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

Henry David Thoreau

We Think We Have a Better Name for Black Lake

Friday March 27, 2015
O’Leno State Park
High Springs, Florida



Because of the prediction of yet MORE rain, we decide to turn a longer hike we wanted to take into a shorter one by driving over to River Rise rather than walking over.  Yes you can drive to River Rise but in my opinion it wouldn’t give you that same WOW feeling upon arrival.

In order to drive in, you must get the gate lock combination from the ranger’s station.  The gate is left locked all the time although there is a low horse step over along the fence line which hikers could also use.   River rise is used frequently by equestrians and there are signs indicating the rules for them at the gate.  What a great way to see this park that would be.




We arrive, drive down the great old road and park just at hiking marker 23 which will leave us about 3/4 mile hike to the lake. This morning’s no rain window is smaller than usual.   We set out on the trail but after we are out of sight of Ruby David thinks perhaps we should move her more over to the side in case any horses need to get by.  I’m doubting anyone on a horse will come out with the rain predictions but it is still a considerate thing to do so we do.   I took this picture of Ruby waiting for us before we moved her to the left.   Nice parking spot though isn’t it?  Sure wish they’d let Winnona Boondock here. 






It’s another lovely trail through the woods where the birds are singing beautifully and I find lots of little things to enjoy.






I’m not good with these moth looking butterflies or butterfly looking moths so if you are, let me know who these two are.










There is no clear path visible from the trail for the turn to Black Lake so if you aren’t watching, you could miss it.







We decide to try to circumnavigate the lake although there is no clear path to do so.  If it gets too sketchy, we’ll just turn around.








Ok now what about the swamp?   There are some great cypress trees.







Doesn’t this one look like it’s Pooh’s House.  I’m knocking on his door but he’s not answering of course since he’s back with Winnona.   That’s my rain jacket around my waist ‘just in case’. 









David swears the knees are taller than I am so he takes these pictures to prove his point.




Even with my hat on, this one wins the height contest.



We’re definitely in the land of the knees


And trees.


Seeing the rings on this tree, I’d say a Yellow Bellied Sap Sucker lives in this neck of the woods.






Big trees around the shore of this lake.  We think this lake should be called Cypress Rim Lake rather than Black.







Yes that’s a blue line on this white mushroom at my feet.  I have never seen blue on a mushroom before and have no idea what these are.









We’re on the opposite side of the lake from the entry way so it’s too late to turn back now.




Wow, on this impromptu trail we are seeing things we have never seen before.  You really have to keep your eyes open.  David spots this Walnut Sphinx moth hanging low on the tree.   He’s outstanding!











We’ve reached the far end of the lake and the swamp.  Now we need to walk across that little land bridge and head back up to the trail. 




But where is the trail?   Lots of palmetto to push through in what we think is the right direction.




Thumbs up.  David’s found it!   Now that was some real trail blazing!




And sure enough it starts spitting rain and we put our raincoats on.  Or at least I do.



The rain is just a brief shower and when we are almost back to Ruby, we see this spot of yellow off through the woods on the right.


I’m guessing it’s golden groundsel but I’m not sure.  It isn’t mustard and doesn’t look like ragwort.



Whatever it is, it’s prolific and makes a lovely end to our little hike to Black Lake.




It’s a short day for us and when we return, sure enough it pours rain again.  We’ve actually done a good job of getting outside before or between the rains that have been predicted for nearly every day during our last week at O’Leno.

We have a delicious spaghetti dinner after which I race walk the yellow trail and finish off my 10K steps.  I make it back in time to watch some Sweet 16 NCAA Basketball.  The ACC Conference has a lot of teams in it this year but they are falling by the wayside.  Elite 8 starts tomorrow.  This is the first year we have really had a consistent TV signal to watch the tournament.  It’s fun, especially with popcorn!

Alligator Lake: What a GREAT Find!

