Into The Forest

(Part Two of our adventures in northwest Florida.)

… Two roads diverged in a wood, and I  –  I took the one less traveled by …  Robert Frost 

We would have been perfectly satisfied to remain aboard our comfortable houseboat, well, probably for the rest of our lives, but that’s another story. The floor-to-ceiling windows in the living area provided views up the creek, down the creek, across the salt marsh, of the mouth of the river, the bridge beyond which lay the vast bay, the endless blue sky (after that first night!) – why would we want to leave? When we did venture away from our dock to explore along the coast, the scenery was so spectacular we didn’t want to return to the confines of the boat. What might be around that next curve of shoreline? I suspect Gini and I were both explorers in another life. It was inevitable our souls united.

My brother suggested we escape the magnetic forces of the coast to wander for a day in a little different environment. The Apalachicola National Forest covers over half a million acres spread out north and east of Apalachicola. There are at least three major rivers flowing through the forest and myriad creeks, lakes and natural springs. It has the largest remaining stands of longleaf pines and wiregrass in the country, an ecosystem which used to cover the majority of the southeastern United States. Most of the roads are not paved, many require four-wheel drive and there just aren’t many humans out here. Our kind of place.

There’s no substitute for local knowledge when traveling in unfamiliar territory and my brother is as much an expert on this area as one could hope to find. He pointed out Tupelo trees which in the spring will blossom and attract bees which will produce my favorite honey. Out of the way bayous, a road which dead-ends on the shore of a beautiful bay, evidence of recent bear activity, a pitcher plant prairie, a rare flower. And where to have lunch. Just because we were “away from the coast” didn’t mean we were “far from the coast”. So my fear of going a day without fresh seafood was unfounded. You know you’re in the right spot when the “good ‘ole boys” pull up in their swamp buggies and mud-splattered pick-up trucks. Throw in the hound dog wandering through the broken screen door and rips in the vinyl seats and all that’s left is to order a glass of tea and figure out whether you want grouper, shrimp or crab.

Our last evening of a memorable vacation was highlighted by a Bald Eagle drama we watched unfold from the upper deck of the houseboat. The eagle used a channel marker from which he could spot schools of fish. We watched him fail to snag dinner three times. On the fourth try, he latched onto a striped mullet but I think the water was deeper than he anticipated and the fish may have been larger and heavier than he thought. As he attempted to take flight with the fish, he couldn’t become airborne, probably due to soaked feathers and the weight of the fish. Not wishing to fail again , he turned toward his channel marker perch and began “swimming”. As he reached his perch, he realized he couldn’t fly up that far with his fish. Spotting a tree branch in the shallow water, he hopped onto it with his prize only to be dumped back in the water as the branch was not stable. The eagle finally had to let the fish go or risk drowning as the tide was rising. Without the extra weight, the bedraggled bird flew to his perch and hoped the humans aboard the passing shrimp boat hadn’t witnessed his disgrace. We did, but we won’t tell.

 

Moving away from the coast, we encountered vast marshes, creeks and bayous winding southward.

Apalachicola

Cash Bayou

Apalachicola

Cash Bayou

 

At the end of Sand Beach Road, one would expect to find – no sand and no beach. Plenty of shallow water and grass.

Apalachicola

Sand Beach

 

From Sand Beach, looking across East Bay, we could see the long bridge which connects Apalachicola and Eastpoint.

Apalachicola

Sand Beach, East Bay

 

One of the main rivers flowing through the forest is East River.

Apalachicola

National Forest – East River, Gardner’s Landing

 

Even in late fall there are plenty of wildflowers blooming throughout the area, such as this Narrow-leaved Sunflower.

Apalachicola

Gardner’s Landing, Narrow-leaved Sunflower

 

Along Graham Creek we found Tupelo, Cypress, Oak, Maple, Bay and other tree varieties.

Apalachicola

Graham Creek

 

Florida Lobelia and False Foxglove added splashes of color to the prairies.

Apalachicola

Florida Lobelia (Lobelia floridana)

Apalachicola

False Foxglove (Agalinis sp.)

