'scene' along the way, a second look, adventure, Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Preserve, finding my way, Florida landmarks, friends, fun, making memories, nature, perseverance, photography, road trip, unintended images

And then there is the distillery…

When we arrived at Chassowitzka the other day we stopped at the station to check in and find out if we did or did not have to pay to enter the park. We didn’t, being over 65, in our case way over. But the real reason I was happy that we had stopped was because the ranger asked if we had ever been to the distillery in the park. No, we hadn’t, and once my friend heard that word ‘distillery’, and we didn’t know the park so we were wandering anyhow, we found ourselves following the signs for NJoy. And what a fun surprise it was to find this place after becoming convinced that we had somehow lost our way more than once. If you go keep driving, there will be another sign eventually.

We found a nice brick pathway to draw us in.
This butt-shot view was chosen to eliminate cars from the background. In case you wondered.
Conveniently placed near the entrance is this out house, complete with light switch.
Just to our right we couldn’t help but notice the outdoor bar area.
But the actual distillery caught our eye, with it’s working water wheel.
The coloring on this donkey, (it is a donkey, right?), caught my eye, but he wasn’t interested in posing for a picture.
There were horses and cows in the pasture.
And a pig just outside the distillery itself.
And a charming pond to sit by and enjoy the view.
Perhaps we will have to return for this event.

I had already decided that this could make a great venue for a party of any kind. There was lots of seating, a giant fire pit, and the bar of course. If private parties are allowed, I didn’t ask. Tours are offered all day long when it’s open, which is weekends only, and while we didn’t take the tour or even sit at the bar and have a beer this time, we might just correct that oversight when we return. Hours later my friend was still marveling over the idea that back in the woods, and I mean way back in the woods, you could find such an oasis waiting for you.

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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…

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Sunset in Dunedin…

We finally got to head to Dunedin for the sunset last night. As we walked to the marina we saw sailboats returning from a sailing lesson, so of course I ran ahead so as to not miss the shot. As it turned out it’s a good thing the sailboats created a diversion for us because we had longer to wait for the sunset than we thought. And then the clouds took over.

Things were looking promising at this point.
There are a few variations on the view as you sit in the park next to the boat house.
We were treated to a grackle serenade as we enjoyed the view. No osprey nests were visible this time. Perhaps they were evicted.
I caught a photo of this fisherman just before he called it a day.
This little girl was busy swinging her net, but at no creature that we could see.
The sun was getting lower.
I told myself that the color was coming up.
Then I looked behind me in hopes of seeing pretty reflected color, and found this.
We headed to the car, really we were heading to The Lucky Dill for a beer, but I stopped and took one last iPhone photo of the sunset.

I think that the iPhone enhanced the color a bit in that last photo. I’m glad that the sunset itself, or lack of it, isn’t the make or break moment of the day’s fun. One way or another it’s always good to get out and go shooting…

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Making do…

All day the plan was to go to Dunedin for dinner, plus take in the sunset of course. But as the day went on the clouds got heavier and it started to rain. Much too late to go anywhere we saw that the clouds were breaking up a bit, so we went out in the drizzle and got some shots.

I see the raindrops in this picture when I look at it on my huge computer screen.
This turtle is enormous, we decided that he thought we might have a goodie for him. We didn’t.
This duck was probably thinking the same thing. She also was out of luck.

Later I saw pictures of the sunset from Dunedin and it was very nice. We missed a chance, but maybe it will work out next time.

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Return to Cedar Key…

The day was going to be hot, but the sky was quite pretty and we hadn’t been out for pictures in a few days, so we made the drive to Cedar Key yesterday. My last trip must not have been on the weekend because I was surprised at the crowds at the restaurants and shops on the waterfront. Last time I was there I had taken lots of pictures of and in those buildings, but this time the crowds and lack of parking had us moving on. But not before we had clam chowder at Tony’s, which was at least as good as advertised. I was hoping for refills, but no such luck.

We are New Englanders, but this version of clam ‘chowdah’ holds it’s own with the best of them.
Patronage was steady, but not overwhelming for the cook/server, who was doing double duty.

There are adorable sculptures in the garden at the side of the library. They appear to be more weather-worn than when I was there before, but still charming as ever.

I love this sidewalk fisherman. He has a fish on his line, but not one of the little fish in the mural, he has snagged the big fish in the feature photo.
Love this little mural on the wall also.
If I take pictures of old barns out in the country then I guess an old building in town is also a subject.
This mural was a challenge to photograph without the cars that were sitting out front.
But really the sky was what I was wanting to see in my photos as we drove around the area.
Those clouds, and the blue sky just looked so pretty.
Our sole bird sighting. No Spoonies this time.
More clouds.
A tiny house. Too tiny.
Cemetery Point had been suggested as a viewing spot, but this grave was what caught my eye. Big Ed must have been something, proud southerner and firefighter, well remembered.
We can’t learn too much from this spot where Jimmy the Greek rests in peace.
At 15 miles per hour this was our view for quite a while after turning into a wildlife preserve.

,Leaving Cedar Key seemed like more of an escape than just a drive. Still on backroads the GPS gave us no clue as to where we were in relation to a town. After we turned into the wildlife area I asked how we were doing on gas, and the reply was that he wished I’d asked that question sooner. To which I suggested that the driver might have been keeping an eye on the gas tank without the passenger’s input. Eventually, like a mirage, a gas station appeared up ahead. And we were advised that if we just drove straight ahead we’d come to route 19 and we could head south to home! A fun day’s outing, with just a little added drama…

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Distractions…

I have to confess that as much as I enjoyed the butterflies at the Butterfly Rainforest yesterday I did let myself get distracted by the adorable Chinese Painted Quail that were busy scooting around in the underbrush. And sometimes napping on the walkway. Another visitor asked if they were okay, and the workers said yes they were. And added they they are the worlds smallest variety of quail. You can see them in the feature photo, a male and female I would expect.

See that tiny little pink dot nearly in the center of this photo? That is a Summer Tanager and it was busy taking a bath and didn’t seem to mind that I was intent on getting pictures.
Thank goodness for the zoom, he was too cute to miss.
He was splishing and splashing.
So cute.
And when he was done he up and flew away.

Actually the fun started right when you walked into the lobby, before you even entered the rainforest. In the lobby was a huge screen on the wall, and when we entered on the screen was a Mastodon and baby, wandering in the lobby. We quickly discovered that if you walked into the area the animal on the screen would start following you, and chasing you. You can imagine how excited the two young boys we saw were as they were chased by a tiger.

Not a great photo I know, but it was quite effective in person.
Tigers chased you more than the Mastodons did.
Also on display in the reception area. Fossils was the other big feature while we were there. I was sort of along for the ride, not expecting to be as interested as I turned out to be.
This display was nice, in the kids’s play area.
Hanging above the kids’s heads, the stuff of nightmares.

Did you know that giant sloths existed years ago? Big! Like 14 feet tall or so. And Dog bears? Not a dog and not a bear, but a dog bear. And did you know that horses used to be small and have gotten bigger over time? I didn’t either. And now I wish I’d taken more pictures.