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A Trail Runs Through It

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Florida TrailThe wide canvas on which Wakulla County is painted is framed between the expansive wilderness of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge along the eastern edge and the Apalachicola National Forest along the west. Riverways of spring-fed crystal blue or tannin blackwater snake their way down the canvas face before they empty into Apalachee Bay. Beneath in the watery coolness marine mammals and primitive reptiles cruise alongside the fishes and aquatic grasses. Stippled across the karst topography are springs, sinkholes and swallets, and sometimes spots where a river seems to simply vanish only to rise to the surface further downstream. Upward splendid birds hail the skies on delicate wing, sailing the unseen currents with grace. The major expanse of the Wakulla canvas is covered in seasonal shades of green – fern, forest, jade, moss, pine and shamrock. In the bright light of day, it is hard to discern the wildlife camouflaged by all this green. But if you look closely at the painting in the twilight or the breaking light of dawn, your eyes will see much more.

Stretched across this multicolored tapestry through a protected corridor runs the Panhandle section of the Florida National Scenic Trail, a 1,400 mile hiking trail that begins at the Big Cypress National Preserve near Miami and ends in the Gulf Islands National Seashore at Pensacola Beach. Wakulla County is fortunate to have the trail run through it for approximately 70 miles.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 02 October 2011 11:42 ) Read more...
 

Adventure on the History Trail

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I don’t remember precisely when I first became enamored with maps and compasses. I do recall one of my earliest memories is that of my brother and me standing in the driveway of our St. Petersburg home in the late 1950’s while he patiently instructs me, his wide-eyed younger sister, in the basics of navigational direction. In front of us is south and behind us is north, he explains. The tree with the little black berries is east he gestures, and down the road where my playmate and her brother live is west. The concept of knowing exactly where I stood in relation to a place beyond my yard was somehow very reassuring. Many times later I would stand grounded securely in that same spot while I allowed myself to imagine the world around me growing increasingly larger.

It must have been the beauty of the colors and intricate details drawn in the over-sized books of maps that sat on the shelf of our living room bookcase that initially attracted me. Like first learning to read and understand words, when I learned to read and comprehend a map, my world forever changed. Doors magically opened to the wonders of geography and history, and maps became alive with the past, present and future. Gazing at a map could transport me to many different places, expose me to other peoples, and connect me to the past. Maps simply awakened a desire to know more, and sometimes revealed things totally unexpected.

Recently I happened upon an unexpected delight when I discovered the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge History Trail.

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Through the Eyes of An Innkeeper

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"HIKER FROM CA, HIKING 2 MONTHS SO FAR, TRYING TO GO FROM KEYS UP TO CANADA STAYING AT THE INN FOR 2-3 DAYS BEFORE HE CONTINUES ON. WE HAD BREAKFAST TOGETHER IN THE KITCHEN AND SWAPPED HIKING ADVENTURE STORIES. IT WAS A LONG BREAKFAST FULL OF EXCITING, COLORFUL REMEMBRANCES ON BOTH SIDES OF THE TABLE . . . . . . . .

A MAN CAME BY TO LOOK AT THE POND AND TO LOOK FOR WORK. I GAVE HIM HOT COFFEE AND BISCUITS TO TAKE HOME FOR HIS BREAKFAST, WHICH HE GRATEFULLY ACCEPTED, AS HE WALKED DOWN THE ROAD TOWARDS HIS OLD TRAILER, A HUMBLE ABODE FOR SURE, BUT HOME TO A MAN WHO HAS NOTHING, EXCEPT TWO HOT BUTTERMILK BISCUITS AND SOME HOT COFFEE ON A COLD MORNING FOR HIS MORNING TIME MEAL . . . . . . . .

IT’S A COOL, DAMP AND OVERCAST DAY IN THE SMALL TOWN OF ST. MARKS, THE DISTANT SALTY OCEAN SMELL CARRIED ON THE FOG RISING OFF THE RIVER RUNNING ALONGSIDE THE TOWN, WHERE THE CRIES OF SEAGULLS CAN BE HEARD AS THEY HOVER ABOVE THE INCOMING FISHING BOATS LOADED DOWN WITH THEIR FRESH HARVEST FROM THE DEPTHS OF THE GULF, A WEEK LONG TEST OF THEIR ENDURANCE IN THE STORMY AND COLD WATERS, THEIR WEARY FACES AND TIRED BODIES STANDING IN STATUE FASHION ON THE DECKS OF THE BOATS, EACH ONE FACING THE SHORE AS THE CAPTAIN IDLES THE BOAT UP RIVER TOWARDS THE DOCKS PAST A LITTLE OPEN AIR CAFÉ, RECEIVING WAVES AND SHOUTS OF “WELCOME HOME” FROM THE FAITHFUL FEW PATRONS WHO ARE SIPPING “WAY-TOO-WEAK-BUT-AT-LEAST-HOT” COFFEE FROM THEIR STYROFOAM CUPS, TRYING TO TAKE THE CHILL OFF THAT HAS FOUND ITS WAY INTO THEIR BONES, A CHILL PRODUCED BY THE EARLY MORNING RIVER BREEZE THAT HAS THEM ALL HUDDLED TOGETHER INSIDE THE CAFÉ, SOME OF THEM WEARING THIN, WORN OUT CLOTHING, NOT ABLE TO AFFORD ANYTHING THAT WOULD ACTUALLY KEEP THEM WARM, THEY ALL KEEP EACH OTHER WARM . . . . . .

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 13 April 2011 21:48 ) Read more...
 

In Search of Clay

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Nancy Jefferson loves fine clay the way some people love fine wine. Her life passion revealed itself the moment she first held a lump of moist, rich clay in her hands. During her thirty year journey as a clay artist, Nancy has developed new techniques and pushed her limits of comfort. Her palette extends beyond her beautiful mugs, plates, and bowls to exquisite ceramic sculpture and items of whimsical delight. But she remains grounded in nature which is the inspiration for all her works. She draws from the tropical colors of the Florida Keys where she lived and played while evolving as an artist before coming to this part of North Florida. Her work is now inspired by the flora and fauna that surround her studio tucked back in the woods, and from the spring-fed rivers and coastline where she paddles her turquoise kayak. Nancy is also a Certified Green Guide well-versed in the woods, waters, and wilds of Wakulla with a penchant for adventure and the outdoors.

Wandering through a display of Nancy’s works is always a sensory treat. Fresh seasonal flowers adorn her pitchers and vases. Turtles sleep on natural looking logs. Clay frogs cling to the sides of sculpted pots. Her beautifully designed new website offers virtual visual testament to her unique clay art, and chronicles her growth as an artist. The website showcases some of her collections – “River Dwellers”, “Coral Reef Communities”, “Amphorae and Floral Vessels” - and new pieces as they evolve. A hands-on class is also in the offerings because Nancy loves to guide others in hand building their own creations, hoping perhaps to help someone else uncover their own hidden passion.

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George Weymouth, Green Guide Wildlife Artist Extraordinaire

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It is quite amazing that songbirds and birds of prey have visual acuity up to 8 times greater than a human. Because of this incredible eyesight and the ability to interpret fine detail, a hawk can distinguish small prey from enormous distances. Perhaps that explains why the red-shouldered hawk I spot way up in the autumn treetops seems to be watching as my canoe glides quietly along the Sopchoppy River. I have joined my friend, George Weymouth, on this perfect late November day for an outing of exploration. Even though he has been a wildlife guide for nearly 50 years, almost half that time spent in Wakulla County, George is continually on the lookout for new areas to observe and study.

I have a dual purpose today. The first is to accompany George on our pleasant paddle up the scenic Sopchoppy River, but the other is to discover details of how he has evolved into the self-made man he is today. I especially want to talk in depth about his development and growth as a wildlife artist.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 02 December 2010 20:19 ) Read more...
 
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