Monday, December 04, 2017

Biking Buck Lake Conservation Area

Creek crossing trail south
Creek Crossing the Road

I’ve been hiking in this area before, but the roads and trails cover so much area that I wanted to bring a bicycle to try to cover more ground.  The area is right on the edge of the St. Johns River floodplain, so with the water levels still high, there are some wet spots that slowed me down a little bit.

Handpump at campsite
Water pump at campsite
Old Bike
Old bicycle near trailhead
Wildflowers
Wild flowers

This trip heads up to the campsite and back, but not too much further.  The loop road is crossed with a stream on the northern and southern sides, and I was pretty sure I would only make it about half way across before getting stuck.  I’ll have to come back out when the water levels are a little lower, but for now I did put together a brief video tour.


Biking through Buck Lake Conservation Area

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Biking Orlando Wetlands Park

Gator and Egret

I wanted to see some alligators this weekend, and Orlando Wetlands Park (OWP) has always been a perfect spot for this.  I got some good video and a learned a little bit more about my video toolset.

OWP is more than just a park; it is the first large scale man-made wetlands designed to treat reclaimed water and provide a wildlife habitat.  The park began receiving water from the Iron Bridge Regional Water Reclamation Facility in July 1987.  The water influent can be seen in the south western corner of the park – it is very clear, and it looks like spring water bubbling up from the ground.

Up to 35 million gallons of reclaimed water come into the park each day where aquatic plants further remove nutrients as the water makes it’s 40 day journey through 18 wetlands cells before exiting the park on the northern side.  After leaving the park, the water has a short journey to the St. Johns River.

So, from a technological and an ecological perspective, this is a pretty amazing spot.  But what really makes it a great place to visit is the flora and fauna that calls the park home.  We always come away with some amazing photographs when we visit.

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Monday, September 04, 2017

Dreher Island State Park - Prosperity, SC

We spent a week “cabin camping” here, with the main purpose being the opportunity to view a full solar eclipse.  There is a lot to do in the area; we had a great time.

Cabin rear
View of cabin from Lake Murray

This is our first time “cabin camping”, and we really didn’t know what to expect.  The description on the website sure sounded nice, but there was also a part of me that was thinking about the condition of some of the basic hunting cabins that I’ve seen.  As it turns out, my worries were completely unfounded.  This cabin was as nice (or nicer) than any 5-star hotel I’ve stayed in.


A tour of the cabin/villa

The cabin is right on the shore of Lake Murray, and the water was the perfect temperature for swimming.  With no alligators, sharks, or jelly fish to worry about, we went swimming just about every day.  In the morning, Tina had her solitude with a cup of coffee on a hammock to watch the sunrise, and the sunsets were nice too.

Backyard pano
Our view of Lake Murray

Sunset-3
Sunset over Lake Murray

The cabin includes everything one could think of – all the dishes, pots pans, and utensils that we could have needed, as well as bed linens and towels.  With Wi-Fi and satellite TV, we had what we wanted for the evenings as well.  The park itself has a couple of hiking trails and good biking on the roads.  There are a couple of local places to rent kayaks, and they will actually deliver them (with the appropriate equipment) to the front door and pick them up at the end of the day Stop by the park store for more info on this – we didn’t take advantage of the service, but the folks next door did.

Andy on the hammock
Lazing on a hammock

I should also mention the RV and tent camping areas; they were very nice as well.  Each site has plenty of space, and even when the campground is full it didn’t seem to be overly crowded.  The best sites, in my opinion, were at the southern end of the park.  Cell phone access was perfect with T-Mobile, so internet access should be pretty good. 

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Solar Eclipse 2017
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SC State Museum

Saturday, September 02, 2017

South Carolina State Museum–Columbia, SC

Originally a textile mill that opened in 1894 and was finally closed in 1981.  The building was converted to a museum which opened in 1988.  The original brickwork and wooden floors can still be seen, and a section of the museum is dedicated to some of the textile operations that used to be done here.

Train-Friend of Charlotte-4
Full size replica of “The Friend of Charlotte”

There are tons of exhibits across four floors of the museum (some of the photos are below), but it is also very close to two other sites that were on our “must see” list. The first site is “Big Ed”, and the second is the worlds largest fire hydrant. 

Big Ed-2
Big Ed
World's largest fire hydrant-4
World’s Largest Fire Hydrant

Big Ed is a statue in the middle of a kid’s museum across the parking lot from the state museum.  The front desk let us come in to take a picture without charging the entrance fee, since that was the only thing we were there to see.  They were pretty cool about it.

The worlds largest fire hydrant is a little less than a mile away.  It’s in the middle of a private parking area that is clearly marked with warnings that you will be towed.  Since we were just here for a couple of photos, that wasn’t an issue though.

Tunnel Mural-3
Tunnel Mural

Also next to the fire hydrant is a mural that is kind of interesting… it’s a picture of a tunnel that is realistic enough that birds have been known to fly into it.  I don’t believe they were as successful as the Road Runner though.

