Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

A Low Key Thanksgiving Day

Tuesday-Thursday November 25-27, 2014
Fort Clinch State Park
Fernandina Beach, Florida


This post isn’t all about Thanksgiving but almost. 



Bill and Nancy make a quick get away at 8am this morning and by 3 are at Buck Hall COE in South Carolina.  We do a bit of holiday shopping today both locally and on line.  I take a walk down the beach toward the fort but it begins sprinkling so I head back.  Luckily because the rains come pouring down again.

Does a rainy day with no chance of let up make you think of cooking?  Our big fun is making home made potato chips the Nancy Mills way.  They turn out great.  Take a look.  





Here’s the method if you want no oil chips.  Slice your potato very thin.  Nancy can do it with a knife.  Amazingly thin.  We do ours with a slicer.  Quicker and easier.  Use the handle to make sure you don’t cut yourself.  Slice the potatoes whichever way and as you do put them in a bowl of cold water to rinse off the starch.





Cut but not baked

Lay the slices out on double paper towels, as Nancy does,  or in our case since we don’t like to use that many paper towels, we use regular dish towels to put them dry.  We find it’s even better if you let them air dry a bit. Once they are dry enough or we can’t wait any longer to eat them, we set them out on double paper towels on the microwave tray.  We think for our second time out we’ll try them just on the tray and see how that works.   We set the microwave for 4 minutes at 90% power.  We look to see if they are crinkling and slightly browning yet.  Crinkling yes, browning no.  another minute.  Browning has begun.  We turn them all over and cook them for another minute and we have chips.   Dinner is an open faced Joe’s burger (oats spices), fresh broccoli and chips.  WAY better than McDonald’s.








Boy does it pour down rain all night long and into the morning.  The wind was so strong it woke me up at 4am.  No sign of the sun at its appointed time.  It’s dark and dreary.  Good day to go get your blood drawn right?   That’s the big event for today.   Well that and visiting every hardware store in the vicinity to check out possible tools for your holiday list and get parts for relocating the LP space heater, AC air filter replacements.   I actually go along for all of this and seriously wonder why as it takes up the entire afternoon.  If you think men have a hard time waiting while their wives shop it’s nothing compared to my hanging around Ace Hardware, Lowe’s and Home Depot. 

It’s too brisk outside to bike or hike so I suppose it was the best use of our time.




Happy Thanksgiving to all who are gathering with family today.  We had ours with Carrie and Matthew earlier at the farm. If you missed it, it was great and you can read about it here.    Pretty sure it was the first time we have done Thanksgiving on an alternate day and I actually liked it very much.  I know that the original Thanksgiving in Massachusetts could not have been in late November.  That’s not harvest time for much of anything and far too cold; so I’m guessing it was really in mid September. I think our national day would be a lot nicer if it were then or in October when our Canadian neighbors have theirs rather than having it pushed up against the biggest shopping season of the year.  I hope none of your family was among those who have to work and do not get to spend the day with those they love.   Seems that is happening more and more now.  The commercialism of it all makes me very sad.


On a happier note, I am up for the sunrise on this Thanksgiving morning and am thankful to have a wonderful time on the beach getting my 10,000 steps.  This is always the start of a great day.








This guy grabbed an early breakfast and then swallowed it whole.  I could see it in his throat.  That would feel like OUCH! to me.  Hope not for him.







Walking down the beach, I repeatedly notice two thing.  The first is the number of horseshoe crab shells.  They line the beach.  Some are right side up, some upside down, some broken.  If they are in tact like this one, I pick them up and look to see if they have been cleaned.   Every one but one was.  I threw the one that appeared to be unharmed as far out into the water as I could.   Hope he makes it.




The other is something I first noticed last week and again on my last walk on the beach with Nancy.  I run across more than a dozen live sand dollars that I have to stop and throw back out into the waves lest someone try to take them home.  They will smell horribly not to mention that they are living things that will die a slow painful death.  Live sand dollars have color.  Please don’t take them with you.






I’ve walked around the edge of the point to the ocean side in order to see the sunrise and continue on along until I pass out beyond the park’s boundary.   The beach houses begin immediately.







I don’t walk too much further on before turning around.  On my way back, as I near the pier,  I see a flock of pelicans soaring by overhead and the gathering of the birds at the water’s edge.   Everybody is out with the sunrise.











As I turn back to the Sound side, the length of the pier again amazes me.  It is half  mile long.  It seems to go on forever.




For the rest of my walk, I have my eyes focused on the sand.  There is a shell line that the tide is washing over.  it has made some lovely designs.




Among the shells I find an intact bivalve but the owner is gone.



These Rock Acorn Barnacles are very  striking against the sand.



There are at least 5 different kinds of whelks.  Happily the knobbed whelk is easy to identify by its knobs. 





The owner is at home in what I think is a Penshell so I toss it out into the waves.




Not sure what happened to the stone crab but there were quite a few claws left on the beach.




I think the skeletons of whelks are beautiful.  Just after I took this picture, a wave came along and moved it into the second combination.  I could stand or sit at the waters edge forever and watch the shells be rearranged.







