Thursday, January 21, 2016

Florida, Panama City, Gainesville, Cedar Key and Manatee Springs

Sunday, Jan. 3rd - Sunday, Jan. 17th

Sunday we moved to Pine Lake RV Park near Fountain, Florida north of Panama City.  On Monday we drove over to Panama City and Panama City Beach.  Driving along this beautiful beach on our right and gorgeous mansions on our left.  Must be nice to just walk across the road to this.

We had lunch in old St. Andrew's at Captain's Table Fish House Restaurant and Oyster Bar.  They had some interesting old pictures like this one.

We walked out on the pier at Mexico Beach south of Panama City.

Tuesday we drove north to Marianna to go to the movie "Joy", which was very good.  We tried to go to the Russ House Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, but it was closed and currently listed for sale for $650,000.  It's grounds is where the heaviest fighting of the Battle of Marianna took place in 1864 and several soldiers died on the grounds.  The home was built in 1895 by a successful merchant.  His son, Joseph W. Russ Jr., committed suicide there in 1930 due to financial difficulties in the Great Depression.  The house is said to be haunted and has been checked out by several paranormal groups.  There are many grand old homes here along Lafayette Street which was once known as "Silk Stocking Row".  There is a walking tour map of some of the first great antebellum mansions that remain from the 1840s.

Wednesday we moved to Suwannee River Hideaway near Old Town, Florida.  This is the boardwalk from the campground to the Suwannee River.  It is about a quarter mile long through the boggy swamp or bayou that obviously floods when the river is high.

I walked down here several afternoons to sit and read on the deck and watch the boats and birds.

I watched and listened to several owls one afternoon hooting and screeching back and forth at each other.  I also saw wood storks and egrets, thankfully no alligators.

"Way down upon a Suwannee River, far, far from home...."  Well, I guess it's really only a few blocks back to my home.  It's a really huge river, but it's so peaceful here.

I actually only saw three boats total in the several times I sat down here.

Thursday we went for a drive exploring the area.  These pictures give you an idea how people live in the small town of Horseshoe Bend.

Most of the little boat shelters have hammock-like straps hanging from the roof to drive their boats onto and lift them out of the water.

Just a couple views along a country back road.

Florida has over 1,000 miles of coastline, second only to Alaska in the U.S.  The state has over 1,700 streams and rivers.  21 flow directly into the Gulf of Mexico.  Only two drain into the Atlantic.  Six major rivers in the northwest carry 19 million gallons of fresh water per minute to the Gulf.  Only 3% of the world's water is fresh, 97% is salt water.  Most fresh water is frozen in glaciers and polar ice caps leaving less than 1% as liquid.  The Gulf of Mexico covers over 600,000 square miles with an average depth of 5,000 feet, some areas over 12,000 feet.  It is one of the largest enclosed bodies of salt water in the world, surrounded by the U.S., Mexico and Cuba.

This is Shired Island Pier where you can camp right on the beach with water and electric for $20 if you are a non-resident or $10.00 if you are a Florida resident.  It's really beautiful and peaceful here.  There was only one camper here.

Sign along another back road.  Must be where Mama and Papa Bear live.

Unique home in the town of Suwannee.

Friday we drove into Gainesville to go to the Harn Museum of Art on the University of Florida campus.  This enormous horizontal headdress in  the form of a boat with aquatic creatures and crocodilian elements to honor the water spirits is from Nigeria.  Looks very heavy and uncomfortable to me.

The white mask dance costumes are designed for striking effect under the moonlight.  The funeral dance is done to honor a distinguished member of the Muslim Zara community on a Saturday night starting at 10:00 PM until 4:30 AM on Sunday.  There is a minimum of 9 to 12 dancers.  The family of the deceased can add to the dancers by commissioning new white mask costumes, the number depending on their wealth.  The dancers can include children as young as 8 or 9 and it turns into a competition around 2:00 AM.

The dancing Ganesh from the 13th century is one of the most beloved representations of divinity in Hinduism.   He is the elephant-headed son of the Hindu god Shiva and goddess Parvati.  He is pot-bellied and jolly and revered across India as the solver of problems and bestower of blessings.

Tiffany exhibited this Pond Lily Lamp design at the 1902 World's Fair in Turin, Italy and was awarded the grand prize for design.  18 water lilies of opalescent Favrile glass on a 3-dimensional bronze base of lily pads.  Louis Comfort Tiffany was inspired by forms from the natural world.

