One Last Parting Look at Debby

I have been trying new apps on my iPhone, one of these “Free” apps on the daily Apps Gone Free site was Funslides. This ap will turn your photos into a HD quality slide show in minutes. You get what you pay for: no good way to reorder the photos once chosen, no manipulation of sound, but here is a test with the last of the shots of the havoc that was Debby.
Enjoy the slide show by clicking this link:

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Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

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The Mess Tropical Storm Debby Left Behind

The Aftermath of Debby is still being felt by the denizens of the forgotten coast area of Florida. Over 50 families were flooded along the swollen Sopchoppy River, and many were left homeless at
least temporarily.
One friend who lives in Sopchoppy emptied his rain gauge 5 times during the storm. That gauge topped out at 7 inches, so his property received over 35 inches of rain in roughly 48 hours .
Tate’s Hell State Forest was technically closed for a week but the road restoration has gone on for weeks, and continues.
One area that was hit particularly hard was the east facing shoreline of Panacea. Dickerson bay is a shallow bowl and Debby’s wrath raises the water over the docks at the Rock Landing Marina, impaling a houseboat and sending several boats to the bottom. Many others were damaged and the floating dock was swept out to sea. The sailboat I once owned list 18″ off the bow and the stern has a hole in it where the motor-mount once was.

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The Hurricane that wasn’t. The damage and aftermath of the sneaky storm that just wouldn’t go away…

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We are all desensitized to media coverage of bad weather. The bizarre reports of tornadoes blizzards and extreme drought conditions just get more and more frequent as the climate of our planet unhinges before our eyes from my perspective.

I just want to try to convey the concept of getting more than 35 inches of rain in a 48 hour period. It is rare. I grew up in the state of Florida, and do have lived to see many hurricanes and experienced the birds singing and sunshine of 45 minutes of calm as a hurricane eye passed overhead. I have seen cars float away and rivers spill their banks.
But I have never spent 48 hours and more in a constant deluge and the accompanying roar of the wind for such a long stressful time. I lived in the country of Panamá through two rainy seasons with deluges that lasted all day but it always stopped and even if the sky remained gray, earth and her creatures got a break until the next day.

I had heard a storm was brewing in the gulf on the Friday before the tropical depression hit but did not prepare and kept at work on sailing kayak all day Saturday. There had been several small showers that were intense but short lived that impeded my progress. There may have been a couple of inches of accumulation through the day.

That oversight cost me. I awoke at dawn on Sunday and realized it was overcast. I checked the radar and my gut tightened. Less than 20 miles away were looming bands of rain from Tropical Storm Debby.
I threw my clothes on and jetted out the door with water cans and gasoline jerries. I headed for Lanark, the nearest place for the preferred ethanol free gas. Unfortunately the power was off at the gas station.

Rumor had it power was off in Carrabelle, too. I arrived and saw several stores dark. It luck held and both gas retailers at the junction were open. I was able to fill three jerrycans of gas and water but my poncho was ineffective against the 40mph wind gusts and rain torrents. It was quite comical to try to hold the 5 gallon jug just right so the waster would not be low. Sideways into the parking lot. Here is a. video I made before hell broke loose;

I have never seen an electrical display like I saw Sunday morning. I was about a city block away from an electrical substation on the side of the road attempting to make a call. I heard the loudest 60 cycle AC him I have ever heard but did not know what it was. I thought my stereo was going nuts but got out of the car and turned around to see giant arcing bolts of electricity and sparks shooting into the sky above the trees. It lasted about ten seconds and just cut off as I raised my camera to capture it.
There is a Rodney Dangerfield joke in there somewhere.

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There were trees going down everywhere. I was concerned that I had 20 miles to drive through forest roads to get to my camp.

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I made it back to my home just in time. I started to set up generators, tie down loose items and prepare as best I could. My power went off around 2pm.

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It wasn’t a very big tree, but it was enough to knock out power to us on the south bank of the Ochlocknee river.

