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!).