dying like that was too much for me and I tried to avoid looking out the windshield as much as possible.   By the way, the butterflies were in such large numbers along the roadway because of the presence of many blooming wildflowers.
John needed a break so we found a spot along the road to park our rig in Carrabelle.  I went out in search of a patch of wildflowers.  I found the wildflowers, as well as many butterflies.  Hiking further around a motel I saw a row of hibiscus bushes.  The butterflies were also active there.
Later arriving in Tampa at our rv park we could immediately see the damage that Irma had done.
Pictured above is a very large live oak which Irma (probably a category 2  at this point) had uprooted out of the ground.   The tree was located by a ditch full of water,  probably the tree had a shallow root system which made it vulnerable to strong winds- the story of many trees around here which were uprooted by the storm.
The pine tree threatening our daughter and her husband's home was finally cut down.  It was not high on the priority list, as the tree company explained.  They said that of greater priority were the homes which actually had trees on them!  Pictured above is the backyard of our daughter's home- now minus a beautiful ficus tree and bougainvillea bush.  It looks quite desolate now!
There are always blessings to be found.  The hibiscus pictured above may be leaning a bit but it is still standing and kept its beautiful pink blooms.  It is in the front yard of their home.
Not sure when another posting will be forthcoming.  I am back to the mode of babysitting and enjoying my grandchildren.  Clarissa is now one years old and is about as active as her brother, especially now that she is walking.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Eden Gardens State Park

  The Wesley was built in 1895, and had elaborate Victorian trimming as well as a wrap-around porch.  Lois G. Maxon  (newspaper woman by trade) bought it in 1963 for $12,500.00 and reconstructed it for one million dollars.  The original building had a kitchen and dining room outside of the home.  They were added into the reconstructed building, as well as bathrooms and closets.  The style was changed from Victorian to an antebellum plantation home.  Pictured below is the backside of the house, the lawn leads down to Tucker Bayou, part of Choctawhatchee Bay.

Miss Maxon came from German royalty on her mother's side and was desirous of having a home for her families European antiques.  We toured the home, it is quite plain and simple on the inside, however Miss Maxon not only gave the house but also her furniture to the state of Florida.  She owned a collection of Louis XVI furniture, which is quite beautiful with tapestry pictures on them.  One bedroom has crown royal furniture, which gives an elegant flair to that room.
The park has been the venue of choice for weddings.  Pictured above is the reflecting pool.  Live oaks on the property vary in age from 500 to 600 years old.  One of them, in the background of the picture above, is known as the "wedding tree".  On the grounds are a variety of gardens.  There are camellia as well as azalea gardens- needless to say the best time of year to visit this place is October to May.  And right now the rose garden is at the end of its blooming period.
Currently the butterfly garden is n full bloom, here the butterflies are quite active.
Before closing here I want to share with you a picture of a statuary which we found down by the bayou.  Needless to say, we enjoyed our visit here very much!

Today we are driving back to our rv park in Tampa.  It fared the storm all right and has power.  Unfortunately our daughter and her husband have not been able to return to their home in Clearwater.  There is a very tall tree in their yard which is leaning precariously and threatens to topple on their home.  Their house has power, but many in southern Florida continue to be without it.  For many the horrors of Hurricane Irma (as well as Harvey) continue on for weeks afterwards.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Panama City Beach

First a note here, this is not to be confused with Panama City, which is across the bay.  It was the promise of a ten star rv resort which brought us here- which we needed after the last park we stayed in.  Lovely as this place is, however, there is not much to do here.  Well, this city and Panama City, are on the gulf, so it is all about fishing and swimming in the ocean.  We did spend one afternoon on the beach.  This time of the year it is quite warm so, unless you keep your feet in the ocean,  you could get a bit uncomfortable.  Fortunately Hurricane Irma cooled things down a little bit for a day or two.
Speaking of that hurricane, it did not hit the building above.  We walked about 5 miles down the main drag of the city Wednesday evening and took in the usual attractions of a beach town.  Pictured above is an amusement house, Wonder Works.  Across from it is Ripley's Believe It or Not, and near our park is a small zoo.  There are also many miniature golf parks.   We had to look elsewhere for entertainment.
Pictured above is a Cracker Turpentine Still, located in St.Andrews State Park.  The park is a pristine barrier island on the Gulf  of Mexico.  Near the still is the Grand Lagoon, a salt water marsh with oyster reefs.
John found the still a bit more interesting than I did.  Well, I did discover why certain pines are called slash pines.  Those pines with high amount of resin in them are slashed for production of turpentine.   There are interpretive signs around the still describing the whole process.  I will try to distill it down for you.  The still was in operation from the 1900s until the mid 1930s.   After the rosin is tapped from the trees it is placed in separating barrels where the turpentine rises to the top.  It is then siphoned, and strained to removed debris.  The barrels are pictured below.
A hot fire is required during the entire distilling process.  In the sill an oven is kept burning with wood.  It flows hot air in a cavity around kettles of rosin.  Rosin quality is determined by the shade of the final product- the lighter the shade the higher the grade of turpentine.  Do not hold me to the accuracy of my interpretation of the whole process.  That was our excitement in St.Andrews Park.  Too hot to walk the pine flatwood trails and dunes of the park.
On Thursday we visited Eden Gardens State Park and home of the Wesley House/Maxon Museum.  It is located about 25 miles west of Panama City Beach and proved to be a very worthwhile trip.  More on that in my next posting.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Andalusia, Alabama

