Sunday, August 2, 2009

Slow Sunday

Today was a pretty quiet day. There was a lot of rain in the forecast, but we really didn't see any until later in the afternoon. There were dark clouds and thunder most of the late morning and early afternoon though. Maybe it was the weather or maybe it was just an off week, but there were not many people at the park today. There were no dive classes and only three small groups of divers. I don't think that there were any more than 10 vehicles in the parking lot at any one point all day. I had another vote to let my hair grow long again from another fisherman. I had no idea when I cut my hair that I should have checked with park visitors first... now I know. I also realized today that yesterday was my 4th anniversary of working for Florida State Parks. I think I made the connection today rather than yesterday because while doing the paperwork, everything is dated for the previous day... which was Aug 1, my hire date. It was really a pretty uninteresting day until the rain started and everyone apparently lost their minds!
The day started slowly. I had plenty of time to get my paperwork done and walk around the park. The park was in good shape and I didn't see many critters to photograph. On the way back to the office, I found another feather. It was big, so I think it was a hawk or owl. The color makes me think it is a Red-shouldered Hawk feather, but I couldn't find many examples online, so its just a guess. As people started coming in, I grabbed my garbage pickers and bucket and headed to the picnic area and parking lot. The strangest piece of litter that I found today was a ham hock, mostly eaten. It was just laying on the ground near the parking lot, covered in ants. I really just can't explain it... sometimes, I really don't want to know. Near the back corner of the parking lot, I found something a little more interesting. I had never seen anything like it before, and at first glance, I had no idea what it was. I took a photo and then started poking it and picking it up and trying to figure it out... a method, by the way, that is not safe or smart. I have no excuse. It was not well attached to the ground, so I really wasn't sure if it was growing out of the ground or if it was just sitting on the ground. It seemed mushroom like, and when I touched it, it blew a small cloud of 'dust' at me. That's when I realized what it was! I remember walking through the woods with my mom when I was very young and she showed me a 'puffball.' I was so enthralled by this little treasure in the woods that DID something!! I loved to squeeze them and watch the little puff escape. I was instantly back in that mindset and poked a few of these little puffballs. I worked hard to contain myself and not exhaust all of them, just in case someone else stumbled upon my discovery. When I got home and punched "Florida puffball" into the search bar, I was happy to find that this particular puffball is called a Rounded Earthstar. It is like a mushroom and its puff or cloud is its way of spreading its spores. I love discovering things in the park that are new to me!
The third photo is of one of the plants that I treated with herbicide last week. Its dying! I just kept thinking of the witch in the Wizard of Oz... I'm melting, I'm melting. Slowly but surely, the herbicide is doing its job. The last photo was of the dark, ominous clouds moving in. I was picking up garbage by the river and on my way back when I looked up and saw the big dead tree with the dark clouds behind it. Very spooky!
Sometimes we have a hard time with dogs in the park... well, I guess we have a hard time with dog owners in the park. In all Florida State Parks, dogs are not allowed in swim areas. Do you take your dog to the community swimming pool? No, of course not. So why is it so hard to accept that dogs are not allowed in this swim area? We do allow dogs in all other areas of the park, even at the river. I have a dog and I think that the rules are fair and balanced. Not everyone enjoys dogs and those who do not enjoy dogs probably don't want to swim with them. I think it is perfectly reasonable, but the people who contest the rule are usually very angry and mean about it. That is why today, I was shocked and amazed at the timidness of people with dogs in the park today. Our sign says that pets are only allowed in the picnic area. I was walking out of my office when a man and a dog stopped dead in their tracks near the last picnic table. The man asked me if he could go any farther. It was so hard for me not to laugh. I think I made his week when I explained the rule and told him everywhere that the dog COULD go. I also was impressed when I saw a big group of people with two fluffy little white dogs near the river. I saw that the group was headed to the spring so I started making my way over there. When I got there, I saw that one person had stayed behind with the dogs and she double checked with me that she was in an acceptable area. I love responsible park visitors!
When the rain started though, all of the nice, respectful, thoughtful park visitors turned into MANIACS! People (who were wet from swimming by the way) were literally running in zigzag patterns to escape the rain. When several groups had been in and out of the cabin, I decided to go and see how much of a mess was made. The activity room was trashed, there were googly eyes, small pieces of pipe cleaner, and crayons everywhere! There was toilet paper all over the toilet, paper towels all over the floor. I couldn't believe it. The rain made people crazy!

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