 

My brother found a fairly rare wildflower known as Largeleaf Grass-of-Parnassus. It’s only been observed in four counties in Florida.

Apalachicola

Largeleaf Grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia grandifolia)

Apalachicola

Largeleaf Grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia grandifolia)

 

Carnivorous plants abound in some areas here attesting to a healthy bug population. Pitcher Plants seemed to be everywhere at the same location we found the Grass-of-Parnassus.

Apalachicola

Pitcher Plants

Apalachicola

Pitcher Plants

Apalachicola

Pitcher Plant

 

This type of Pine savannah used to cover the entire southeastern United States.

Apalachicola

Pine Savannah

 

The Bald Eagle is a mighty hunter, but even the best of us don’t always bring home dinner on time.

Apalachicola

Bald Eagle

Apalachicola

Bald Eagle

Apalachicola

Bald Eagle

Apalachicola

Bald Eagle

Apalachicola

Bald Eagle

Apalachicola

Bald Eagle

Apalachicola

Bald Eagle

Apalachicola

Bald Eagle

Apalachicola

Bald Eagle, Shrimper

 

One more outstanding sunrise greeted us as we prepared to head across the Apalachicola River toward home. Among the items we packed for the journey are some very special memories.

Apalachicola

Sunrise – Apalachicola River

 

 

We made it home safely. It took a few days for our bed to stop “rocking” with imaginary waves. We’re looking forward to returning.

 

Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

 

See more birds at:   Paying Ready Attention   (Check out Wild Bird Wednesday.)

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Post navigation

23 thoughts on “Into The Forest

  1. How beautiful this place is! Gorgeous Bald Eagle shots. That is a lovely little wildflower.

  2. HI Wally I must apoligise for so many posts i have missed but what a thrill and feast I am having reading and see your wonderful photographs now. Love the quote and certainly agree with it. The scenery is fabuous andthe Eagles shots are utterly stunning.

  3. What a great adventure. My gosh, the Eagle shots are wonderful … and we love a boat and being out on the water. . Of course, we would never be able to venture into those waters … we will never have your brother’s local knowledge. . It was a great trip even virtually though. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Great shots – those landscapes (well, waterscapes) at the start are great – and who can go past an eagle!

    Cheers – Stewart M – Melbourne

  5. “boating” – new PC and keboard – Doh!

  6. That was a lovely and gentle journey you took us on Wally. And not another soul in sight! It’s clear from your commentary how much you both enjoyed your coating adventure.

    Your Bald Eagle images are of course simply spectacular.

    “Exquisite” can be the only suitable word for that beautiful and delicate flower the Largeleaf Grass-of-Parnassus. A great set of pictures and a matching set of words.

  7. I thought your previous post would take some beating, Wally – but you’ve done it! Your images of the scenery are beautiful. The flowers are superb, and that Largeleaf Grass-of-Parnassus has one of the most delightful flowers I’ve ever seen! – – Then there’s the Bald Eagle sequence – WOW!!!

    My best wishes to you both – – – Richard

  8. Hello Wally,
    What an amazing post with this Bold eagle failing to pull his fish out!
    As an ex-parrot breeder, I can confirm birds feel extremely vexed when they fail with whatever they are doing and when we laugh, they feel even worse! LOL!
    I went several times over your photos, they are really fantastic, wish I could have witnessed this too!
    Keep well and enjoy your weekend 🙂

    • Merci, Noushka! That’s very interesting about bird behavior. It’s sometimes tempting to assign human traits to animals but in this case maybe it is applicable.

      We are already having a wonderful weekend! Thank you again for visiting with us today!

  9. Pure magic.
    Of the restorative heart-healing kind.
    Megathanks.

  10. Sounds and looks like a wonderful get away. Your photos are beautiful. I’m not sure if I’m more in awe of the eagle shots or the flowers…. but then again those reflective landscape shots have me wanting to visit asap.

  11. I love the wide open spaces and the marshlands look very much like some around here. The eagle story and photos are really great but for me the Largeleaf Grass of Parnassus is the best. Really exquisite!

  12. Your stunning photos are proof that life is such an amazing adventure.

We value your Comments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: