Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Goin' To Goethe

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.

Palmetto plush.

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.
Now look.

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 ...


Thunder Dave said...

Just how bygmy was the pygmy?

Hey I visited the oldest Goethe Universitadt when we were over in Rothenburg, Deutschland this past year, but I'm pretty sure it's a different fellow! ;-)

rcwbiologist said...

Thanks for the link. That's a great shot of the palmetto. That's great that someone sold that property to preserve it, too bad more people don't do that. A professor I knew in South Carolina picked up a pygmy he was doing research on and got bit. A quick trip to the hospital ensued to insure he didn't lose his hand.

Doug Taron said...

I now know exactly wehere I'm heading out to go bugging the next time I'm in north Florida. That looks like an amazing place for all sorts of wildlife.

threecollie said...

Beautiful snake

Anonymous said...

Oh yea, I'm lovin' the snake photos...how about some more bugs or better yet SPIDERS!!!! Oh my, what have I gotten myself into?

robin andrea said...

That looks like a great place to hike around and take pics. I was pretty pleased that I could see that rattler on the road. What a beauty. I'm ready to see a fox squirrel tomorrow.

SophieMae said...

CRIKEY! That snake's a beauty! This is the first year I've seen any itty-bitties here in our yard. We found 2 this past week. Unfortunately, they were both in the dog's favourite 'go' area.

Our squirrels forgot to read the manual. We have pines everywhere, but only grey squirrels. The foxy types I've seen up here are always in an oakish area. Go figger.

Oh, and thanks for rubbing in my recent trucklessity. My ramblings will be a bit more limited in a low-rider dinky carlet. 8-\

Sharon said...

Well, I have a big, huge, fat-tired SUV, Rrr Rrr Rrr!! (only 4x2 though) :) And pretty snake, but ((((shiver))))!!

Alan said...

I see fox squirrels around Goethe from time to time, more often in the neighboring properties. They're even dumber about cars than gray squirrels though.


kathy a. said...

nice snake -- you can keep it down there in its natural habitat, thanks.

i think most of your palmettos must be a different variety than they have up in S.C. ["the Palmetto State."]. they grow taller up there and are even featured on the state flag as something other than ground cover.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you don't pick up every snake you see and carry it home to surprise the family.

And you can tell Alan that fox squirrels in the city figure out that car thing about as well as the gray ones do. Which is to say, not all that well but sufficient to preserve the gene pool.

thegatorgal said...

Great pictures. Pretty much every weekend of my high school years were spent exploring Goethe-family owned property by horseback or ATV. A friend of the family managed the pines on the property and gave us free reign. Love the pygmy rattler, never have had a chance to see one of those in the wild... yet.

Floridacracker said...

About 2 1/2 feet at least.

You're welcome! These pygmy's are mild mannered, but I still wouldn't get too close!

There should be a few bugs on 50,000 acres! Just be careful.

I agree.

I'm sure there are NONE of these on YOUR property...

Good for you! He would be easy to step on.

Tell your squirrels that when I announce something in an authoritive way,they are supposed to obey.
I spent my time in minivan purgatory, I get carried away in my JEEPiness sometimes :)

Notice how I left the pretty snake in one piece :)

I see the occassional one out here closer to Cedar Key, but it's always a treat to me.

Kathy A,
I think the Carolina flag has the cabbage palm, rather than the palmetto, even tho they do call it the palmetto state.
I think.

I have been bit so much by the nonpoisonous types that I leave the poisonous types alone.

What a lucky gal! That must have been happy times.

Sharon said...

Yes, I noticed! ;) You would be so proud of me though - there was a snake on the sidewalk outside the church nursery last night. He was about 2.5 feet long, just laying there perfectly still. Someone came and got me and asked to have something done, because it wouldn't move. I got a broom and shooed him away. That's right -- SHOOED him...not HACKED him! :o)

Floridacracker said...

I am speechless with delight!
Here's a big high 5 through the internet!

Sharon said...

:) I thought you would like that. By the way, it was a corn snake.