Saturday, February 13, 2010

Battle of Olustee Part I

Today was a very long day, but a fun one.  It started out bright and early when I woke up at 5:30.  I had to open the park and make sure that the road was clear of water before I headed to Ichetucknee to meet my boss at 7:30 am.  Together, we went to San Felasco State Park and loaded up the horses.  We were running a little late and the horses loaded for us in seconds.  It went so smoothly, we almost didn't believe it.  Then, we headed to Lake City where we unloaded and tacked up in a parking lot to prepare for the parade.  The ponies all did a fantastic job at the parade.  They all did what they were supposed to and only spooked once when a girl in a big fluffy dress ran towards them (I don't blame them, it was a little scary).  They did just fine with soldiers banging their drums and firing their rifles.  They are in their element in the parades.  I think that they love the attention.  This is Amigo, the horse that I ride.  He was all ready for the parade and we had time for a quick photo.

After the parade, we went to the battlefield.  We were there before the reenactment happened, so we took our time getting ready.  We let a lot of people pet the horses and we answered their questions.  We patrolled around the battlefield a bit to make sure that visitors didn't wander off behind the battlefield.  I even had time for another photo op.  This is me and Amigo.  This is also the first time that I have worn the silly ranger hat.  This is called our Campaign Hat and it is only worn for very special occasions.  It is not very comfortable, but very park rangery.

We started on one side of the battlefield and watched the Confederate soldiers march in.

When it was almost time for everything to begin, two of us went to the other side of the battlefield.  There was an announcement about this year being the Florida Park Service's 75th Anniversary.  We marched the horses in front of the audience to represent the early mounted patrol.  It was fun.  Then we headed back to our side of the battlefield and the battle began.  I was stationed on the Union troop side of the field.  Its fitting, as some may call me a Yankee because of my northern heritage (I was BORN in the south though, for the record).  We were a big hit with the younger Union soldiers.

So, that is where I spent the majority of my day and where I will be tomorrow.  At the edge of the battlefield with a great view of an amazing show, through the ears of a horse.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cold Rain

Today was my second day off.  I went to Gainesville to run some errands.  It rained all day.  We looked at the forecast on my fiance's phone this morning and aside from the usual green and yellow blobs on the satellite, there were also pink blobs.  The pink blobs were headed our way too.  We wondered what the pink blobs where, we looked at the key and found that pink meant snow.  Snow in Florida.  Snow in Florida when I have to be outside all day tomorrow.  Oh, I need to move further south.
I got a call while I was in Gainesville telling me that the person who was supposed to close the park tonight would not be able to make it in because of the weather.  I got home right around closing time and checked the park.  The day-long rain had brought some of our familiar puddles back.  I hope that they will recede before tomorrow.  I left a note for my coworkers, made a phone call and headed out with the umbrella to make sure that the faucets were dripping and ready for the freeze tonight.  They were!  I'm just not sure that I am ready for another freeze.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pony Time

Its been a while, but I got to go riding again today.  We were getting ready for a full weekend of riding.  This weekend is when Olustee Battlefield State Park holds a reenactment of that battle.  It was the largest Civil War battle that took place in Florida.  It was a victory for the Confederates that kept the Union army from overtaking Tallahassee.  The actual battle was February 20, 1864 and every year in February, a reenactment is held.  The Cracker Horses participate in the parade on Saturday and will be at the event Saturday and Sunday.  Today, we went for a short ride because we haven't ridden in such a long time and we got our tack together for the parade.  The horses got new halters that are red, white and blue.  We adjusted them for our horses and put them in the horse trailers.  I am looking forward to the event and the parade, I just wish it was going to be warmer.

Before riding this morning, I got to Ichetucknee about 15 minutes earlier than I was supposed to meet my boss to go to the barn.  I went to the Take-out dock, to enjoy the view for a little while.  While I was there, I saw an Otter and an Egret.  I was not too quick with my camera though and I missed them both.  Here are some foggy views that I did capture though.  The water is high here too.  The Ichetucknee River flows into the Santa Fe River which flows into the Suwannee.  Because the Suwannee is flooded, all of the other rivers are backing up as well.  Usually, I can stand on the Take-out dock to photograph this part of the river, but you can just see the railing poking out of the water.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Valentine Appreciation

It was cold and windy today.  I could only stand to be outside for short periods of time.  After doing the paperwork, my coworker and I rearranged some picnic tables in the picnic area and then went inside to warm up.  We cleaned out the fire ring at the youth camping area and then went inside to warm up.  We also had to turn on the faucets to drip at the barn.  We are looking at twenty something degrees as a low tonight.  I did take one photo while I was outside of the Red-bud Tree that is trying its hardest to bud.

I cleaned algae off of the glass in the aquarium in the visitor center, and I showed my coworker how to do some of the reports that I usually take care of.  We did see one group of visitors today.  I talked to them while they toured the cabin.  In the afternoon, we had a break from the cold and wind.  We went to Ichetucknee Springs for a Valentine Luncheon.  The staff from Ichetucknee, Troy, and Adams Tract got together to celebrate each other.  Our managers put together a delicious lunch and beautiful decorations.  They also put together some thoughtful and funny gift bags and we enjoyed the afternoon together.

I headed home a little early when we returned from the luncheon.  I will be doing something work related tomorrow, so I had a little extra time to take.  When I got home, my fiance and I enjoyed the warmest part of the day at a disc golf course.

