Sunday, December 26, 2010

Trip 29: Cedar Key Museum and Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve State Parks

State Parks visited: 27

The end of the year brings its own unique challenges when it comes to getting together with friends for day or weekend trips.  Work, holidays, and weather all factor in.  We managed to find one perfect Sunday not too long ago in which me, Rob, Olivia, Chris, and Randy were able to get together before we got caught up in all that other stuff.  Where to go, though?  I decided on the city of Cedar Key, where two state parks are located.

Our first stop was the Cedar Key Museum.  The lobby of the museum was showcasing the city's Festival of Trees, in which local nonprofit organizations decorated Christmas trees and museum visitors voted for a favorite.  The one shown above is from the Cedar Key School (and the one I voted for).  Here are the others:

The tree with the picture frames on it was pretty neat.  You could see inside it, which I really liked, but I couldn't resist the fishing-themed tree created by children.   The contest is ongoing, and I will call the museum after the first of the year and post the winner when they announce it.

The Cedar Key Museum shares the history of the area, including the logging of the cedar trees from which the name is derived.  Remember the Faber-Castell pencils you used in school?  That's where they're from.  The region has been inhabited for centuries, and archeological artifacts abound.  Cedar Key is also a fishing village, if you will, and there is quite a bit of information on the local trade. 

St. Clair Whitman was a local man and historian who lived in Cedar Key a hundred years ago.  He championed the region and created the first museum in the area.  It showcased the artifacts he discovered, as well as thousands of seashells picked from area beaches.  As a tribute to him, St. Clair Whitman's house was restored and is located on the property of the Cedar Key Museum.  A few photos:

Behind the house is a small trail that leads down to the Gulf of Mexico.  We wandered the trail and then the rest of the museum grounds:

After seeing as much of the museum as we possibly could, it was time to head down the road.  Our journey led us past the Cedar Key School and a road sign with some interesting graffiti on it.  We all had a good laugh at the proximity of the misspelling of the graffiti to the local school:

Our next stop was the Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve.  The plan was to grill out and have a nice picnic lunch, and then hike some of the trails at the reserve.

The weather was mostly in our favor, except for a biting wind.  We picked our grill, unloaded the car, and quickly got down to the business of feasting:

After filling up our bellies we decided to hit the trails.  There is an extensive trail system in the park, and we opted for about a 3 mile hike.  It was Sunday, after all, and we still had a long drive ahead of us.  A few highlights from our hike:

Our trip was wonderful.  It was kind of soul satisfying for me, because I had been wanting to take a day trip in which we accomplished what we set out for (referring, of course, to our failed attempt at paddling to Anclote Key but having Honeymoon Island as our consolation prize).  I wish, however, we could have spent more time in the city of Cedar Key.  It struck me as a quaint fishing village, something that exists in the New England in my brain, since I've never been there.  It is a completely different world than the one I live in, and that's what makes our family adventures so cool. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Trip 28: Honeymood Island State Park

State Parks visited: 25

The title of this entry should not be Honeymoon Island State Park.  It should, in fact, be Anclote Key State Park.  It was our original destination.  Unfortunately, we didn't make it to Anclote Key, despite our best efforts.  We made it this close:

Anclote Key is the little island in the distance of this picture, off the coast of Tarpon Springs.  Three miles from the county park we were going to launch our kayaks from, our plan was to enjoy the last decent weekend weather by camping out on the beach there.  There is no charge to camp on the just have to get there.  The only stipulation is that you have to call the resident park ranger and let him know your plans.  And so I called Ranger Chris from the park and told him we were about to launch.  I wasn't quite prepared to hear, "Well, why would you want to do that?"

As it turns out, the wind was strong and there were whitecaps in the water.  If it was just the adults, we would have powered through, gotten soaking wet, and set up camp in the near-dark.  Olivia was with us, however, and I decided to listen to the Good Mom angel on my shoulder.  We would not be attempting our journey on this day.

So, here we were, three hours from home.  Rob, Olivia, and I had driven down with our kayak on top of the new car:

Chris had joined us with two kayaks on his car as well.  Since our original plan was to camp, we called another state park nearby to check for availability.  Being the post-Thanksgiving weekend, there was none.  I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that we were stuck, and I was kind of right.  In the end we ended up driving home, but I really wanted to make the trip worthwhile.  Since Honeymoon Island State Park was only a few miles down the road we headed there.  It was so late in the day, though, all we could really do was take a walk on the beach.  Here are a few photos:

That last picture is of a sea sponge.  Tarpon Springs is the world's largest purveyor of natural sea sponges, and home to the world famous Sponge Docks, and we saw several sponges washed up on the beach.

