Underrated Joys on the Conservation

In a society where we are in need of constant entertainment, one would believe hiking through a natural conservation is a waste of time. In truth, these conservations don’t offer much. Maybe a few benches, a winding trail leading nowhere, and if you’re lucky, some view of a lake. Are you bored yet?

As dull as they may appear, they are critical to have in our ever-evolving environment. I will admit in the beginning stages of my traveling, conservations and preserves bored me to death. I decided that if it wasn’t a state park, I didn’t care for it much. As a person who admires open-mindedness and an adventurous spirit, I knew I needed to find joy in such places. Surprisingly, I have.

At first sight, the natural conservation at Sister’s Creek in Jacksonville, Florida, looks like a barren wasteland. Honestly, throw in some large bones and a few boulders, and it could become a spitting image of an Elephant Graveyard. There aren’t any trails to hike, just a long road with patches of crushed rocks and shells as parking areas to observe. With my tiny notebook in hand and eagerness to explore, I open my senses to the elements and take in what I can. Just because the low tide exposed the land to the heat of the Florida sun didn’t mean it was safe to walk across. It’s an illusion until you begin to trek across it and your feet sink fast into water-soaked sand. I haven’t played hopscotch in years, but I pulled out my old skills to get back to the creek’s edge.

Now with limited space to explore, I had to make do with what I had. I stood still and used my senses to explore for me. Big White Egrets flew low over the marshy area, searching for somewhere else to enjoy the loneliness of the land. They were smart enough to keep away from people like me. The low tide exposed a ton of oyster clusters. Now and then, you would see one spit water into the air. One oyster does it. Then others follow—sort of like doing the wave. Tiny fish swim in collective swimming patterns in the shallow water. What a show they put on going around in synchronized circles together? An old tree with peeling bark hovers over the depleted creek. Years of moving water caused erosion which exposed most of its roots. I found a sharp-drill conch shell beneath those roots. Lucky me! I tried to find another, but no success.

My favorite part was the tiny sand fiddler crabs. The mating season must be high because every male with their oversized claw danced for the group’s females. It was hilarious to see the small female crab snaking through the crowd. The males wave their giant claw in the air and bounce on their legs to catch her attention. I once read that when a female becomes interested in a male, he pounds his claw on the ground near his burrow. She goes into the hole, he follows, plugs up the hole, and returns to her to mate. How romantic, right? To watch this funny courtship dance, you have to stand perfectly still. Fiddler crabs are super scary. The slightest movement and they hurry into their holes. Once they feel it is safe, they come out of the holes and dance again.

ECO Magazine, fiddler crab waving his giant claw to attract a mate.

These conservations may not provide the most fun that a state park may provide, but they serve a tremendous purpose. If we want to continue to see the dancing crabs, graceful Egrets, and synchronized fish, we must take the steps necessary to protect their home and environment because once they are gone, they’re gone for good.

A Diamond Among Trees

What defines a nature trail? Is it the winding path snaking through acres of protected land? Is it the scenic views of lakes, marshes, or lagoons? Or could it be the wildlife which thrives under every rock, behind every bush or in every tree? No, I dare say those only define a fraction of what truly defines a nature trail. Trees. Yes, trees are the wonders and the beating heart of nature. Of all the nature trails I have hiked on in my young life, I have learned that if you have seen one tree, you definitely have not seen them all.

In my observation, trees are like fingerprints. Unique and bares their own story to tell. If two Birch trees grew up side by side to each other for decades, cut them open, and each will tell you something different. It amazes me the number of visitors that visit these trails and never notice the beauty before them. During my hike at the Hubbard Valley Park in Seville, Ohio, I saw a diamond among trees I vowed to never forget. In fact, I discovered three diamonds as the single trunk spawned three healthy trees.

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In my early days of hiking, trees were ornamental to a trail hike. I was eager for wildlife and scenic views. Trees became background noise simply because they were everywhere you looked. Like most people you being ignorant until you are educated, I Learned just how vital trees were to our ecosystem. Trees have fed, housed, and protected all sorts of vulnerable wildlife. It was then my interest deepened. Now on a hike, I observe trees one by one (at least the one closest to the trail.) On my walk in Ohio, I came across this massive trunk with three trees growing straight up into the sky. Their branches stretched far in every direction. Leaves covered the branches to protect anything beneath from the rainfall. A closer review of the bark showed that the trees split apart young. The bark looked as if it were covered in running veins. The veins wiggle up from the base, and then they split off in two different directions, a fascinating design to be sure.

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The feel of the trio’s bark was intriguing. The bulging veins were noticed but smooth to the touch. You could run your hand across the surface of these trees without a snag or chip. The bark is thick. When you knock on the bark, it’s as solid as concrete.

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I could care less about the look of others as they passed me by while I gawk at the wonderous trio. They are located at the heart of a forest, in a small town in Ohio unnoticed by so many. These trees are continued lesson to me to not just see things but to truly open my eyes and notice because I may never see it again.

Ink Art Gallery

O how I miss art studios, art galleries, art museums, and monthly art walks. COVID-19 drove everyone indoors and our social society had to find other ways to enjoy the arts. With America slowly opening back up again, we can finally (and safely) return to the places we love, like, art galleries.

My insanity jumped out of the window after days of being indoors. My iPhone recorded me spending more time on Pinterest than any other social media app. I couldn’t help myself. All I wanted to do every single day was make something from scratch. I developed an interest in building Fairy Gardens, creating vintage postcards from scratch,  pastel coloring, and even making soap. Now I’m trying to take on mixed media art journaling. I’m BORED, sue me!

I snuck out of the house to Fernandina for a taste of outdoors and window shopping. It felt good to be a couple miles in one direction from Fernandina Beach and a couple of miles in the other direction from the Fernandina Marina. A lot of the stores (and restaurants) were closed, but the art studios were open. Thank God! I usually go to Art on Centre, they display some of the best local art. Expensive, but well worth the price. I make sure to bring my Nikon on days when I visit.

This time though ,I fell upon Ink Art Gallery. It is a small studio with a few local artists who create and sell their works right on the main street. Along with selling watercolor and oil paintings, the gallery also takes part in selling items created by other locals. For example, they sell soaps, clay jewelry, bracelets, stones, sage, photography prints, candles, and other things all made by other creatives in the area.

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My favorite part is the boho-themed atmosphere. The colorful carpets, wooden chairs, the hanging greenhouse plants, bean-bag chairs, and the magnificent floral-garland wall. Of course, it’s something you would definitely see on Pinterest. I don’t know how I missed that.

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I didn’t spend much time in the studio because I was running out of time to get a jump on beating traffic to get home. I can’t wait to revisit the gallery to take more photos of their beautiful workspace. Hopefully, COVID-19 will move on to another planet so that I can get back to immerse myself in the world of art once again.

New Mexico: Winter Damage Creates Beautiful Spring

The entire country is under lockdown during this unfortunate Coronavirus pandemic. As a truck driver though, the show must go on. Whenever my co-driver and I would stop at a truck stop for the night (for one reason or the other), I’d take full advantage and go for walks to explore the area I’ve never been to before. Our last stop was in Las Vegas, New Mexico. At first, I was pissed off because the truck stop wasn’t near anything fun. With Lyft drivers scarce due to possible contraction of the virus, we were practically stuck at the truck stop. There’s only so much one can do inside the truck so that made things worst.

My first stroll around the truck stop, it was about thirty-six degrees outside. My jacket was no match for the cold and wind, I was forced to return to the truck for warmth. After yet another nap to pass the time, I tried again. This time, it was about sixty-four degrees and the sun was out, but setting. The previously boring and desert landscape was illuminated by the setting sun’s brightness. The months of snow in this region damaged the tall weedy grass. The only thing lush in green were spiked grass blades that opened from its root like a blooming onion.

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Almost every ten steps I took, I saw more compositions to create a nice image. Coming from Florida, I’m used to the beauty of greens and life everywhere. Who knew the damage done by winter would create such beauty and renewed hope for the coming of spring? I suppose that’s the amazing thing about nature. It’s as if nothing in nature can be ugly or imperfect. Even the dirt paths covered in large pebbles and crushed weeds look enchanting and alive.

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I am glad that I took myself out of my disappointment to take these images. I am more disappointed in myself to expect too much. Life is short and no matter where you go, one should see the beauty in it. It is a lesson learned that there doesn’t have to be majestic mountains, exquisite waterfalls, and endless oceans to make a scenery beautiful or worth admiring. A small desert region has just as much beauty to offer, you just have to be willing to find it.

