Saturday, January 24, 2009


It's scary for me to think about how long I've been coming to this place called Guana. My parents took us surf fishing along the adjoining beach when I was pretty little ... so it's tempting to say I've been coming here for my whole life.

In that time Guana has changed from a vast private holding to a state park and finally to a special status national preserve.


Guana is some of the finest real estate in the peninsula and would be covered from shore to shore in concrete or ugh ... golf courses like Sawgrass, if not for it's protected status. It includes high ground on the beach, high ground adjacent to an estuary, and high ground along the intracoastal waterway to the west.

The view above is looking northish at Guana Lake, which is a dammed tidal river. North of the dam the brackish lake is a haven for waterfowl and all sorts of marshy critters.

On the intracoastal side, broad (not by my county standards!) marshes are broken by beaches of shelly sand and twisty tidal creeks.

Trails run through the maritime hardwood forest to the intracoastal where you can fish, poke around, or picnic.

Guana shows evidence of human use from the prehistoric to the historic to the present. Above is a coquina lined well that sits near the western shore.
As a kid, I was extremely lucky to be invited along with my Uncle Richard and my cousins on a special once a year camping trip in Guana. The land was privately owned then and the National Guard Dads had worked out an arrangement to camp there one weekend a year with their sons.
My cousins, friends, and I would explore, eat, have hickory nut battles, chase wild hogs, ... it was magic.
The trip was always at the time of year when the huge Black Drum were present in the intracoastal and fishing for them at night was a highlight of the trip. Their drumming was so loud that the bottom of Uncle Richard's skiff would vibrate and you could hear them plain as day.
I even remember lying on the floor of the tent, my ear to the ground, trying to fall asleep after so much fun and hearing the drumming through the soil. The shore was only a few yards away and I wonder now if I was dreaming it and remember it as reality, or if the sound really did carry up the slope to my ten year old ears.
It doesn't really matter if I dreamt it or it was real, those camping trip memories are magic and with magic, anything is possible.


roger said...

a belated happy birthday wish for you.

nice remembrance of childhood fun.

threecollie said...

Magic describes it well. Thanks for sharing it. How is the novel coming along?

Margaret Cloud said...

I bet you were in your glory when young to visit such a gorgeous place, it looks like heaven on earth. Beautiful pictures.

Dr. Know said...

JC, reminiscing is the first stage of senile dementia. Happy Birthday.

Pleasant tale of a more innocent time. You can't help but wish there were more. Some of my fonder memories are from Florida's birds, reptiles, scrubby forests and waterways. I also lived 10 miles north of Guana for a few years in the mid-90s, but never camped.

The Everglades would be another neat place, and Sanibel Island, some unidentified rolling orange grove in central FL lit only by a full perigeal moon, and...

Aunty Belle said...

What a golden childhood!

Belated felicitations on arriving at an age of wisdom.

Deb said...

I can't imagine fish drumming so loud you could hear them!

Sounds like a wonderful memory, one that every kid should have.

misti said...

I was at Guana at Thanksgiving. A beautiful place!

TROLL said...

Never heard of it. Thanks.

Mockingbird said...

I'm glad to hear your fond memories of Guana. Happy Birday, too.
My dad taught me to drive in Palm Valley and Guana (1966). The animals back then-rattlesnakes, bobcats, hogs, big gators, coons and opossums. I still walk the woods west of the lake; it's my kind of church.

Hurricane Teen said...


Hurricane Teen said...

Also, great birthday story! Interestingly enough, you and my Grandma have the same birthday.

Ericka said...

i'd never heard of guana before. one more thing to see if ever i actually make it to florida...

ChrisC and JonJ said...

Never heard of Guana.Where is it?

Robert V. Sobczak said...

That goes to show: a place isn't a place without the memories that go along with it. They occupy every square inch, but never crowd you out.

tsiya said...

