Tuesday March 15, 2016 Most Recent Posts:
Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area Postcards From the Beach
Flagler Beach, Florida Magnificent Skies and the Beautiful Washington Oaks Gardens
The birds making the most noise around our rig are these boat tailed grackles. They are noisy, at sunrise and pretty much all day long and sometimes after dark. Now don’t get me wrong, it beats motorcycles but you’d think they could take a bit of a break.
Another cloudy sunrise where the skies are orange and the sun white hot. No matter what the skies are doing the sunrise is beautiful.
On my walk this morning I see, among other things some bird bathing and interesting sand patterns
This guy dips and shakes as the waves roll in and out. He seems unconcerned with them. Fun to watch.
This photograph doesn’t do the lovely water patterns in the sand justice. Nature’s art, beautiful!
The snowy egret too is walking in and out of the waves fishing and doing pretty well this morning.
After breakfast, we drive up to Faver-Dykes, another fairly close by state park. There really are many state parks within 20 miles or so. We’ve been to North Penninsula, Bulow Creek, Bulow Plantation Ruins and Washington Oaks Gardens already.
Faver-Dykes has a lovely long entrance road. This is the sort of road I remember all roads being on my first visit to Florida as a child. Things have changed dramatically here in my life time.
First thing we check out is the boat dock which looks great and takes you right out into Pellicer Creek. A definite must do for me.
Pellicer Creek eventually enters the magnificent lagoon at the Matanzas River where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. Pretty sure that means it would have to go right past Washington Oaks as part of the Matanzas and enter the Atlantic somewhere in the vacinity of the coquina beach there.
Next thing is to check out the campground where we find 33 sites on an oval sandy road. The campground is located in a lovely hardwood hammock with natural vegetation buffers between sites.
Each site has water, electricity, a picnic table, grill and fire ring. There is a dump station.
Before we came, I looked up the sites here to see which numbers they claimed Winnona would fit into at 35’. There were about 10 and Reserve America had them all listed as being 40’ long and 18’ wide. The sites that I see are not that size. Not sure any of them is 40’ by 18’. Some but not all are that long and many are wider.
Be careful if you have slides when using Reserve America’s length and width information. Whoever provides it from the park may not be providing site specific information. After seeing the sites, we cut the list of those that would work in half. But we could definitely come and stay for a while in this quiet spot.
The information provided by the park on their facilities lists three hiking trails but we find only two. The trail head for the hardwood hammock hike is in the campground so we park the car and set out.
It’s clear we are in a new habitat when we see the pignut hickory trees towering above us with their bare leaves. This one has a mistletoe ball in the top.
The bark of the pignut has interesting patterns. More of nature’s artwork.
I have a hard time finding nuts on the ground. The squirrels or whoever have cleaned most of them up.
The trail eventually leads us through an ecotone to a salt marsh which although it looks like a grassy field would not be so great to walk through since it either has standing water or mud you would sink into.
At one point there is a nice bench where you could sit for a while and just be in this place. We might well have done that had someone else not already beaten us to it. These are the only people we see on the trail.
Next we check out the picnic area which also has a view of the river and the second trail head. Again we are in another habitat. The area is covered with long brown pine needles with some big pine cones. This is the longleaf pine forest. The trail starts off as a sandy road leading into the pine forest and becomes a trail just ahead and to the left in this picture.
In the 1500’s, before Europeans arrived longleaf pine forests covered nearly 90,000,000 acres from Eastern Texas to Florida and north to southeastern Virginia. It dominated the southern landscape. Its range was defined by the frequent, widespread, natural fires that occurred throughout the southeast. Unlike today, other southern pine species such as loblolly and slash pine were mostly relegated to areas where fire did not burn frequently such as the edges of streams and ponds. .
In the late 19th century, these virgin timber stands were clear cut to less than 5% of its original range.: That’s pretty near extinction.
Their come back was made nearly impossible by our policy of suppressing forest fires. Thankfully we have moved to controlled burning which is necessary for this habitat to thrive.
And thrive is what we want. In John Muir’s 1000 Mile Walk to the Gulf, which is a wonderful read and a fascinating description of walking the southeast in 1867-68 just after the Civil War, he describes a day spent walking through this habitat.
'In "pine barrens" most of the day. Low, level, sandy tracts; the pines wide apart; the sunny spaces between full of beautiful abounding grasses, Liatris, long, wand-like Solidago, saw palmettos, etc., covering the ground in garden style. Here I sauntered in delightful freedom, meeting none of the cat-clawed vines, or shrubs, of the alluvial bottoms.'
Faver-Dykes is one of many places in the coastal southeast where controlled burns are used to encourage the health and proliferation of the original longleaf pine habitat. Hats off to the Florida Park Service.
These are TALL trees, 80 to 100 feet tall.
Longleaf pine is also the longest lived of the southern pine species. They take 100 to 150 years to reach full size. Throughout most of its range, individual longleaf pines can reach 250 years in age. Some have been documented to live in excess of 450 years old. The bark is thick, reddish brown and is scaly like other pines.
I think they should be called long needle pines personally. I know the needles are technically leaves but that isn’t what we think of when we say the word leaf. Anyway, these needles are seriously long. In fact they are the longest needles of all southern pines, ranging in length from 7 to 18 inches. The needles are grouped in threes and arranged in tufts on the end of branches. Becasue they are high in natural volatile chemicals, longleaf pine needles are slow to decay once they fall to the forest floor. In the past frequent fires throughout the woods easily ignited the dead needles and cleaned the forest floor of pine needles and other debris.
The needles were frequently used by Native Americans and early settlers to weave into baskets.
The pine forest also borders the creek.
The trail takes us out of the pines, through the palmettos and back into the pines.
The pine forest also borders the salt marsh. I love the colors and shapes of the bark on the longleaf pine.
David shows the size of the cones which can be up to a foot long.
I wonder how many of these baby cones would actually have grown up to full size had the bundles of needles not come down off the tree?
The turkey oak is part of the understory in the Longleaf pine forest. Its name comes from the shape of its leaves which supposedly look like a turkey foot. Not sure, what do you think?
Also in the understory are thistle, beloved of the birds. Not sure this white one will turn all pink/purple but maybe. I love its purple tinge at this point.
I think Faver-Dykes is an ideal park if you want to get away from the crowds and have a rig no bigger than 35’. It was a wonderful way to spend our morning. We head back for lunch and an afternoon on the beach.
The weather is warm enough and the waves are big enough to play in again today.
Not sure why we have the beach mostly to ourselves.
Someone else has been here having some fun though. How about this sand “sculpture”! We find it just behind where we are sitting.
So far, he doesn’t look sunburned. Not even on his bald head.
Another sunset, same place almost the same time. I sure do love being able to see the sun rise and the sun set every single day.