Sunday, November 29, 2009

This is Not a Mid-Life Crisis; This is Thanksgiving

My dear old friend Gio travelled from Berkley to spend a week on Old Wire Road. I'm not implying that Gio is old; geologically, he is very young and he has repeatedly assured me that he is not having a midlife crisis. I'm starting to believe him, but that might be due to the lingering hypnotic effects of a wine-fueled outdoorsy week-long ramble.

Gio's first two days were spent developing a deep bond with Charles while Cymande and I worked. To assist in Gio's enculturation of the local dominant paradigm they took a four hour long walk to aquire beer. They were successful. After this experience he was able to fully invest in awakening his dormant inner drummer. Again, success was his. The next day we hosted Thanksgiving dinner with Anthony and Faye in attendance. It was a briney good time. The rest of the week-long visit was spent mostly on outdoor adventure, eating, imbibing, creating a certain undescribable genre of music and watching horror movies from the early 60's.

It was only a week, but it could have gone on forever...or until Cymande keeled over from testosterone exposure.

Gio and I made an excursion to O'leno park where we visited the mysterious water-filled sinks covered in duckweed. These sinks are part of the Santa Fe river which travels underground, emerges nearby and eventually joins the Suwannee River.

This is Jim's sink.

We saw a lovely little blue heron that contrasted with the intense green duckweed. I scrambled along the steep banks (some over 10 feet high) to get a photo, but the little blue protested my attempts.

Gio was introduced to our competetive badminton matches and put up a pretty good fight. He then challenged Buckley and Lula to a version of badminton that only Gio understands. 

Our next daytrip was to Paynes Prairie just south of Gainesville. Paynes Prairie is a savanna drained by a system of sinkholes. In the past, the sinkholes became blocked and it transformed into a large lake which eventually drained, stranding boats on dry ground. The boats are gone, but if you're lucky you can see descendants of DeSoto's horses and bison that were reintroduced in the 1970's. It was here that Gio got to check one beast off his wish list.

From the Paynes Prairie viewing platform we watched harriers, glossy and white ibis, and herons work things out. We also watched Charles, utterly bored with nature, sleep on an uncomfortable corner of the decking.

Gio kept a safe distance from the large alligator that slithered beneath the surface. As we approached the pond I thought that someone had carelessly left a tire on the shore, until the tire unwound itself into the water.

We ended the day with pizza and beer at Satchels. Gio and Charles...Cheers!

Gio and I woke early the next day to paddle down the Ichetucknee and the Santa Fe River. We were the only humans on the Ichetucknee all morning. We saw deer feeding on the shore, countless birds and a small group of river otters that swam next to my kayak while munching on snails.

Gio paddles under a fallen tree on the Northern portion of the Ichetucknee.

Further down the Ichetucknee widens and we spent some time with a vocal limpkin, a couple great blue herons, cormorants and a gregarious Anhinga.

A good egret? No, a great egret.

On the Santa Fe I tried to fulfill Gio's dream of meeting a wild manatee. We didn't find one, but as we paddled a passing boater mentioned that manatees were seen at the convergence of the Ichetucknee and Santa Fe on the previous day. So, Gio almost saw a wild manatee.

The next day we volunteered with Four Rivers Audubon at Ichetucknee State Park. We collected wildflower seeds and learned about the sandhill ecosystem. I developed a strong opinion about goldenrod seeds and I refused to collect them.

The joy of seed collection. Notice that Gio is mocking me by not collecting seed and instead attempts to uproot a scorched sapling.

To the novice observer one might think 'kitty litter,' but this is no kitty litter. These containers are full of seeds with scientific names I can't pronounce and common names I can't remember.

Band practice. Gio informed us that he could make us famous and that we could not enjoy fame without him. He is the 'frontman' he repeated. When I pointed out that he was the drummer and that being the frontman would turn him into a Phil Collinsesque figure he just shrugged it off...always the optimist.

On Gio's last full day we decided to kayak the northern portion of the Ichetucknee again.

One of three handsome limpins that we spotted on our second trip down the Ichetucknee.

As I write this Gio is stuck in Miami and is at a hotel for the night. We've been pacing around the house singing songs such as 'That Girl' or 'Lake City Moonshine.' Gio hasn't left yet...the madness lingers.

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