As I said previously, this town is about 18 miles from where we were parked.  Tour books had nothing to say about Andalusia, but we were looking for something to do Sunday afternoon so we drove into the town.  Local people only spoke with us about the shops and fast food places on the out-skirts of town, like that was what we were interested in seeing.  However, we wanted history, not shopping.  Andalusia is the county seat and the biggest city  in the county (population of Andalusia is 9,015 as of 2010).  A faded sign pointed us to the downtown area.  Here there were a few small shops which seemed to be doing well, but the majority were empty buildings.  Typical story of small towns in America.  Then I saw a mural on one of the buildings.  Maybe there was something interesting here!
Near the mural was a plaque stating that in 1976 the Rotary Club's bicentennial project was a Domino's Tournament.  That project has continued annually since then, with many celebrities in attendance.  In the picture above one of the men is Coach Bear Bryant.  Continuing our drive through town and into the historic district we found more murals.
On the Pirate Graphics store is this large picture of Hank Williams, a legendary country western singer.  Here he married Audrey December 15, 1944.  In the building once was a garage where they were married.  We slowly found more murals on a variety of building and could piece together some of the history of the town.

From the interpretive signs with the murals we figured out how Andalusia received its name.  It was possibly due to the town's connection with the region's chief trading center, Pensacola, which was then under Spanish rule (here we are talking of the early 1800s).  The mural above is called the Legend of Andalusia.  A Spanish soldier is confronted by Native Americans who are awed by the white stallion which he had brought from Spain.  The soldier convinces them that he was on his way to give the horse to their chief, and his life was spared.  The above mural is just a small piece of the total picture.  Very well done.
We had been seeing cattle farms along the roads here in Alabama.  The cattle were longhorns, which we generally had seen only in Texas.  It was the Spanish who brought this particular breed of cattle to America about 200 years ago.  The cow pictured above is only a calf,  other cattle with long horns are pictured in the mural.  The art depicts a young boy salting his family's free-ranging native cattle

One last picture here, which celebrates the arrival of utilities to Andalusia at the turn of the twentieth century.  In the mural children are observing a washer and stove being delivered to their home.
We did find a street in this town called Historic District Road, it led to the old train depot which houses a museum- it was closed.  
That was our interesting afternoon in Andalusia, we certainly enjoyed it more than we expected. It was good  that we had made the trip because on Monday we were forced to stay inside because of the wind and rain caused by Irma.  The one time I ventured out my feet sunk into sandy muck from which it was hard to step out of.  I immediately returned inside.  By Tuesday the ground had dried enough so we could move our rig from Alabama to Panama City Beach, Florida.  The worse of the storm was over.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Highway Ten Out of Florida

Saturday found us driving into Alabama.  Traffic was still heavy, even the rest areas were full and state troopers were doing crowd/vehicle control.  Extra johnnies had even been brought in.
Another interesting sight on the highway were the vehicles going south.  There were huge semi trucks with the words "Emergency Disaster Services" written on their sides.  Also many trucks with cranes which would probably cover electrical and tree emergencies. as well as trailers carrying canoes.
Pictured above is the Alabama welcome sign at the first rest area in that state.  By this time we were off Highway 10 and the traffic had thinned out.  This area was a haven of rest and peace with lots of shade and flowering bushes.  Quite a contrast from earlier in the day!

Pictured above is the highest hill in the park where we spent the next two days.  A large cross is placed a the top.  John and I could not figure out why the park was called Bogs and Boulders.  That became clear as we drove nearer to the park- many small bogs could be seen along the highway.  Boulders are all over the park, a fun place for people who enjoy driving all terrain vehicles.  It is a recreational atv park, not really a place for us senior citizens!  Salt life is appreciated in Florida, here it is mud life (I saw those words printed on the back of a truck).  However, the owners realized we had no other place to park and welcomed us warmly.  They were kind also to waive the extra fees connected with owning an atv.

