Saturday, January 23, 2010

Troy Puddle State Park

Today was my first day back at work after the big rain storm on Saturday.  My coworkers had done a great job cleaning up the park after the storm on my days off.  There were a few odd branches here and there still on the ground, but I could tell that it had been much worse.  The flood water had come back full force in the spring as well.  After having the spring open for two whole days last week, we are back to where we were at the beginning of the month.  At least it isn't cold.  By the end of my shift, I was able to shed my jacket and walk around comfortably outside without a coat on.  That was nice.
My drive through the park this morning was short.  The park drive was still under water and wasn't passable.  I put up the flags, but only opened half of the gate.  The incoming side stayed closed with a sign notifying would-be visitors that the park is closed temporarily because of flooding on the drive.  Then I proceeded to the office.  I did the zero-covered paperwork and checked my e-mail.  When I went for a walk around the park, a lot had changed.  There was evidence of the 5.5 inch rainstorm everywhere.  The leaves on the ground had been washed into piles here and there.  Bare areas of sand still had the tracks of flowing water.  The water in the spring was very noticeable from the cabin porch.  I saw no turtles sunning themselves.  There were no bare rocks.

I started one of the rain barrels to drain at the cabin and headed down towards the river.  I was very happy to see that the trail had held up well in the storm.  It showed scars from the rain, but there was no exposed soil.  The wood chips moved around a little, but mostly held to the trail.  The trail fared much better than it would have if it were still exposed soil.

At the river area, I noticed right away that a dead tree on the other side of the spring had lost its top.  It had been a favorite perch for Red-shouldered Hawks.  I posted a photo of one in that very spot a week or two ago.  I wonder if they will still use it now that it is lower.

I didn't spend a lot of time at the river.  I have seen too much of this flooded view already this year.  One thing was unusual about the river this soon after a big surge of water though.  There was no debris floating by.  All of the downed branches, logs, and garbage on the river banks had already been washed away, the river was very calm to be so full.

When I made my way around to the spring and down the walkway, I had a pretty good idea of where I would find the water.  I was right.  It was well over the dock and on its way up the walkway.  The dock was so nice and clean and clear of mud just a few days ago.   Its all back.

I headed back to the office to finish up some projects next.  I had to finalize a report to the well inspector stating how we have fixed each deficiency that was noted in our inspection.  I went out to the barn to get a photo of the well to add to the report.  When I was done, I went to check on the flooding on the road.  It was still not passable, but it had receded quite a bit.  I hope it will be clear by tomorrow.

The rest of the day was spent just busying myself with odds and ends.  I drained another rainbarrel, I added a roll of toilet paper to the women's restroom, I dug out some signs that another park needed to borrow, I e-mailed my assistant manager and got some questions answered, I went to town and filled up our gas cans and made sure that my vehicle log and gas receipts were up to date.  It was a very quiet day.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Wet Park

Today was my second day off.  I stayed home and cleaned my house and waited for the internet connection to be restored.  In the afternoon, I took my dog for a walk and took a look at the water on the road from the rain that we had yesterday.  There is still too much water on the park drive to allow visitors in the park.  Not only is the spring closed for swimming and diving, but now no visitors at all can come to the park.  Fortunately, it doesn't usually take long for the water to soak into the ground and for the road to dry up.  It should be fine in a day or two.  Here is what it looked like.  There is almost knee-deep water covering the lowest part of the entrance road.  It covers the natural space median and the exit road off to the left as well.

We made our way back up the road and headed over to look at the nature trail.  There where frogs chirping everywhere.  I'm sure that they were loving all of the puddles that had formed all over the place.  We also came across an unusual fungus.  I have seen this fungus before, but I never knew what it was.  I looked it up and found out that it is called a Columned Stinkhorn.  I assumed that it was smelly (though I didn't check it out) because it had attracted ants and flies.  The smell is meant to attract insects who will then carry the Stinkhorn's spores elsewhere.  When I found out what this one was called, I also answered another question that I have had for a while.  Do you remember the pointy, red mushroom that I have photographed before?  It is another member of the Stinkhorn family. 

When we arrived at the nature trail, we found it under water as well.  There where just as many noisy frogs too.