The wind has really picked up and I’m walking right into it.  I turn around to return to the warmth of Winnona and pass this group going in the other direction.  They are always in such a hurry, scurrying along.



After I brush the sand off my shoes, shake it out of my socks and hang my pants, which were dragging in the sand, up to dry, David suggests yummy oatmeal pancake with fruit compote breakfast. Boy does that sound good.  I am thankful he loves to cook.  He also, of course, loves to eat.    We eat them one at a time.







The wind has been picking up all day and by the afternoon it is gusting at 22 and 23 mph.  Not great beach weather so in the early afternoon we again walk over to the Willow Pond trail.  We take the same bike trail as before and notice again the way the habitat changes from the giant pine trees as we get further along.  Notice my winter coat.  This is definitely not what I was expecting from November in Florida






You may think of Florida as flat but not totally.  There are quite a few hills through the coastal hammock.  I guess this is what makes the park bike/hike trails so popular with mountain bikers. 

Once this area was a line of barren sand dunes behind the ocean beach.  Eventually they were covered with sea oats and other small plants which can now be seen on dunes along the present coastline.  As more sand was deposited by the wind and waves, this island grew into a series of high dunes separated by low, flat stretches known as troughs.  The distance between here and the ocean increased by way of this process.  Over the years, this area became completely forested as a result of seeds brought in by birds and other animals.

The really tall dunes to the right and left of the trail are too covered in vegetation to make for good pictures.





This time when we arrive at the trail, there is only one car and no scouts.



There are actually two loops here at Willow Pond.  One is the Willow Pond loop of course but the other is called the Magnolia Loop.  All together I think they may be a bit over a mile. 

Willow Pond was created by man and we cannot figure out why it is called Willow Pond since we saw no willows at all.  Actually, we think it looks less like a pond and more like wandering ditches.  But whatever, it was really lovely.  The “pond” is green, covered I assume in duckweed. 




We read that this forest, on the oldest part of the island, is also the most stable plant community.  Such hammocks are most often used for development and thus are the most endangered.  I’m glad this one has been saved for us to walk through, out of the wind, in quiet enjoyment.




The canopy is thick and the trail often feels like an avenue through the green.  It’s really lovely and at some points has a jungle feel.   But the sky is very white and bright today and our pictures are badly affected by it giving the trails a lighter appearance than they really have.









I rely on Judy for bird id when I’m not sure and I hope Pam is reading so she can tell me about these lichens. She’s my fungi and lichen expert. Whatever they are, they are lovely. Is this where the pink and green style came from?



One area of the trail has Sable Palm trees, Florida’s state tree.  Even in close proximity to each other, habitats here are very different.  We saw no palms on the walk over here and see no pine trees here.



There are multiple stories in the forest.  The upper story has very tall Magnolias and Live Oaks which fill the canopy and in some cases nearly block the sky.






Fall colors are noticeable on the banks.  I guess this is fall with highs in the low 50’s.   With the wind, it feels like winter today to me.




The path moves from light to dark and back again over and over.  Sometimes there is water on both sides.  Sometimes only one.  The size of some of the trees is amazing.  









We don’t see anything but the warning.  Of course no self respecting gator would be out in this temperature.  I wonder if they are under the water.





We discover at one point that we are walking the trail backwards but this turns out to be a good thing since we come upon this really lovely sitting spot near the end rather than at the beginning of the hike.  I like our route better.  We sit here for some time watching the trees across the water dance in the wind and closing our eyes to listen to the specific sounds of the natural area.




We have had a great low key Thanksgiving day.   I hope yours too was just the way you like it.
Thanksgiving is a traditional day to be not only thankful but generous.



*poster compliments of US Uncut.




The Nature of Our Future Will Depend on the Future of Nature


  1. Way to go...beautiful chips!!!

    Check out this link: http://www.scholastic.com/scholastic_thanksgiving/feast/
    Be sure to go through the timeline at the bottom. As always, the holiday date was really selected because of commercialism;o((

    I can only assume, by your beautiful photos, that all is well with the camera:o))

  2. Oh my, there is so much in this post on which I'd love to comment, I don't know where to start! But I love, LOVE the poster at the very end. How very true. Second, the pancakes look wonderful, but I love (using that word too much, LOL!) the maple leaf designed syrup holder. Bet that's a treasure from your New England adventures. And last, the picture of David standing underneath the "yes" tree jumped out at me. That tree is shaped like a big "Y" and it says "yes" to me. Yes, there is more travel in your future. Yes, next year will be great with wonderful family time (isn't there a wedding happening?) and adventures to plan. Yes, it's colder in FL right now than you expected, but it's going to get better the further south you go and it's still better than the 24 here in TN! No, I can't promise all those things, but nature send us signs and obviously that tree really spoke to me. The good thing about a low-key Thanksgiving is you aren't in a food coma today and I can say with confidence that neither you nor I are anywhere near a retail establishment!

