'scene' along the way, a second look, adventure, butterflies, Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Preserve, exploring new places, Florida landmarks, friends, fun, making memories, nature, perseverance, photography, road trip, sky

A short visit to Chassahowitzka…

You know how it is. You head out the door intending to do one thing, but the conversation leads you in an entirely different direction. That’s what happened yesterday when we set out to see and take photos along the back roads of ‘old Florida’, but we wound up at the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Preserve instead. I’ve been there before, but I’ve always been the passenger tagging along with friends who know the park backwards and forwards. Which means that I have no idea how to get around in there so I wasn’t the best guide that a person could hope for. In fact we never did see the scenery I expected to show him, but that was okay, we’ll find that next time. And next time maybe there won’t be bow and arrow hunters in the woods, a fact that kept us close to the road as we got out for pictures. Not that we are hikers. As you can see from the feature photo we found lots and lots of butterflies in the thistles at the side of the road.

There was a lot of competition over this flower.
I love the detail in the thistles.
Rain was expected later on, but for the most part the skies were pretty.
And the rains we have had meant that we had to drive through puddles that took over the road in spots.
Trees and sky are your companions as you drive the winding road.
The sky seemed threatening at times, but mostly it was pretty.
Then on the way home we saw this rain falling in the general direction of where we were heading, but we seemed to drive around it. Then it started to rain as soon as we got home. Perfect timing.

The wildlife was keeping a low profile as we drove through. Of course it was afternoon and there is usually more action in the morning and at dusk. Still my friend was happy to see the Florida landscape as it was before people decided to ‘improve’ it…

butterflies, exploring new places, Florida landmarks, friends, fun, gardens, Just do it, live and learn, making memories, moments, natural wonders, nature, Nature's beautiful creatures, perseverance, photography, road trip

Exploring a Rainforest…

We visited a Rainforest yesterday. In Gainesville, FL. With Butterflies. A shorter road trip this time. Your price of admission included visiting the museums associated with the University of Florida, so we saw more than just a host of butterflies. But for now it’s the butterflies that stole the show.

You walk a boardwalk through a lush garden of lovely flowers, with waterfalls, turtles, and koi fish. Butterflies of every imaginable color are literally everywhere. If you stop to take pictures you must check around your feet before you take a step, just in case.
These black and white butterflies were either the most abundant variety or the ones who most wanted their picture taken.
Black butterflies seemed elusive.
I loved his blue color.
Just saying hello!
Catching them while they were on flowers wasn’t easy.
This one was small, and it’s body was thick enough that I thought it was a hummingbird for a second.
Say cheese.
Yellow fellow.
A worker pointed out this blue butterfly when it was staying still and we could get pictures. He called it the ‘money shot’. These blue butterflies, and others of every color you can imagine, flitted through your view constantly, but didn’t stop often enough to get photos of them all.
This is how that blue butterfly looks with his wings closed. Signage said that some of these startling colors are so that the butterfly can open its wings and the color will startle a predator.

We set the record for heat in the Tampa area yesterday. If it wasn’t a record in Gainesville then I’m sure it was close. Plus the humidity was even more than what was natural to enhance the rainforest atmosphere. But it was a worthwhile trip, we were happy we got to enjoy this colorful place.

'scene' along the way, a second look, adventure, blessings, bugs, butterflies, exploring new places, family, flowers, friends, fun, making memories, natural wonders, perseverance, photography, road trip

Those hazy views…

We looked into the haze at every stop along Skyline Drive. I don’t know if it was better or worse than usual while we were there, but it didn’t stop us from taking shot after shot at every overlook we came to. A couple of days ago I mentioned my previous trip there when the pop-up camper popped off the hitch of my car, and how I just headed for home after that. What I didn’t mention is that my cousin was a supervising ranger at Skyline Drive for 21 years, and that he lives in the area. We had lunch with him on Cape Cod while we were there, but he wasn’t going to be back home when we got to his area the next week. So imagine my surprise when I posted a picture of a surprise engagement shot I got on our first day on the drive, and he commented that his farmhouse is in the background of the shot. Small world and lucky accident of timing, it all factored into the shot, which I love all the more now.

They are strangers to me, but I wish I had approached them to say I had photos. Someone else took pictures and I assumed it was a friend of theirs, or a professional photographer, so I kept quiet. I regret that now.
I don’t know these people either, but I was waiting for them to clear out so I could take a picture of the sign. Then I decided that someone else’s memory-in-the-making would make my photo more of a story. Did I walk on the Appalachian Trail? Of course not, I do photos as a ‘drive-by’ of sorts, content with the overview rather than the details.
Okay, sometimes I take close ups. This fawn showed up just as we got onto Skyline Drive. Then he turned out to be the only wildlife we saw in three days oof driving the winding roads of Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
What was odd about the views was that everything close to you was so clear, the distant view was hazy. The color was great. The not-so-great skies meant that the light was softer so your foregrounds looked great. And there were flowers in your foregrounds, and lively butterflies who challenged you to get their photo.
And when I got lucky I spotted bees too.
And yellow butterflies that spread their wings for you.
And yellow butterflies on pink flowers.

