Sunday, June 14, 2009

Home Again, Thanks To The Slow Road

Friday, around 2:00 pm, my time in aquaculture heaven ended.

I suppose it was time to go. My 6 inch thick binder of information was full, my conference bag was full of great books and things related to aquaculture, and my brain was almost full.
We said our goodbyes and I hopped in the JEEP for the ride north.
While the ride down on Monday had been rushed and mostly done in predawn darkness, the ride home stretched in infinite directions and I had no clock to worry about.
  • I could just shoot home on the turnpike, arriving at PFHQ in about 4 hours.
  • I could cruise west toward Lake Okeechobee and poke around some, maybe catch a photo of a snail kite ... certainly some gator photos.
  • I could cruise north to visit Mom and Dad using old US-1 or A1A, stopping at any parks or wildlife areas along the way, while enjoying some of the older Florida coastal towns.
US-1 won.

One nice thing about my chosen route was the fact that US-1 follows the western shore of the Indian River Lagoon from Fort Pierce almost to Daytona, before heading inland a little. The scene above is looking east to the barrier island and beyond it, the Atlantic.
Recognize the location?

I snapped a few "look how close the highway comes to the river" shots through my bug splattered windshield.
I had the general lay of the land in my head from growing up on the East coast of Florida and being such a Floridiot, but I didn't have any specific goals in mind, just hours of sunshine still and an abundance of batteries and megapixel storage to fill.
Somewhere along US-1, near New Smyrna, I spotted a Merrit Island NWR sign and dirt road leading in to the woods. I was past it by the time I realized what it was so I had to hang a louie and cruise back, but I'm so glad I did.

The road led to an elevated dike that snaked out into the Indian River with shallow impoundments on one side and the river on the other. It was late in the day by the time I was this far North, and lots of waders were feeding or preening in the shallow impoundment side.

We have some roseate spoonbills around my area, but not many it seems, so I really enjoyed getting to see these beautiful birds.
The egrets pale in comparison ... but they are white after all ... so the pale thing comes naturally.

On the impoundment side, a linear canal held rolling slurping tarpon and many, many schools of small mullet and killifish. On the river side, a pod of dolphins were working schools of mullet and I was able to get this one shot of a dolphin.

Blacknecked Stilts were feeding in the calm, shallow impoundment waters too. Very chatty birds, these stilts.

A chain of herons.

Seeing double.

The spoonbills were specatacular and if I had only been able to see them, it would have been a worthwhile detour from the track home. I spent a good hour and a half exploring this narrow trail through the marsh. The critters sighted list would go something like this:
  • roseate spoonbills
  • common egret
  • snowy egret
  • white ibis
  • glossy ibis
  • woodstork
  • stilt
  • tricolor heron
  • cardinal
  • grackles
  • great blue heron
  • tarpon ... lots of young 3 footers rolling in the canal waters
  • black vulture
  • dolphin
  • mullet

The marsh grasses were so lush they fairly glowed in the afternoon light. It looks like this marsh and adjoining palmy forest burned recently. Whether on purpose, or accidental ... I don't know since I'm not local in these parts. Obviously the marsh grasses appreciated the ash nutrients.

The big boy in a reflective mood ...
... I was too, by the time I pulled off this wonderful trail and back on to the pavement of US-1. By then the sun had set ... mostly, so I pointed the JEEP towards St. Augustine and slapped it on the rear.
Under a setting sun, the little towns that the interstate left behind, came and went ... Oak Hill, Ariel, and bigger, busier towns followed in the dark ... New Smyrna, Daytona , until finally, I arrived in St. Augustine and the house I grew up in.
I was tired, after stretching a four hour drive into eight hours, but glad I'd made the decision to take the old, slow way home.


Caroline said...

I love the chain of herons!
What a lovely drive that looks.

Miz S said...

Beautiful photos, FC. Any way to make some money off of your photography skills?

Looks like you had a really lovely day, and I know your 'rents were glad to see you at the end of it.

Florida Beach Basics said...

glad you made it to Brevard County - come back in January - MINWR is really abuzz then. marge

Florida Beach Basics said...

P.S. Now that you're safely back home, will we be seeing that chili recipe? marge

Carol said...

Love those back country roads. The Rosey Spoonbills are beautiful. I've only seen them from a distance on the ICW. I couldn't even get a good picture. Yours are great.

TROLL Y2K said...

Yeah, you had a lot of options. 70 to 27 or 17 would have been more Crackerish. That's a whole bunch of Florida that the Interstate's forgot.

ChrisC and JonJ said...

OMG!!I have bird envy!Great shots!

robin andrea said...

Wow, fc! These are magnificent photos. The reflections are truly stunning. Breathtaking and beautiful.

S N B said...

Going to Merritt Island NWR is on my to-do list and has been for years. It looks as cool as I imagined. Love
spoonbills!! As an aside, a couple of years ago, we came across one in a farm pond in south Georgia!! Crazy.

Kimberlee said...

Those are beautiful the reflections! Glad you had some fun.

threecollie said...

What a wonderful bit of getting side tracked. I envy your birds!

lisa said...

Loved the drive, very nice and relaxing(or as relaxing as driving can be.)

Floridacracker said...

It was great and just the sort of treasure I was hoping to find.

Miz S,
How many prints would you like to buy my dear?
Actually, I'm exploring $ possibilities with some of the sites like zazzle, etc.
Problem is, there are a lot of excellent photographers out there ... dang talented people!

That chili recipe should be up at Pure Florida Food right now. Thanks for the tip about January!

Thanks, but I deleted a whole bunch of bad ones that no one ever sees!

Yes, I almost did that, but decided to go to St. Aug rather than home. I agree that would have been an excellent ride.

Chris and Jon,
Thanks. I had fun getting them.

It's funny, the dike was blocking the wind so the river side was choppy, but the impoundment side with the birds was like glass.

Wow, that seems pretty far north. I am still waiting to get real close to a wild one.

Oh I squeezed in a little fun this week. LOL!

Sidetracking comes naturally to me ...

A pretty bouncy ride in a JEEP, but these birds mostly ignore you in a vehicle as they are used to them. A little closer would have been nice, but it was a great time.

Freste said...

The slow way home is almost always the most rewarding.

Bill said...

Glad to see you took the road less traveled. The pictures were worth the trip for me. I know you enjoyed the ride.


Dan said...

Beautiful images!

Floridacracker said...

Time and again that gets reproven.

It was sweet.