Danger Noodle

“I do it because I can, I can because I want to, I want to because you said I couldn’t.” ~Slytherin

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Fair warning…if you aren’t a fan of snakes, this post might not be for you.  I will however encourage giving it a chance though, as there are some really great educational opportunities that I’ll make sure and mention.

With that said, Reptile World Serpentarium in St. Cloud, FL, was an amazing place to find and visit.  Opened in 1972, this facility houses a variety of snakes from all over the world.  In addition to displaying snakes, both venomous and nonvenomous, this Serpentarium is a “venom factory” which regularly collects venom from resident snakes for the purposes of developing antivenin for medicinal and herpetological research.  The awesome thing about this particular Serpentarium is that visitors have a chance to view 2 venom “milkings” a day.

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DSC05437When you enter the unassuming building, you’ll enter through the gift shop.  To the right is the housing facility for the snakes on display, like the above Green Tree Python and Black Mamba.

The following slideshow shows some more snakes that are housed in the exhibit hall.  Please check the website for snake names and updates to the animals on display.

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In addition to snakes housed in the main building, there are other reptiles and birds housed in various enclosures throughout the facility.

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At 12pm and 2pm the “milking” demonstrations started.  Several local snakes had their venom extracted for an audience.  Preceding this was a thorough discussion about local snake species, antivenin, and general snake husbandry.  The following pictures shows the “milking” process.  For more detailed information about this, please visit the linked website below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While not afraid of snakes, I’ve always had a healthy respect for them.  And if you’re wanting to visit someplace other than a theme park, I’d definitely recommend Reptile World Serpentarium.  Fair warning, it gets humid and hot in summer with a healthy selection of biting insects.  But that’s Florida, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise.  

 


Address: 5705 E Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy, Saint Cloud, FL 34771

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm

Website (Check website for admission fees)

Freedom Booms

“Man is the only animal whose existence is a problem that he has to solve.”~Erich Fromm

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For anyone that might’ve missed it, yesterday was the 4th of July.  Independence Day for the United States of America.  The 241st birthday.  Happy Birthday USA.  Happy Birthday.  Needless to say, fireworks weren’t hard to see or hear as evidenced by the bellowing booms and flashes for a few days prior.

Last night the City of Winter Springs, FL put on their annual show of fireworks for the city and whoever else in the Central Florida area wanted to join in the festivities. It took place at Central Winds Park and there were local vendors, live music, a brief presentation by the mayor, all ending in a fireworks display.  Seized the opportunity to practice some night photography and get in some excellent people watching.  Nothing say’s patriotism like a crowd fully clothed in versions of the American flag and bought at Old Navy, Kohls, or Walmart.  Not that I was exempt as I wore a Fife and Drum printed t-shirt, purchased in Colonial Williamsburg.  The point however is not that.  It’s something along the line’s of the photographs of fireworks that were captured.

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I’m pretty sure most people don’t flock to fireworks shows with their families in tow, hoping to find some undiscovered part of themselves that’s been laying dormant for their whole lives.  But come on….some of these fireworks are pretty cool looking and can give folks the feels.  Like the one just above…a giant group of jellyfish?! Illuminated dementors?! Whatever it is, sending low explosive pyrotechnics shooting off into the sky for entertainment can make one ponder some things in life.  Especially when paired with appropriately timed music that makes the whole event that much more immersive.

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Take these stars for example.  Wait, those are fireworks again.  Right.  Imagination getting the better of me again.  How fun is it though to look up and imagine you’re somewhere else, while your feet are still on the ground?! Kinda like being a kid again.  Remember that part of your brain that was full of creativity, imagination, and wonder as a kid?! Fireworks might tend to tap into that.

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Sea anemone maybe?!

 

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Holographic giant Dahlia flower?!

 

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A group of little spaceships having it out at the edge of the event horizon of a black hole?! “pew pew”

Not quite sure what the purpose of entertainment fireworks are when broken down the nitty gritty.  But who cares?! If just for a brief moment, that sense of reality is paused and the enjoyment of wonder is embraced again, isn’t that one purpose?! Enjoying the fun of freedom booms, whatever that even means to you.  The city of Winter Springs does a fantastic job creating community in these events.  It’s eerily organized in everything from the parking in’s and out’s to the program they have set up.