Museum Photos

Two mediums
Two Mediums
Big Shark being cleaned
Cleaning a Big Shark
Unfinished dugout
Unfinished Prehistoric Dugout
Inside a kaleidoscope
Inside a Kaleidoscope
Dino turtle-9
Dino Turtle
Multi floor view
Two floor displays

Hiking Little Gap Trail–Dreher Island SP

At a little under three miles, this is a nice trail with several spots of interest.  One of the most notable spots is are the unmarked remains of an old homesite that probably dates back to before the time the land was donated to the state to make this park.

Cove-2
Hidden Cove near the Trail

Fallen treeWe started our hike from the front door of our cabin which is less than a quarter of a mile from where the trail first enters the woods.  From the edge of the woods, the trail leads to the east for about half a mile before coming to a small hidden cove.  The cove has a small sandbar that was just under the water’s surface, that leads to a small island. 

Boy scout markerAlong this area of the trail we saw a couple of posts mounted by the local scout troop.  There was no indication what they were for, but the looked like they might be part of an orienteering exercise.

Also along this part of the trail, I noticed another spot with a lot of shells by the water.  Like the other spot, it is difficult to discern if this marks the spot of an ancient shell midden, or if the shells simply wound up here because of the predominant currents when the lake rises and falls.rock stack

After leaving the area along the shore, the trail continues for about another half mile to the where it crosses under some power lines before coming to a fork that begins the balloon portion of the trail.  Taking the trail to the right leads quickly to the remains of an unmarked home site.

Unmarked house ruins - fireplace 1The video below shows the home site in more detail, but the predominant feature is a dual sided fireplace / hearth made with brick and local stones.  The hearth still has a bar mounted across the fireplace that would have probably been used to hold a cooking pot.  There as also a second bar that looks like it was mounted in the fireplace as well, but has since fallen out.

Next to the home site, someone has taken the time to make a small cairn… I’m not sure why, but we left it as is.  I suspect that the rangers will probably knock it down the next time they are out this way.Trail view 1

We explored the home site for a bit, and then continued along the balloon portion of the trail and returning to our starting point.  This is an easy trail to hike, and there are several elevation changes along the way (though nothing too big).  Prior to damming the river and making Lake Murray, it is easy to tell that this was once the top of a small mountain.

Overall, this is a fun hike that is very different from the types of trails we find in Florida. Probably the biggest difference between the two types of trails (besides elevation changes) is the forest itself.  In the tropical Florida environment, most forests have a lot of plant growth along the ground below the canopy, while on this trail, there was very little growth below the branches above. 


Unmarked Homesite (Description starts at about 1:40)

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Friday, September 01, 2017

Cycling Saluda Shoals Park

Saluda Shoals Park runs along side the Saluda River just to the east of the Lake Murray Dam in South Carolina.  We started out with a look at the dam – though the view of Lake Murray is nice, there really isn’t much to see of the dam itself.

Dam selfie
Another Dam Selfie

From the dam, we drove to Saluda Shoals Park where we began our ride by the upper boat ramp.  From there, the paved bike trail leads to the east along the river’s edge for about 2 1/4 miles before ending at the lower boat ramp.

Down stream view
Downstream View

Along the way there are several spots with benches to enjoy the view, and we also saw a couple of kids fishing with a nice size stringer full of fish.  The trail is popular with joggers as well as cyclists, but it wasn’t at all crowded. 

Trees over Saluda River
Trees over the River

This is a pretty spot for a ride, with a lot of spots to just stop and enjoy the views of the river, and a lot of terrific spots for taking photos.


Saluda Shoals Cycling with The Art of Noise

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Friday, August 25, 2017

Solar Eclipse 2017

It took a little while to get the photos pulled together, but I think it was worth the wait.  The full solar eclipse was an amazing sight.

Prominence_inset
Solar Eclipse with insets

One of the best photos that Tina captured is the one above – the two insets are pretty interesting.  The inset on the left is the same photo with the corona enhanced so the magnetic field can be seen more clearly, and the inset on the right has no enhancements other than to include arrows pointing out the “Bailey’s Beads” which are solar prominences.  (If you right click on the photo, you should be able to save a copy to your computer that you can zoom in on to see these more clearly.Crescent Shadows-2

Prior to totality, and after, we could see nature’s version of the shadow-box view of the eclipse.  As the sun shines through the trees, the shadows on the ground.  In this photo, notice how the shadows have a crescent shape – that is how much of the sun was still showing leading up to the total eclipse.

Going back to the sun, Tina took a photo about every 10 minutes leading up to the full eclipse, and we used that to make a time lapse view of what we saw…


Solar Eclipse Time Lapse

We also set up a camera pointing over Lake Murray to record the Eclipse Twilight that occurs during totality.  The video is sped up to emphasize the change, and I left the audio in place.  As the eclipse begins the sound of the evening birds and insects can be heard, and then they get quite when it is full.  As the eclipse ends, the sound of the morning birds and insects can be heard as they get ready to “start” the day.


Eclipse Twilight

It’s pretty amazing how quickly two minutes can pass by; when the eclipse ended it was hard to believe that it lasted more than a few seconds.  Now we’re hoping that we can make it to see the next one!