Original Beauty of the Twin Bridges

I’ve lived in Jacksonville, Florida, my entire life, and I’ve always known the bridges there to be pretty because of the different colors they’re painted. Every couple of years, the bridge undergoes a makeover for a new fresh coat. I didn’t mind it until I started truck driving. I drove through other cities besides my own, and I see bridges in their original form, and they seem fascinating than the painted dolls back in my city.

Recently I drove across the Twin Bridges (aka The Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Twin Bridges) in Kentucky. From a distance, I could see how vintage-like they appeared, and it blew me away. In my imagination, they looked like time portals that would take me back to a different time when I drove across them. The closer I got to the bridges, the more excited I became. It felt like the same feeling I got every year when my mother would drive me across the Dames Pointe Bridge for my birthday.

 

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The Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Twin Bridges

 

 

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The Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Twin Bridges

 

I couldn’t pull my phone out of my pocket long enough to snap photos of the rustic sister bridges. I love bodies of water too, and I’m sure the scenery of the river running beneath it was just as exciting, but I could care less about that river as long as I got the bridges. I took as many photos as I could as I drove through the bridge. The beauty of original metal and the rust taking over the exterior brought to life a greater love for bridges.

 

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The Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Twin Bridges

 

 

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The Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Twin Bridges

 

The average lifespan of a bridge is about seventy years, with proper upkeep, most bridges can live well past 100 years. I know that rust is the enemy of metal and that eventually, the city will have to treat the rust if they plan on using this bridge for many years to come. I can’t help but feel sad to know that sometime in the future, these beloved beauties will be coated in bright colors or twinkling lights stripping away their originality. Oh, what a world that will be.

Truck Driver Sunsets

It has been a while since I have posted anything travel related. I’ve been too busy traveling the country delivering loads from one distribution center to another. Being a truck driver isn’t the easiest of jobs, and truth be told, not the most entertaining of them either. I spend nearly fourteen hours a day, just… driving. Interstate to the interstate. All I mostly see are miles of farmlands and occasional significant cities. I have grown tired of it and am ready to move back to what I enjoyed most: traveling.

Before I left for trucking training, I took courses on travel writing. I figured with all the traveling I’d do, I’d have a ton of material to work with. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see all the wonders of America. I blame that on my restricted routes. I only delivered to a set amount of states, so I ended up seeing the same things over and over again. On top of that, dealing with crazy drivers and traffic, you tend to lose interest pretty fast. Anyway, not to complain, one of the beauties I did see were some fantastic sunsets.

 

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Ironto, Virginia (Photo Credit: Nikki Lee)

 

My favorite time of day is daybreak. To me, it gives the promise of something new coming along. It restores the hope I may have lost yesterday and makes me feel that maybe today, something different and exciting is happening. No matter what good or bad day I had the day before, new daybreak always brings that rush.

In this particular case, I have seen more than my fair share of sunsets. You’d think if you saw one, you see them all. Not the case at all. I’ve lived in Florida my entire life. I’ve grown bored of those sunsets. My favorite sunsets have become the ones I’ve seen in Texas, Tennessee, and Virginia. The colors seem different, or are they just the view of the sun setting behind mountains or a massive desert. I don’t know, but they fill me with the same rush as the scene of daybreak coming into my windshield.

Living the trucker life may not have been for me but, those sunsets will definitely be worth more than any momento keychain I buy at a travel center.

 

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Nephi, Utah (Photo Credit: Jazmine Dupont)

 

 

Water Lilies: Bloom as Old as Time… Literally

When I took a picture of a massive cluster of water lilies, I didn’t realize at the time that I was looking at one of the oldest plants on planet earth. How silly I feel for just simply snapping a cute photo of it and walking away as if it meant nothing. I’ve seen my share of water lilies but never took the time to admire their actual existence.

According to hardwaterlilies.net, the website states,

Water lilies are one of the oldest aquatic plants on this earth. Early lilies were huge in size with fossils showing lily pads up to four feet wide. As these plants evolved over several thousands of years they morphed to the size we see today. Evidence of water lilies have been found in european pre-ice age cave drawings and these drawings show the early types to have been of the same basic form that exists among hardy species today.