There are so many pictures that now I find them hard to group into a cohesive story. The iPhone will tell me where the pictures were taken, and when, which is helpful provided I also took a few shots with my phone as well as the camera. As we approached home I said that I didn’t know when I’d be ready for a long trip like this one was, but the thought of a couple of days here and there is already sounding like a good idea.

'scene' along the way, a second look, adventure, Amazing artwork, bugs, butterflies, flowers, friends, fun, gardens, life, life goes on, making memories, perseverance, photography, road trip

It’s all about the bees…

Heritage Gardens was supposed to be about the hummingbirds. I was there two years ago and came across a shrub that was just off the walking path and the flowers there were making the hummingbirds very happy. And the hummingbird moths too. So in my usual way I totally expected them to be right there waiting for me to take more pictures of them this time. So much of life has changed in the last two years, why should I expect the hummingbirds to be carrying on in the same way? I’ve certainly chosen a bit of a different path for myself these days, I guess they can too.

I was attracted to the intense blue and purple colors of this hydrangea.. The bee was a bonus.
Gorgeous hollyhocks.
The charming windmill.
Chipmunks are so cute, and we don’t see them in Florida.

Wait, I said this was about the bees, didn’t I?

Orange bee…
Pink bee…
Purple bee…
Oops, this is a butterfly!

Lego sculptures were found throughout the gardens.

Same picture from this angle…
And then from this angle.
And now we see how this was done…

We had such a nice day. And when we got back my friend got to reunite with two close friends from childhood for the first time in over 20 years. After all my travels and reconnections these past few years I know just how great that feels. What a very nice day.

'scene' along the way, a second look, butterflies, flowers, gardens, Nature Coast Botanical Gardens, perseverance, photography

Model trains…

Not too long ago I was at the Nature Coast Botanical Garden when the model train was running. The conductor said that his grandchildren were coming soon so he had to hurry up and finish his work on the train village. I think he did a great job. And the last time I was at the botanical garden the shrubs had just been cut back, so there were very few flowers and not so many butterflies. My how things have changed in a few weeks.

The village is next to the waterfall these days.
And this little house along side the waterfall looks inviting.
I love the church garden.
The flowers are lovely.
And so are the butterflies.
Cactus buds reaching for the sky.
This one is past it’s prime.
A natural bouquet.
I must be drawn to pink flowers.
And lastly a zebra butterfly, there were many of them.
adventure, birds, butterflies, Charleston views, exploring new places, flowers, fun, gardens, making memories, nature, Nature's beautiful creatures, perseverance, photography, road trip

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens…

The last time I was in Charleston missed the turn into my cousin’s development, but that meant I drove right past this gem of a place. I knew I’d want to visit when I came back this time. It was founded in 1676 by the Drayton family, and consequently endured and survived our county’s history as the country was born, and as it struggled with the American Revolution as well as the Civil War. It’s said to be the oldest public garden in the county, opening in 1870, and continuing today.

The beautiful wisteria caught my eye when I arrived.
And this bench was a pretty sight also.
But the peacocks were calling me. You could hear them throughout the garden, so I went to the little zoo before I went exploring.
Nature does provide us with beautiful creatures.
Three of them were strutting their stuff, but this gal didn’t seem to be impressed.
Come walk with me.
Such a pretty view.
I loved this pond with it’s beautiful reflections.
And this red bridge with cascades of flowers dripping from it.
I took so many pictures of this bridge.
Come around a bed in the path and you come upon another pretty scene.
I thought of ‘Tiptoe through the tulips’,except they are azaleas. They really were a little past their prime, but still so amazingly beautiful.
You might need a rest by now.
There was a $20 charge for the gardens, in which I walked 2 1/2 miles. But for an extra charge you might want to tour the house, or take this boat tour, or walk the Audubon swamp tour, and/or more. I can return once more using my ticket, so I want to go back, but I don’t know which tour I want to choose.
There were lots of these fat bumble bees around, and I was happy to see them since they’ve seemed scarce anywhere I’ve been lately. And they gave me a reason to concentrate on the flowers themselves.
This was a very long distance shot from the wildlife observation tower. The horses were the only wildlife I saw.
The family tomb.
Another pretty path to lure you in. I’m sure I missed more paths than I actually walked.
And after walking paths with lots of helpful signage, I eventually was off by myself, on paths with no signage, and hopefully not lost, but I found a butterfly…

I’ve hardly put a dent in the pictures I took today. It was a good day.