There were also just miscellaneous puddles everywhere.  Every low spot was full of water.  I think tomorrow will be another quiet day at the park.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Do-Over Day

Sorry to disappoint my loyal readers.  Thursday didn't quite go as planned.  We had outdoor activities planned for our day off and they were canceled by 5.5 inches of rain.  It stormed all day long and also left me without an internet connection until 1:30pm the next day.  If I hadn't closed the spring on Wednesday, I definitely would have closed it Thursday.  The rain that hit us also covered everything north of us through Georgia.  It looks like we will stay muddy for a little longer.
I closed the park on Thursday so that our scheduled closer could get home before all of the roads were flooded.  I tried to drive through the park to make sure that everyone was out and I couldn't make it down the park drive.  It was flooded.  I closed the gate and drove down the service road to the office and had to cross quite a few deep puddles.  When I got to the office, I left a note for my coworkers, who would be in on Friday morning.  I left some signs by the door and asked them to check the park drive when they came in and to hang the sign notifying visitors that the park was temporarily closed because of water on the drive if needed... It was needed.  Stay tuned for more flood photos.  For now, here are some leftovers from last week.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fog Lifting

The fog was thick this morning, but it broke by mid-morning, into a beautiful day. You know that my camera and I love a foggy morning. I went walking as soon as I got to the office. I started at the cabin porch, I always enjoy this view.

I headed down to the river next and I noticed that our new wood-chip covered path had caught the attention of some spiders. There where several areas where the wood chips were just covered in a thin film of spiderweb. I also found one little hole, likely dug by a squirrel, that a spider had made use of. It built its funnel shaped web in the hole.

By the time I reached the bottom of the hill, I saw that there were many more active spiders. The morning dew covered every single spiderweb in the area and made each one stand out. There were beautiful views everywhere I looked though. The fog makes everything look so different.

When I got to the top of the hill, my coworkers had arrived and were chatting with each other. They told me that the river had come up while I was gone yesterday. It is still coming back up again. I walked to the spring to take a look at it. The rock in front of the dock is covered again and the water that was getting so much more clear on Monday, was muddy brown again. How disappointing. On the way back up to the office, I enjoyed several more spider webs. There were a lot of very tiny orb shaped webs. Maybe some of the egg sacs that I was seeing in the fall have hatched. Its neat to see such an intricate web in such a tiny form. The minuscule dot in the middle is the spider! I wish that I had taken my macro lens with me.

When I got back to the office, I took a look at the water levels up river and the rain forecast. It might just rise a little more and start to recede again or there might be some rain up north that will continue the upward slope. It could go either way. I wrestled with the decision to wait it out and leave the spring open or to close it again while I did the paperwork. I had two days of paperwork to do because I was not there yesterday. While I worked, I noticed a big group of Turkeys walking right by my window. I snapped one photo that focused on things in the foreground rather than the Turkeys. I started to move to another window for a more clear shot, but there was a screen in that window. The Turkey were also able to see my movement through the window. By the time I made my way to the door and quietly walked outside, the Turkeys had headed back through the woods. I will still share my photo of blurry Turkeys though. Blurry Turkeys are better than no Turkeys at all, right?

When I had finished my paperwork, I decided that I would take a Secchi Disk reading and let that be my deciding vote on weather to close the spring or not. It was bad news. We didn't even have four feet of visibility anymore and I had to close the spring. It was a lovely two days, but we are back to muddy water again. I am still hoping for a clear spring for my birthday though. My co-workers switched the signs around again. They replaced the 'caution' signs with 'closed' signs. I changed the message on our answering machine again and called my Assistant Manager to let her know.
Before lunchtime, the Park Manager and new Ranger for the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail (the river-long park that includes Adams Tract) arrived at Troy. They were in the process of visiting all of the parks and river camps along the Suwannee to familiarize the new Ranger. I showed them around Troy and then met them at Adams Tract. There was some trouble with a locked door that I needed to attend to there as well.  After the tour of the river camp, they set to work changing out the kiosk and replacing maps, and I got the stubborn door unlocked.  I will be replacing the door knobs soon!  While they were moving things around in the kiosk, they uncovered a Regal Jumping Spider.