I am a big fan of Honda power generators, but my little Honda shut off after only 45 minutes of service. Later I found out that the power switch is sensitive to moisture so it did not have a chance against the deluge, even though it was tented under a tarp.

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It was stressful for a while. An inverter failed, as did my volt ohm meter, making diagnosing other problems more difficult to manage. A back et water pump failed. I’m lucky that I have an LP powered fridge and a gas stove. Pine cones dropping 80 feet made unnerving pops that frightened me and my little dog. And my roof developed a couple of latent or pine cone leaks that was taken care of by a huge tarp lassoed into position in 50 mph gusts.

Then it got dark and rained solid all night. How long can this intensity last, I thought? How about another 24 hours?

Next : The Wrath!

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When the levy breaks, I got no place to stay…

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Hiatus I hope

I’ve been busy with other pursuits lately with activities like building a sailing kayak. This will aide in reconnoitering the coastal areas and rivers here. I was inspired by a couple of youtoob posts by a couple of Aussie talkers who were sailing long open water stretches. Mostly it looked like liquid go cart action. Here is the link:

I like kayaking but I am no purist. I’d even put a motor on one but hate the smell and oily detritus that comes with. The slippery slope of that line of thinking ends where I was a couple of years ago- with dock fees, insurance, and fear and loathing with each hurricane season. I love sailing but have too many avocations already.

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Here is a pic of an oversized rudder I have fabricated to fit a 17ft sea kayak that was never intended to have a rudder.
I have also added microcell foam bulkheads, built a fiberglass replacement hatch, and will soon be starting on the mast step and daggerboard construction.
As for wildlife I have seen a large mama bear and a cub recently. The mom grunted when she spied me and on cue and her cub went to the top of a 60 ft pine tree in just a few seconds.
I have also spotted what I think was that damn jaguarundi again, but it was so far away this time it could have been a fox. However since it was in the same area as seen previously, I think it was him. I may buy a crittercam to see if I can prove it to the FWC.

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Eye to Eye with Wild

I walk Loop Road for exercise. Loop Road is a sandy two rut path that is suitable for automobiles, and to call it a road would be an overstatement of fact. There are some craters that fill to the brim after a rain, and sand deep enough in spots to give fits to bike riders and those on foot.
Almost every time I walk it I see deer. The sandy ruts are covered with sugar sand, and i see prints of raccoon, various birds, turtles, wild turkey, and even what I suspect is a jaguarundi.  I took pictures of those prints, and submitted them to the FWC in Carrabelle, but they reported that my photos contained prints that were that of a cat but inconclusive as to what it was. I suspect they were Jaguarundi because I have spotted the jaguarundi three times in a ten day period within one quarter mile stretch of a local road, and that point is less than two miles away from Loop Road.
I have no photographic evidence, yet.
I suppose deep down that I really don’t care if it isn’t documented. Some of the folks in Carrabelle want it called the “Carrabelle Cat”, as if it is from this area. It is not. It has traveled here from Texas, and before that Central America. One local I spoke with provided a different outlook. “If you see the damn thing, shoot it”, he said. “If they find out the thing is here, we will have unending parades of news crews, biologists, and weirdo outsiders from everywhere pouring into here, studying this and that like it was the damn Skunk Ape or something. Besides, it wasn’t here before, it does not belong here, and should be exterminated”.

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With apologies to the rightful copyright owners

I don’t share his enthusiasm for killing it, but he is right about the impact to our local area. We like things as they are, and do not necessarily want even more people coming here. That will happen anyway, but we do not want accelerated change.
My visual encounters with the jaguarundi have been brief. Two were about three seconds long, but the last one was about ten seconds long. That is because the cat decided to run away from my car rather than run into the bushes as it eventually did. I know  that this animal is not a Panther, and it isn’t a overgrazed feral house cat.