Charles Arthur Arnoldi gained prominence in the mid-1970s for his wall relief and freestanding wood sculptures.  I think I could break up sticks and put them together like this, but it seems like using them to make a camp fire and roast some marshmallows would be a better use.

Old Man's Cloth (2003) by El Anastui.  A luminous metallic tapestry made from discarded bottle top foil wrappers of brand name liquor bottles, first introduced to Africa by colonists.  They traded liquor for people.  The work speaks of the corroding effects of liquor in the past and present and is a reminder of the slave economy.

No picture, but artist Ma Linming in China is a pioneer in performance art known for exercising public nudity in a country where it is strictly forbidden.  There was a collage of pictures of him staging a 1998 protest walking nude on the 2,000 year old Great Wall of China, their symbol of national unity and great accomplishment.  He purposely challenged the boundaries of China's social conventions and was imprisoned by the government, which only solidified his position as one of the most prominent figures in contemporary Chinese art.  In 1995 he was part of a project in which ten artists climbed an anonymous mountain and stacked their nude bodies on top of each other like a pyramid to raise the height of the mountain by one meter.  As the artists began to receive international attention, the participants submitted their photographic prints under their own names, creating a battle over its authorship.  The art market now has several versions which differ by artist, size, edition number, color and orientation.

Saturday we drove down to the quiet little tourist town of Cedar Key and went through their little museum downtown.  These are Seatmore chairs from the 1860s, designed for more comfortable seating for ladies in big, bulky crinoline skirts and soldiers wearing swords.  I wonder how ladies sat in a chair when those big bustles were in style.

Apothecary globe, a tall or hanging ornamental glass jar, with red or green solutions used as symbols.  From the late 1600s these shops sold herbs, spices and medicines for relief of an enormous variety of ills.  Medical lore claims the red solution warned people and stage coaches of a plague or contagious epidemic and no driver stopped until the apothecary had switched it to a green solution.

Steamer trunk, the duffle bag of the past.  They really didn't travel light back in the day when they had to transfer from boat to train to boat on their way to New Orleans, Cuba or beyond.  Cedar Keys was one of the last coastal outposts untouched by urban development and still is.  It's a chain of 30 to 40 tiny islands.  The largest is Way Key (640 acres) about three miles out into the Gulf of Mexico.  Seahorse Key is 90 feet high, the loftiest land between Key West and Pensacola, and was used by pirates as a lookout.  People are not allowed on many of the islands, as they are protected habitats for many different species of birds and turtles and others.

View of the beach as we hiked around the island of Cedar Key, pop. 927.   After the Civil War, the seafood industry here grew rapidly.  Thousands of pounds of fish, oysters, turtles, sponges, crabs, clams and scallops were packed in barrels with ice and ten railroad car loads were shipped out daily until 1932 when the railroad was discontinued and trucks took over.  Over a million pounds of fish were shipped from Cedar Key in 1880.  About 5,000 pounds of sponges were taken off Cedar Keys in 1890.  42,000 bushels of oysters were relayed in the month of August alone in 1987.  Oysters are estuarine animals and thrive in a mix of salt and fresh water.  The mix of Gulf and river waters in the Cedar Key area is ideal for oysters and here they are praised for their plumpness and salty taste.  An oyster has only one eye and can hardly see with it.  During summer months small oysters are transplanted or relayed from shallow, closed areas to commercially productive bars.  Oyster spat or seeds are raised in rigid nylon bags supported off the bottom on racks or belts.  They must be regularly hosed off, sized and transferred to large mesh bags as they grow, reaching market size in 12 to 15 months.  Crabbers put crab pots out and work them year round, typically setting 100 to 500 traps.  Although only a few still make their living in crabbing alone, thousands of pounds are sent to market from Cedar Key waters each year.  Blue crab can be taken any time, but stone crab season runs mid-October to mid-April.  Only the large claw is taken from the stone crab and it is tossed back to regrow a new one.  Green turtles were one of the first sea products exported because they could be kept alive up to six weeks if wet down daily.  In the early years 600 to 800 pounders were captured, the largest over 1,000 pounds.  $10,000 worth of green turtles were shipped to northern markets in 1882.  There are seven species of marine turtles worldwide, all declining in number.  Five of them are found in Florida waters, the leatherback, hawksbill, Kemp's Ridley, loggerhead and green.  The other two are the flatback and Olive Ridley.  There are 25 varieties of fresh water turtles in Florida.  They have no teeth and use their beak-like jaws to deliver a powerful bite.  They lay their eggs on land and the warmth of the sun incubates them.  It may take hatchling turtles 25 years or more to reach sexual maturity.

