Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Trip 23: Bulow Creek State Park and Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park

State Parks visited: 23

On Sunday, September 19, we decided to visit a couple of local state parks.  Chris was otherwise engaged and unable to join us, so we opted for parks he had already visited.  I realize we could have gone anywhere we wanted, but Chris has been to so many places with us, it seems only right to wait for him to go to new parks.  And so, we chose to visit Bulow Creek State Park and Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park in Ormond Beach.

Bulow Creek is a small park, but it's home to many things.  There is a small trail, the Wahlin Trail, dedicated to a man who was dedicated to the park. There is also a larger trail, the Fairchild Oak Hiking Trail, which connects Bulow Creek State Park to the Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park, six miles away.  There are the remains of a land sales office:

There is also the Fairchild Oak, a massive live oak older than Jesus and nearly as big:

Then there's that other thing Bulow Creek has.  That little thing we thought we were prepared for but were woefully wrong....


I would show you pictures from our short walk down the Wahlin Trail, but they aren't any good.  They're all blurry, because if we stood still to pose we got swarmed.  And we weren't standing still, either.  We were waving our arms around like idiots to keep the little suckers from landing. (And from Rob:  It wasn't so much a nature trail as it was a mosquito dash!)

So, we took a few shots of the Fairchild Oak and the things around the parking area for posterity, and then we hightailed it outta there. We hate to up and leave like that, but it was unbearable.

Thankfully, Bulow Plantation Ruins was another story altogether.  The park was once a sprawling estate and sugar mill owned by Major Charles Wilhelm Bulow, farmed by slaves, and burned down by Seminole Indians.  Foundation stones from the slave quarters and the estate house are left, along with the massive ruins of the sugar mill.  This is all situated on the banks of the Bulow Creek, and we had a really nice time strolling the grounds.

Our first stop was the dock, where three generations of one family were out fishing (grandma, mom, and daughter were on the dock while dad was in a little johnboat next to it...which I thought was pretty funny.).  Looking out onto the water, it's easy to see why Bulow Creek is one of Florida's State Canoe Trails:

I love my kid.  I really, truly, do.

So, after leaving the dock we hit the nature trail to the sugar mill itself.  Along the way we passed the foundation to some of the slave quarters.  I can't even begin to imagine what life here was like for them.  I wonder how things would be today if slavery hadn't existed as it had.  I'm not going to go deep with this subject, but seeing evidence of it puts things in a new light.

The walk through the woods was beautiful.  No mosquitoes, thankfully, and the weather wasn't too hot either.  A few highlights:

This tree was used for turpentine.  You can tell by the slash marks in the bark.

Pretty soon we came to a break in the trees and the ruins loomed before us.  Rob and I both had the same thought....Indiana Jones! 

I never realized how many sugar mills once existed in the state of Florida.  We've been to 4 or 5 ruins in the past six months, and this is probably one of the better preserved ones.  We wandered around for awhile, only seeing one or two other couples the entire time.  Here are a few pictures:

Our exploration led us around the ruins, back to the spring house, and then on to the interpretive center. It was neat seeing the different artifacts that have been recovered from the property.  They sure did drink a lot of rum!

And afterwards, we enjoyed a nice picnic by the water.  The breeze cooled us, the serenity calmed us, and the history reminded us of where we've come from.  I call that a successful day.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Trip 22: Avalon State Park and Fort Pierce Inlet State Park

State Parks visited:  21

Looking through the state park passport book recently, I realized something.  The state is broken up into 5 regions (which you can see by clicking on the blog title), and I realized we had only visited 3 of the 5.  The Panhandle is green, North is red, Central is yellow, Southeast is purple, and Southwest is blue.  Green, red, and yellow are great colors, but last weekend we finally decided to add a little purple to our lives!  That much was an easy decision.  Exactly where to go was a little more time consuming.  Ultimately we decided on the two northernmost 'purple' state parks, Avalon and Fort Pierce Inlet.  Swimsuits were the uniform of the day, and we packed some veggie burgers and charcoal for a cookout.  And then, along with Chris, we hit the road.

The drive down...2.5 hours...was uneventful, and once we got near the ocean Olivia was very excited.  We found the first park, Avalon, and set up our spot on the beach:

The water in this part of the state is a gorgeous blue-green and is less than shoulder deep for a good way out.  We took a mask and snorkel, along with the waterproof camera, in the hopes of getting some neat underwater photos...or just good photos in general.  Here are a few:

We tried to collect some of the beautiful shells, but the waves were fierce!  The beach was at a steeper incline than I'm used to, and the best shells washed away pretty quickly.  This area has some of the best surfing, so I'm not really surprised.

