Live in Atlantic Beach: A Newborn Sea Turtle Finds Its Way to Sea

Atlantic Beachlife was live on the scene last night when a nest of loggerhead sea turtles hatched.  Arriving with our crew as the final group of turtles were at the shoreline,  we followed the last straggler of this sibling group of more than one hundred find its way to the water’s edge.  It was waddling gamely but seemingly confused, while the trained volunteers of the Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol assisted. They gently turned and guided it several times, until the tiny marine reptile finally found the water’s edge and was carried away by an outgoing wave.

The birth of any baby brings out the best in people, and sea turtles are no exception.  Tonight, families were seen hugging, tearful with joy to be part of this rather rare and fleeting moment (a nest can hatch and baby turtles dispersed within 10 or 15 minutes), and snapping photos with camera phones.  Everyone on site was careful to observe the no-flash photography rule, and no one even tried to touch a baby but the gloved specialists who were on hand for the hatching. Unfortunately not everyone who lives at the coastline understands (or cares?) that dimming or dousing their ocean-facing window lights is de rigueur along our beaches during sea turtle season, which runs from May 1 to October 31.  This year, there appears to be an abundance of nests in our area, and we observed that several were wrapped in the rear with blackout sheeting.  We have observed in the past that many of the oceanfront homes and condos have lights blazing inside which can confuse the little ones, who have a long and treacherous journey to maturity.

Only one per one thousand live births will actually live to maturity. At the ripe young age of fifty years old, a surviving female, will return to lay her eggs at the site of her birth.  That means that of the hundreds of sea turtles born during this season, probably just one will be back, nearly two generations from now, to perpetuate the species.  Perhaps you will be on this beach with your (great?)granchildren, and will pass on the lessons of caring for these endangered creatures.

Enjoy the video shot by our reporter, Jeannie Greenwald.

I Am Water…

…it’s part of who I am; I was born this way. Landlocked in Detroit, where I was raised, I lived for that one week of bliss, our summer vacation on the Lake Michigan Shore in South Haven.  When I say I lived for this single week, that’s not far from the actual truth. I daydreamed about it all year, and fantasized about how great it would be to really live in a coastal town – how lucky those people were. Did they look at that Lake every day and pinch themselves with glee? That vacation week was a singular moment in my childhood…and into young adulthood. Every year my Dad would tease us with, “who wants to stay another week?” and every year I almost believed that he’d throw caution to the wind and we’d just stay on for that second week. Never happened, of course. I hated packing up and going home.

When I was a grown up, my husband and I lucked into a relocation that took us to west Michigan and  lived in an awesome town on the shores of Lake Michigan.  Our home was in a neighborhood with that oh-so-coveted deeded beach access. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. This really was my dream, come true.

Then we moved here: to Atlantic Beach.  If I thought Grand Haven was heaven, I was ecstatic about settling in this warm weather coastal community just steps from the beach.  I love the beach (as if that hasn’t been patently obvious on this blog).  I’m constantly snapping photo upon photo, and video too.  I keep hearing my Dad’s voice, “Don’t photograph your life  - live it!”  Well, I guess this is how I live my life.  I get carried away with excitement, even after all this time, and out comes the camera… don’t even ask how many pictures are living on the hard drive, each of them elbowing the other out of way, vying for precious space.  I know I need to get in there with the delete key, but it’s hard decide which pictures go off into the ether, so I just put it off.

Since I’m happiest when I’m in or near the water, I recorded this little video and now I’ll share it with you:

Visit Florida

A long time ago, we visited Florida.  It was the Gulf side, Longboat Key, to be exact. It was January.  We wandered around St. Armand’s circle and I remember gazing longingly through the window of a realtor’s office, where listings of homes-for-sale were taped.  (Long before the days of Zillow – one of my fav real estate apps!)  I can remember the feeling of longing, of how great would it be if we actually lived here? but accepted it as a pipe dream.  We packed up and went back to the gray and snowy midwest and four more months of that weather, a day or two later.  We’re just not winter sports people.

Now, we’ve been here eleven years.  We love living at the beach.  Every single time I come across the walkway to the sands of ‘my beach’, it’s a different landscape.  And every time, I feel a glee of excitement that I get to live here.

This is yesterday.  I read my book for a while, then took a snooze.  A few of my son’s friends probably saw me, sacked out in my chair, as they were polite enough to say HI when they came out to the beach too.

I woke up to the tide nearly lapping at my back.  Hey, I didn’t snooze that long.  

What a great, great day it was yesterday.  Perfect temps, perfect water, pretty birds.  And I get to live here.

Barkworld

She was ours, for twenty minutes of our lives. Soft, cuddly, curious, playful, affectionate.

We knew before going into the ‘hugging room’ that we couldn’t take her home; I knew it would be hard to hold her, and leave without her.

I’d never thought of an Alaskan Siberian Husky before playing with her…now, I’d have one in a minute.
If I was ready for a dog in our lives. Which I’m not.

