Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pee Wee's Big Adventure

My teacher buddy Cindy has often said, "You guys have the coolest adventures, I want to go sometime."
I always say "You're welcome to come along any time," but then schedules seem to conflict or I get a sudden inspiration and there isn't time to get together.
She lives in the big city dontcha know, so she's pretty far away from PFHQ.

Yesterday, after a day of standardized state student torture known as the FCAT test, we both had a clear schedule and our dirty sneakers, so off we went to see the champion live oak tree that lives deep within Devils Hammock.

Generally, visitors do not drive the JEEP, but Cindy is a car girl (her husband works in the racing industry and writes racing articles) so I knew she could handle it ... plus I owe her big time for tutoring Junior in algebra.

It may be hard to see in the window glare, but she's got a big smile on her face.
It's a JEEP thing.

We drove in at Blue Springs and drove through the park spotting gators along the way. I didn't keep count, but I know we saw more gators along the way than I have seen before. Cindy may be a good luck charm when it comes to gators as she is a UF alum.
We saw everything from little 2 footers to 9 footers. They were all out sunning on the banks or lying in ambush like the fellow above.

This cottonmouth was sunning on the roadway and was not about to move out of the way, even when I got out to photo it. He gets his own post later this week with some closeups, so we'll talk about him another time.

Cindy was very patient as I stopped repeatedly and shot butterflies, gators, snakes, and scenery.
She even took the camera once and managed a Kingfisher shot that's better than any I have taken ... dang it.
It will be in another post.

She's the kind of person you want to take on an adventure because she's excited to see every critter or neat feature you come across.
The tenth gator seemed to be just as interesting as the first, which is the way we see it here at Pure Florida too.

Joi de Tree.

This is the big live oak inside Devil's Hammock. Cindy is pretty happy to be there even though the photo does not show the thick swarms of mosquitoes that were enveloping us at that moment.
If we look closely, you can see that the root to the left comes all the way up to her hip.
That's just a root!
This tree is so amazing. It's growing in a low area, but has created it's own hill over the centuries by it's own leaf fall.

Cindy checks out the other side of the champion.

We didn't stay too long at the big tree due to the mosquitoes, but the tree stayed with me. You know, five hundred years ago, this was the norm. Just imagine a Florida filled with trees like this, because once it was so.

The Amazon would pale in comparison.

Seeing the tree was the last stop on the adventure. A few minutes after seeing it we were blasting back to town leaving hordes of disappointed mosquitoes in our wake.


Anonymous said...

Woo-hoo, looks like fun. Don't you wish you could walk around in the five-hundred-years ago world, just for a minute.

And thanks for letting us know about the mosquitoes. Although we still have our snow on the ground, at least we don't have those flying bloodsuckers airborne yet.

Deb said...

Wow, what a tree! If it could talk...would it have anything nice to say about us humans?

Great adventure, great photos.

dani813 said...

It is hard not to feel a sense of loss when we see these giants and to think that this was the norm.Mindblowing!!

Mark said...

That tree is amazing. 25 or so years ago I took a canoe ride with my father up the Oostanaula River, which flows through my home town. Up above town there were huge oaks next to the river - not as big as the champ, but very big. I thought how wonderful it was that these huge, old trees had survived. They are gone now.

Laura said...

A most excellent adventure! Funny how something so old and stationary can give us such a thrill. I've always wanted to see the giant redwoods in California, too.

Now where was that cottonmouth when the developers were raging Florida?
Good to see he's still here, too. (although I usallly give them a wide berth.)
(a very wide berth).

FloridaBoy said...

The nice thing about that tree is that it is a forest grown live oak as opposed to an open-grown specimen. FL has numerous wide-trunked live oaks that got their start in life out in open fields, and thus have short, thick trunks. You know you have a real tree when it's 4ft in diameter 50ft above the ground. Let me know if you want to see the former FL champ live oak in San Felasco Hammock SP.

robin andrea said...

What a fantastic journey! Love that tree. It's as grand and has as much ancient presence as the redwoods we know and love in California. Looking forward to the cottonmouth and kingfisher pics.

