Why so serious?!

“Don’t take life too seriously.  You’ll never get out alive.” ~ either Elbert Hubbard or Bugs Bunny…depends which source you find.

 

Sooper suspishus heron is suspishus

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Couldn’t help myself and had to doodle a couple Great Blue Herons giving a stink eye.  It seemed as if the trip to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive was something like a living comic book.  This wildlife drive is located in northwest Orlando, on the north shore of (you guessed it) Lake Apopka.  It’s only open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday but is definitely worth visiting this 20,009 acre wetland preserve.  The main loop is accessible by car and offers an 11 mile drivable, single lane, 10 mph speed limit, dirt road drive, through the preserve.  There are various hiking trails and biking paths as well.

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The entrance to the drive starts with a gate and sign which resemble something out of the first Jurassic Park movie.  There’s an accompanying audio tour which can be accessed on your phone’s web browser (the web link is listed at the preserve).  As soon as the first stop was reached, a sacrificial goat was offered into the T-Rex exhib…okay, there was no goat.  But there were a large number of American Alligators throughout the water, probably amplified by the fact that May-June is their mating season.  Needless to say, there were gators all over the place.

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Look closely as you drive by and you’ll see gator eyes poking out.  Pun intended.

After a few miles, the pump house and a small parking lot are reached.  On one end of the pump house is Lake Apopka, and on the other end is the start of the wetlands (pictured below).  More information is provided on the drive, by both the audio tour and frequent maps posted around the park.

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Let’s play a game and see if you can spot the gator in the picture above.  Wait for it…..

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…..

…..

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BAM! There he/she is.  In all seriousness, being in such close proximity to these large alligators during mating season is no joke and feeding them is an incredibly bad idea.  Fortunately my camera lens helped with safe photography from afar.  With that said, nearly all of the animals that were out wore cartoonish expressions.  Getting back to my original quote at the start of this and the photograph that helped with the first doodle…

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…were two Great Blue Heron engaging in some sort of territoriality ritual.  One would hope these animals would be observed with respect and courtesy to their natural habitat.  But also not forgetting to have a little fun and look closer at the world that’s around us.  Seriously respecting the gators, but not being afraid to learn about them.  Taking in the plethora of wild birds in this preserve and just watching them…

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…or watching them watch us.  Like this native florida ostrich.  It’s not.  It’s another Heron.

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Or this magnificent Anhinga (above) with a little extra derp (noodle neck demon fish bird.)

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Same bird, same derp, form: 10/10.  Really pretty awesome to learn about them though.  For example did you know they are nicknamed “water turkey’s” and don’t have waterproof feathers which allow them to remain less buoyant in the water, which helps when feeding for fish?!

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Wait, what?! Gators.DSC05046.jpg

Remember, don’t feel the alligators.  The sign, common sense, and animal behavior all say so.

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In closing, what other animals might you see here? Florida Softshell Turtle (above), 362 species of birds, Gopher Tortoise, river otters, bobcats and coyotes.

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*whispers* And more gators….err…beautiful grasses and foliage.


Website

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

2803 Lust Rd, Apopka, FL 32703

(386) 329-4404

Entrance is free

 

Green Springs Park…

“I have been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I have never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

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Now if that’s not a powerful quote, I’m not sure what is.  Fear.  A very human experience that commonly can halt a person’s growth but also be a fantastic motivator to push us into territories unknown. In this case, O’Keeffe’s words seem to meld well with Green Springs Park in Deltona, FL. Wouldn’t say the park itself is remotely scary.  Quite the opposite, it was a great oasis to find.  Reminded me of something out of Alice in Wonderland meets Avatar in the backwoods of Florida.  Okay, that might be a little scary. But to think without a small risk of driving into the unknown park entrance, down that unknown road (unknown to me), I wouldn’t have know about its existence.

After finding a parking space in the small dirt lot out front, a couple sidewalks lead to a pavilion and some restrooms.  Down the path a bit more were a few more dirt paths, some leading into the woods, hiking trails, the playground, and then the main spring (pictured above).

