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)