It has been a little while since we have indulged in one of our favorite lunchtime pastimes: finding a new city park to explore. We tend to do this a little more in Tallahassee, but we have found that there are quite a few local parks in Troy which are beautiful and fun to explore – particularly in summertime. Today, we returned to the Stage Nature Center – where we had seen the mink earlier in the year – to see how it looks when everything has had a chance to green up.
This is the Rouge River, as it is here in Troy, a little more than a creek.
We only had about 30 minutes to spend at the park during my lunch hour, so we made a quick trip around the Sugar Maple loop. It was really neat to see the different colors of green in the leaves and how the sun lit up the trees. The part of the loop that we walked also had a display of the various stages of tree/forest lifecycle, with logs in various stages of decay and decomposition.
The nature center has programs in the winter/early spring where you can rent a tap for a sugar maple tree, then collect the maple syrup produced from the sap.
We spent a few minutes at this crossroads in the paths to watch some chipmunks. They are FAST little ones! One of them ran up a tree and started chittering very loudly for quite some time. At first, I didn’t know what was making that sound and ended up recording it on my Bird ID app. I’m not sure if he was mad or excited, but he certainly wanted everyone in the forest to hear what he had to say!
Just as we were about to move on from the chipmunk area, we spied four deer running parallel to our path. Donald’s phone has much better zoom on the camera and he was able to get this incredible photo.
We just did the short 0.4 mile Sugar Maple Loop today, as I only had an hour for lunch. It was really pretty and we want to come back after work one day to see what animals are active in the early evening, as well as spend more time in the back half to see if we can spot our mink friend again.
I love seeing all the different colors of green!
This was a very BIG bee on this flower. It’s in an area of the nature center which has been planted as a monarch butterfly migration station.
I love when parks make boards like this to help people know what kinds of flowers and plants are indigenous to the area, and to promote planting native plants in gardens. Sometimes, you will see a companion board, where they will inform you of invasive species in the area and ask people visiting the park to help remove the invasive species if they are seen during your walk.
This was just a quick out and back visit, but we had a lot of fun. It was great to take a break and get away from the house for a bit, as well as to enjoy the warm, sunny, non-humid weather while we have it!
You can now listen to our blog via our podcast! It is available from Anchor via Spotify, but we are also working to get it published to other podcast platforms. Don’t worry, we will be working on our audio quality as we go! Enjoy!
In the beginning of our relationship, we talked about playing games together, and Donald wanted to teach me how to play cribbage.
We bought a cribbage set and would play every so often.
A couple of weeks ago, I brought up that I remembered having fun playing Gin Rummy with my Dad as a kid. We looked up how to play on YouTube and played a couple times.
This afternoon, after work, I felt like learning a new card game. I was anticipating researching one online, but Donald had a suggestion ready to go: Golf. He remembers playing it with his Dad.
It is kind of like a game of Memory, as you keep your set of 4 cards face down and have the opportunity to swap one out each turn, but have to remember what you had. The goal is to have less points than your opponent. When you think you are as low as you can go (or lower than your competitors), you can “knock,” which signals the last round. Then, all players turn over their cards and count the points. Number cards are their value, Aces =1, J and Q are 10, and K=0.
Donald is both lucky and a great strategist. It looked while playing that he had a commanding lead over me. But when the round of Golf (9 “holes”) was completed, he had won by the slimmest of margins! 😀
Gameplay is very quick and the game is easy to learn. We will have to teach this to Gabby when we are in town; that little card sharp will love it!
We had talked about making nutrition and exercise a priority, and thought that – on an ideal day – we could go for a walk in the morning, hike a bit at a local park during lunchtime, and then get some additional activity after work (maybe another walk, tennis, swimming, etc.).
We were both up early this morning and were still motivated for this, so Donald made us coffee and put it in travel mugs, and we drove over to Lake Ella. It is about 0.6 miles to walk around the lake, so that was our goal for the morning.
All of the Crêpe Myrtle trees were flowering and so pretty! We want to learn more about the flora and fauna we see around us, and become more familiar about what is indigenous and what is invasive to Tallahassee/Northern Florida. I did just a quick search, and it appears that the variety of Myrtle trees which have white flowers are known as Natchez Crêpe Myrtles (sometimes spelled Crape, but I prefer the French spelling 😉).
