Saturday, September 27, 2008

Back in the Sunshine state...where it may be hot, it may be humid, but bygum - it's freaking SUNNY!

So tomorrow marks my two month anniversary for being back in Florida. Not something I'm overly excitied about...but alas, the fact still remains. I have, incidentally, been continuing an exciting life post-Alaska. Spent two weekends in good ol' Titusville, one weekend in historic Savannah, one in beautiful St. Augustine, another camping at Manatee Springs State Park, and finally, spent this past weekend at Caravelle Ranch, a wildlife management area near Palatka. Although I've been (mostly) restricted to Florida...I'm trying to make the most of it. I'm making a valiant effort to explore Gainesville and be busy most weekends. This week we have the friday off, due to it being homecoming I'll be enjoying the cool weather and phantasmagoric (I can dream) colors of Fall in North Carolina and Tennessee! I'm very excited about that. I'm going with four other friends, roadtripping through the mountains and staying in Asheville, NC. We plan to enjoy a BBQ at Cades Cove (TN) and will also visit the Biltmore Estate. Should be a weekend of rainbows, butterflies, lollipops, and hopes and dreams. Or something like that.

I was excited to discover in my mailbox today a package from the BioDiversity Research Institute. I.e...the people I did the loon capture and tagging surveys with! So I FINALLY got my loon pictures. They turned out great. And here they are:

There's the loon in my lap. I had to hold its head down (right hand) and use my left to keep its bill closed. Those suckers can slice right through the skin...rather painfully so.

Picture of the Common Loon close up. Isn't she a beaut?

OK, so these next two aren't close up. The one up above is me and Rick (one of the researchers) about to let the loon go. And there she goes! It was so exciting. I wish I could do that everyday. They have an awesome job.This and the next couple of pictures are from our weekend in St. Augustine. I went with my two roommates, Megan and Jesse. That was an adventure. Since the trip wasn't really planned, we kind of got up and drove. So no arrangements as to where we were going to sleep for the night were arranged. So that meant I spent my first night in a car in a public parking lot next to the beach. What an experience. The next morning, I woke up just in time to walk down the boardwalk and to the shoreline. I spread out a towel, sat down and watched as the sun slowly rose above the ocean surface. And what a beautiful sunrise it was.

You see, Florida has some redeeming qualities! There's nothing like waking up to this. The reflection of the sun onto the water was absolutely fantastic. Reds, oranges, yellows, violets and colors of all hues spread out onto the water like a rainbow.Then after gazing at the sun for an hour or so, we made a visit to the St. Augustine lighthouse. It wasn't open yet, so we couldn't go up inside...but I was still able to get some good photos of the outside of it.This is a photograph of one part of the Flagler College campus. Absolutely gorgeous campus. Most of the college used to be a hotel, which since has been converted into a university-like setting. In 1888, Henry Flager built the luxury resort Hotel Ponce de Leon, so many parts of the campus are over a hundred years old. Many buildings throughout the town were built or commissioned by Flagler, so the town has a ton of history. Much of Flager college has ornately-decorated buildings with doors of intricate design. I would love to go to school here. A shame that the school only offers 12 majors. Or something like that.Here's one of the two lion heads that guard the entrance to the college. Notice what ol' Leon the lion here has in his mouth...what a rebel.

Here is Flagler Presbyterian church. The inside is absolutely stunning.After taking a stroll through the campus, we visited the fort. Officially named the Castillo de San Marcos, this monument of stone and mortar was built by the Spaniards in 1672. As all of you should know, St. Augustine is the oldest city in the U.S. The fort itself is the oldest masonry and only extant 17th century fort in North America. It still has some of the original cannons and weaponry used at the time.Here's one of the cannons. Notice the intricate design inlaid on the metal.These are my two roommates inside one of the four lookout towers. Jesse is on the left, Megan on the right. And there I am, not looking angry. The fort was once surrounded by a moat, but there behind me is the Atlantic flowing into the St. Augustine marina.
Two weekends ago, my friend Tessa and I went camping at Manatee Springs in Chiefland, FL. The campground is right next to a set of natural springs that stay around 70-76 degrees F year-round. The turquoise-clear water was surrounded by Bald Cypress trees on all sides. Here's me and Tessa, blinking away sleep at 8 in the morning. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed are we! There's my tiny tent that I bought in Alaska. It still had a bit of AK trail spice in it. Sigh.This is what we got to wake up to in the morning. We saw her and many other deer during our trip. It was awesome getting to see them so close, but was also sad to realize they they are too acclimated to human activity. Then Tessa and I went kayaking along the Suwannee River. It was a nice 4-hour paddle in beautiful, overcast weather. Of course, as soon as we got done, the sun decided to grace us with its presence.

More kayakers!

Did you suddenly start hearing Rocky's theme with this photo? I sure did.

Pretty leaves.

The next string of photos are from my 21st birthday. The first one is at Friday's restaurant. There was about 14 of us all together at dinner. Tessa got me this very embarassing headband to wear, which you'll notice in the photo below.

This was a night we went out to the Melting Pot for dessert. From left, is Shannon, Ana, and Ashley, three girls I've met at my apartment complex. Megan, my roommate, is right beside me.

This is my roommate and me on my birthday. I was completely sober.

And last but not least, I had to give you a picture of the cats. I have four other roommates, but these are the two I care about the most. Megan and Jesse have two cats, a Ball python, and Mika, their beagle (who is thoroughly annoying). This handsome fellow below is Pokey.

And this is Sylvia. She likes to get into everything. I saw her cutely laying in this box and just had to take a picture.

Anyway, although my title says it wasn't hot. Miraculous! We've been enjoying cool, breezy weather that's been staying around the 70s. At night, it gets to 58. Very nice. I don't think I've gotten to enjoy such temperatures since I was in Alaska. Sad, isn't it? Hopefully I'll get to enjoy even cooler temperatures this weekend in NC. I hope you all enjoyed the update. I'll post more later.