SophieMae said...

Isn't it great to be adventuring with someone who responds with more than a yawn when you say, 'There's another gator!'?

You're braver than I, getting out to shoot the cottonmouth. I still tend to call them water moccasins. I've gotten fairly close to pygmy rattlers, but diamondbacks and moccasins I shoot from the car.

Jane said...

I love trees and this is a "daddy" of a tree. Wow... it's huge! Thought you might like to see a picture of one of our oaks nearby called The Wyndham Oak

It's supposed to be over 1000 years old and is totally hollow.

More tree posts! Jane

Danielle Says Hello said...

I have fallen into the habit of lurking again....but I have been driven into the open by jealousy!!!! How fun! How Florida!! Can't wait to see the photos from the rest of the adventure.

pablo said...

You do have some excellent adventures, dude, so I can see why folks want to come along with you.

That is a great tree. I don't think Missouri ever grew them that big, but I understand the forest pre-settlement was far different from the Missouri forests of today.

ImagineMel said...

ok, I am now officially jealous. But...coulda done w/o the snake...eeeeewwwwwwwwwww.

Hurricane Teen said...

Ooooh, yeah, that's a tree. Just about as big as the champion cypress near my home I like to call "THE Tree." It can go without saying that I would love to see a Florida with these trees still around everywhere.

Floridacracker said...

The skeeters were no problem in the open, but yowza! The swamp around the tree was thick with them. Enjoy your mosquito free time!

It's pretty awe inspiring.

It is. The amazing thing is that any of these guys still exist for us to touch and wonder over.

That is so sad to think those trees are gone.

The redwoods are the superlative tree. I've seen them, but like Robin says in her comment, these are as grand in their ancient presence.
I talked to this cottonmouth about chasing developers and he says he's in.
Good to give them a wide berth, they are sometimes fussy.

Yes and a lot of those short wide trees started out as a cluster of live oak saplings that melded together. Like you said, this is A tree.

I agree. I've been to Muir Woods and I get the same feeling here.

Yes it is!
I like the backwoods cottonmouth moniker for this snake. So appropo.
He showed it to me as I shot pics.

Glad you liked the Wyndham Oak's American cousin :)
Thanks for the link!

"How Florida"
Now that's a compliment I cherish.

I bet those MO rivers sported some huge trees once upon a time.

More to come on that snake, so be ready for closeups.

Floridacracker said...

It would be nice if there were a lot more of them. Vast amounts of "logwood" was shipped by the Spanish colonists to the motherland back in the 1600's. Florida was hit hard early.

kathy a. said...

you'd love visiting calaveras big tree state park [yes! that's its real name]:

there are wonderful giant sequoias. it is up in the gold country; lots of little towns still celebrating the 1849 gold rush, and mark twain's story about the jumping frog is set nearby.

lesle said...

FC, on the "other side of the champion" photo, is that a vine on the right, hanging on the tree?

Alan said...

That is one big honkin' tree. Don't think I've ever seen one quite that big, certainly not in a forest. How tall is it?

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a monster tree!! It is bigger than the Maltby Oak in Palatka, which is giant in its own right. They took a couple of slightly smaller ones out to make room for our house, and we hated to lose them. I think they were sold for furniture wood.


Floridacracker said...

Yes I would! Sounds wonderful!
I wouldn't mind panning for gold either.

No, it looks like it, but it's a tree sprouted among the massive roots.

I don't know exactly, but it goes up a good ways. It's big in every way.

Hey Woodie,
I've never seen the Maltby Oak.
Where in Palatka?

JG said...

Last Friday I took the day off, and we took my Liberty (almost a JEEP) & tried to follow your route to find "the tree"...rode around the area for a few hours, followed a number of dead ends to the river, acted as banquets for many skeeters, saw some gators and loads of wildflowers, but alas, never did find the tree...interesting area and i'd like to try again sometime with better instructions

JG said...

p.s. forgot to check the box

JG said...

please tell me how to find the ancient oak...we have one down here we call the "king of the swamp" but yours looks even bigger