Often, living in a big city, nature has to be compromised and created. In other words, nature trails are paved, and paths are forced to their destination. Their use is designed for a specific group of people. Despite the history of Reddie Point Park, it is clear that this park is intended explicitly for fishers, runners, and retirees with pet dogs. Quite a simple relaxation.
My favorite part would be the lake at the entrance of the park. The water is still. It looks like glass, reflecting the trees and the sky. If you walk down the bank, the water is so clear you can see the entirety of the thriving ecosystem beneath the surface. I only wish I had a canoe to float out to the lake center to see the depths. God knows what I’d discover.
A small trail from the parking lot leads you to a tabby-stone-filled shoreline of the St. John’s River. Across the river is a large plant, and in further distance, one can spot massive cranes designed to load containers onto cargo ships.
While visiting, I spotted a group of people with binoculars studying the surrounding trees. I had never seen a birding group before. It was interesting to see this form of hobby come to life. I’m sure the birds put on their best performance because the “oooos” and “ahhhhs” were laughable.
The long pier that extends out over the St. John’s River is the best place to go if you want to witness the bending river. Unfortunately, if you aren’t there when the park opens, you’ll have to deal with the abundance of fishermen overtaking the pier.
Reddie Point Park is a 102-acre nature park located behind a group of subdivisions. The most significant part about this park is that it rests where the St. John River bends. You can spot this clear from the long pier. On a positive aspect, the park is relaxing, family-friendly, and offers a gorgeous, inviting river view. Negatively, the park provides nothing for true hikers and nature buffs like me. The hiking trails are too easy and only showcase the exact nature you find in your backyard. The pier is overcrowded with fishers from the time the park opens until it closes. Would I recommend this park? To lovers, dog owners, families, and fishers, yes. Other than that, you’d be highly disappointed for adventurous excitement.
In my imagination, when I think of historical ruins, I think of a fascinating testimony in the time of an event that took place. It’s fun to put the ruins back together in your mind and imagine the people who inhabited the ruins. This was the case when I visited Fort Clinch. I imagined the Confederate army scrambling around, preparing for the Union soldiers to go to war against each other. At the Dungeness ruins on Cumberland Island, I’d imagine the Carnegie family living their best lives on an exotic island. At the textile mill ruins at Sweetwater State Park in Atlanta, Georgia, I can see the workers toiling night and day to meet the growing demands of the industry. I realized something about these ruins. The atmosphere and surroundings of these helped sell the story of the past. Ruins are designed to tell their own stories. It is a disappointment when they are tampered with with modern technology to appear ruined. The polished upgrade ruins the story. I have seen two recent examples of this: The Castillo de San Marco fort in St. Augustine, Florida, and the Horton House in Jekyll Island, Georgia.
The Castillo de San Marco fort looks fantastic on the outside. It has that old-world look with the greyish rough high walls, the cannons peering over the top edge of the fort, the American flag waving proudly in the breeze. You would think at any moment, one would hear the sound of cannon fire, and the battle would be on, but that isn’t the case on the inside. The first time I went inside the fort, I was disappointed that it looked like some theme park at Disney. The worst of it was the installation of modern bathrooms and food venues in the fort’s rooms. They used the fort as a prop to use capitalism to make money off of its historical importance. I’ve been to forts in the southern part of this country. I’ve never seen anything like this. They stole the natural beauty of a historical landmark and turned it into a carnival.
I recently went to Jekyll Island, Georgia, for my birthday weekend. (YAY!) Like always, I pre-plan my trips down to the restaurants I’m going to dine within. Using Trip Advisor, I planned to visit the Horton House and its pond on the island after spending some much-needed time on the beach. I couldn’t wait to see it because it was a historical ruin with a story to tell. Now, granted, Jekyll Island is infamous for tourism and caters to the rich and powerful. I will admit, never being rich a day in my life made me feel uncomfortable to be in that atmosphere. The perfect example, everyone on the beach had the $90 4-wheel carts. I, of course, had the $30 “homeless cart” that you see most people riding the bus used to carry groceries. I didn’t care too much. In my mind, it was a different method with the same results. It still bothered me, as if I was reminded of the reality of my upbringing and livelihood.
