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Wakulla Windows of Wonder

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“In Mexico, they are called ‘cenotes.’ In Wakulla we call them our wonder.” begins the advertised description of the sinkhole hiking tour led by certified green guide, Marie-Anne Luber. I think back to my very first exposure to these glorious liquid wonders. I was a high school Tallahassee lassie who lived in a much larger world then. We didn’t venture into Wakulla County unless we were headed to Alligator Point or St. George Island for a family day of fun. Somewhere along the way I was befriended by a girl named Paige who had family roots in Wakulla and a car. One early summer Saturday afternoon, she drove a carload of us down to the “County” to show us some of the finer sights of Wakulla.

I had no idea where we were going, but quickly offered up a prayer and threw my fears out the window of her beat up white Corvair when we veered off the highway just south of the county line onto a dirt road going way too fast. I recall witnessing lush vivid greenery flying by as we zoomed down the dirt road swerving sharply around the curves underneath the canopy of the Wakulla woods. I remember hanging on for dear life, but gleefully immersed in the moment, like we were suspended safely somewhere in time. Paige slammed on brakes when Riversink and the large gathering of sinkhole swimmers came abruptly into view. We sat for a brief moment as our car came to a rest. There before us the afternoon sunlight filtered through the surrounding treetops and cast an alluring glow on the water and the swimmers in the sinkhole below. Shouts of merriment and laughter echoed off the sinkhole walls and rained down from the Tarzan acrobats who dangled from the rope swing before plunging into the icy cold water waiting beneath. It was a scene of pure bliss that began my love of Wakulla natural wonders.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 04 November 2010 08:26 ) Read more...

Drive By Wildlife

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Reprinted with author permission

Being into nature and wildlife as I am makes driving even at night pleasurable, for as I round every bend I’m looking for critters. It forces me to leave a little earlier, and drive a bit slower too, especially at night. After totaling one car when hitting a deer head on, clipping another, and still having another run into the side of my car with a loud WHAM (fortunately the van had a fiberglass body and the deer left no mark), I now drive between 45---50 MPH at night time. I’ve found that at that speed I’m able to come to a complete stop if the deer(s) suddenly decide to bolt across the road. Even then we could collide, but the damage to my vehicle would be much less, and I’d likely remain unhurt. I’ve braked for bears too, a couple of times so hard, stuff slid off my seat---I came that close!

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 12 October 2010 18:37 ) Read more...

Bear Creek

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Reprinted with author permission

Eunice Road turns off Highway 319 just east of the bridge over the Ochlockonee River. It's a soft dirt street, splashed with sun and shadow, and if you know the way, it will take you to the edge of the dark, mysterious river itself. We knew the way.

When we pulled onto the property of Karen Parsons, Buddy Lee came rushing out to greet us. The hair on his back stood up in a ridge, but Buddy Lee is a chocolate lab so we knew it was a bluff. Karen and her husband, along with Buddy Lee and a 15 year-old cat named Steve, live on the banks of the Ochlockonee. We had a deal with Karen to take us on a two-hour boat adventure. For $35 per person. No way we were going to fall for the $125 per person fee some boat captains in Apalach charge. Yes, we're "tourists" but not sheep for the fleecing.

Karen has just started her business - we were happy to encourage her decency.

Karen and another woman followed Buddy Lee out to greet us. Bonnie Jean was her name. Bonnie and Karen both have generations-deep roots in Apalachicola and Crawfordville, just up the road a piece. Both are also "Green Guides," graduates of a rigorous 90 hour course offered by Tallahassee Community College in Crawfordville. This certifies that they are well-versed in the flora, fauna, and history of the area. As if cutting their teeth on the very same stuff were not certification enough.

We all gathered our backpacks, towels, and snacks and headed down a wooden dock winding through the maritime forest. Below the elevated walkway, lush vegetation thrived in the watery mud. Here and there, tree roots were exposed, their nakedness a testament to the ebb, flow and flooding of the Ochlockonee.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 12 September 2010 08:25 ) Read more...

My Unforgettable Wildlife Encounter

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 Reprinted from the Wakulla CoastLine

It was a beautiful early fall day on the Wakulla River. But then again, it’s always glorious when the afternoon sun stretches its golden light through the cypress canopy shimmering into the mysterious waters. My dive buddy and I were just coming up from a 30-minute routine dive, practicing buoyancy and free ascent skills. I had found a large bone of unknown origin at the bottom and was holding it in my hand while surfacing. We filled up our buoyancy control device (BCD) jackets and floated with the mild current towards our boat, when all of a sudden my buddy—who was about 30 feet away whispered urgently, "Don’t move, don’t talk, be quiet!"

Last Updated ( Saturday, 01 May 2010 13:11 ) Read more...

The 7 Natural Wonders of Wakulla

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In the pre-interstate, pre-Disney era of Florida tourism, visitors flocked to our state to bask in the sun, partake in outdoor recreational pursuits, and visit the extremely popular tourist attractions that made a Florida vacation truly complete. Tampa Bay and the surrounding area where I grew up was home to quite a few of those colorful attractions. Many a day trip was taken by my family throughout the year in all seasons to visit these wonderful spots of great entertainment. I remember our trips on the glass bottom boats at Homosassa Springs, the Spongeorama at Tarpon Springs, Silver Springs and Six Gun Territory, the beautiful Southern belles at Cypress Gardens, the Aquatarium, Sunken Gardens, and my eternal favorite, the glamorous mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs.

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