Thursday March 26, 2015
O’Leno State Park
High Springs, Florida



There seem to be no end of things to do in this area.  That is if you are willing to drive a bit.  After really enjoying the two county parks with springs yesterday, David went into research mode looking at the other parks in both Alachua and Columbia Counties.   While most of them appear to be recreational facilities for sport type things, when he looks at the map of Alligator Lake in Columbia, 18 miles from us, it looks like hiking and birding. Sounds great.

It rained last night and this morning and more is predicted for later in the day.  But we head out during what is supposed to be an early afternoon break in the rain equipped this time with raincoats, camera bag and binocular bag.  Big points for us for memory.  <grin>  But to be fair, Monday is not that far away from Thursday.   Perhaps being so well prepared will keep the rain away.  If you missed our hiking downpour experience from Monday you can find it

It’s an easy 18 mile drive with about 4 turns.  when we arrive, what we find looks more like a small

 National Wildlife Refuge than a county park. Lots of water, lots of birds.  The map is from their kiosk which was very foggy so my photo of it is difficult to see.   But look at all the water and all the trails.  We can tell  immediately that we won’t have time in our rainless window to do it all.  DRAT!  But another thing to return for.

There is a boat launch just off the parking lot.  It goes into a canal and then into the lake.  I’d be a bit worried I might scare off all the birds by paddling it.




IMG_1389But today we are hiking not paddling.  We choose the Old Canal Trail (the blue line between north and south dike) because we can see from the parking lot that it goes out into the middle of the lake and that there are birds on both sides.  IF the window stays open when we finish this relatively short 1.8 mile RT trail perhaps we can tack on the 3.0 mile RT Mongomery trail which goes around the two main dikes.  It is in green on the map. 



Birds are everywhere.  In the water, in the grass, in the marsh, in the trees.










The coots are here in large groups on both sides of the lake. 






It looks like this White Pelican has an escort of a dozen coots.



The skies are iffy looking but the cypress trees look stunning with their reflections in the water.




Is this a little bit of courting going on?





These apple snail eggs stand out with their bright pink color.  I don’t know if these are the native Florida applesnail or one of the 3 introduced invasives.





The bird song from the trees around us has been a wonderful constant as we walk.  Most of the singers are too small and quick for us but some are easier to identify, like the cardinal and the grackle.  The latter is not one of my favorite birds but he does have a beautiful blue coat.








I had to lighten this shot taken up into the sky in order for you to see the really lovely colors on this common grackle.  His lady fair below him was also around but not in the tree top proclaiming her story.






Beauty in the air and beauty in the water.  The violet-blue pickerelweed is a native of Florida as is the fragrant white water lily.








This may be the slowest .9 of a mile hike we’ve ever taken.  We can’t move two feet without putting up our binoculars and camera.




The white pelicans are fishing in a group now.   The all move in the same direction and at some signal they tip their butts up, beaks in the water and go fishin’.






I spot two juvenile ibis standing on a log just off shore.  David spies the flicker in the tree.  Birds are everywhere it’s such fun!






At the end of the canal trail is the perfect lunch spot.  It has only taken us nearly two hours to walk 9/10ths of a mile.  HA!






We’ve been hearing the red winged blackbirds all around us and seeing them zooming around.  I take a lot of missed shots but finally get this one showing his lovely wing patches.




We’re almost on birding overload as we head back down the trail.




And then I see a duck I haven’t see yet today.  He’s moving pretty quickly down into the gang of coots and through them.  He’s the Ring Necked Duck and he’s really beautiful.  I thought they had big white patches on both sides but this guy only has one.





Just off shore an anhinga is drying his wings.  So funny that he looks like he has spikey hair on his head.
















As we near the beginning of the trail the clouds are darkening, I am behind David and turn around to look back where I see they are all around us. 




We are just passing by the boat entry canal when those dark clouds start spitting rain.  No need for our rain jackets but no chance to walk the other trail.   Where are those alligators anyway?  Our list for “next time” just keeps growing.




By the time we are pulling out of the parking lot the skies have opened up.  It’s another gusher.  Hope we don’t have a river running through our site to a lake in our backyard.




Many thanks to Columbia County for preserving such a fantastic place for the birds and those of us who love to see them.