It was a beautiful sunrise, and many of the ducks and geese had little baby ducklings and goslings following them around. Lake Ella is known for its population of Muscovy ducks, but they also have common Mallards and Canadian geese. According to All About Birds, male Muscovy Ducks frequently mate with other species and often produce sterile hybrid offspring – we think that we have seen some of these hybrids around the lake!
We’ve been to and around Lake Ella dozens of times so far, but this is the first time I was paying attention enough to the signage to see that there was a map of the area! What we did take more notice of was the proliferation of Spin scooters in the area. There was a *lot* more scooters around the park now than before we left for Michigan. It’s as if they knew we are a little hesitant to ride them again (at least not before we get helmets!) after my tumble, and they are trying to entice us to ride them. 😊
This is probably one of my favorite views of Lake Ella. I love all of the Spanish moss in the trees!
After our leisurely stroll around the lake, sipping on our homemade coffees, we headed back home to start the work day. Mornings here tend to be a little cooler and less humid, so they are great for taking walks outside. We both really enjoyed our outing and hope to do it more frequently. Such a great start to the day: caffeine, exercise, fresh air, and beautiful views!
Today was our first full day back in Tallahassee after an extended stay in Michigan. Donald woke up happy and excited to get back to some of our routines.
Recently, we celebrated 6 months since I showed up on his doorstep unexpectedly. The next day, Donald took me to Elinor Knapp-Phipps park, which is nearby and one of his favorite parks to go hiking and enjoy nature.
So when lunchtime came and he asked me where I wanted to go, I picked Elinor. On the way, we talked about how this felt like a new chapter for us, and discussed some goals we had. We both want to use this feeling of a new chapter to motivate us to exercise more and establish more of a routine to our days. We want to track my diabetes more closely and spend more time reflecting on our days and recording the everyday adventures that we cherish so much.
Florida winters are far from barren, unlike Michigan, where most of the trees lose their leaves and the days are frequently overcast and cold. When we left, the Florida forests were beginning to brighten with the bright green of new growth and the azaleas and dogwood trees were blooming.
Being back, we noticed that the wooded areas have filled out to become even more lush with vegetation and there is so much more green to see wherever you look.
The weather was beautiful! It got up to 93 degrees today and was a little humid. We definitely worked up a sweat hiking around, but it was so worth it! The air was filled with the sound of cicadas and cardinals as we walked and bright green dragonflies flitted around.
I opened my Merlin app to identify some of the other bird calls we were hearing. We heard:
Great Crested Flycatcher
We saw a small black and white woodpecker and spent a bit of time trying to see the Northern Parula. The app showed it as being a bright colored bird with a yellow belly and teal body. We never saw it, but we knew the general area it was in: about mid-height on a tree about 20 feet into the tree line.
The magnolias were so pretty with their dark and light, glossy leaves. This orange flower was all alone on the side of the path.
We came upon this field just as we decided to turn around to head back. We would have loved to stay longer, but somehow the lunch hour had come to a close and it was time to get back to the work day.
We both really enjoy getting out into nature and hiking around whenever we can.
After I finished work, we were going to take a swim in the pool, but it was closed. We ended up switching gears and playing tennis. It was warm and sweaty, but it felt so good to play together again.
Overall, it has been a fantastic day! We are hoping to get some movement in 3 times tomorrow: before work, lunchtime, and after work.
I can’t imagine anyone else I’d rather adventure through life with. Donald, you are the best, and I love you! 😘❤️ I can’t wait to see what this new chapter holds for us!
It has been rather chilly in Michigan these past few days, and while the temperature was still on the low side, the lack of cold winds and bright sun made it feel good to be outside.
So, when lunchtime came, Donald and I decided to make a quick trip down the road to Quarton Lake for a walk around the water.
These bright blue flowers were blooming in yards surrounding the lake. Siri thinks they are called Scilla. 😀
The birds (mostly robins) were chirping away and foraging, and the squirrels (both black and red/gray) were having fun running in and around the trees.
Quarton Lake is in the middle of a residential area in Birmingham, surrounded by large houses of varying architectural styles.
There are so many different species of pine tree here in Michigan. This one reminded me of the Torreya pines in Florida which are very rare. However, the needles on this one were a lot softer than on the Torreyas.
On the Maple Rd side of the lake, there is a small park that includes this white fish sculpture. And, of course, the waterfall. 😀
The watershed from Quarton Lake feeds into the Rouge River (or so I would assume from the signage on the bridge 😜). Some of the houses in the neighborhood were lucky enough to have the river on their backyard.