Anyway, after enjoying private time on the beach, I decided to ride over to the Horton House ruins for pictures and notes. Like the Castillo de San Marco fort, I was disappointed at the ruins of the Horton House. It looked as if they built it yesterday. It appeared as if someone came up with the idea to place some ruins on the island to give the tourist a little taste of history. Other tourists there took pictures in front of it as if it were some background filter for Snapchat. At first, I just stared at the tiny, so-called ruins and wondered if its story was even real. I wasn’t able to go to Horton’s Pond because it was blocked off. I eventually snapped my few images of the Horton house and left in my misery. The Horton House was my primary focus. It was the reason I chose Jekyll Island for my birthday getaway, just to be disappointed that they polished the ruin so that it could fit into the prestigious reputation of the island.
Ruins, to me, are a metaphor for living life, that one day we are in our prime, and eventually, we age and die, but our story lives on for others to know long after we are gone. I can understand preserving the ruins because, finally, nature will wipe them clean from our grasps, but it is wrong to polish them and mold them for the satisfaction of reputation and capitalism. These ruins are supposed to tell their own story, and we should allow them to do just that.
Back when I worked at Amazon, you would work four ten-hour days and had three days. It was the best and worst job I’ve ever had. It was the best because of the fun we had and because the three days gave me some freedom with my travels. It gave me plenty of time to take some day trips. I got to visit some of the Florida springs in Central Florida. I also got to see the nature reserves in Southern Georgia. The best part was, all I needed was $40 to enjoy it all. I have a flash drive full of memories due to trip planning and cheap budgeting.
It makes a good habit and plain common sense to plan your trip. In my opinion, going on a whim is reckless. You never know what can happen to you on the road. Are you willing to take that chance? You have to be prepared for breakdowns, getting lost, and other wild card situations that may pop up. Not only is it reckless, but you could easily spend two or three times what you should have budgeted. If you live paycheck to paycheck like most of us in this country, you can’t afford to blow half your earnings on impulse buys.
The night before a day trip, I take an hour to plan where I want to go. Since I travel solo, I know eventually I can get drowsy behind the wheel. I don’t want to spend most of the day driving. I usually go somewhere about one to two hours away from my city. (Remember, you have to drive back from where you are visiting. A two-hour drive is actually four). Once I know where I’m going, I use Google Maps, Trip Advisor, and social media apps to see exactly what is at the place.
$20 FOR GAS
Now you may think $20 for gas is a lot for a day trip that’s only one to two hours away. Well, obviously, this depends on the type of car you have. I do it for peace of mind. As I said, you never know what you’re going to run into. I want to make sure I have enough to go and come back, considering traffic or excess use of the air conditioning. (I live in Florida, it’s to be expected.) These twenty dollars are also where you can have what I call “budget play.” If you know for sure that you only need $10 for your trip, this gives you $10 to spend as you want or need. Now you can spend a little more on food (or leave a better tip), or you can spend a little more on souvenirs.
$5 FOR ENTRANCE FEE
This is tricky. I’m an outdoor person. I visit state parks to hike and explore, but my day trips also include museums, festivals, flea markets, art walks, and nature conservations. Most of the entrance fees to the state parks near me are about $5. It’s always wise to take a little more. One state park I went to cost $17. Museums depend on admissions, so naturally, they’re going to be more than $5. That’s where that “budget play” from the gas money comes from. Once again, you never know what you’ll run into.
$10 FOR FOOD
If food is at the center of your day trip, then you want to adjust where this is the focal point of your budget. For example, if you’re going to a shrimp festival, then the bulk of your budget should be focused. The food will be a more expensive than Captain D’s or 2 for $20 at Red Lobster. These festivals are run by small business owners who are looking to make a profit with their specialty foods as their business card. Don’t expect to go and spend $5 on a platter. You can expect there to be seafood cooked in ways you’ve never thought possible. You may want to try that out so be ready for it. Now, if a food isn’t the focus of your trip, then maybe a $5 sub combo from a sandwich shop will hold you over until you get back home.
$5 FOR SOUVENIR
I don’t know about you, but I don’t need t-shirts, large posters, or some giant statue to remember where I went. That’s what cameras and memories are for. My memories mean more to me than any physical object. I use my camera to make sure I never forget those memories. BUT, it doesn’t hurt to take a little souvenir. I have an obsession with postcards. Postcards are always the first thing I look for when I go to a gift shop at the nature park or museum. Postcards are usually only a dollar, so ten dollars allows me to splurge on something you may not find online, like local art sold through the gift shop. Treat yourself… It’s worth the trip.