The wildness I experienced this morning was profound. My dog, Mr. Pibb, startled the bear. I heard large rumbling in the bush, and saw retreating blackness. I was not sure if it was a wild boar (I have encountered those, too) or a bear.
I froze in my tracks.
The bear stood erect, more than a meter tall, his head poking out of the bushes, less than 40 feet away.
I stared at him, and he stared back.  I sat motionless, trying to contemplate his world. He was seemingly trying to understand mine. Eye to eye. Deciding that I was no dire threat, he slowly lowered on to four legs, and walked in a line perpendicular to our line of sight. He was not afraid.
I know, it was only a bear. Their numbers are on the rise. In Florida, there are many bears who routinely forage in suburbs for scraps, and frequent dumpsters in state parks. I hear there is one bear in Sumatra (a one restaurant, no red light town), that walks down “Main Street” in broad daylight looking for food. This is according to a man who lives in the town where the celebrated Caleb Tate began his torturous journey through the swamp that ultimately claimed his life.
One retired forester has several that frequent his hunt camp. He knows of a lot of his neighbors that have similar stories of two or three bears here and there. He claims that the Florida government says there are approximately six thousand bears in the state. He says six thousand is a more likely number for Liberty and Franklin counties alone. I think that he has a good point, and even if his numbers are off, they are probably more accurate that  those of the FWC., It seems the locals and many foresters here have a litany of complaints about the FWC biologists’ methods. One Carrabelle resident takes issue with their lack of acceptance of his video footage he took of the jaguarundi.

The ability to experience the wildness of this area breathes life into my soul. It is healthy to experience Wonder- especially Eye to eye…

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Walking on Rattlesnakes

No, those are just sticks slithering into the bottom of the picture...

A recent visitor to my beloved State Forest desired to do a little hiking. He lives in Atlanta, and down here we just love poking fun at folks who live in the big city, and love to talk about how they don’t get the local culture. They are horrible outdoorsmen, and they even run their hunting dogs through our yards when deer season opens. They are rude, and they are likely to get hurt when they go outside their overpriced hotel rooms or leave the confines of their campers. Besides, they buy up all the choice real estate, steal our horses, and take our women. And they are generally ugly when they step outside those shiny black Escalades they run up and down the road in.
My pal is not really like that. Doug has hiked much of the Appalachian trail, and is an outdoorsman that does not  hunt or fish, but prefers to bike, hike and paddle. That is a rarity here in my neck of the woods.
While biking alone near here in the forest, he was approached by a pickup with two men inside . They were out doing what a lot of people do here, which is cruise the woods and consume beer. Most do not speed, or raise hell, just drive around, talk and smoke cigarettes.
My pal says he struck up a conversation with them, as they were friendly. They were incredulous that he was actually riding a bicycle out here on these sandy unimproved roads. “What kind of bike is that?”, they wanted to know. The locals  in the truck told him they had never seen a dirt bicycle back here in this area before. They had to stop and talk to the guy from another planet.
Doug has a premium mountain bike, with oversized  30 inch rims and fat tires which help support him through the white sugar sand. With this equipment, he leaves me and my hybrid bike like it is standing still. I have standard 26 inch rims and tires that have some knobs on them, but actually they are basically coarse street tires. “Chuck, you just gotta go faster to keep out of the bind”, he says…”If you just go faster you will float above  the sand!”
Uh-huh.
I suppose if I was doing 30-mph and lost at least 30 pounds he might be right. And get in better shape.

The April morning broke dry, almost Colorado dry, but it was warm by the time the sun rose above the tree-line. Headed for High Bluff Coastal Hiking Trail, we pondered what we would need more of – sun-block or Deet spray. The horseflies are starting to show up pretty good, but the sky was devoid of cloud, and it would be hot on the trail even if we had a good breeze. We would need water as there is not much shade there.
Arriving at the trailhead, we figured we would try to walk the whole thing, or most of it, but the distance hiked would be doubled because we were going to walk back as we only brought one car.
The trail rises along ancient white sand dunes which are covered with juniper, pine, titi and lots of scrub. We were cognizant of rattlesnakes, of both diamondback and pygmy variety. It is a birding trail, but is wide enough that most hazards could be seen. I brought my trusty trail dog, a Boston Terrier named Mr. Pibb. He loves trails almost as much as he loves catching the frisbee. He is not purebred, as his face is not as flat and brick like as the AKC variety. But the little bit of hound or other breed his bloodline contains makes him much sturdier than the other Bostons I have known. As long as it is not too hot, the li’l guy can out-hike me. His natural curiosity would make him susceptible to snakes, so I brought his leash.


