Saturday, September 19, 2009


Well, I think that I can safely say that I can be a park ranger with one hand tied behind my back... well, tied up in a sling anyway. It isn't easy though. I got up earlier than I usually do because I wasn't sure how long it would take me to get ready this morning. Showering had many obstacles for me, but I won't go into details. Putting on my uniform was tough! I think that after a few days I will be able to use my right hand more, but for now, I really can't at all because it hurts to move any muscles that have to do with my right arm. I had to put my badge and my name tag onto my shirt and get my three-times-larger-than-usual arm through the sleeve. Buttoning wasn't too hard with one hand. When I got my sling back on, I was glad that my uniform has a collar. That collar saved me from a lot of neck irritation from the sling today. Pulling up shorts, fastening the clasp, zipping the zipper, and putting on my belt was a one-handed juggling act that I still can't believe worked out. I was able to get my whole uniform the way it should be except for shoes. I'm sure that I can't tie my shoes with one hand. I am stubborn and determined, but that is one thing I will accept that just can't be done. I wore my sandals today. After what felt like hours of getting ready, I finally made it out the door.
I had asked the closer last night to leave the flags up, so that was already done. I opened the gate and stood in a fire ant mound while I was trying to get the gate fastened in the open position. Because I was wearing sandals, I got lots of ant bites on my toes and had to take a minute to dance around and swat ants off of my feet. Its OK, go ahead and imagine that, have a good laugh. My next major challenge after I drove through the park was to check the iron ranger, the drop box for payments. Its hard to unlock and get into to deter theft... and one-armed rangers apparently. I managed to do it though.
I really wanted to leaf blow because the walkways were a mess from the rain and leaves. I can't use the backpack blower because I can't wear it with my sling and all of the controls are on the right side. I will probably be able to use the little blower but it will be a real difficulty to start it. I thought better of trying it today. Paperwork seemed to take forever as I was trying to write legibly with my left hand. I kept watching the window, hoping that park visitors would arrive and give me a break from paperwork. They finally did! I had several divers today so I spent some time checking them in. While I waited for more people to arrive, I walked around the park and tried to take some pictures. That was the most frustrating and disappointing part of my day. I don't have the strength and dexterity in my left hand to hold the camera steady. I usually use two hands anyway. Very very few of my close-up, macro shots turned out because I was too shaky. The landscape shots were a little more forgiving, but it was so aggravating to not be able to get the shots that I wanted that I gave up. I didn't take anymore photos after my walk this morning. I'll try again tomorrow, but here is what did turn out.
I am very proud of myself for one big obstacle that I tackled today. I had to pick up our Gator from the repair shop so I had to hook up the trailer to my truck. I backed up to the trailer like a pro and somehow, blindly got my ball right under the trailer hitch on the first try. I wound the stand up and the trailer dropped right into place, nice and easy (with the help of some WD-40 and some prying with a screwdriver). Oddly enough, the hardest part was plugging in the lights, it took me four tries, but I got it! The rest went very smoothly and I brought the Gator back with no trouble. I took it easy for the rest of the day and went home as soon as my evening relief came in to take more powerful pain meds than the ibuprofen that kept me going all day. Tomorrow will only get easier, right?

Friday, September 18, 2009


I started my day off very excited to go riding today. Because of our busy and often conflicting schedules this summer, we really haven't ridden much at all. It has been more than a month for me, at least. Now our busy summer season is at an end and we have to get the horses ready to be in a parade next month. I was running a little late, but I was really impressed with the sunrise this morning. It was beautiful and I fought hard to keep myself from pulling off the road to take pictures on my drive. I did catch one photo while I was waiting for a gap in traffic to pull out.
