Sunday, June 13, 2010

Super Busy Sunday

Today was another relatively tame weekend day.  It was a little more challenging than yesterday, but that isn't saying much.  We were busy.  There were a lot of people that wanted to come to the park today and we had to send a lot of people away because we had reached our capacity.
The day started out the way that most Sundays do though.  We were slow in the morning.  People get a late start on Sundays because of church or sleeping in or whatever.  Once the ranger station was open and things were all set there, I took the rare opportunity to check out the park for a little while.  I took a walk around the spring.  There were quite a few people swimming laps in the spring.  There were a couple of families that got there early to get the best picnic spots, but most of the people there in the morning were regulars who were exercising themselves and/or their dogs before the heat and the crowds set in.  When I got to the lagoon area between the spring and the river, it was very peaceful.  It really made me want to go kayaking though.

I felt a little sad when I got to the top of the hill and some of the park staff were coming my way.  They asked me what was wrong because usually they only see me in the spring area if something needs attention or if there is a problem.  I really need to find the time to get out into the park more often.
I drove out to the other end of the park next to the Sand Lake parking area.  Along the 2 mile park drive, I enjoyed seeing the sun filtering through the trees.  I was also happy to find a very large group of deer grazing just off of the drive.  There was a mother with her yearling and her young fawn.  There were also two or three other does.  A little ways away there were two bucks who had some very fuzzy new antlers growing.  I thought that I would be able to get some great pictures because they were standing in such a nicely lit area.  The vegetation in my way and finding out later that my camera was not set to the settings that I intended led to photos that were not what I expected, but its still nice to capture the moment.

The park looked great.  Most of the mowing had been done at the end of the week, so the park really looked nice, the way that it should.  On my way back from the Sand Lake, I spotted a turtle in the road.  At first I thought that it was a Gopher Tortoise, a normal sighting.  As I moved closer to it to get it out of the road, I realized that it was a Box Turtle!!!  I couldn't believe it.  I had just been talking about Box Turtles with a coworker yesterday.  I had told him that they are not very common and I would like to see one because I had never seen a Box Turtle in Florida.  I used to see them regularly when I worked at a nature center in Delaware.  Box Turtles spend most of their time on land, but they will go to water sometimes to cool off or to catch some food.  They are unique because if threatened, they don't just retract their limbs into their shell, they also can close a garage door like flap to seal up their shell.  It would be very difficult for a predator to find a soft place on a Box Turtle.

After the Box Turtle sighting, I moved it off of the road and continued on my way.  I stopped one more time to photograph a lovely yellow flower that I had seen along the park drive.  There were several of them sparsely dotting the Sandhill areas along the drive.  I believe that they are Rabbit Bells.  Shortly after I took this photo was when I realized that my camera was not set up the way that I expected.  The photo is a little darker than I would have liked it, but it was a neat, accidental effect.

The flower photo was the last one that I took today.  I returned to the ranger station and things began to pick up a little.  A steady line of two or three cars became a steady line of eight or ten cars and by 10:00 there was a line out to the road that stayed that way until well into the afternoon.  We finally reached our capacity shortly after 11:00.  When we closed and began turning people away, they weren't mean, but everyone had a question or a comment.  It was hard to keep the traffic moving.  I am definitely getting more comfortable with the process though.  I am much more confidant with my answers to the common questions, complaints, and comments.  I watched a lot of very patient people pass by me over and over again as they circled and waited to get into the park.  It was nice to rejoice with them when they did finally get into the park.  We stayed closed until around 3:30.  We were able to open for five or ten cars at a time several times throughout that period, but people were coming to the park in droves.  This was the longest lasting crowd that I have seen so far here, it seemed to be never-ending.  Things finally began to slow down after 5:00 and fewer people were trying to come into the park.  The crowds in the park were pretty well behaved.  It was a good day, just a hot and busy one.

Thought of the Day #11
The early morning park visitors have it made.  They are annual pass holders who have requested after-hours permits.  The Annual Park Pass is good for all of the 160+ Florida State Parks (with just a couple of exceptions for parks with a higher fee).  The after-hours permits are park specific because not all parks are able to allow after-hours visitors.  The after-hours visitors can come into the park two hours before or after the park's normal hours.  This works out well for people who come to exercise and want to avoid the crowds or the heat of the day.  It is also great for photographers who want to catch the morning or evening light.  We see a lot of people who walk, jog, or bike and then take a dip in the spring.  There are also quite a few people who use the spring as a lap pool, as I saw this morning.  The Annual Park Pass at $60 per year for an individual or $120 for a family is cheaper than most gym memberships and I'm sure the scenery is much better than the gym.


Understanding Alice said...

your blog is as interesting and beautiful as ever - have you considered doing a book - a year in the life of...?

idyllicchick said...

I've only seen a gopher tortoise in my yard once, but we always have active burrows. And we've had a box turtle visit as well! Here's a photo of him:

Ranger Amy said...

Thanks, Alice! I would love to be published, but as a state employee, I am limited. I cannot profit off of photos that I have taken on work time, nor can I profit off of my experiences gained solely on the job. If the park service wanted to publish it, I wouldn't mind, but I think it would be much better with multiple contributors if they went that route. I think that I would enjoy making interpretive children's books. I'm full of ideas. You haven't heard the last of me!

Idyllicchick, thanks for sharing your Box Turtle with us. They are just so cool! Your turtle had a very different color and pattern than mine. It is a highly variable species.

kazia said...

amazing :)