I know, I know. You may be thinking that you will need a hell of a lot more than forty dollars to enjoy your day trip. You may be the type who likes to “go big or go home.” Perfectly fine. You’re the captain of your ship. You spend how you see fit. But it’s much more enjoyable to take a million affordable day trips than several big-budget day trips. Numbers don’t lie. In my three days off, I can afford two-day trips for under $90. OR, think of it this way, if I take one day trip every weekend, that’s $160 a month in traveling (more or less depending on how much you spend.) That’s not bad if you’re a lover of traveling as I am.
As long as you discipline yourself and stick to your budget, you can enjoy yourself. At the end of the day, it’s not about the money you spend but the memories you make.
One thing Floridian does not like is being cut off from our great body of water. Hell, even hurricanes don’t stop us from going to the beach. If anything, we embrace the strong winds, which bring on stronger waves to surf. Can you imagine what the Pandemic has done? There were many people upset when the beaches were forced to close to help slow the spread of the Coronavirus. I know the feeling all too well. When the park and recreation department closed the parking to the east side of the Fort George Inlet, I thought I would have to forge a letter to the Mayor. Fort George has always been a favorite. Not being able to visit hurt, but I suppose I could understand the reason.
A few months ago, it reopened. Everyone flocked to the Inlet for more fishing, swimming, and Jet Ski fun. This past weekend, I decided to revisit it for the first time since it reopened. Not much has changed, but a few things I noticed seemed different, as if the atmosphere had altered.
In the middle of the day on a Sunday, it was surprising to see that hardly anyone was there. Usually, I’m the late one who has to ride around to find a parking space. Nope, I was right upfront. Even after an hour of being there, hardly anyone came. I assume because the area was closed for so long to the public, it forced people to find a new favorite place to be. And now, as we go into another wave of the Pandemic, another close will drive even the most loyal away. It’s not a massive concern because Fort George plays a vital part in boating around Northside Jacksonville, so one can always count on someone to be there.
I am so glad that I took pictures of the last graffiti I came across when I visited Fort George. Now when you walk through, all of it has been painted over. It makes the underbelly of the highway look bare and boring. The attractive miniature artworks gave character to the hideout. Now, it’s business as usual. No need to fear. Concrete pillars are natural canvases that will always attract the artistic and creative.
Behold the Needlefish
As many times as I have visited Fort George Inlet, every time I go, I seem to discover something new. Last time, I found oysters spitting water at low tide. This time I studied a school of long, skinny blue-ish fish that were leaping out of the water at impressive speeds to catch low-flying bugs. On closer observation, they had long noses like spears. They skid across the top of the water so fast if you were to blink, you’d miss them. After curious research, I learned these little devils are dangerous to human life because of their speed. Several fatalities have been caused by being at the wrong place at the wrong time, caught between a Needlefish hunting prey.
Overgrowth of Grass and Trash
Of course, there’s the primary issue of a closed area used for entertainment. Daredevils trespass and have their fun despite the warnings. They leave behind trash that gets entangled in the unkempt grass, making the place look almost undesirable.
Despite the changed atmosphere, the view is still a wonder. Watching massive foreign cargo ships come in to dock at Jacksonville’s most exclusive port is exciting enough. Seagulls squawk as they glide on the high winds above the highway. Jet skis race past in competition. The tide exposes the salt marsh, and people in high boots drag nets behind them to catch whatever they can get. Families barbecue on the beach. Couples and friends kayak together in the calmer waters. In the distance, across the Inlet, dogs, and kids run too and from the shore taunting the crashing waves.
The Inlet is a place of beauty, peace, and wonder. No pandemic could ever keep us loyal Floridians away.
In St. Augustine at the Lightner Museum, the art collections are breathtaking. From the oil paintings, a part of the Daywood Collection, to the complex, beautifully cut glass vases, bowls, and bottles. Every floor of the museum is a world of its own. As tourists and visitors strolled around the rooms, they admired everything except the statues and busts. People walked past them as if they were invisible. Whereas for me, these sculpted pieces of brilliance swallowed the majority of my phone’s photo storage space. How could one not stop and admire the imaginative detail of these busts and statues?
I suppose the popularity of art theft and every Tom, Dick, and Harry owning a statuary business. Each one is stocked with replicas of the infamous European statues. I purchased a replica bust of Michelangelo’s David, two Venus de Milo statues, and two Greek Goddess busts from multiple statuaries right here in my city. To make matters worst, you can order a replica from anywhere in the world by simply opening your Amazon Prime account. Now you can have all the greats right in your home, why bother to visit the museum.