After we got to the barn and fed the horses, we started leading them out to the area where we groom and saddle them. The horse that I ride, Amigo, was acting like a child who didn't want to get up for school. He tried to push past me when I put his halter on and was really dragging his feet when I walked him over. He also puffed out his stomach as far as he could when I tried to tighten the girth or the belt that holds the saddle on, a classic horse trick which makes the saddle too loose. We pulled it together though and got back into the swing of things. I led him out to the field and tightened the girth again when he let his guard down. I got on him with no trouble and we began walking around a bit while the others got on their horses. I don't think I was on Amigo for more than 15 minutes when something spooked him and he started to run off while bucking along the way. I felt that I had almost gotten him calmed down when I hit the ground. I got right up. I didn't hit the ground hard at all because the horses are very short and I kind of rolled when I landed. Amigo stood there for a minute and then continued walking away. I caught him while I began noticing that my arm hurt. By the time I walked back to the rest of the group, I was very lightheaded and my arm was really hurting. I tied Amigo to a tree so that I could sit down and someone brought me some ice. The other riders stuck around and played some polo. I was disappointed that my ride ended so fast. They looked like they were having a lot of fun. They were using beach balls and brooms. As silly as it sounds, its great practice for the horses. They can get used to the strange actions and motions around them to desensitize them a bit so that they don't spook so easily. It also forces the rider to neck rein, or use one hand to steer. Not all of the horses respond as well to neck reining and they will have to so that one day, their riders can carry a flag in one hand for the parades.
While I watched the fun and iced my arm, it began to feel a little better. I realized, however, that it is not easy to take photos with one hand. It was especially difficult because I am very right handed and I injured my right arm. We all talked about my fall a bit and I don't really understand how I hurt my arm. I am not at all sore from hitting the ground and I fell to the left but hurt my right arm. The best guess that we have it that I caught or hit my arm on the saddle on the way down. After we put the horses away, my arm was feeling better. It wasn't bruised or swollen, but some motions really hurt. I decided that I wanted to get it checked out to be safe. My manager drove me to the ER and I got X-Rays. It is broken! I have a small fracture in my ulna. They gave me a CD of the X-Ray to give to the orthopedist next week. I think its awesome to be able to see it, so I thought I would share it with all of you. For now, I have a sling and a fiberglass splint. On Tuesday, I will see another doctor who will likely put a cast on me. It will definitely be an interesting next 3-6 weeks while I heal. I hope hope hope that I am well enough to ride in the parade next month. Cross your fingers for me, it hurts if I do it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Today is my day off. I do have to go in to close this evening though. A co-worker had a family emergency, I so will cover her shift. Fortunately, its raining so I'm sure that no one is in the park. Closing will be quick and easy because of that and the morning person was kind enough to lock up the buildings and clean up so that all I have to do is lock the gate. It isn't too much of an inconvenience and its why I get to live in the park, I really can't complain. Here are some leftover photos from this week that didn't make it to the blog yet.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wild Wednesday

Its getting harder to get up when my alarm clock goes off in the morning. I don't like waking up when its still dark out. I got up early today to give myself time to really wake up but I was still sleepy when I got to work. I got started on paperwork while my co-workers walked the park and opened up the cabin. I also called to check on the status of our Gator which is being repaired. Its going to take more time. That wasn't the news that I wanted to hear, but that also meant that I didn't have to do all of the driving that I expected to have to do today.
When the paperwork was done, I headed to Adams Tract with our new worker. I gave him a tour of the place while checking garbage cans and sleeping platforms. Everything was in great shape. I dropped off some supplies in the storage building, and set to work fixing the sink while our new worker swept out the other restrooms. For once, a quick plumbing project really was a quick plumbing project. I had the right replacement parts and didn't have to run back to the hardware store for this or that. It went together easily and didn't leak when I was done!
The last visitor to the river camp left the porch light to the restrooms on. Several different moths had been drawn to the building because of that. There were so many neat ones, but here are my top two favorite. I wished that I had the time to photograph all of them.
When we got back to the park, it was time for lunch and to move on to the next projects. My co-workers were going to work on mowing and weed eating and I was going to work on making photo points around the spring. These photo points will remain the same throughout the years so that we will have a good record of changes and erosion and such. While I was looking over some information, my co-worker came into the office to tell me that he had seen a baby deer. We looked out the window and saw that it was still near by. I slowly and quietly opened the back door of the building and had my camera ready. The sweet little spotted baby just kept coming closer to us. We were talking softly about it because we were so amazed that it kept coming towards us. It seemed to be drawn to our voices. It was so interested in us. I was torn because I thought it was an awesome experience, but I didn't want the deer to be too comfortable around people. That may get it into trouble if it leaves the park. I got some great photos while the deer was happily munching on mushrooms in the grass. Fortunately, the air conditioner solved my moral dilemma. It kicked on and the noise scared the deer into the woods. We never saw its mother. We are guessing that she jumped the park fence to feed somewhere else and she would come back to her baby later. We are all going to watch for them both so that we know that the little one is safe.