There was a wedding being set up as well.  I liked the steel drum, personally.

Maybe the trip didn't go as planned, but we still tried to make the best of it.  We were blessed with a beautiful sunset, which we don't get to see on the East Coast of the state.  I took many pictures.  Here are a few more:

The batteries were starting to die in the my camera, but I managed to get a few more pictures before they finally gave out.

I just realized you can see Chris's reflection in Rob's sunglasses. 

On our way back up the beach we stopped for the wedding.  I thought it would have been rude to continue on, so we waited.  When the bride and groom finished their vows and kissed amidst the applause of their closest friends and family, we marched on.  So it may not have been the trip we were expecting.  And sure, we only took a walk on a beach in a park that offered so much more.  But I felt small beside that ocean, in awe of the sun bidding us farewell for the night.  I was surrounded by the people I love.  The plans and all that other stuff can be fulfilled later.  The quiet reflection was what I needed right then.  And I can't argue with that.

EDITED TO ADD:  Many thanks to my editor-in-chief Robby for pointing out that I made a Freudian slip in my title of this entry.  While I didn't mean to post it as HoneymooD Island, I do rather think it fits.  It stays.  Enjoy the giggle. : )

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Trip 27: Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts

State Parks visted: 24

The Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts, in Barberville, FL, is an old-time 'cracker' style village.  It's been there as long as I can remember, and if you go to school in Volusia County, you *will* take at least one field trip there.  You will learn about life at the turn of the century (20th, mind you, not 21st!), about how hard work earned you the food on your table and the clothes on your back.  You'll learn to make rope, blacksmith, make candles, weave....the list goes on.  I made a couple of trips there in my youth, and Olivia has already been there once.  Well, on November 6th we made a trip there together for their Fall Jamboree, made possible by a family pass given to me by my boss.  It was amazing!

Our first order of business was hot cocoa.  For the first weekend of November, the weather was rather chilly.  Then we wandered around some of the craft tables set up.  People had various wares for sale, and I love looking.  We failed to grab a map or schedule on the way in, so I just kind of let our feet guide us.  There were musical groups set up in different locations...check out the last picture...and folk music filled the air from every direction.  A few photo highlights:

That last picture was a nice surprise.  Apparently there was a contest going on in which decorated rocks were hidden throughout the park.  Children were to collect them and turn in mass amounts to earn prizes.  The little girl that told us about the contest had about 20 rocks in her possession at the time, so we opted to not collect the rocks but continue to be surprised when we found them.  It's nice being reminded to smile once in awhile!

Blacksmithery is a popular activity at the settlement, and the blacksmith group that works there has earned several awards.  This young man was making a leaf.  A few more photos:

Our day went on like this.  We followed the path through the village and stopped to learn a thing or two when given the chance.  Olivia got to make a cedar shingle:

...and saw some wood:

She rolled down a hill:

....and got to eat dessert (homemade blueberry ice cream!) first:

We wandered some more and took a few more pictures:

All of these great, wonderful things...and yet, not the highlight of the day.  You see, the geniuses that planned the jamboree had something amazing planned.  They took one room in one of the buildings and set out instruments.  Dulcimers, ukeleles, maracas, guitars, violins, fiddles, rain sticks, autoharps, steel drums, bongo name it.  They didn't just set these instruments out, they wanted you to play them.  This was the musical petting zoo, and I don't think I've ever been to a more fantastic petting zoo in my life!

That picture is sort of blurry, but I hope it captures some of the amazement on Olivia's face from the first note she made on the accordion.  Neither of us is very musical, but we made a joyful noise on this day.

These people made a joyful noise as well.  This was a wonderful group called The Hallelujah Sisters, with accordion accompaniment, and they sang some beautiful hymns.  We all played whatever instrument was in our hands at the time and joined in the noise.  It was wonderful!  Their last song was one of my favorite hymns, 'I'll Fly Away.'  And let me tell you, God was in that room with us.  It was so powerful and uplifting that, by the end of the song, everyone was looking around, saying, "Wow, did you feel that?!?"  I will never forget that feeling.

There was more shopping to be had and skills to be learned.  We wandered around for a while longer, but nothing could top the feeling of the musical petting zoo.  I let Olivia roll down the hill some more and then get her face painted, and then we decided to head home.  It was a magical day that left us both smiling, and I am so glad we experienced it.