At the Cedar Keys State Museum they had two cannons and two of these salt kettles that were used to boil down sea water to get the salt.  This kettle is one of 60 used to produce 150 bushels of salt a day at the Confederate salt works that was destroyed by a Union raiding party in October of 1862.  The cannons were each made with over three tons of  iron, could fire a 24 pound ball one mile and were among the largest at the time.  From 1870 to 1896 there were two cedar mills here making slats with grooves and shipping them to pencil factories in the East and Europe where the lead was put in them and slats glued together, so they could be cut apart into pencils.  One of the mills produced enough slats daily to make 259,200 pencils and they almost entirely decimated the cedar forests in the area.  They also had a company here that made brushes and fibers from the sabal palm, or cabbage palm, that grows wild along the Gulf coast of Florida.  They mad Domax brushes, very similar to whisk brooms, but of a very fine quality.  They were sold all over the world and used to clean gentlemen's coats, suits and hats before the time of dry-cleaning.  Before we left town, we stopped at Tony's Seafood Restaurant for a bowl of their world famous clam chowder and it was awesome!  They won their 3rd consecutive championship in 2011 at the Newport, Rhode Island Great Chowder Cook-Off, considered the ultimate of international chowder contests, the Super Bowl of cook-offs.  After three wins they were automatically retired from the contest.  You can buy it frozen to go or canned in 15 oz. and 51 oz. cans.  If you are ever in Cedar Key, be sure to stop by and try the chowder. 

There is a nice wooded hiking trail at our campground that we walked several times.  There are 46 species of snakes in Florida.  Only six are venomous, including the eastern coral snake and the cottonmouth.  All water snakes bare living young.  The hammock rat snake (white with dark stripes) is unique to this area, not found anywhere else in the world.  Locals call it the oak snake.  I kept expecting to see one hanging from a tree.  Eeww!

Very sad and forlorn old cemetery out along the trail.

Sunday we drove over to Manatee Springs State Park.  The boardwalk goes along this tributary that flows out to the Suwannee River.

This shows the knees of the bald cypress trees and the water tupelo trees that grow in the marshes and bayous.  Knees are extensions of roots that supplement oxygen during periods that the flood plain is under water.  Flood plain trees have special features to survive floods, like buttressed bases and extensive root systems to support the trees against the force of flood waters.

View out toward the river.

Great blue heron just biding his time, trying to catch a fish or other critter for lunch.

Five or six manatees at the entrance to the river.  Manatee are susceptible to the cold and depend on the protected rivers and springs in the cooler months.  The springs are 72 degrees year around and they move closer in toward them as it gets colder.  A description from 1774 said the spring boils up about 300 yards from the river with many kinds of fish, alligators and manatee.  Springs are classified by volume of water discharged.  The largest are "first magnitude", at least 65 million gallons a day.  Of the 33 first magnitude springs in Florida, Manatee Springs is about average, emitting 50 to 150 million gallons per day.  It is the largest spring flowing into the Suwannee River.

Young one nursing in the lower left corner.  Newborns weigh 40 pounds and are four feet long.  Adults range from 1,000 to 3,500 pounds and can live over 50 years.  They generally grow 9 to 13 feet long and weigh 800 to 1,200 pounds.  Females are often larger than the males.  They have a single calf (rarely twins) about every three years and are weaned after 18 months.  They have a flat, paddle-shaped tail.  They are very slow moving and many are injured or killed by motor boats every year.  

The West Indian Manatees occur in coastal marine and fresh water habitats in the Gulf of Mexico, the West Indies and northern South America.  There are two more species in South America and western Africa.  The Florida manatee, a sub-species of the West Indian manatee, is native to Florida and endangered.  It can live in fresh, brackish or salt water.  They are related to Dugongs in the Indo-Pacific region.