When I got to work on the photo points, I headed to one side of the spring to start taking photos of the other side of the spring. As I walked down the walkway, the butterflies were as busy as ever. I saw so many of them, but I had work to do so I didn't take the time to chase after each kind. I did catch this one silhouette of a Long-tailed Skipper. I liked the image with the beautiful blue sky behind it.
My process with the photo points was to find places where I could get a good view of the opposite side of the spring. I took several photos along each bank. At each point, I recorded GPS coordinates, wrote a description of where I was and what was included in the photo. I also took a photo of where I was standing to take the photo so that I can be sure to get the same spots when I do this again in the future or when another ranger does this someday. This next photo is just a photo of where I was standing, but I liked the way it turned out.
I walked past this little flower and took such a quick photo that I didn't think it would turn out. I was pleasantly surprised.
On the way back up the walkway to head to the other side of the spring, I saw this little Skink. It ran away from me a little, but it had a nice meal of Cricket in its mouth that it didn't want to loose. It decided that I was not enough of a threat to drop its meal so it went back to munching while I took a few more photos.
After the photo points were done, I talked to my co-workers and chatted with the few visitors that filtered through before I made one last check of e-mail and phone messages and headed home. I am looking forward to my weekend and riding again on Friday finally!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Happy Birthday, Sharon!

I had a fun day today. It went by very quickly. I had a busy morning of training a new employee, doing the daily paperwork, doing paperwork on the purchases that I made yesterday, sending and responding to e-mails, completing paperwork with the new employee, and interviewing a volunteer over the phone. Then the fun arrived! A family friend celebrated her birthday at the park. I got to see some family and several other great people. Aside from the handful of people that stopped in for very brief visits to the park, they were the only people I saw today. It was nice to have some liveliness in the park which would have been very quiet otherwise.
The day started out just as beautiful as always. I did my morning drive through the park and missed a photo of an owl above the road. It was still pretty dark though so a photo may not have turned out anyway. After I opened the gate, I spotted a shot that was even better than another dark photo of an owl anyway.
As I walked the park this morning with our new worker, we saw some Turkeys near the top of the walkway to the spring. I believe it is the same group that I have been seeing often. It is a group of a few mothers and their offspring. They stay together as a group until the young are old enough to fend for themselves. Its getting harder and harder to tell the adults from the juveniles. I think that this is also the group of Turkeys that were kind enough to welcome the birthday girl into the park.
On our walk down to the spring dock, I spotted this little Mantis. I have been seeing a lot of these guys lately.
Later in the morning, I took a new box to toilet paper rolls to the storage closet behind the restrooms. A butterfly caught my eye and I was considering putting the box down to take a picture of it when I saw this wasp charging at the butterfly. The butterfly repositioned itself a few times and eventually, the wasp won. It was protecting its hole. I'm sure that the butterfly was not at all interested in its hole, but there was no convincing the wasp of that. I didn't take my chances on getting too close to the wasp myself. Thank you zoom lens!
By the mid afternoon, I was done with everything that I needed to do for the park. Our new worker had completed the tasks that I asked him to do and I gave him some information about the park to read so that he will be better able to answer visitor questions. I was bouncing back and forth between my office and the group in the park, checking the phone messages and responding to e-mails that were coming in as well as enjoying a very tasty, park-grilled lunch. When my evening relief came in and the birthday group was headed down to the spring for a swim, I changed into my swimsuit also and brought my scrub brush down to the spring. Now that the water is getting lower, I can reach all of the steps that go from the dock to the water. I scrubbed a lot of the algae off of the steps to decrease their slipperiness. The algae is a tough competitor though, and I couldn't get it all. While I had my face underwater, scrubbing, a light rain started. We were all getting concerned about cameras and cell phones, so people started packing up. I took one more quick swim around because I liked seeing the raindrops from underwater. It was so pretty and peaceful just watching the rain fall from under there.
On one trip up the walkway after the drizzle had begun, I saw this little Coontie collecting water droplets.
The rest of the afternoon was nice. I told the birthday girl that I would post her photo if she jumped into the spring wearing her bright pink birthday tutu. She was all for it, but unfortunately it just didn't happen. Maybe next year, Sharon.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ranger On The Go

I made sure to take plenty of photos this morning while I opened the park because I knew that I wouldn't find many great, natural images throughout my afternoon. It was a typical Monday with a little extra driving thrown in.