I’m no nature expert, but I think these yellow flowers may belong to a Forsythia bush.
This pine tree had thin, delicate branches with soft, short needles. Very pretty!
At the south end of the lake, there is a grist wheel and a plaque to let people know that Quarton Lake used to be called Mill Pond and was the site of a grist mill which ground grain into flour for the Birmingham community.
Just a couple of the beautiful houses surrounding the lake.
This view is from the north side of the lake. Our lunchtime walk took us completely around the lake. It was great to get out of the house for a bit and enjoy the sun on our faces!
After work today, we decided to get out of the house and spend some time at Lake Ella. We stopped by Black Dog Cafe and got a couple of their Lattes of the Day and some small snacks. We sat on their deck (which has a new roof/awning) and enjoyed our bagel and pastry and read awhile. Once our pastries were finished, we wanted to walk around a little.
We stopped for a moment and sat on this bench swing, taking in the peacefulness of the afternoon. We saw a couple Spin scooters nearby and I joked about renting one for another ride. They are a lot of fun, but after Donald’s near-miss and my accident (which I’m still recovering from), we think that we should invest in some helmets (and perhaps other protective gear) before we ride the Spins again.
I hope you enjoyed seeing a few of our photos from our walk! We will certainly have more adventures to share soon!
It had been a little while since we had taken a hike during lunchtime, so we were eager to get back out there – even though our time was very limited.
We had visited the Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park during a previous lunch excursion, but hadn’t had the time then to climb the two mounds. This trip, we only had time for the mounds. 😂
It’s such a beautiful time of year here in northern Florida. Spring is already well under way and the forests are brightened with the colors of flowers and the intense green of new growth. The first flowers I saw were these tiny purple flowers in the parking lot. There were also small yellow flowers scattered throughout and occasionally a white flower on a 4-5 inch stem (making it taller than the surrounding ground cover). Unfortunately, I didn’t get a great photo of the white flowers, but they were very cute.
Right off the parking lot is the smaller of the two mounds. There are stairs built in, which both help people ascend to the top and help to prevent damage to the mound caused by foot traffic.
We spend a couple minutes at the top of the mound looking around and speculating what they could have been used for. Perhaps a high ground in case of local flooding, or where the people would have a tactical advantage in defending their homes? Maybe a place of honor for important individuals in the community?
Since we only had a short lunch break and I had a meeting immediately following, we quickly made our way further into the park and across a small creek to see the larger mound.
I happily jogged up half the stairs (then got tired and walked like a normal person). The views from the larger mound were even prettier than from the smaller mound. I took a short 360 degree video clip of the view, read the sign posted at the top about what the area had looked like (or could have looked like?) when it was inhabited by the indigenous people.
Too soon, it was time to head back home.
On the way back down the stairs, I spied a lizard! I love these fast, little guys. Donald pointed out that this was a green one, which is the good kind. These lizards (or well, anoles) are native to the area and can change color from green to brown to help camouflage themselves from predators. There are other anoles which are only brown, and these are an invasive species that competes with the green anoles for resources.
Donald got this next photo of the anole – a great close-up! It looks like our little buddy is looking right at the camera!
It was just a quick stop, but it felt great to get out of the house and take some time to see the nature bursting forth practically in our backyard!
We had set out a goal for ourselves to explore the coast of Florida. I mean, in general, we are trying to travel EVERYWHERE, but in particular, we wanted to visit all of the named beaches in the state (as well as visit all of the state parks, etc., etc.).
We had decided earlier in the week that we wanted to drive out to Jacksonville this weekend and find something to do. Of course, we also wanted to make sure that we made it out to the ocean at some point during the day. Jacksonville is about a 3 hour drive from Tallahassee, to it’s at the edge of how far we want to travel for a day trip – to make sure we can get there, spend some quality time seeing things, and get back without exhausting ourselves too much or feeling hurried.
I woke up extra early in the morning on Sunday and started Googling things to do around Jacksonville. I read about Big and Little Talbot Island State Parks and thought they looked cool and had plenty of nature to explore and enjoy – just our thing! So, I’m pretty sure I hopped out of bed and started getting ready for the day – waking Donald up in the process and letting him know that I had an IDEA!
