Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

I guess everyone was preparing for the holiday. The park was very quiet today aside from woodpeckers and squirrels. There was only one car in the parking lot most of the day, at one point there were two. Two boats came to the park also. One group of boaters fished on the river bank and the other group spend some time talking with me and some time enjoying the park. I talked with the few visitors and tried to keep myself busy with small projects that I could easily put down if a usual Saturday crowd showed up. I completed the paperwork that I had to do from the supply purchase that I made yesterday. I sent some e-mails. I put a new dust collecting back into the shop vac and vacuumed the office. I picked up some sticks that had fallen. I also took several walks around the park. Little clumps of mushrooms were popping up everywhere. The squirrels were happy, I saw a few of them munching on the mushrooms.
The turtles were all over the spring, as usual. One brave little guy even hung out on the rock while a small group of divers went in and out of the water.
It was a beautiful day, I wore shorts and was never too hot or too cold. The lizards were happy for the warming sunshine. These two Fence Lizards were both appropriately on a fence together. The male was generously showing off his beautiful blue scales for us.
Near the Fence Lizards, I saw a tiny yellow flower. There aren't many other flowers still in bloom.
Very close to the flowers, I found these two Lubber grasshoppers mating in the grass. I snapped a quick photo and gave them some privacy.
In the next area that I walked to, a spider web crossed the path. It was the web of a Spiny Orb Weaver. I watched the spider for a minute and then looked to my left. There was a giant spider egg sac. I don't know if it was the sac of the Spiny Orb Weaver or if another kind of Orb Weaver had found this spot.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Mi Amigo

I am still not cleared for riding, but I don't want my horse to forget about me. I went to the barn today even though I couldn't ride. My manager and I just did some ground work with our ponies in the round pen. It was good to be there, even if it wasn't as fun as it could have been.
We gave them a good grooming first. My poor Amigo was in rough shape, we are well paired. He also had a tick. It was feeding on his eyelid. He let me remove it and it came willingly because it had a full meal. Amigo's eyelid was a little puffy from the tick. I'm sure it will subside now that the tick is gone. When I cleaned out his hooves, I found that they were a mess also. There was a pokey stick in one foot, a compressed ball from a Sweet Gum Tree in another foot, and the frog (soft center part of the foot) of yet another foot was damaged and tender. One foot was obviously bothering him while we worked. He probably would not have been OK to ride today either. I don't know what he has been up to in the pasture.
So the two of us, tick-bit and sore-limbed, along with my manager and her pony, did some desensitization exercises in the round pen. We played with a beach ball and a flag and a lot of horse treats. Amigo was very scared of the flag at first until I put horse treats on it and let him eat them off of the flag. The first time he took a treat, he bit some flag also. When he picked his head up, the flag startled him because it lifted up as well. He didn't let go of the treat though! He wanted the treat more than he was scared of the flag. Amigo is also known as the cookie monster because of his love for horse treats. With calm words, patience, and lots of horse treats, Amigo eventually allowed me to wave it above him, in his face, and on his back. He also allowed me to hold the flag in front of us while we walked around the pen and roll the beach ball towards him and bounce it off of him. He is still a little leary of the ball when it touches his back legs, but I think he did a really good job today. We made some progress. It was a good day.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ticked Off