I decided to walk through the park, and do some leaf blowing before I started paperwork this morning. I gassed up the leaf blower and loaded it into the Gator. I also grabbed some honor envelopes and brochures to add to the river and main entrance stations. I unlocked the cabin and walked to the river first. It was a really beautiful morning. The sun was still rising, there was the slightest bit of fog, and it was quiet. I was amazed at the difference in the river. It is really dropping fast now. Compare this image to last Monday's picture. The dark, tannic water is almost completely outside of the buoys.
The lower water is great news for the fishermen. The Mullet are always along the line where the tannic river water and the clear spring water meet. Lately, that line has been within the swimming area which is out of bounds for fishermen. Now that the river is dropping and that line has moved back out to the river, the fishermen won't have to be looking over their shoulders for when I come to tell them AGAIN that they can't fish in the swimming area. Maybe its better news to me than the fishermen. I added envelopes and brochures to the honor box at the river and took one more moment to enjoy the amazing view down river.
Next, I drove the Gator out to the main entrance station to add envelopes to the honor box. I took it nice and slow because the cooling fan on the radiator for the Gator stopped working last week. While I drove I made a terrific discovery! Yet another color of Morning Glory is in bloom in the park. I found blue ones! That makes three with the dark purple ones at the gate and the light purple ones everywhere else. I have seen white ones in someone else's yard nearby, and I think I have seen white ones near the river before. I will have to watch for them.
Once I had sufficiently captures several of the blue Morning Glories, I moved along towards the entrance. As I came around a corner, I saw three deer. I'm not sure if they are the same ones from yesterday, these three look bigger to me. I was glad that I was going slow because I didn't scare them and I was able to snap a few pictures before they went into the woods.
After I got back from the entrance, I set to work leaf blowing the walkway and the parking lot. Leaves are falling like crazy and I was literally turning around to see leaves falling behind me as I worked. The walkway was still damp from the rain Saturday night and the humidity since then. There were several frogs and toads enjoying the moisture. I was able to work around most of them without sending them flying. These two are my favorite because they are really good at getting out of the way of the blower. They are both Green Tree Frogs, but the lightest and darkest that I have ever seen. The pale one was sitting on the hand rail along the walkway and the dark one was trying to blend in between the wall boards.
That was just about the end of the fun part of my day and it wasn't even 10:00 yet. I retreated to my office where I completed my end of the week paperwork and jotted down my to do list for the rest of the afternoon. Next I headed outside to hook the trailer to the truck and load the Gator onto the trailer. I left the park to head to the bank and to Ichetucknee. When I left Ichetucknee, I drove to Live Oak to drop the Gator off to be repaired. While I was in town, I picked up some supplies for Adams Tract and Troy. When I was leaving the store, I started to realize that I was getting tired. Once I was back at the park, I was really worn out. Its amazing how a day of just driving around can really drain me. I finished up some paperwork, organized myself for tomorrow, and headed home.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Its not clouds keeping people out of the park, its football. The light bulb came on today when I heard one of the only two groups of divers in the park come to the surface of the water and say to his buddy, "hey man, we've seen about all there is, we gotta go, games gonna start." Oh yeah, that's why the weekend was quiet... really quiet. I saw five vehicles come in to the park today and one boat. Compared to last weekend with over 120 people each day, it was a drastic difference. I couldn't rely on park visitors to keep me busy today, I had to find some work to do.
I was finding things to do as soon as I left my driveway this morning. Almost 1/2 inch of rain fell last night and I actually thought that it was still raining when I got up this morning. I let the dog out and I thought I heard rain. When he came in and felt dry, I realized that the noise I heard was just moisture in the trees working its way to the ground. The rain brought branches down, as usual. I played pick-up-sticks throughout my whole drive through the park before opening and my walk through the park once I got to the office. I took some neat photos of epiphytes (air plants) that were growing on some of the branches that I picked up, but they didn't make the cut today. I took way too many photos today and some will have to wait for a day off. I also missed taking pictures of some deer. Unfortunately, they always wanted to be where I was headed next this morning, so I ended up scaring them off. From what I could see through the bushes though, it was a mother with her yearling and a new baby who was just loosing its spots. Two other workers at the park and my boyfriend had seen this little one when it was still small and spotty. Until now I had not spotted it myself. I wish we all had been positioned differently this morning.
The park was still very drippy during my walk this morning. The raindrops, once again made the Morning Glories irresistible.
