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Nature’s Gifts & Thrills
Written By: OC Fotoguy
*Click images below to view larger versions.
 Nature’s Gifts & Thrills
 Nature’s Gifts & Thrills
 Nature’s Gifts & Thrills
 Nature’s Gifts & Thrills
 Nature’s Gifts & Thrills
 Nature’s Gifts & Thrills
 Nature’s Gifts & Thrills
 Nature’s Gifts & Thrills
 Nature’s Gifts & Thrills
 Nature’s Gifts & Thrills
 Nature’s Gifts & Thrills
 Nature’s Gifts & Thrills
I’m at Pink Jeep site campground and I’m usually the only camper (parker - I don’t pitch a tent anymore. That’s real camping!) here.  I walked into site #1 from my site #2, and immediately spotted a grapefruit lying on the ground.  I looked up into the tree and there hung three more!  I’ve been here many other times for days or weeks and I’ve never seen grapefruits here.  The tree is 30-40’ tall, so it didn’t sprout recently.  I’ll enjoy.  These grapefruits are so flavorful and taste so much better than any I buy in a super market. Multiply the flavor of a store bought one by about 10 and that’ll be close.  There’s several a short walk from here, where I’ve picked them for years, but it’s so wet I may need knee boots to get to them this year.  Now, I have some near my doorstep!
I’ve been thinking (hoping) maybe this will be my Adventure that goes without a major challenge.  I’ve been doing this for eighteen years, so it’s time for me to win, for things to go my way, and all I ask is for things to work; not perfect, but just good enough for me to get by.  If you’ve read my prattle weekly you know I injured my knee and the weather has not cooperated, but neither has stopped me and so far; this may be the one I get what I want, but this is mid February, so I’m only half way through.  I’m on my way to the Sequoia Trees and also going to south Texas, southern Arizona, probably Las Vegas, then back east via the northern parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and into North Carolina to the outer Banks and back to Ocean City.  I know, though, I am not in charge.  Mother Nature controls the weather and that dictates where I can go and enjoy.
I started December 12th, was here in Big Cypress for a week after an effortless drive down US 95 to Florida, then was in Key West for six weeks with a couple days in Islamorada going and coming back.  The weather was crazy in Key West.  There was record heat in December, then record rainy wet in January with wind that made it chilly most days.  I got my kayak in the water only three times in the 42 days!  Then I was able to do it three days in a row in Islamorada as the El Niño weather mellowed.  The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts have got it right, so far for this year.
There’s been no challenges like my tires shedding their tread, like they did last year.  I don’t need a scary situation that could’ve been disastrous like that.  This year all is well so far. I’m going to take and enjoy the grapefruit as an omen and Mother Nature’s Gift.
My ten day sojourn here in the jungle has been nonspectacular, but pleasurable, so far.  Some days things go so good I say, I think I should pull the plug here for this part of my escapade and move on, because it just can’t get any better; and end on a high note!  This was one of those days.  There are times in this pleasant circumstance I have done just that, and was happy, satisfied, and never looked back or second guessed myself.  I know, I saw the highlite of my Adventure here twenty-six miles deep in Big Cypress (www.nps.gov/bicy/) at the end of my morning walk, when I saw a phenomenal natural occurrence that Mother Nature shared with me as another gift.  It was one of her spectacles I had always hoped to see.  I cooked fish and eggs with veggies and served it to myself as an overflowing skillet brunch celebration.  I carried it to my campsite’s picnic table, where I park my nest overnight.  As I savored the memory of my fantastic sighting, I also savored the delicious flavor of the Chesapeake Bay Rock Fish, two fried free range chicken eggs from New Holland, Pa., with a blend of Florida freshly picked zucchini squash, with Maryland red potatoes, and diced onions and green pepper. 
I’d been watching this tree for years.  I knew the epiphytic plants growing on it were orchids, because of their bulbous roots.  I wanted to see what kind of flower it would produce, but I’d figured it must bloom in summer season when it’s much hotter and wetter here.  This winter’s El Niño conditions (wet and warm) may’ve been what it needed.  I glanced at the tree as was a habit as I passed.  This time there it was!  A gorgeous little purple flower with an intricate white and yellow center, Wow!  I never know what Mother Nature is going to show me or when and it always takes me by surprise; plus the most fantastic seems to happen at the end of my visit to a place!  I returned later in the evening to see if maybe the softer light would be giving me a unique photo.  As I walked around the bend in the dirt road to where the orchid was, I caught a glimpse of a large grey bobcat dart into the bushes.  No chance for a photo, but another Wow!
The next day as I was driving down Turner River Road on my way to my next spot and eventually to our south western states, I was thinking of how different El Niño had made things in south Florida.  The ground was so wet, I had never seen so much water on the ground.  I didn’t see any panthers, which is a fairly common sighting for me in Big Cypress.  Panthers don’t allow bobcats in their territory, but I’d seen two of them.  No panthers, many of the birds and flowering plants I’d usually seen were absent, but in December I saw a big black bear, which I rarely see, and yesterday I saw that gorgeous orchid flower!  Then out of the corner of my eye I saw a familiar site that had been absent so far, too.  I hit the brakes of my truck, shut the engine off in a hurry, grabbed my camera with my 400mm lens, and was out the door to get the photo.  I knew this bird flies so fast and soars so high making photos tough to get; I scanned the sky, there it was and I fired to make sure I got at least one picture.  Then, I was more patient and the swallow tailed kite came in much closer for me to view and photograph.  Again a thrill at the end!
Bob R  o.c.FotoGuy
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