I understand that nowadays, that busts are made out of plastic, concrete, and alabaster. Like most productions today, objects are made by the hundreds per hour as they run through machines. Wouldn’t this fact alone make the ones seen in museums that much more valuable? Could you imagine how difficult it was for sculptors like Donatello, Michelangelo, and Gian Lorenzo to sculpt entire bodies and details using only simple hand-held tools? They were the machines! I try to keep this in mind whenever I visit a museum and I run across a bust or statue in the collection. It doesn’t matter how many statues I have at my home, standing before an original will alway leave me in a state of awe.
In my opinion, I believe the Museum should find a way to make the statues and busts more appealing. It’s not fair that they’re overlooked like another home decor item at a store. Perhaps a small room dedicated to them just like the Porcelain and Glass floor. All art should be admired regardless of the medium, subject matter, and purpose of creation.
Imagine the feeling o top of the world as you tower on a boulder above a rapid river. Suddenly, your foot slips, you plunge beneath the surface as intense water pressure and gravity forces you to the bottom of the mad river. The temperature of the water is the least of your worries. The half of breath left in your lungs is all the survival you have before fluid replaces the air and you drown. Perhaps your last thoughts are the four warning signs you passed to get to that boulder. Your last feeling is regret for not heeding those warnings.
According to the 11Alive.com investigation article at High Falls State Park, there have been fourteen reported injuries since 2013, three fatalities.
When I recently visited the park, bright red warning signs were outlining the rapid river bank. Honestly, how could anyone miss them? You can barely get a decent photo of the waterfall without one of the many signs in the way. An observant hiker takes note of information boards that are usually located at the beginning of a trail. As I read the board, I notice the same-o same-o about the history of the area, the map of the trail, what committee sponsors the trail, blah, blah, blah. Management of the park posted a warning post stating that anyone climbing on the rocks has to pay a $5,000 fine and do over 100 hours of community service. It probably results in janitorial duties. Yikes.
You see the first few warning signs when you descend the steps leading to the best view of the waterfall and rapid waves. After that, it is obvious what you should and shouldn’t do while hiking the trail. Park management went so far as to create a barrier using twine to rope off the bank’s edge. Honestly, I’m not sure what else could be done to clarify the danger of the raging river. I hope that visitors be responsible and heed to the warnings so the park won’t be forced to put up large fence walls.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When I was in middle school, on the weekends, my best friend, my sister, and I would bike ride three miles to Metropolitan Park. Metro park was heaven on earth for most of the kids in my neighborhood. It was a place for everyone to be wild and free from our school and home lives. You made friends so quickly because you all shared in the freedom and adventure of riding through Jacksonville’s rugged downtown. There was never any question of what the plan was when Saturday came. We’d spend hours biking along the St. John’s River, having bike races beneath the Hart Bridge Expressway, and playing on the empty stage. With very little security and adult supervision at Metro Park, we were alive, wild, and free. Fifteen years later, I visit the place that made our childhood magical. I see only an investment in the death of childhood fun.
The city of Jacksonville is adamant about tourism and catering to our NFL team’s fans. So much that they painted Jaguar pawprints on the main streets around the stadium to appear, “festive.” Not exactly the word I would use, but whatever, right? Anyway, you drive the curved street around the stadium until you get to the entrance of the park indicated by a sign. Unfortunately, the metal gate behind it is closed, like most of the entries going along the park. There is only one way into the park, and it makes you do some zig-zag dance to finally getting to the parking lot. The first parking lot you come to is, of course, for anyone using the marina. So now you have to go back out the way you came to find the right lot to park. I didn’t have time for that so I just parked. (Hehe.) I grabbed my travel writing journal and prepared to be taken back in time to my favorite place, unfortunately, that was not the case at all.
The renovations to the park made the park seem… tamed. In the eyes of teens, the land was wild and barren. It was a haven for bike riders, skateboarders, and kids who just wanted to play. Now, it was a place for people who just wanted to walk around and sit on benches to gaze at the scenery. I couldn’t help but ask myself, “What in the hell is this?” The park screams boring and antisocial but visually “pretty.” The fishermen were yards away from each other attending to their equipment. It was Sunday, and the park was as lifeless as a cemetery. I remember Saturday, and Sundays were filled with bodies. Families having parties and BBQ, skateboarders doing tricks on whatever rail they could find, and bikers racing down the winding sidewalk. Now, I was looking at a multi-million dollar dead zone.