We had hiked a few miles, and Mr. Pibb had taken the lead. In some areas, the sand was deep for such a narrow trail. We were hiking in a moderate pace, and then I froze. I was just about to step dead center on a pygmy rattler coiled up in the trail. Pibb had walked by him and was unfazed, and the rattler had not stirred. I jerked the leash back at an obtuse angle and pulled the dog back to me.
We stood three or four feet away from the rattler. Coiled up and head at rest, he just did not seem to be that menacing. But they are, as the venom is as powerful as the full sized vipers.
We took photos and discussed being more cautious. We continued on along the trail.

Some of the dunes break fairly tall, and there are some good views. The temperature was pleasant in the open areas, with a good breeze. Inside the hammocks and in the deeper cuts, though, it was getting really warm.

Damn! The last thing I saw was the snake, raising up quickly on both ends as I stepped dead center on him. I jumped about 15 feet in the air as I saw him come up off the ground on both sides of my foot. OK, maybe 18″.  Like electro shock therapy, my heart was racing and I tried to figure out if I had been bitten and did not realize it. It took my racing mind a few seconds to calm and reassure myself the snake, in fact, did not magically bite through my shoe or sock. If the snake had bit, I would have felt it. We all tell ourselves that we will not allow fear to rule us. Step on a rattlesnake to prove your theory about self control.
I will spare you the ghastly photos of the results of being bitten by a rattler. Let me tell you it is not like in the movies or in the line drawings of the Boy Scout manual. You do not cut an “X”, suck the poison and spit it out (no longer recommended, as the poison can get to you quicker through mouth tissue absorption). If you get struck on a finger or hand, you will most likely incur severe damage to the tissue, deformity, or even loss of the digit or limb. The neuro-toxin breaks down the tissue near the bite. And infection will make things even worse in short order. Curious? Just google “rattlesnake bite” under google image. I have. It will make you queasy seeing half a thumb, half a hand, or a cavity on the thigh big enough for a melon to fit within it. I have a new found respect for spiders and snakes after doing some research online regarding the critters that live in my area.

Doug gets an Iphone fix so we can take the powerline road out and skip the snakes...


The amazing thing was that I never saw it. My friend was in the lead, he did not see it, and walked by or over it. My dog had walked over it. And we were not more than 5 paces apart, so the reptile clearly did not have time to crawl into my pathway in such little time.  If anything, this is a testament to the power of camouflage. I had been staring, almost too much, at the pathway after spotting the first snake. I am at a loss for my ability to explain this away. I think it is like Joe Hutto says, that as animals, we humans have no privileged access to reality. Our language and layers of higher consciousness do much to separate us from the natural world. Maybe the snake’s desire to remain invisible was simply stronger than my desire to see him.

I tell my neighbor I stepped on a Pygmy rattler.
My local guy who explains stuff i see and can’t explain, asks, “was the li’l feller rolled up in a ball ’bout yea big”? His index fingers touch each other as do his thumbs. His arms are held out to demonstrate a diamond shape. I say yes. He says, “He was smack dab in the middle of the trail, too,  wurnt he?
I realize I have a lot to learn in this place of wonder. From men. And beast.

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Spend a minute in hell…

Will I get tired of using this “hell” device for my titles? Probably not for a while.

I had to go back up to the north end of Tate”s Hell to take a second more relaxed look at the magnificent cypress trees that have been tortured through thousands of cycles of flooding and draught.Image

I put together a low res movie, more posts will come with more images.

Here is a link:

 

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