My boyfriend, Isaac, and I both had the day off today, and the weather was really nice. We decided to go to Ichetucknee Springs and walk the nature trails there. I had my camera, he had his sketch book, we had water and granola bars, we had chili in the crock pot cooking at home, and we were ready to spend the afternoon walking at Ichetucknee.
When we got there, the park was quiet. There was one other group of people there and they stayed in the picnic area. We headed out on the trail which follows the river at first. I found a few nice views right away, of the river and the flowers around it. We found a spider, a Triangle Orbweaver, and eventually sat down on a convenient log so that Isaac could sketch. While he worked, I listened to the natural sounds around us and enjoyed the colorful leaves and the blue sky and the bluer water. At one point, I looked down and realized that I was COVERED in tiny little baby ticks! They were literally, the size of the period on my keyboard. There were easily, more than 100 ticks crawling around on my arms and legs. Somehow, Isaac, right next to me, had no ticks at all. I did my best to remove as many ticks as I could, but I really couldn't get them all. I was also having trouble figuring out which dots where freckles and which were ticks. I needed a nice hot shower. Disappointingly, we cut our walk short and headed back home. This is not the first time that I have been covered in tiny ticks, Isaac thinks that I find them, I think that they find me. At any rate, here are the photos that I was able to get before our fun ended.
While we were walking, I thought of an answer to the question posted in the comments on Tuesday. Lorena asked me, "what's the weirdest thing you or one of the divers have found? And do you have any happy stories of returning lost objects?" On the very trail that I walked today, about 3 years ago when I was working at Ichetucknee, I walked the nature trail and found something unusual. It was a GIANT pair of purple, silk, woman's panties. It was a troublesome moment because I didn't really want to touch them, I also didn't want to leave them on the trail. I used a stick to carry them until I found more garbage that could hold the giant silk panties. I wondered, but really did NOT want to know how they ever ended up way out on the trail like that. I did not attempt to find the owner of the undies, I threw them away in the first garbage can that I passed. We do sometimes reunite lost property with its owners. One day at Troy, a couple came in to dive and were having a bad day. They first had trouble getting underwater because of a new wetsuit and not enough weight. When they tried to return to their truck to get more weight, they realized that they no longer had their key. It was an expensive remote key that they had put in a waterproof case and clipped to one of their suits. It had apparently become detached and could have floated anywhere. When I talked to them and heard the situation, I imagined the key case floating down river somewhere. I did try to help them look around though. I headed out to look along one side of the spring and miraculously found them safely nestled near a rock on the shore. They were so happy to see their key, but still did not end up having a very enjoyable dive. They were sure that it was because their ritual of stopping for a lucky Combos snack had not happened that day. I'm sure they will never dive again without their lucky Combos.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pretty Views

Today really zipped by. In the morning, I worked on my photo point project that I mentioned yesterday, and I spent the afternoon at a lunch and personnel meeting at Ichetucknee. The day was over before I knew it, but I had some nice photos to show for it. We had some heavy morning rain which broke into almost immediate sunshine and led to some foggy views that I can't get enough of. It was a nice way to start my weekend.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Here Comes The Rain

It was another gray and gloomy morning, but I knew that it would last all day. There was rain in the forecast so I was grateful for every dry moment that I had. I did my morning drive, unlocked the gate and headed toward the flag poles. A giant orange caterpillar was clinging to the center line of the entrance road. As soon as I got out my camera though, it started inching along as fast as it could. I struggled to get a photo of it, in focus.
I finally decided that I would try making a video of it because it was so fast. I apologize for the shakiness of the video, I am admittedly better with still photography.

The caterpillar made it pretty close to the grass and I knew it was well on its way to safety so I turned my attention to the flags. I opened the flag box slowly and checked to see if any of the patriotic frogs remained. I didn't see any, but I handled the flags cautiously in case they were hiding. Once I had the US flag and the POW MIA flag clipped on to the rope, I noticed that there was a frog on the flagpole. I don't know if it climbed out of a flag just then or if it was on the pole all along.
Once I made it to the park and unlocked the office, I took my morning walk, unlocked the cabin, and headed to the office to get the paperwork out of the way. I wrapped it up pretty quickly and moved on to some other office work. My original plan was to head to Adams Tract in the morning and Lake City to pick up some supplies in the afternoon. I decided to skip Lake City though and just pick up what I need when I am in a city on my day off. I had too much that I wanted to do today. I headed to Adams Tract around 9:30 and checked in with the volunteers. We discussed some maintenance issues and I picked up some garbage and time sheets and attendance information. The river camp looked great! I headed back towards Troy, but I had to stop to take a photo on the way out. The gray sky was so impressive over the soft, green, farmer's field.
Back at Troy, I was ready to settle in and get some projects out of the way or at least started. I saw a vehicle in the parking lot so I walked to the cabin porch to see where the people were. I saw that there were divers in the water. I headed to the parking lot to check if their diver certification cards were out and to see if they had a pass. On the way to the parking lot, I snapped a quick photo of a squirrel who was perched in a funny way, feasting on an acorn. I was surprised that it let me get so close. I took one more step to get a better angle and it scurried off.
The divers didn't have a pass displayed, so I checked the honor box... nothing. I went back to my office to eat lunch and to wait for them to come out of the water. I was sure that they were trying to avoid payment. I have found though, that its good to always approach people in a friendly way because you just never know what the whole story will turn out to be. When they surfaced and returned to their vehicle, they gave me their payment envelope. They had been nervous to just drop their money in the slot. I assured them that it was secure, but I did accept their payment. I asked them if they had a good dive, they didn't, they lost a newer camera underwater. I helped them look around the edge of the spring, hoping that it had gotten caught in a rocky area near shore. It didn't turn up, so I took their name and contact information and I will ask other divers this week to watch for the camera. Hopefully it is stuck under a rocky ledge somewhere underwater where another diver can retrieve it, or maybe a turtle downriver is taking some family photos.
When I finally got back to the office, I was frustrated because so much of the day was gone but I hadn't gotten very far with my To-Do list. I sat down and got going, so did the rain outside. I called to activate the new park cell phone that had arrived while I was out. That took a few phone calls. I sent and responded to some e-mails. I called a mower service place to make sure that I have been searching for the appropriate oil to add to the hydraulic system, I am, the search continues. I added up volunteer hours from Adams Tract and prepared ID cards for them as they have met the required hour mark. I entered the attendance from Adams Tract into the computer, and talked to my evening relief about improving the form that we use. I compiled all of our new paperwork for our new fuel card and vehicle tracking system. I also pulled all of the old forms out of the file cabinet so that the other worker could start cutting it up and making some note paper for us. With all of the small stuff out of the way, and someone to help visitors as they came through, I was finally able to start on a project that I was working on before I broke my arm. I began arranging the photos that I had taken of the sides of the spring. I am making a guide so that we can continue to take the same photos from the same places over time to have a better record of erosion and other changes. I got a good start on it before it was time to go home. I still need to take two more photos and fill in the GPS coordinates and notes for each spot.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Motable Monday