Saturday night was a bit wild in the park, fortunately we were well closed up because of the air conditioning.  The fun vehicles roared around our home until the wee hours of the morning, loud music and laughter could also faintly be heard.  Sunday most of those people went home, leaving the park for us Florida evacuees.  Monday the storm was to arrive in this area, and then more at a tropical storm level. We were not moving any further!   Sunday we did some exploring of the nearest town, Andalusia, which was 18 miles away.   That will be in my next posting.

Monticello, Florida

In my previous posting I mentioned that we were driving to Tallahassee to flee Hurricane Irma.   We actually were about 20 miles east of Tallahassee, probably closer to the small town of Monticello.  Our stay there was for two days, which was all the park owner would give us.   Florida University had a very important football game to be played on Saturday, and I am sure there were reservations because of the game for that weekend.  Anyway, that turned out to be a moot point because the game ended up being postponed due to the storm.
So, Saturday morning we had some time to kill.  John did some research and learned that Letchworth-Love Mounds Archaelogical  State Park was nearby.   This park once ( about 1,800 years ago) was the home of Native Indians from the Weeden Island Period.   Those natives were identified by the unique pottery they produced, the likes of which has been found in Weeden Island, Florida. 
Pictured above is the Great Mound.  The park was not officially recorded until 1975, and Florida acquired the property in 1992 with the purpose of making it state property.  Archeologists have found artifacts of stone tools and pottery here dating back to the Weeden Island Period.   The buildings once consisted of a 50 foot tall Great Mound,  as well as 10 smaller mounds,  and two plazas.  According to interpretive signs at the site, the hill was mounded by many baskets of dirt, and the Great Mound’s platform served as a foundation for one structure constructed from timber, thatch, waddle and daub.  The building was possibly used as a residence for a religious leader or a sacred temple.  Hard to see much now as the Great Mound is over grown with weeds.  A boardwalk has been built around one side of the mound, ostensibly to keep people from walking on the area considered by Native Americans to be sacred ground.
Near the park was Mickasukee Lake, very picturesque swamp with bald cypress trees and water lilies.  The lake has a boardwalk, making it possible for us to walk a distance along the water’s edge.
We had been watching the path of the storm, to determine where we would move our home next.  Our best bet was to head northwest into Alabama.  Calling around we soon learned that most campgrounds were full- except for an all terrain vehicle park with the interesting name of Boggs and Boulders.   More on our adventures in the next posting.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Tallahassee, Florida

Wow, guess my last posting was in Smyrna, Tn., and that was two weeks ago.  We did get down to Tampa, and settled in for the winter there at Bay Bayou park for the winter.  We made it to our grandaughter's birthday party.
She was a bit over whelmed with all the excitement, birthday parties for one-year-old children should be very low key, for sure!
Labor Day week-end was good, we spent Monday at Caladesi Island and beach  with my brother Marcus and his son Adam.  The ocean temperature was about 85 degrees, which was wonderful for swimming, but is the current issue with Hurricane Irma.  The warm water is apparently fueling the hurricane.
So yesterday we joined the many Floridians trying to get out of the path of the storm.  Going through small towns on Highway 19 it was all stop and go- averaging 30 miles an hour. We moved a bit faster out in the open country sides.  Only one town let the traffic pass through red lights, and policemen were out in force waving us through.  Long lines were at every gas station, fortunately we had filled up before we left.  However, we went through our gas rapidly because of a  head wind and frequent braking. 
When we saw the two trucks pictured above, we thought the national guard was coming in.  No, it was a combining crew of some sort- John thinks the equipment was for harvesting cotton.  There were quite a few trucks and other vehicles in that convoy.  Fascinating how life goes on, and there are other issues out there besides out-running the hurricane.  Another thing which intrigued John and I were the number of motor homes and trailers going south.  Maybe they did not realize that the idea was to get out of the state!
Ironically, we saw a street yesterday with the name of "Follow Your Dream".   Maybe our dream of eventually settling down will not include Florida!   After Hurricane Harvey,  Jose may well come barreling down Florida also.  Not a good place to live right now.
We arrived outside of Tallahassee at 8PM, an rv park had one spot for us for two nights.  We need to move more westward anyway, so that was all right for us.  This morning we heard a few tales of woe from the travelers parked around us.  One couple traveled from Sarasota yesterday, and now have only one-eighth of a tank of gas left.  They have to move on today as their spot was only for one night.  I think the gas situation is a bit better here in Tallaassee.  Next posting will probably be from some place in Alabama.  Floridians stay safe! 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Story of Resurrection

