We spent more time than usual at our campground in Ocean Pond Forest Service park, waiting for some rainy weather to pass over. But we never did get the big rains predicted here. So we still had time to explore some other places in the area. We are still enthralled with all the layers of green we see, including trails where even the green moss has completely covered the walkway.
We also really enjoy the big ferns that grow wild in the shade under the canopy of trees. These look like they are carefully tended by a team of gardeners, but they are growing everywhere in this part of northern Florida.
Denisa loves a turn on a good swing, and she found a nice one in the park just across the lake from our campground. We had this entire park to ourselves in the middle of the week, so she didn't even have to wait her turn with the other children.
We visited the little museum in the tiny town of Olustee, which taught us about the turpentine industry that this area produced in the early 1900's. It also allowed visitors to experience the party line system of phone communication by listening in on a typical conversation. Mark has experience in this area, as he was known to listen in on neighbors' conversations when he was a little boy. His parents will remember finding this out from a neighbor (who heard the click on the line that would let them know that someone new was listening). The neighbor finally asked, "Who's listening on the line?" and a sweet little boys' voice answered, "I'm Marky." Well Marky was listening on the party line again today about 50 years later.
Another stop was the sizable town of Lake City. When our son, Blake, heard we were staying at the Ocean Pond campground near Lake City, he commented that we had most of the bodies of water covered in one stop this time. We visited Lake City for some shopping, and then a 3.5 mile walk on a trail at their Alligator Lake Park.
Given the name of the park, we weren't surprised to find a few alligators sunning themselves around the lake.
But we were surprised to find some plump blackberries around the perimeter. Not quite ripe, the red ones were a little tart. But after eating tiny wild strawberries and raspberries last summer in the mountains, we are surprised at the big size of wild blackberries.
Denisa was intent on picking berries that were growing right beside the lake,
while Mark was leaning his camera across the blackberry bushes trying to take a picture of an alligator sunning himself on the edge of the water. You can barely see the alligator, nestled among all the green in the top center part of the photo. Denisa never saw him well. But when he suddenly thrashed and swam away, she almost lost all of her berries trying to move the other direction. Mark got a good laugh out of how fast the gator and his wife could move.
We found other interesting things on the trail--like these ping-pong- size broken eggs littered along the trail. They usually seemed to be found around a hole, and they were always broken and cleaned out.
We picked up a couple just to show their size and detail. More leathery than bird eggs, they seemed to also be round instead of bird-egg-shaped. We did some research, and our best guess is that these are gopher tortoise eggs, that some predator must have raided from the nest.
Gopher tortoises usually build a nest (that mimics the shape of their shell) along sandy banks. The female lays the eggs, and then covers them with sand. A ranger told us that it isn't unusual for a bird or rodent to wait patiently until right after the mother tortoise lays the eggs and then immediately raids the nest.
Also along this trail we found one of the most unusual flowers we have every seen. This passion flower proves that we have a creative God, and we have wandered to find another of His many wonders.
We had a more restful stay here in our last stop in Florida. Just for the record, Denisa didn't plan all-day activities every day. So if Mark says she can't relax in retirement mode, this is the proof that she can.