According to the posted signage, Green Springs Park has been a popular tourist attraction since the 1880s.  I’m sure the definition of popular is relative with the Space Coast and Disney World somewhat close by. Regardless, Green Springs Park was known for striking its visitors as exotic and strange. A guidebook even described its waters as “green as the greenest paint.” From a geological standpoint, the once described “bottomless” spring, actually has lateral vents and a widening decent that reaches down to a 76-foot deep, silt-covered limestone floor.

Algae and sulphur affect the spring’s color, and when the spring is running, its waters join to a small creek that drains into Lake Monroe. The spring is reported to have been frequented by “Florida natives”, “Seminole War soldiers”, and “Cornelius Taylor,” who in the 1840’s offered bottled water and promises of good health, which is what drew visitors to the spring for decades to come. What is it with Florida and our fountains of youth and magical healing waters?!

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Just past the main spring, are where the hiking trails continue on.  Check the website linked below for a trail map, as this park serves as a trailhead for a couple main hiking trails. It’s eerie in a beautiful way as the trails in this park seem to be covered under the tree canopy.  There are winding creeks, small boardwalks, and bridges throughout the trails.

GS 3If you’re in the mood for exploring a park that’s a little off the beaten trail, definitely go to Green Springs Park.  As a native Floridian, I know better than to visit during the hottest parts of summer when the humidity is highest and the mosquito’s are at their prime.  So if you do, go prepared with water, and obligatory bug spray (which might be pointless with Florida bugs the size of your face). *scratches mosquito bite on forehead*

I will add, there are “No Swimming” signs posted around the spring, but there were several people jumping off of the surrounding tree’s into the water.

Green Springs.jpgMomentarily feared for that guy’s spine as he jumped in the water from the 25 foot tall tree above (out of frame), but it definitely made for a great photo and he was fine.


Green Springs Park Website

Entrance is Free

Hours are sunrise to sunset

Address: 994 Enterprise/Osteen Road, Enterprise

Beck Ranch Park…

“Always drink upstream from the herd.”

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Indeed a wise quote from an unknown author.  Seemed like an appropriate start to pair with this post. Visited Beck Ranch Park, in Osteen, FL.  If you’ve never heard of it, neither had I until today.  Driven by the entrance a bunch while on the way to the beach (in the last post), but never stopped in.  Turns out, it’s a 25-acre park with a dog park (small and large dog areas), picnic tables, playground, volleyball courts, and restrooms.  Love finding these little surprise places.

Beck Ranch was a working family cattle ranch, well into the 20th century.  It had animals that were descendants from the early Spanish influences that Florida is known for. The Beck family lived in Sanford, Florida, as well as owning the cattle ranch.  According to the posted information signs around the park, the Beck Ranch had “cattle ranging over vast areas, cowboys and their Cracker horses, and African-American ranch hands.”

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Upon driving up through the park’s main and only street, you’ll pass a small silo that was used to store corn during the ranch’s operational days, as well as the old slaughter house, cattle weigh scales, and the present day dog park.  It was a tad juxtaposed to be reading about and seeing remnants of the slaughter house, as the present day playground was within close visual proximity.  But history is what it is…or was…and this little find made for a chance to learn something new.  It did also make for some great photography.

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Slaughter house remains (above)…

…cattle weigh scale building (below).

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I’ll definitely be back with my dog, Anubis, to visit the park.  I have a feeling he’ll enjoy exploring and checking his “pee-mail.”  Oh, and the dog park area seemed quite clean and manicured.  The fence was a 4-foot fence in height, in both the small and large dog area’s. FYI if you have a jumper, it might be a bit low if…SQUIRREL!  But the area was shaded, which is nice for our hot days.

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Learned something new, went on a little adventure. Sometimes we don’t have to go very far from home base to recharge and gain perspective.  If you want to visit Beck Ranch Park, the entrance is free, is open from sunrise to sunset, and the address is:

751 S. State Road 415, Osteen, FL (3.9 miles south of Howland Boulevard)

Website