We were up, caffeinated, showered, ready, and on the road by 8 am. Amazing what a little motivation will do (I’m not lazy, but I will resist giving up on cuddles). Before we knew it, 3 hours had passed and we had arrived. Our first stop was Kayak Amelia, where we rented some beach cruiser bikes. We headed north out of Kayak Amelia toward Big Talbot Island State Park, first crossing a section of road that was one lane wide, and the traffic alternated directions. Bikers were directed to wait until the car traffic had crossed the bridge, then cross the bridge using the full width of the lane while traffic in both directions are stopped.
There are limitless times to stop, look, and capture. We cannot catch them all, nor should we.
We appreciated the slower pace the bikes offered us vs. traveling in our car. We really had an opportunity to view the scenery and take in the beauty of the park. We could speed up and feel the wind in our faces, or stop and hop off the bikes to look at something closer.
The branches were thick and twisty, below which grew dense patches of ancient palmettos.
I loved the variation in the colors of green and the interplay of the sunlight shining through the leaves. Such a mix of light and dark produced beautiful scenes that filled me with awe as I rode. I don’t know how many times I said, “Oh! Look! It’s so pretty!,” but it was always applicable. Donald really helps me to slow down and appreciate these things around me. I like them, but I am usually driven to go-go-go and see the next thing. He helps me to slow down and really savor where I am.
The bike path wound through the most lush canopy. The shadows danced on the ground before us.
The sky was bright and as energetic as the shimmering Atlantic waters.
After we had biked a while (a few miles?), we came to a long, wooden boardwalk overlooking some water. I’m always a sucker for water, and it was fun to ride the bikes and hear the sound that the tires made on the boards. We saw a lot of shore birds, but most of them were across the waterway from us, so I don’t have good photos of them. At some point, I want to invest in a good zoom lens for my camera, but on this trip, we just had the GoPro and our phones (more portable).
A long boardwalk guided us over tidal intercostal waters.
In the distance white-capped waves can be seen far from the coast.
We finally made it to where we could see the Atlantic Ocean! I don’t think I can stress enough how beautiful it is here. The sunshine and the salt in the air…. delightful!
The coastal islands seemed small and distant but held much life including many dunes.
I could have spent the whole day on this beach, just listening and watching the waves roll in.
Busy shore birds pay little attention to us as they work the sands in search of a meal.
So many birds! They weren’t afraid of any rogue waves and would walk right in the water. There were some seagulls, but also many smaller birds like this little guy. So cute! Donald has an owl call (at least, I think it’s an owl?) that he makes to try and attract the birds.
Dead wood is so alive in the stories it holds of the storms and other happenings it must have seen.
This stretch of beach in Big Talbot Island State Park is known as Boneyard Beach. The description from the Florida State Parks website, “Sculpted by nature, this shoreline boasts 30-foot bluffs and a striking beach peppered with massive driftwood trees that recall images of an elephant graveyard.”
Some dead wood can be functional and serve as a walking stick. Maybe this is one is a bit too large.
I love Donald’s whimsical and playful side. It comes out at various times, but especially when we are interacting with nature. OMG, that branch. I’m pretty sure it would have held off even the Balrog. “Thou shalt not pass!”
So much life lives at the intersection of ocean and land.
I get it. The Atlantic is generally darker and grayer than what you see here. We have taken creative license with our image editing, but I’m enjoying the higher saturation images, even if it makes the Atlantic look more like the Caribbean. 🙂
The many shades of green present from the oaks to the palmettos seems endless when the sun strikes them.
The beauty of the sun filtering through the dense foliage… there are no words. So here are some photos, so you can see a little bit for yourself.
The paths are endless. So much to see around every bend.
Towards the end of our bike trip from Kayak Amelia, I was getting really tired. We had ridden almost 10 miles total on these beach cruisers where you stop moving fairly quickly if you stop pedaling. However, just before we needed to cross at the one-lane area of road, there was an offshoot path. Donald was riding ahead of me, so I called out that I was going to explore it and deviated from the sidewalk, thinking he was going to catch up soon. The path was darker and twisty, and went downhill. It was dense with plants and roots and pine needles. I had initially thought that it was just going to parallel the bike path, but it was taking me deeper into the forest, and I wasn’t hearing Donald behind me, so I finally stopped to catch my breath (and take this photo).
What I didn’t know, was that he hadn’t heard me and had spent some time riding back and forth on the bike path, until someone mentioned seeing me go down this trail. (I suppose I can get distracted by new sights and adventures.) He caught up to me and we decided to bike back out (instead of taking the trail to the end). It was pretty, but we were tired and looking forward to our next adventure on Amelia island, just north of where we were (our next blog post!).