  3. The chips look perfect - wondering if the same method would work with carrot and zucchini? Your Wednesday makes my legs ache just thinking about all those concrete floors :-( Then your yesterday sounds/looks perfect. Having never seen a living sand dollar, that pic is a real treat. Given their numbers you're lucky those birds didn't take exception with your tossing their breakfast back in the water :-) Hard to imagine such a variety of environ in one day's walking.....I love the forested trail as much as the wide open beach.......and that it's protected from development. Those gnarly trees are so expressive, claws over the water and long arms over the trail (like the 'Yes' tree too!), and different from the branches in the canopy that look delicate but must be very strong to withstand the wind. I agree that is an ending bench rather than a beginning one - a most perfect spot to absorb all you've seen and just Be.
    Great, and timely, poster :-)))))

  4. Great job on those chips! They look like chips out of a bag! Thanks for sharing the process:)

    Oatmeal pancakes and fruit compote...yum, yum:)

    Beautiful beach photos. I really enjoy looking at all the shells. The sand dollar is so pretty, glad you saved it:)

    Nice that you could finally get out and have a quiet hike. Isn't it perfect when you are alone on the trail.

  5. That poster at the end sure is thought provoking.

  6. One poster is worth a thousand words! Love it.

  7. Microwave potato chips. Never tried that one. I like the idea! Beautiful beach you have there. Not a bad place to get 10000 steps.
    Nina (wheelingit)

  8. Your beach shots are marvelous in particular!

  9. I agree with Judy that the poster is thought provoking and lets not forget how it ended for the natives providing the undocumented immigrants free food!

  10. You do know how to pack great fun into a single post. I don't know which I enjoyed more, the shells, the pancakes or your hike through the wonderful Florida forest.

    I certainly did get a great chuckle out of your end picture! :cD

  11. Well except for a little rain, you have once again found a beautiful place to be physically. Mentally I think you are almost always in the right place. So glad this island landscape is protected from developers. And although the reason I'm here is the Pilgrims that doesn't mean I approve of their ignorance in the way they treated the natives. Your chips look divine. And your Thanksgiving seems like the best.

  12. Beautiful beach walk... lots of shells :)

  13. From the potato chips to the pancakes and compote to …

    “We sit here for some time watching the trees across the water dance in the wind and closing our eyes to listen to the specific sounds of the natural area.”

    I’ve just had a wonderful read during my lunch ;)

  14. did not know that about the sand dollars. . .loved learning it. . .thanks!

    Will be trying your chip trick, as we are working hard to cut fats out of our diet. . . :)

  15. Enjoyed the sea shells and descriptions. Great poster at the end. I would never last through that chip making process, just rip open some Ruffels and enjoy.

  16. Looks like you had a very lovely day! Low key is good when you are at the beach! Who knew you could make potato chips in the microwave! I am surprised they will brown. I am going to try that! They look yummy!

  17. Love the poster. We need to try those chips again- ours did not get crisp. We probably did not dry them well enough.

  18. Very nice Thanksgiving and days prior, although hardware shopping wouldn't be a first choice ;) I love the sunrise, bird and shell pictures. And, we'd must have those oatmeal pancakes when I'm there in less than a month! And, Nancy's chips! The Willow Pond Trail is my type. I love the 'tunnels' through the trees! And, the poster was quite apt & well chosen.

  19. Those are some very professional looking chips! I just may have to buy a mandolin to try it myself!

    That sure is a lovely area you are staying in. Though the plants are somewhat different, we too experienced forested dunes in Oregon earlier this fall. I just love that habitat!

  20. I think alligators burrow in the mud during the cold weather. At least that's what I was told about Albert, the gator who delights visitors to Ft. Pulaski near Savanna, GA. I worked there in Nov-Dec-Jan a few years back and was sorry to miss old Albert.

    The bird and shell photos are excellent! I'm not much for chips, but they look appetizing except I'd have to salt them for sure.

  21. What a great park -- beautiful beach and great trails! We definitely need to go there next fall. A long morning walk on the beach is one of my favorite ways to start the day. I'm impressed that you get your 10,000 steps in before breakfast! How nice that you return to such a yummy breakfast. Isn't it wonderful to have husbands that cook well?

  22. Oh what a wonderful day and a wonderful post to remember it well. Thank you!! Love that poster too. They did right, we did wrong. I like the way the French related to the native people. For the most part they treated them like equals and left them alone. Or did I miss a year of history lessons?

  23. Have to try those microwave potato chips, not sure I could cut them that thin without a slicer though. Nice hike through the Florida hammock. Makes me miss our time there last winter. I ordered, and received the same camera last week. Can't wait to actually have something worthwhile to photograph :)

  24. We'll have to try those chips some cold rainy day, we brought VT maple syrup for our pancakes-hope we have enough to last till summer time. One of these days we'll brave the FL crowds and head down there, for now though TX wins since the kids can make it here easier. Will have to keep these great parks you've found in mind for the future.

  25. Loved your post! Not only were the chips far more healthful but they were a fun effort to make. Loved seeing the shells. I reminds me of the sand dollar story. When someone questioned the efforts of one who threw them back into the sea on a beach covered with shells as far as the eye could see. You, made a difference for that one :) Love that your journey is filled with more than hikes, that joy can be found in so may things.


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