Before too long we packed up and headed down the highway to Fort Pierce Inlet State Park.  It's much larger than Avalon, and much busier.  Our plan was to grab a picnic pavilion and grill out for lunch, and thankfully we were successful:

Between the gorgeous water, the tropical breeze, and the Latin music playing from the pavilion next to us, I honestly felt like I was in an episode of 'Dexter.'  Minus the serial killing, of course.  A few photo highlights:

While we were eating lunch we saw the world's luckiest pelican.  A couple drifted by in their boat, the man fishing and the woman, well....feeding the pelican.  It stayed with them for a good long while:

So after lunch (and of course, the requisite 20 minutes for our food to settle...;) ), we packed up our stuff and walked over to the beach.  This time it was quite crowded, and we found a little spot not too far from the jetty.  The guys swam out and relaxed in the water while Olivia and I hung out closer to shore:

Not too much later, we decided to pack up and head home.  The weather was beautiful and we were having a great time, but it was Sunday and we had a long drive ahead of us.  I don't think we were just a few miles down the road when Olivia fell asleep.  I joined her before too long.  Thankfully Rob is a dedicated driver, always taking the responsibility and keeping us safe on the road.  Apparently we hit some nasty storms on the way home, but I was comfortably asleep, surrounded by the safety of my family. 

And that's the way it should be.



* Chris and I both had a laugh when we took our books to be stamped at Fort Pierce Inlet.  The ranger signed and dated them herself, which was a first for both of us!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Trip 21: Welaka State Forest/Mud Spring Trail

State Parks visited:  19

The Florida Department of Agriculture has created this great program called the Florida Trailwalker.  It's pretty cool for the outdoorsy types like us...basically, you walk so many miles on trails in participating State Forests, send in postcards after each visit, get stickers for your log, and earn patches that say you accomplished something.  I sound sarcastic, I'm sure, but I truly mean well.  Chris introduced Rob to the Trailwalker program when I was out fishing with my dad for National Pauladay, and they earned their first stickers.  Well, Chris was in Canada a couple of weeks ago, so we decided to spend the day out walking a trail in his absence.

By the way, Chris was in Canada for the Rowing World Masters challenge.  There were over 2500 competitors.  Chris and his teammates from the Halifax Rowing Association competed in the 4+ (please...don't ask me to explain the terminology, since I really don't know), among other races, and earned first place.  They got silver medals and held up two fingers in all their pictures, but maybe that's just the Canadian way.  Whatever it was, Congratulations Chris!!

Now, on to the Mud Spring Trail: We paid our fee at the honor box, found a geocache hidden at the trailhead, and then started off on our hike.  The trail started out with a lot of tree cover and the heat wasn't horrible.  A few highlights:

Mud Spring Trail wouldn't have its name if not for the little spring we came to.  The clearing opened up to a small primitive camping area, covered picnic pavillion, spring, and boardwalk.  I hadn't given the name much thought but was so pleasantly surprised when it came into view:

A few other highlights:

After looking around, we found another geocache hidden nearby, picked up some trash, and moved on down the trail, where I had a run-in with a local:

The rest of the hike was uneventful.  We made it back to the car, cooled down, and went down the road to an observation tower that looks out over the fish hatchery in town.  It was pretty neat.  I can't wait to go back and see the aquarium they have inside and open to the public.  I know we'll hike this trail again.  It's not too far from home, not too far to walk, and so beautiful.  And at the end of the day, I know we're doing something right when we asked Olivia what her favorite part was and she said, "All of it."

My thoughts exactly.


Just wanted to add this little sidebar:  The Labor Day holiday was last week and I was, of course, at work on that Monday.  My management team tries really hard to make busy days like that fun, and we celebrated this holiday with a steak lunch and our own version of the Academy Awards.  Each person received a small (less than 2") trophy with a tag on it saying what they were being honored for.  They named me Sportswoman of the Year.  Seriously!  From my seasons as a roller derby referee, to the weekends at state parks, from kayaking down Florida's rivers, and to my wholehearted desire to participate in the Tough Mudder Endurance Challenge next year, my peers see in me what I desire to become.  And I am pleased as punch to be recognized for it!

And speaking of recognition, we were greatly surprised with a little more serendipity last week.  I was perusing the Florida State Parks website (http://www.floridastateparks.org/) and checked out their deals and discounts section.  Effective July 1 of this year, honorably discharged military veterans with a service-related disability are eligible for a FREE LIFETIME ANNUAL PASS to Florida State Parks.  I was shocked!  Thanks to a shoulder dislocation at our last duty station, my husband...my hero...was able to get us an annual pass, renewed free for the rest of our natural lives...to the places we want to see the most in our home state.  It's those little things that mean the most!

Thank you, Rob.  And THANK YOU to all the servicemembers and service families out there.  I am so grateful for the jobs you all do!