Granted, I may have come on a quiet day. The NFL Jacksonville Jaguars team wasn’t playing Sunday so I suppose that’s the reason for the lack of attendees at the park, but it’s Metro Park! This park was the heart of the city, the creme de la creme of parks. It didn’t have fancy jungle gyms or slides, but it was the place where your imagination created fun. Now, all the cute hedges and paved walkways make it another tourist attraction and profit for the city. My childhood memories swiped away with a signature.
“Life is about change. Sometimes it’s painful. Sometimes it’s beautiful. But most of the time it’s both. ” – Lana Lang
I realize the city’s need to improve and upgrade their property. Tourism is a major payday to any growing city. A lot of programs and services probably depend on that income. Change is inevitable. Change exists in every aspect of human life. I am not a bike-riding teenager anymore. I am a working tax-paying adult. The old Metropolitan Park will always live in my memories and that will be enough, I hope.
I couldn’t imagine the bravery of the Ancient Greeks that took public baths together, fortunately for Geese, it’s like sitting down to a Sunday dinner.
Stinson Park, a tiny park located in Jacksonville, Florida, provides many uses to its visitors. The park may appear to be only a regular backyard in width, there is much to do. Benches are scattered along the winding loop trail for readers and lovers to spend time alone. A couple of picnic tables there have been used for parties, a group of painters painting the river landscape, and teenager,s sitting together enjoying each other’s company. A short dock stretches out over the water used for boat launching and fishing. A large playground located at the heart of the park for children to run and play. Every day this park is used to its fullest extent.
On this particular day, though, the park belonged to a flock of geese who wanted nothing more than to bathe, eat, and relax together.
The high tide was in which accounts for one of Stinson Park’s downfalls. Stinson Park lacks a seawall to keep the water from overflowing, so when the tide comes in, or during Hurricane Season, the grassy area becomes a mud bath. The geese love it.
I wasn’t expecting the geese when I visited the park so early in the day. I just wanted to beat the crowds of parents and children, so I went while everyone was at work and in school. The greyish sky and the misty rain helped keep visitors away. I was about the only car in the fifteen-car parking lot. I whipped out my headphones to listen to some ambient instrumental songs to help me brainstorm for more writing. When I spotted the large family of geese, my phone became my Nikon.
I crept along the winding sidewalk to get closer. Of course, the geese saw me coming a mile away. I’m guessing the largest one of the flock, the leader, made sure he kept his eye on me. He’d take a step and then halt. I made sure to keep my distance. Geese can be unpredictable, and they aren’t afraid to fight. There were no chicks among the flock, so at least I didn’t have to worry about their paranoid high security. The flock continued on splashing, flapping their wings and diving their heads beneath the water to nip at grass. I burned my battery up, trying to get the perfect photo whenever one flapped their wings. Just to be there, period was enough excitement for me.
After a few more splashes, half the group waddled out of the water and onto the grass. Feeding time. Together they each vacuumed up grass blades. Their long necks jiggled and arched as they fed on the grass seeds. They even stopped watching me watch them, though I know at least one of them kept an eye out just in case I did anything stupid. More importantly, they were at peace. No one was at the park, the temperature was perfect, and the water was high enough for them to stand on the edge and enjoy a bath, together. It was a public gathering of peace and serenity. I’d say there’s a lesson we probably should take back to our own families.
I don’t think I’ve given St. Mary Georgia the attention it deserved. I am so eager to get to Cumberland Island, I fail to see the small city for what it is. Granted, there isn’t really much to see unless you’re on the Atlantic coast. That seems to be the only place where you can get a slice of old world livelihood. The old style mansions with wrap-around porches and mom and pop shops. Anything beyond that and you run into Corporate America’s Popeye’s Chicken, Walmart, and Dollar General.
After a trip to Cumberland Island, I was in no real rush to go back to my home city Jacksonville, so I took a little tour of the front coast. I got to sit on outdoor swingsets that faced the marina. What a view. They had a lovely fountain at the center that people threw their lucky pennies into in hopes of making some form of a wish come true. A small white church further down the street had some famous burials in its backyard Cemetery. That creeped me out too much to go and check it out (sorry). There seemed to have been a bed and breakfast house on every corner. It must be a favorite thing in these cutesy small Georgia towns and cities. Lastly, was the marina itself which house a large ship with all the ropes and sails, and wooden planks just like from pirate films.
I must say St. Mary may not have had much to show off, but it’s doing well enough to keep tourism high. (Despite being the port of entry for Cumberland Island). Hopefully, in the future, I will definitely give more time to St. Mary. If the citizens are willing to invest in its small economy, then so shall I.