After visiting with the volunteers, I headed back to Troy, but I wasn't there long.  My coworkers and I piled into my truck.  We made a quick stop near the barn to hook up the trailer and then we were off to Ichetucknee.  We used their tractor to load up another heap of wood chips.  This load will be used to fill some holes that have formed in our service road.  When we returned, I headed home for the day, ready to start my weekend.  This week went by fast!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Day Away

I took a day off today.  I headed to another state park which is just north of Orlando.  Its called Wekiwa Springs State Park.  I first got to know Wekiwa four years ago because this park hosted Ranger Academy when I attended.  I really enjoyed the park because of its enormous spring, lengthy trail system, and gorgeous natural vistas thanks to a healthy prescribed fire regime.  The park is home to many of Florida's species of special concern and threatened species.  There are black bears (one followed me to the restroom at Ranger Academy and I was completely unaware until the person behind the bear told me), Fox Squirrels, Scrub Jays, Florida Mice, Gopher Tortoises, and even Gopher Frogs!!!  The park is 40,000+ acres of real, natural Florida.
I spent several hours enjoying this park and taking photos.  I also spent an hour in an interview for an Assistant Manager Position.  I don't think that the interview went as well as it could have, but it was another learning experience and a beautiful day at the park.  Here are a few things that I saw.
 This is about half of the view of the beautiful Wekiwa Spring.

An Anhinga (AKA Snake-bird) was drying its feathers in the warm sun.  Anhingas dive underwater to spear fish and will swim completely submerged with only their head and neck above water.  Their method of swimming earned them the name Snake-bird because just the head and neck look like a snake.
I watched this Tricolored Heron for a long time.  I was standing on a boardwalk that was near enough to it that it saw my movements.  It was also near a boat launch and two canoes full of people floated right past.  The Heron stayed focused on its mission.  It appeared to eat well.  I saw it catch quite a few small fish.

Further down the park drive, I parked and then walked to Sand Lake.  There was a nice, well shaded trail around the lake with several very secluded seating areas along the way.  Each one was very peaceful.  It was a nice contrast to the busy and active spring area.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Not The Usual Monday

While I was on my morning drive through the park today, I was making a list in my head of all of the people that I needed to call this morning.  I had to call the dumpster people to have them replace our rusted dumpster because holes have formed in the bottom and I needed to call the Department of Transportation because someone hit the stop sign at the end of our road on Friday night.  I couldn't make either call this weekend, so I wanted to be sure to remember to do it today.... I made both calls.  No one was there to answer them though because it is a holiday.  I was at least able to leave a message at one place.  Next, I took care of the end of the week paperwork.  I wasn't able to do my Monday errands though, the bank was closed so I couldn't take my deposit slips with my paperwork to Ichetucknee.  I hit the ground running today, ready to tackle Monday and I had to just change gears.  I slowed down and went for a walk.
I took the Secchi Disc with me to check the visibility in the spring.  I climbed out onto the rock which was not much further out of the water than yesterday.  To my surprise, we had more than four feet of visibility.  We were able to open the spring again today!!!  I am still recommending that divers wait a little longer, but the spring is open to daring swimmers and divers.  I'm sure that it will improve quickly now that it is at this point.  The local rain that we just had will recharge our local aquifer and may give the spring a little more pushing power.  When I returned to the office, I made new signs cautioning divers that visibility is not at its best.  Our volunteer took the signs to hang them and to take down all of the signs that said the spring was closed.  I e-mailed the person who can update our park webpage and asked her to change our message.  I also changed the message on our answering machine to give the good news.

Believe it or not, that was the only picture that I took at work today.  I stayed pretty busy aside from my struggles in the morning.  I was doing a bit of reading about another park and mid-morning, our volunteer and I went to Adams Tract.  We picked up the log splitter to return it to its home park.  While we were there, the Adams Tract volunteers told me that the chlorine pump needed some adjusting.  I took care of it quickly and we headed out to return the splitter.  When we returned to Troy, we had lunch.  While we were eating, we realized that there were actually people in the park.  I had a couple of nice conversations and then headed back to the office to do some more reading before heading home for the day.
I was disappointed that I had only taken one photo today.  I spent some time out in my yard after I got home and some Red-bellied Woodpeckers made themselves known.  They are noisy!  I got out my camera, my new lenses, and my tripod and waited patiently for close to an hour while these two little birds completed a repetitive circuit between three or four trees.  I focused in on one and just waited.  I found a really neat setting on my camera while I waited.  I can put the shutter on a timer so that I don't shake the camera at all, but there is a setting where it will then take multiple photos.  It worked out so well because the birds moved quickly and often.  I was able to get some shots where the birds were positioned nicely... in addition to several where they were not.  Here are the nicer ones.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Out And About

Today was the day that I have been waiting for.  It was warm, not raining, and I could walk around the park without a coat on.  It was still cloudy and windy, but I'll take what I can get.  I was glad to be out of the office today.  I did my paperwork and researched a few things on the computer, but otherwise I was out and occupying myself with small tasks.  I picked up a lot of sticks, due to the nearly two inches of rain we had yesterday.  I was happy to see that the trail down to the river held up beautifully in the rain.  It did its job well, it stayed there.
I spent quite a bit of time at the Log Cabin Visitor Center today.  I did a water change and a little tank vacuuming with the aquarium.  I also scrubbed algae off of the glass and sewed up new foam for the filter.  I added water to the tank and then left it alone so that our poor little Catfish could settle down again.  While I was there, I started draining the rain barrels.  They were very full.  I only got through two of them today, I'll get the rest of them tomorrow.  I also installed a hose hanger on one of the barrels on the backside of the cabin.  I like having a hose nearby to drain the barrels, but it was an eyesore where I had it,coiled up in front of the cabin.

When I was done with my projects around the cabin, I went for a walk around the park.  I went to the river first.  Its still on its way down.  I disturbed so many turtles that were sunning themselves on the bank of the spring, that I didn't stay long.  I wanted them to be able to enjoy the warm weather as much as I was.  I walked out onto the dock and got a photo of our favorite tree.  Its roots are creeping back out of the water.

On my way through the picnic area, I picked up more sticks.  As I tossed them into the wooded area, I spotted a beautiful display of fungus.  I thought that I had blogged a photo of this same pile of fungus before.  It took some searching, but I found it.  It really hasn't changed much, I guess the cold weather didn't affect it at all.

When I made it to the spring dock, I disturbed some more turtles.  There were a couple of them piled on the rock in front of the dock.  Its finally poking out of the water again!!

It isn't the only rock that is out of the water.  The turtles found every single one.  The ones that were brave enough to stay on their perches were eyeing me carefully.  They were all anxious for me to walk away.  Its amazing how quickly they forget that people come here too.

I noticed today that I heard more frogs chirping than I did birds.  If the frogs were chirping, than surely I would see one today.  I watched the walls of the walkway to the spring carefully on my way back up.  I saw quite a few Anoles who were cautiously trying to get to some warm air.

I finally did find a frog.  I was about to take its picture when I realized that a fire ant was feasting on its eyelid.  I don't usually interfere with natural processes.  If you interrupt the food chain, someone goes hungry.  I really hate fire ants though and I really like frogs.  The fire ants are non-native, they shouldn't be dining here anyway.  I helped the frog by removing the ant from its eyelid.  I couldn't really convince the frog that I was helping though.  It hopped away from me so much that I had to catch it and hold the poor thing while I plucked off the ant.  When I was done tormenting helping the frog, I placed it back on the wall and snapped some photos and left it alone.

The weather was getting windier and I have a busy week ahead of me.  I decided to go to Lake City to run some errands in the afternoon.  I returned to my office for lunch and worked on a list before heading out.  My main goal for going to Lake City was to purchase vacuum breakers for all of the outdoor faucets around the park.  The well inspector wants them installed to prevent any back flow from a hose from entering the water supply.  Unfortunately, Lowe's was out of stock and the plumbing supply store was closed.  I did pick up a new hitch for my truck though.  Now I don't need to borrow any one else's if I need to tow something (like a log splitter) with a 1 7/8 hitch.  I also picked up a few more quick release hose attachments for the remaining rain barrels that don't have them yet and a quick release bit for the drill.  Our old one disappeared, I really missed it.  When I got back, it was about time to just head home.  I installed my new hitch before retiring though.