I used to run up the river in a 12foot plywood boat that my daddy and Joe Grady Sr. made with a Sears Roebuck kit. I had a little Scott Atwater outboard, it took about 90 minutes from Davis Shores to Guana. No one ever bothered us, although we were trespassing.
Ancient history, over 50 years ago!

rick said...

those camping trips were something special we even got to miss a day or two of school.Im sure Kevin will agree. I remember venison ribs and the food those army men prepared was awesome.We saw Guana at its best in our lifetime.

Anonymous said...

Hello, Being a Florida Native myself I enjoy visiting your blog. I lived in St. Augustine for 19 years before moving to Lee just north of the Suwannee River last year. Great Pictures of Guana. I used to take my kids hiking and fishing at Guana. We once hiked out to the bird tower. Whew, I that was quite a hike.

S N B said...

Nice post! Sweet memories.

David said...

Good post - Guana is a neat place and great for gator watching.

bluebird of paradise said...

What a lovely piece!~ I hope you are writing a book about these memories.

Floridacracker said...

It's bouncing around in my head and accumulating baggage!

Lots of good times there.

Beach not orange grove for me ...

Welcome back maam. Thank you for that!

These drum get over 100 lb so the volume can be pretty high!

I agree. great lake for canoe/kayaking too.

Next time your cuz plays SawGrass you should take it in. Just south of there.

My uncle was a log cabin pioneer of palm valley post civil war. Love that last statement.

How could you not LOVE Guana? See, now your grandma and I know when to make an appearance!

You must do that. You're not that far away.

Chris and Jon,
Just north of the Vilano Beach area of St. Aug.
Take A1A north and you will drive right to it.

Dang, I wish I had written that line.

I still get misty at the site of a flat bottom plywood skiff.

Very Special and I am forever indebted to your Daddy for taking me along!

Most of my memories are at the south end, but I hunted the north and canoed the very northern section of the lake.
Glad you are enjoying Pure Florida!

You betcha, great experiences.

True dat! I haven't canoed it (now I'd kayak) for a while, but it was great for otters too in the late '80's ... at the far northern cattail marsh end.

You're reading it ... that will be $7.95 please. :) LOL!

Miz S said...

FC, I loved reading this. Seems like Florida was a beautiful place to grow up. And you know, I gotta say, one of the reasons I love your blog is that it shows people like me what the "real" Florida is like. Because mostly all we ever see or hear about Florida is girls-gone-wild-spring-break stuff or retirees puttering about or hideous crime stories. I love hearing about your day to day life in Florida, and your childhood reminiscences are priceless.

You know, there might actually be a book in you somewhere.

Doug Taron said...

Wonderful story. Sounds like a great place to grow up.

ImagineMel said...

Wow...and I thought you were writing about bat poop! ;)

SophieMae said...

Happy (belated) birthday, young'un!
Chili and tollhouse cookies... celebration inspiration! 8-]

It's wonderful to know there are still a few places of Florida left (mostly) unspoiled. Guana (which always makes me think guano) is one park I've never visited. Your pics make me want to rectify that.

Floridacracker said...

Miz S,
I know ... the hideous retirees gone wild get all the press and no one ever hears about the real Florida. Ticks me off.
Thank you for those very kind words tho.

Pretty amazing place actually.

Not this time, but I can if I need to.
Your boy liked my birthday cake.

I had eaten 3 bowls of chili and way too many of my Mom's Tollhouse cookies thinking all I had to do was kick back that evening.
Go to Guana!

kevin said...

Rick, I agree. The Guana camping trips were great. Too many great memories to list here.

Alan said...

Guana is great, I should go back. Haven't been since college when I was in a class at UNF researching the British period of Florida and the plantation owned by the colonial governor that sat on the ground of what is now the park. Neat history.

Gotta watch out for those marsh cacti, though - got more than one punctured pair of tennis shoes from trips out there with the class...

amarkonmywall said...

I know for certain you are not talking about me in your response to Miz Mary...I agree with her 100%- you bring the best of Florida to your blog and it makes me proud to be a resident, albeit parttime, and work on preserving some of this beauty- amidst the hideous retirees gone wild.
So, I thank you.

Floridacracker said...


Jumping cactus? the worst!

Never you! I was just having fun with Miz S's words!