FOSSILS! Seriously? I realize that roaches are as old as dinosaurs as well so I shouldn’t be surprised to be around something that has survived all the changes the Earth has been through, but lilies are so peaceful and quiet. They just grow and bloom and float on the surface of still waters. That is all they have ever done.

 

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Somewhere  in Tallahassee, Florida

 

With the way the world is changing again (and not for the better) with the crisis of Global Warming and animals going extinct at a rapid pace, we are at high risk of losing these ancient gems just as fast. It may seem so minimal now, like who would miss a water lily? But, once it’s gone, it’s gone, and a Google Image search will be the only way future generations will ever know the prehistoric water lily ever existed.

Sunset on a Farm

As common as farms are in Florida, in all my years living here, I haven’t been on one officially. I love farm animals. In fact, my favorite is the pig. I use to collect piggy teddy bears (until I got into Pokemon).

My sister stumbled upon some farming homes near one of Jacksonville’s largest warehouse parks. I have to admit its perfect because there is lots of available land and woods for building private properties and farms. We didn’t have access to the farm itself but we got to look at the animals from the sidewalk. My niece and nephew enjoyed the company of the horses, cows and donkeys. I was more interested in the landscape and how magical the sun displayed its beauty on the open field.

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I know that it is risky to have your phone’s lens pointed towards the sun directly, but what better way to capture the golden rays beaming down on the grass? The silhouettes of the piles of manure, the rusted barbed wire fence and the thinning branches of the trees made a composition too irresistible to ignore.

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While my sister dragged her children along the fence to gaze at more horses and mules, I trudged through evergreen and bushes trying to capture the right angel to take photos of sun-burned leaves and more thin branches. Fall has always been known for its beauty of warm colors among trees and grass fields with the yellows, reds, and browns, but the black shadow created from the sun’s setting angle made those colors more lovable.

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I am glad I tagged along for the visit and though I am glad to see some livestock actually running around in the big city, being a nature girl myself, I couldn’t resist the moment to watch nature put on a show using the sun as the ring master and its subjects dancing to its music.

How Film Inspires Travel

The film has always had a way of educating its audiences on how the world moves. It has the ability to inspire not only life lessons on the human condition but creates an inspiration on travel destinations.
Think about it, have you ever watched a film and paid attention to the wide span scenes where the film shows the landscape of the location rather than a single focus and thought, “I’d like to go there?”

This has happened to me plenty of times. One primary example would be one of my most fave films, Leap Year, which was filmed in different parts of Ireland. Throughout the film, the camera would show Ireland’s unique beauty of ocean cliffs, green pastures and fields, stone walls and cute cottages. To throw the cherry on top, they let the main character Anna (played by Amy Adams) get swept into an Irish pub, wedding, and village. It’s almost as if the entire film was designed to suck the audience in inspiring Ireland as a new travel destination.

Another great example would be Pixar’s Ratatouille about a mouse who dreamt of being a great chef. The scene comes when Remy climbs out of the underground sewage onto a rooftop where he discovers he had been living in France the entire time. The scenery is beautiful with the infamous Eiffel Tower dominant over the rest of the city. It didn’t take long after watching this scene to begin researching prices on trips to France.

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Ratatouille 2007 Pixar Animation Studios

There are countless films, TV shows and even commercials that can inspire travel destinations. A little secret… that’s the point. Mother use to tell me the old phrase, “one hand washing the other.” For the young ones, it means that one person helps another to benefit oneself. Perfect example, Momma Mia shows you some stunning imagery of the small islands of Greece, in the audience, you are amazed and want to go there. You plan your trip, and you go there and have the time of your life. BOOM! Case in point. Greece lets the production company film in their country. The production company shows the beauty of the country in their film knowing there will be millions of viewers to see it. So Greece ends up making money on the tourist attracted to the country through the film, and the production company makes their money on the film. One hand washing the other. Neat huh?

Next time you watch a film, TV show or commercial, pay close attention to the scenery they film. Car commercials are notorious for this. They choose a rugged mountain fort trucks, a small town with brick roads for luxury cars, traffic heavy downtowns for agile compact cars and empty winding road highways for two-seaters and sports cars.

Amazing how advertisement works.