One in the bottom left corner coming up for a breath of air.  They come up for air every 2 to 4 minutes, but can stay under 15 to 20 minutes when resting.  Manatees and probiscideans (elephants and their relatives) have an unusual way of replacing their cheek teeth.  Their teeth erupt in the rear of their jaw and wear down as they move forward.  Worn teeth are shed from the front.  This adaptation insures manatees have a continual supply of teeth to replace those worn down by their diet of abrasive sea grass.  This shared feature points toward a shared ancestry with elephants.  So they are probably singing all I want for Christmas is my two front teeth every year. 

 The trees were just full of hundreds of vultures, maybe thousands.
 I'm not sure what the attraction was.

Later we walked the trails in the park.  This is a sink hole covered with green algae.  Notice the hole in the center where the water is flowing down.  It is part of a cave system that carries water to the springs.  Sinkholes can be evidence of an underground river flowing below.  This sinkhole is called Catfish Hotel for the abundant population of catfish divers often see near the bottom, 90 feet below the surface.  Scuba diving is the only activity allowed in this area and certified divers have explored over 5 miles of the cave system.  Cave creatures like crayfish and salamanders are never exposed to daylight, so they are white and blind.

This is a replica of a Seminole Chickee hut along the trail.  This tight, waterproof palm thatch has been used by centuries and is still used by the Seminole and Miccosukee.

A very well camouflaged necessity along the trail.

Back at the campground.

People tell us that there is usually an alligator living in this pond, but no one has seen him yet this year.  That's fine with me!

Monday we went to the Florida Museum of Natural History, also on the University of Florida campus.

  They have approximately 11,000 clutches or sets of eggs most collected by the museum's first curator of birds in the 1930s.  In the 1700s and 1800s egg collecting was a popular hobby.  Today there are federal and state permits required to collect birds, eggs or nests.

The University of Florida had live mascots in the 1950s and 1960s and there is an alligator skull in the museum from the last one who died in 1974.  Yikes!!!

There are nearly 1,000 species of bats worldwide.  Bats are mammals and have solid bones.  Birds have hollow bones.  Florida is home to 18 bat species.  A single gray bat may eat 6,000 insects a night.  Jodi, I think you better get Claude to put up a bat house at the lake.

There was a wall full of quotes in the museum.  Darwin's and the Pope's were only made 125 years apart, but this one kind of pulls them both together.  "The book of nature is a fine and large piece of tapestry rolled up, which we are not able to see all at once, but must be content to wait for the discovery of its beauty and symmetry little by little, as it gradually comes to be more unfolded."  Robert Boyle 1690

When Florida loses one black bear's home range (25,000 acres), they also lose homes for all the animals below.

99.99% of all species that ever lived are extinct.  Hard to believe considering there are still billions of species living on earth.  Biologists believe we are facing a crisis they call the Sixth Mass Extinction period.  They estimate the earth is losing 30,000 species a year, 3 every hour, as a result of human activity, with habitat loss being the greatest threat.  

The Calusa Indians held their ceremonies in a chikee or traditional palm thatched building large enough to hold 2,000 people comfortably.  Their society was divided into nobles and commoners.  They believed that when a person dies, his soul enters some animal.  When they kill such an animal, it enters another lesser one, so that little by little it reaches a point of being reduced to nothing.  Their tribe has long been extinct or assimilated into others.

Typical Seminole Indian attire.

Extinct sharks.  Look like they could have swallowed ships whole.  Shark teeth are arranged in parallel rows.  Several rows of replacement teeth grow behind the front teeth.  When a front tooth is lost, another moves forward from behind.  New teeth are developed along the inner margin of the shark's jaw.  A shark may produce, use and shed as many as 20,000 to 30,000 teeth in a lifetime.

Tuesday we drove into Gainesville again to see the movie Revenant, not worth it.  Anyway, we were a little early so we went for a walk behind the theater and stumbled on a little park with lots of birds.

Two wood storks and a great blue heron.

Great White Egret.  Plume hunting was rampant in the late 1800s and early 1900s when fashionable women's hats were adorned with feathers, including herons and egrets.  At times, feathers fetched higher prices than gold.  Plume hunters emptied whole mangrove nesting colonies and exterminated the entire population of reddish egrets in Florida.  The newborn Audubon Societies stopped most of the slaughter by 1910.

There were 6 or 8 wood storks like these.

Sunday we moved to Bee's RV Resort at Minneola/Clermont.  Just a few steps from our campsite is this little pond with three sandhill cranes and a small blue or tri-color heron.

We will be here for the next two weeks.

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