This morning was a very spooky looking morning, fitting of the week before Halloween. It was cloudy, dark and cool with a spectacular fog in the air. I got to work a little early, so I walked around to get some photos. Do you remember this tree?
There were turtles almost shell to shell all over the spring. The river must be getting cooler. The spring stays around 70 degrees, year round. In the summertime, the river gets warmer than the spring and likewise, in the winter, the river gets colder than the spring. Turtles are cold blooded and use their environment to regulate their body temperature. These two turtles were taking advantage of the shallow water at the end of the spring run, very close to the river. They were close to the warming sun, in warmer water, and close enough to the protective cover of the dark river water to make a quick escape from park visitors or other terrifying things.
I don't know if I will ever have enough photos of the fog over the water of the spring.
At the cabin porch, I enjoyed another of my favorite views.
I heard some noise above me and was barely able to capture this Pileated Woodpecker who was busily probing the tree for tasty morsels of insect. It had a companion, but they would never stay put on the same side of the tree.
After my morning paperwork and weekly paperwork were done, I read and answered a few e-mails, I faxed a form to get a free upgrade for the park cell phone, and I faxed a time sheet for an employee. I made sure that the worker staying in the park had a few things to work on, and I headed out on my Monday errands. While I was at Ichetucknee, I talked with my assistant manager for a while about a new fuel card program and we sat down to discuss my review. It went well and then my manager arrived. After catching up with both managers, I headed back to Troy. There, I tied up a few loose ends, talked with a few park visitors, and planned the rest of my week. When my evening relief came in, I chatted with her and then headed home for the day.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Serene Sunday

It was a pretty quiet and uneventful day. It was another cold morning and again, I was met by visitors waiting at the gate when I opened. Today it was just two divers though, not 50 like yesterday. After checking in the first divers and getting morning paperwork out of the way, I walked the park. The Smooth Aster below, is one of the few flowers in bloom around the park. It is challenging to photograph though. The petals are pale purple, but if I use the camera flash or in bright sun, the petals appear white in photos. To capture the purple color, I have to overexpose the image which makes everything else a little darker than I would like.
The sun and fog were working their usual magic around the park and I caught a few more images before another group of 15 divers arrived. The rest of the day, I was just quietly wandering around the park. I talked to a large group a canoers who were glad to be almost done with their adventure. They were not as prepared as they could have been so I gave them some maps and brochures so that their journey next time is more enjoyable. I also busted some teenagers who thought that they could avoid paying the park entrance fee. After another small dive group and very few other visitors came and went, my evening relief arrived and I headed home.