Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Cross Florida Sunset

Driving back from my cattle adventure, I was acutely aware that my daylight on this glorious Pure Florida fall day was slipping away. Shadows were lengthening, causing me to skip a few side roads that were already darkening as afternoon shade turned to evening dark.

Even so, I still stopped in at one bike shop in Crystal River to admire the motorcycles I'm not going to buy. I did one lap around the lot admiring and remembering past bikes of mine, and then back into the JEEP for one last nature spot while the sun was topside of the Gulf.

My last stop of the day was the old Cross Florida Barge Canal which is now part of the Cross Florida Greenway, a linear park that stretches across the state ... mostly. There was a vehicle access road that paralleled the trail from highway 19 to a little canoe/kayak boat launch into the Gulf at the end of the road.
It was somewhere I've never been ... so I went.

The entrance gate sign said the gate closed at sunset and the clock on the sign showed that this meant 6:45 pm.
It was 6:25, so I urged the JEEP westward through the gate and towards the sinking sun.

The road was a pothole infested, rocky, limerock gravel thing that was squeezed between the barge canal on one side and the Crystal River Nuclear (and coal) Power Plant on the other. A perfect road for a JEEP, but you might want to think twice about trying it in your Solstice. Between the park access road and the power plant are acres of woodland and marsh. I couldn't help thinking that if I were the security chief for this plant, the presence of a public park on my border would be a bit of a security nightmare.

I have a feeling those woods are loaded with motion sensors and I know they are patrolled. I didn't see anyone, but I bet my presence was known.
I've actually stood at the base of the two evaporative cooling towers in the picture and looked up through it.
Long ago, before 911, I took a field trip to the plant with a bunch of 8th graders. They had an amazing hands on energy museum, but I don't think it's open anymore.

This is looking Gulfward from the tiny boat launch site. There was only one other car in the boat launch parking lot. They were probably out walking the trail or kayaking. I didn't see the owners, but I hope they didn't get locked in.

The sun was dropping pretty fast and the day's light was ebbing like the tide, so I took just a few photos in the golden light before mounting up again.
It was time to get the heck out of Dodge as I had 5 miles of pothole road, a posted 20 mph speed limit, and about 8 minutes to beat the gate closing time.

I didn't want to be THAT visitor who comes into a park at the last minute, ignores the closing signs, and makes the Rangers late for their supper.
Been there, done that ... the Ranger part I mean.

Fall light is a precious thing. Almost makes we Floridians forget the white hot light of our summers.

I was lucky to spot this pterodactyl soaring over golden ripples.
It is TOO a pterodactyl.

I'm happy to say I made it out the gate with a minute too spare. I knew I was going to make it about halfway back when I passed a park truck doing the final sweep to usher folks out.

By the time I pulled back onto the highway, you could hear the sizzle as the sun set down into the Gulf of Florida and a fine day came to an end.

Tomorrow ... one last lingering glimpse before dark.

(FYI: 37 degrees F here this morning)


Thunder Dave said...

I look forward to getting down there for good.
I've got plans to put a lift kit in the solstice to give it about 3ft of ground clearance! ;-)

Seriously, I'll have to catch the cattle auction sometime. Not so much for the cattle, but I do miss being around horses! Hey Kansas wasn't bad, it just didn't have enough beach to suite me!

lori said...

what great pictures you got. hey i got a question (yes i know i can go look it up -- but hey you seem to know) wahat is the difference in a cracker cow and a cow. was it the horns thing? cause the cows you showed the other day don't have horns. so i guess i did read something you wrote and it sank in also.????

Doug Taron said...

Beautiful photos, the light in the one of the rear view mirror is amazing. We have a locking gate and defined closing time at the Fen where I volunteer. Your description of getting out on time brought back lots of memories.

dani813 said...

Mr. has that account for the cooling towers. He said they do have sensors through there and it's crazy trying to get in just to do service. Pity the guard that has to go through his truck. What a mess!!!

Sharon said...

Cool :) It was very chilly here this morning too, I could actually see my breath last night! *Sigh*

threecollie said...

Very lovely, as always. Even here in the far, far north, the light in autumn is something we often remark upon. Thanks for yet another wonderful post.

robin andrea said...

Florida looks so pretty through your eyes, fc. You know where to look to get those lovely, soft sunset shots. The angle of light in fall is the best, and those cool temps make it perfect for being out to get those pterodactyl shots. I'm photographing pterodactyls here too. Love those dinosaurs.

Anonymous said...

btw, the Crystal River Nuclear Plant is actually in Red Level, Citrus County, Florida. Look it up.

But of course, Red Level Nuclear Plant would not be that politic a name.

Leslie said...

I knew it was a pterodactyl the moment I saw the photograph. 38F, huh? It was 36 here. Wow.

SophieMae said...

Gee, it was just as cold down there as up here. But it'll get a lot lower here before spring returns.

I drove down that same road last year, about the same time of day, but didn't make it quite as far as you. Somehow, I don't think I'll be taking the Hyundai down there. Nice nuclear shot!

Did you make it down to Fort Island beach? There were several people snapping a nice flock of black skimmers last time I was there.

vicki said...

I think someone needs to start the Cracker Pelican Fan Club. I love these stinky goofy birds. I've been basking in the beauty of the last three posts- the Florida Cracker cattle are gorgeous and I can't with for you to get some. Better than a motorcycle. When you do get close to the 4th street Shrimp Store let me know- I'll meet you there!

Meanwhile, back here in Chicago things have gone all windy and cold.

misti said...

The frigates are my pterodactyl's. I have a few photos of snail kites on my blog if you are intersted. Not the best, but it was what we could get.

Floridacracker said...

I wonder if Super Swampers come in super small size?

Most of those cattle were youngsters with wee knobs. They will sprout into decent horns later. Click on the Florida Cracker Cattle link to the right of this post for an expert description of the breed.

In the NPS, we would always have vistors who showed up at closing time fussing about the fact that we were closing the park.
"I just got here!!" they'd say in a aggravated tone.
To which I always replied, "Gee, I've been here since 8:30 this morning waiting for you."

One of my old students works their as a security officer ... at least he did the last time I ran into him.

Me too ... I saw my breath feeding the chickens this morn.

Thanks. The shadows are harsher, the woods darker, but the light is muy bonito.

Nothing like a good pterodactyl to cap a good day. I look forward to your dinoshots.
Glad you appreciate my Florida. Makes it all worthwhile.

Are you on the Red Level chamber of commerce maybe? Here's a link,
so you can look it up and see the correct name for the plant.
I'm not sure what politics has to do with a power plant name.

Thanks for the pterodactyl back up. The temps just plummeted last night. It was only forecast to go to 42 ish.

I love black skimmers, but I did not make it to Fort Island Beach this time ... I stretched the day out pretty well, but could not squeeze that in ... this time. I suppose they grade that road from time to time, but it was rough last week.

Don't you mean Cracker Pterodactyls? I saw on the Weather Channel that you Chicagoans were getting a chilly blast.
I'll email ya if I ever am heading to the 4th Street Shrimp Store when you are in FL.

Frigates, yup, I can see the resemblance there. Thanks for the heads up on the snail kite, always interested in such a neat animal.

Thunder Dave said...

I think the best one I've seen used the body of a Vega. That's gonna be hard to top!

eyemkmootoo said...

I'm sorry. I was young and stupid. I was THAT visitor. Were you the guy that asked in a menacing tone "Do you know how to read, boy."

Floridacracker said...

I can see it now.

All is forgiven.