We left St.Louis, Missouri last Friday for Florida.  Our first night was spent outside of Nashville in the small town of Smyrna, Tennessee.  John just so happened to start reading the St.Louis newspaper of Thursday, specifically the entertainment section.  He was reading the movie reviews, one of which was regarding the movie All Saints.  He asked me whether we were in the town of Smyrna, which I confirmed that to be true.  "Well", he said, "the movie was produced here in Smyrna at the church of All Saints- let us drive by that church tomorrow before we head out of town".  The next morning, driving our big rig and towing a car, we set out in search of the church.  It was all a bit foolish to do, not knowing whether we would be driving some place where there would not be a spot large enough  to turn our home around!  We usually plan ahead better than that.
We had no reason to worry, the church's parking lot was quite large enough to accommodate our home and it was a very worth while stop.   Shortly after we arrived another car drove up to the church- a lady got out and introduced herself as Lisa Lehr.  She is the Christian Education leader of All Saints.  John and I were a bit familiar with the story of the church.  In 2007 Reverend Michael Spurlock accepted a call to All Saints, with the idea that he would be closing the church.  Same story as many churches- too few members and a mortgage they could not afford.  Shortly after he arrived the Karen tribe moved into the area.- immigrants from Burma.  They had attended Anglican services in Burma and were looking for an Episcopal church in America.  Soon attendance at All Saints swelled from about 25 members to over 100!  Lisa Lehr informed me that the church has continued to do well, it has a youth choir of 25 at present.
Pictured above is a myrtle tree, they are blooming presently- we saw lots of them traveling from Tennessee to Georgia.  In Atlanta we visited my sister Linda, and on Sunday we went with her to see the movie All Saints.  What an inspiring story, of how Pastor Spurlock and his church met the needs of the newly arrived immigrants and of how those people worked with the church hoping to pay off the mortgage.  Pictured below is the back of the church where there is now a playground, gazebo with a stone altar, and community garden.
 The story of two of the Karen is also particularly inspiring- Ye Win and Father Thomas Bu Christ.  God brought together many different people and circumstances to work out his destiny for All Saints.  It is also a cautionary tale for all churches not to close their doors but instead  to welcome strangers, refugees and immigrants.  Not surprisingly, there is always love to be shared all around.
 Lisa Lehr informed me that just this year a book has been published telling the story of All Saints.  She had one to sell me, and, as usually is the case, the book is so much better than the movie!  There is a lot more to the story than the movie portrays- many lives were personally impacted by the presence of the Karen in the community of Smyrna.  Most importantly,  many good souls started viewing their faith (or lack of it as the case may be) differently once they became involved with the needs of the church.  After I read the book I wished that we had taken time to step inside the church, and even walk around the grounds where crops were grown to help pay off the mortgage and feed the Karens- a place where many lives were changed.  Lisa had invited us into the church, but we felt that we had to be on our way.  As I said, I really regretted that decision after reading the book.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Eclipse 2017

It is interesting that I had a vague idea what the eclipse was all about, and what I knew (which was not much), I just thought was not all that much to get excited about.  How wrong I was, and am very glad that my husband John was insistent that we get back to Farmington Mo. to view it.  It turns out he was right, it was a wonderful experience not to be missed!
Hearing stories about what was seen of the eclipse, from partial to total, I must say we had one of the best spots in all of the 2,600 miles of its path.  In some areas it rained or was cloudy, other places the totality did not last that long.  We viewed it from our niece Miriam's backyard outside of Farmington.
The picture is looking to the south and toward the hills of the Ozarks.
So my one brilliant idea was to get before and after pictures.
Monday, or moon days s it became known, was a bright sunny day with very few clouds.  Around 11:30 AM we started watching the sun with our special glasses.  We could see that slowly the moon was covering the sun, like taking big bites out of it.  And the sun eventually disappeared.

Now my photography skills for this were quite bad, to say the least.  I was using my glasses to cover the lens of my camera, all the time trying not to look up into the sky toward at what my camera was pointed to.  My camera had the glasses and my eyes were unprotected.  Just made for a bit of a clumsiness with my hands and some pretty bad pictures.  I should have zoomed in more when the full eclipse happened, the picture below is blurry and not all of the eclipse is visible.
There is a blackness in the center of the picture above.  Anyway when the eclipse was totally present there was a beautiful light around the moon, which was the corona of the sun.  For me that was the most beautiful part of the eclipse.  It was great to take off the glasses at this point.  Darkness fell, the same picture above in the bright sunlight is shown again below.
Darkness fell, the crickets started in with their usual nightly noise, and all to soon the world abruptly changed.  Twilight, sunrise, whatever, began.  Looking in a full circle around me daylight was beginning again.
Just to see something in nature so out of the ordinary was fantastic- equally interesting was to see how everything else in nature, as the birds and crickets, responded by doing what they do normally.
And we also felt the temperature drop, our very warm day became cooler- at least for a couple of hours.
Friday we will begin our journey south to Florida.  We do seem to pack on the miles!