So why post the initial quote about existence?  That’s up to you to figure out, but for me it’s readily found in small moments that I do my best to enjoy fully.  Letting my imagination have a little fun and being okay with it.  That’s gotta count for something.

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To search for other events, click….City of Winter Springs Special Events

To see what other offerings the park has, click…Central Winds Park Website

Entrance and parking were free

Security check at entrance, small coolers, chairs, mats, etc. permitted

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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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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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

Bethune Beach…

…stop at nothing. Have faith. Trust that your new life is already here and is far better than the old. Whatever happens, stay the course, because there’s nothing cooler than watching your entire reality shift into one that is the perfect expression of you.”

While sitting on my towel at Bethune Beach in New Smyrma Beach, I came across the previous quote while reading the book, You are a Badass: How To Stop Doubting Your Greatness And Start Living An Awesome Life, by Jen Sincero. Up pops a little Ghost Crab from the sand, just to my left, and of course my mind begins to read into the coincidence. “Why did this crab choose to visit now?! Is this part of my new life?!” There is no coincidence though, just a crab living its crabby life in his crabby sand hole.  So I digress.

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I did however continue reading the book while graced with this view…

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…meh…it’s okay.  The sarcasm is strong with this one *Jedi mind trick hand gesture*.

Mary McLeod Bethune Beach was named for a noted educator and civil rights leader. It is located approximately an hour and ten minutes East from Orlando (address listed below). The development of this beach in the 1940s offered coastal access to African-Americans when most Florida beaches were closed to them by segregation.  Soon after, this spot became a spot for regular beach goers.

I’ve visited this beach several times, and did not know that bit of history until writing this post and intentionally looking up the information.   Interesting the things we might take for granted and look past as we float through life.  Pun intended.  Which leads to the original quote of there being nothing cooler than watching life’s reality become an expression of you. Like a healthy majority of people, the beach heals us for some mysterious reason.  Often we don’t question or think about why.  Okay, maybe some people know why.  But regardless, many enjoy it. Which is awesome.

But what happens when we pause and scratch the surface a little?! On this very brief beach trip, I learned a little about this Florida beach that I knew nothing about, met some crab friends (by the end of the trip it was like playing whack-a-molecrab), and I discovered this little gem across the street.  All things that will in a small way become an expression of my being.

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Some technical specs…apparently across the street, on the Intercostal Waterway, is Bethune Beach Park which is home to manatees for parts of the year (likely winter when the ocean water is cooler and they come inland to warm up).  There’s also a small playground and a beautiful boardwalk. Small, but beautiful. The cost is free and there’s even a little kayak/canoe boat ramp on one side.

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The short trip came to an end as storms were starting to roll in. Unlike our usual Florida storms, these were likely to last longer than the usual 10 minutes.  I leave this beach, hoping to be back soon….a little nature, a little history, and a little break from the daily routine.

Bethune Beach is located at

6656 S Atlantic Ave, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32169

(386) 423-3300

Website

Link to You are a Badass book

Welcome to inspirations…

fullsizeoutput_c76The journey to self discovery starts with the first step.  Most times one’s path is undefined and yet the drive still exists to search for our purpose.  Nestled in connecting with others, finding one’s niche in the community, and curiosity for the unknown, can all be driving factors that keep us going. We may know more or less where we’re going, but not have a clue how to get there…on an existential level that is.  This blog is a collection of “clueing for looks,” to quote John Watson. It can hopefully be a source of discovering obscure and hidden places that might contribute to living fully while having fun.

I start with my own backyard (not literally) in Central Florida.  All photos will be my own and taken with my Sony alpha-6000 camera. From it I hope to create a collection of the places I visit, with information on how to visit if you wish. Think of this as a travel blog with the purpose being a reference for finding inspiration outside of the box.

So now sit back, relax, enjoy the ride, and get ready to be inspired!