So there I was on a gorgeous September Sunday in paradise, with a camera that was just itching to get out. Junior and his Mom were hooked up intravenously to the TV and were actively soaking up a nourishing solution of Gamelase with an extra dose of vitamins N, F, and L.
I seem to have an intolerance for this seasonal nutrient mix and the stiff east breezes were calling me out, so I left. I wasn't sure where I was going, but when Emma said she needed a ride back to the little town of Bronson so she and roomie Corinne could head back to USF after a weekend visit, I jumped at the chance. Nobody else was jumping, not with the Dolphins playing on the tube and more games to come. So, off we went.
After dropping sweet Emmie off at Corinne's, I decided to head south into Goethe State Forest. For me, Goethe is mostly an undiscovered treasure. I've been to the GIANT cypress tree, and ridden Cow Creek road, but most of the forest is still waiting for me to visit.
As I arrived in the forest, the weather began to switch from clear blue skies to a mix of rain and sun, but the sun was still bright at 4:00 pm so I had high photo hopes. The strong winds and scudding clouds actually added a little fall chill (70ish degrees) which made the ride especially sweet.
I cruised down a little two-lane paved road until I saw the Great Florida Birding Trail sign and did a quick left to turn into the forest on a dirt road named N. Gasline Road.
Goethe is 53,399 acres of gorgeous pinelands with some cypress swamps, ponds, and creeks tossed in for variety. It's a multiuse public land, with a heavy emphasis on equestrian trails. We are not far from the world famous thoroughbred farms of Ocala and this southern section of our county is very horsey.
The high riding JEEP is handy for getting up above brush for scenic shots and I use the bumpers a lot for that purpose. Here you can see the road is perfectly adequate for nonJEEP (snicker) vehicles ... even a minivan (snicker, snicker) could travel this fine gravel/sand track with no fear.
It's probably an exaggeration to say Goethe State Forest owes it's existance to the RCW, but the endangered Red Cockaded Woodpecker's need for this type of habitat was a factor in getting the funding for the purchase of this land.
Goethe State Forest is named after J.T.Goethe who loved this forest and sold it to the state to preserve it.
I didn't see any RCW's, even though I did hear woodpeckers among the pines. I'm just not sure who they were. I was really hoping to see a fox squirrel since they love pines, not oaks like their ratty cousins the grey squirrel.
This place is a pine temple, so I had high hopes for something foxy coming my way.
Unfortunately, there will be no RCW photos in this post, but I did see this rattlesnake.
Do you see it?
Don't cheat and scroll down yet.
(sounds of crickets)
Let me tap it gently with a piece of dog fennel ... a long piece.
There, now he's slid out of the grass clump a little.
This is a pygmy rattler, although it's the finest one I've ever come across. Pygmy's are very mellow compared to diamondbacks and this beauty never coiled or struck the entire time I photographed it.
I doubt if many pygmy's get bigger than this beauty.
Kind of a bygmy in my opinion.
I was pretty stoked about meeting this snake and hung out with it awhile taking pics. Then the rain which had threatened all afternoon began falling in earnest. The snake slithered off into the palmettos and I slithered up into the JEEP to stay dry.
For a moment, I considered turning around, the light was suddenly dimmer with the steady drizzle. Photography in a late afternoon rainy forest was going to be more of a challenge, but the rain promised to be off and on, so there might still be moments of photo-oppiness.
Besides, I had not seen a fox squirrel yet.
Come back tomorrow kids and we'll finish this ride ...