One of my tasks today was to walk around the park with the garbage pickers and a bucket to find any garbage laying around. There wasn't much at all in the main parts of the park, but I was able to get to areas on the river bank that I haven't been able to reach since the flood. The water level is finally dropping again. On my way to the river, I talked to a family that had boated in to the park. The mom was actually reading a book... she probably didn't even know that it was Literacy in the Parks Weekend. The dad and son were fishing and they let me photograph their catch, one Mullet.
After talking with them, I moved down river along the bank. I came really close to ending up in the river when I slipped on some clay on the bank. I managed to stay on two feet and move along to a place where the river flooding had dropped a lot of garbage. It was all of the usual Suwannee River stuff, beer cans and bottles, Gatorade bottles, chewing tobacco cans, fishing bait cups, and storage containers. I filled my bucket and then some and had to head back. I will work a little further down the bank another time when the clay has dried a bit.
On the way back up towards the office, I spotted this beautiful beetle sparkling in the sun. It was crawling on Morning Glories and I took one photo with a flower in the shot, but I think enough is enough with the Morning Glories already. I will try to show some restraint. This beetle can shine on its own without the help of a flower.
Next, I emptied my bucket and headed to the other side of the spring. I love the view from this high bank, especially when there are divers in the water. It looks like much more than a big dark hole from up there.
Further down the bank, I saw that the Madison was showing up well from shore today. The sun had decided to come out for a little while and the water was still because there was no breeze. The glare on the water is a little distracting, but focus on the dark lines in the water and you will see the wreckage.
On the way back, there were butterflies fluttering everywhere. Most were moving too quickly to photograph and they were all butterflies that I have shown you all before. This little moth was the only one still. It was so pretty and white. It just happened to be next to ANOTHER Morning Glory! They really are blooming ALL over the park right now, I don't just seek them out.
Another project today was to finish up my fish tank maintenance. I topped it off with water and worked on scrubbing more algae off of the glass. The snails that I caught and added to the tank yesterday have already started on their new jobs as algae eating machines. I hope that they keep up the good work. I wonder if the little Catfish enjoys the company... he ate his last companions.
When my evening relief came in this afternoon, I headed over to Adams Tract. I will have to keep up with the maintenance and water testing until the new volunteer arrives. Upon first inspection, the camp looked like it was in great shape. I tested the chlorine and made a slight adjustment and then went on to check the restrooms. WOW! It caught me a little off guard. The first restroom had a toilet issue that I battled for a good long time. I have not encountered a toilet that gross that put up such a fight since my Ichetucknee days. I actually took a break from plunging to check the other restrooms. One was locked, someone evidently did not unlock the door when they left and locked their towel and sunglasses inside the restroom. The style of door knob used in the construction of these restrooms frustrates me so much. It is too easy to lock yourself out. I have made signs asking people to remember to unlock the door, but I took photos today to try to make a better sign. I will show what position the lock mechanism needs to be in for it to be unlocked. I think part of the problem is that the handle moves freely on the inside and it feels like its unlocked when it isn't. Maybe a graphic will help. Someday, when it starts raining money, I will think about replacing all of the knobs. I was a little nervous to check to see what was behind door #3 after the first two problems. It was good that I had braced myself. I walked into a mess of cigarette ashes and beard trimmings in the sink. When I turned the cold water knob to wash the sink, nothing happened. I flushed the toilet to see if there was water coming in. The toilet was fine. I checked the knob under the sink and saw that the water was off. I turned it on and once the water was running into the sink, it was also running onto the floor. Someone had broken off the U-shaped pipe under the sink and sloppily tried to reattach it. I cleaned the mess and locked the door. I will add plumbing to my list of things to do this week. With the last two restrooms out of the way, I headed back to the first one and plunged with all my might. I was finally successful... but then I had to clean up the mess as well. Aren't you glad I didn't take pictures of that! Here are some nice images of downstream and upstream from the Adams Tract dock to represent my time there. After that exciting adventure, I emptied some garbage cans and headed home.
The excitement wasn't over yet though! I encountered a cow standing next to the dirt road about halfway back to the park. It was directly across the road from a pasture full of cows, so it evidently did not go far on its runaway from home. It also was not looking like it was planning on going anywhere else. I considered driving up the driveway to notify the homeowner, but most of the houses on this road also have big mean dogs that appear out of no where when a stranger drives down the driveway. I continued on my way after snapping some photos. This happens all the time in this neighborhood. I have been called in to the park before because there was a cow in the park drive. Oh, the joys of rural Florida!
Hello Cow!