Thursday, March 16, 2006

Rainbow Springs State Park, Part 2 of 7

On March 13, 2006, Mary and I visited the Rainbow Springs State Park, which features the headsprings of the Rainbow River. The park's 1,595 acres contain at least 11 distinct, natural communities: mesic flatwoods, sandhills, scrubby flatwoods, sinkholes, upland mixed forests, basin swamps, depression marshes, floodplain swamps, and hydric hammocks.

This is a first magnitude spring complex, fed by four main vents. Its average flow is 465 million gallons per day. These waters run to the Withlacoochie River, through Lake Rousseau, and finally into the Gulf of Mexico.

Says the park's brochure, "The magnificent azalea bloom in early spring attracts visitors from around the country." The flowers were in full, glorious bloom during our visit. This was one happy bumblebee.....

I've been told these are coots, but they don't have the coloration shown in my Peterson's Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America, for either the American or Caribbean species. However, that black stripe across their bills fits the description.

The Peterson had been my first field guide. Years ago I had put up a bird feeder at my old place of employment, and soon was e-mailing a birding coworker with descriptions and the question, "What is this?" He was always very accommodating, but after a few queries I asked him about field guides, and bought the Peterson soon afterwards. Although still a great resource, recent migrations and temperature changes have rendered it a bit out of date.

Various azaleas follow:

Hiking and camping are activities where my upbringing and Mary's had differed widely. They were de rigeur in her family; by the time she was a teenager she had scaled California's 15,000-foot-high Mt. Whitney. I grew up a couch potato, due in large part to my mother's poor health.

One summer my family and I had stayed in a bungalow colony. I went off exploring on my own and found a "sanctuary" of red rock. It wasn't much to look at, but it was a secret place and it was mine. I treasured it.

I began hiking once I was living on my own, and especially after I got my driver's license at age 31. One of my first road trips took me to the White Mountains in New Hampshire and the same motel where I had gone with my family in the mid-70s. Unlike those childhood trips, however, this time I took daily excursions along the Wilderness Trail.

I had always loved walking; as a child I'd ranged with friends across Brooklyn. Urban hiking had come to me naturally. Just outside the town of Dunnellon, Rainbow Springs is not urban but neither is it completely wild. Its grounds are well-manicured and maintained, including an extensive sprinkler system that keeps its plants water-fed.

This smaller variety of azaleas greeted us at the park entrance.

For a 3D effect, view with your eyes crossed, relaxing your gaze as you focus on the "center" image.

More flower varieties to come -- including a lovely and unusual plant that I haven't yet identified.


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