It was a challenging course, but it was still a nice time.  I even found some lovely little violets on the course.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rain Check

There was rain in the forecast for today and it showed up at work shortly after I did.  Fortunately, it left early today and the sun had finally arrived when I was ready to leave.  We didn't need the rain though and this storm covered all of the sensitive areas north of us.  Needless to say, the river is continuing its rise.

I didn't get out to take many photos today, just the one from the cabin porch while I balanced an umbrella on my shoulder.  I spent the day indoors.  I made a little more progress on the cultural resource updates and got our files regarding them better organized.  I met with two of my coworkers and their supervisor from the Experience Works program.  Our volunteer compiled a list of supplies for me to pick up for the new restroom fan installation.  I answered and sent some e-mails.  I watched the rain fall.  That was my exciting day in a nutshell... a nutshell floating in a mud puddle.  I hope that I have something more interesting to share tomorrow.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Mundane Monday

It was another Monday!  There wasn't much special about it, but it was a good day.  There was frost on the windshield of the truck this morning, but the weather was warming up already when I left the house.  It was a foggy morning!!  I got to work a little early and went for a walk right away.  I really enjoyed the fog and the reflections on the water.  The water level has come up about as little as it went down yesterday.  It is just hovering.

When my paperwork was done and I had talked to my coworkers, I headed over to Ichetucknee.  While I was there, I met with our biologist to talk about some information that I have to update and compile about cultural resources at Troy.  Cultural resources are traces of human impact like the remains of the Madison, the Civil War-era steamship wreckage in the spring.  When we were done with our discussion, we practiced deploying our fire shelters.  A fire shelter is a folded tent that we wear in a pack on our belts anytime we are on the fire line at a prescribed fire.  In the rare and extreme event, that we become trapped in a fire, the fire shelter would save our lives.  At least once a year, like our pack tests, we practice with a training shelter to make sure that we are familiar with it if we ever needed it.  We should be able to deploy and get fully positioned in the shelter within 30 seconds with all of our gear on.  Here is my helmet, my gloves, and a training fire shelter (the actual size of a fire shelter).

The training shelter is a tarp-like material so that it can be reused for practice.  The actual shelters have a reflective, foil-like coating and can only be used once.  When the shelter is opened and unfolded, there are elastic straps inside to help you pull it down over you.  Once you are on the ground with the shelter over you, there are flaps that you can hold down with your arms and legs to help hold the shelter to the ground.  This is our biologist, in a deployed training shelter.

When I got back to Troy in the afternoon, I talked to my coworkers and some scout leaders.  I talked about plans for the new exhaust fans in the restrooms with our volunteer.  I went back and forth with 5 or 6 phone calls to two scout leaders who had groups that wanted to camp the same weekend.  I was able to sort it all out before the end of the day though.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Lights, Camera, Mud

I was expecting another quiet day.  The river is still trying to make up its mind as to whether it will start to go down or not.  It was colder, windier, and Super Bowl Sunday.  I was planning another day of just me and the squirrels.  After my drive through the park, I ended up at the office.  When I tried to turn on the light, I saw that the bulbs were out.  My first task of the day was to climb on top of my desk to replace the fluorescent light bulbs.  With them in place and the dead bugs cleaned from the light cover and replaced, I realized that two of the bulbs must have been out for a while because it was BRIGHT in my office.  I powered on the computer and headed out for a walk, it wasn't quite as bright outside yet.  After opening the cabin, I decided to do a little leaf blowing.  I realized that it has been a long time since I got to do this, one of my favorite things.  I didn't bother with the walkway to the spring because half of it is underwater.  I did spruce up the cabin area though.

I noticed an outdoor faucet at the cabin that was leaky.  I don't like the water running on the already deteriorating bricks, so I temporarily stopped the leak and will purchase a new faucet tomorrow.  Near the faucet, I found a little caterpillar.  The orange and black Woolly Bear that some people think can predict the severity of winter, becomes a Tiger Moth.  This all black caterpillar is similar and is also commonly called a Woolly Bear.  It will become a stunning, black and white Leopard Moth.

While I was at the cabin, I snapped a picture of the view from the porch.  It hasn't changed much in the last week, but I hadn't shown it in a little while.  I love the way the sky looks in the water when its browned out.  I think that is the only thing that I like about the spring being flooded.

Some people did actually come to the park today.  Two separate groups came in today.  Both were just out exploring and had never been to Troy before.  Both were pleasantly surprised with the park and decided they would be back to see the spring when it was clear.  One group even stayed to make bird masks in the cabin.  I didn't change the activity from last month because I don't think anyone did the project in January.  They left with some pretty amazing bird masks!  When our visitors left, I headed out to take a look at the nature trail.  My coworkers had done a great job removing the tree that was blocking the trail. They cut only what was necessary and used what they could move to line the trail.  Something that I have noticed throughout working with the nature center, teaching outdoor ed in Delaware, and from talking to our visitors is that some people get very uneasy on a trail through the woods if they aren't reassured of where the path is.  Our nature trail is a nice, curvy path through the woods and some turns aren't as obvious as they could be.  Quite often when scout groups camp at the park and ask for a service project, I ask them to work on lining the trail with logs and sticks.  It makes the trail more obvious and comforts people who are a little unsure about the woods.

The trail has seen a lot of moisture in the last month.  Most of it has dried up now, but the moss is flourishing.  A large amount of the trail is covered in a soft green carpet of moss.  Its nice to see something green out there in the woods.

There wasn't any standing water, but I was glad that I was wearing hiking boots and not white tennis shoes.  There was plenty of mud!  The mud told the story of who else had been down the trail though.  A raccoon walked much of the nature trail sometime before me.