But, oh. How we loved on her for twenty minutes. We did her a favor, I told my daughter. The puppy was desperate to play with the pups in the adjoining kennel. They were tussling about together, having a good old time, and the Husky pup was barking excitedly, trying to get to them through the glass separator to join in the fun. I wondered if she’d be a barker, but when she came into the room with us it was clear that her temperament was quite perfect. Part playful and inquisitive, and also eager for a snuggle, nuzzling my daughter’s neck. It was quite touching. We returned her to her space, tuckered out. No longer straining to get to the puppies next to her, she drank some water, while lying down. She is just a baby, after all.

It was a good thing we are in California still. Had we met this precious pup at home in Florida, it’s possible I’d have thrown caution to the wind, run the Visa for $1,300, and brought this Husky home for Easter.

Someone will find this puppy as enchanting as we did. I hope that someone treats her well.

West Coastlife: Mountains and Horses

A definite must on this trip was a trail ride in the mountains where we might could see the ocean, too.  (Might could…I’d never heard anyone say that until a couple of years ago, and since then, I’ve heard it more than once.  Couldn’t resist.)

Googled ‘horseback riding’ for the area and found the perfect spot for us.  Park Place Stable in Malibu.  A short drive from home, nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains at Malibu, the website pictured exactly what I was looking for and it didn’t disappoint.  The owner, Joy, was friendly and chatted it up with me as we got settled with the signing of forms, trying on of helmets, and getting the horses ready for us.

I watched a horse being groomed; mane  had been given a snappy trim, and was getting his hooves cleaned, so I commented about him getting a pedicure.  That’s when Joy told us that this horse, Cornelius, would be filmed for a Millionaire Matchmaker (a horseback riding date for the couple) episode the following day, along with Fjona, another of their horses.  So we had a fun time talking about that for a bit. I probably knew more about this (vapid) show than she did, which made me like her even more.

Our guide, Chantal, a lovely and natural horsewoman, handled the four of us with practiced ease.  Soon we were saddled and off we went, me bringing up the rear (a kind of important position,  *ahem*) of the group. She wore black and white riding clothes, casually melding the English and Western styles, long-legged and lithe. She spoke with a charming French-sounding accent, and led us to the most lovely spots for viewing and picture-taking.

My daughter who loves horses was the impetus for the ride, and I’m glad of it.  It was a beautiful way to connect with the outdoors, being on horseback in the hills, and yes, we did see the Pacific from one vantage point.  Ah, gorgeous. The mountains were verdant and blooming, the air was breezy, and the sun was shining.  At about 68 degrees there, it was perfect.

And our horses!  Wonderful temperaments, each of them; we all petted and cuddled them afterwards. My daughter rode Cornelius and my sister, Fiona – the two horses tapped for ‘Millionaire’ program, while my nephew took Buddy and I rode Lauren.  I loved Lauren by the end of that ride, and we all posed with the horses once they’d had their water and were resting. I guess horses can sleep standing up. Fiona couldn’t keep her eyes open, darling girl.

It was great, being outside, with the horses, and exploring new places. Next time, we’ll go for the three hour ride. Goodbye, Lauren. I’ll watch for the others on TV and remember, you were ours, if only for an hour.

Springs Season 2011 Officially Open!

The spring run at Blue Spring, in Volusia County.

Beautiful!

The big day was Sunday, April 10!  By officially open that means when I go underwater in a spring.  As it happened, I was passing by Blue Spring State Park, and was determined not to miss my chance to see it, photograph it,  and have a full body immersion.  It was a 93 degree April scorcher, after all.

So far, my heart belongs to Blue Springs in Gilchrist County, near the town of High Springs, and so my springs-lovin’ friend refers to other springs also named Blue Springs as ‘Volusia Blue’ or ‘Lafayette Blue’ or ‘Madison Blue’ . There’s a small spring in Levy County also called Blue Springs, and I’ve actually visited that one.  Nice, but… it’s not my Blue Springs.  I’ve heard great things about the other Blues, so I’m keeping an open mind. Blue Spring State Park in Volusia County is well known for being the manatee migration site, when the winter waters of the St. John’s River become too cold for their liking.  They’ll leave the chilly river, and come into the spring, where the water temps are 72 degrees year round.  They hang out here for a couple of months, until the river warms again, and off they go.

(Photo courtesy of Florida State Park website – Blue Spring Park)

Schools send busloads of children on field trips during the winter months for manatee viewing. It’s April, so  the manatees have departed and now the humans  flock to Blue Spring.  There’s nothing like a cool spring on a 93 degree day. Last Sunday, there was already a line of cars waiting to enter the park by the time we arrived, later in the afternoon.  Note to self: avoid weekends if possible, and arrive early in the day. Still, this park can handle a crowd, without it feeling too crowded.  That’s a plus!  Because we’d arrived later, and I hadn’t brought along my usual snorkeling gear, it was a limited experience.  You don’t have to be a snorkeler to enjoy the springs.  Most people – kids and adults – are content to splash and swim about the water, perhaps renting (or bringing their own) tubes for a short float from the ‘put in’ point to the ‘exit’ point of the spring run.

(Photo courtesy of Florida State Park website – Blue Spring Park)

We rented a tube and enjoyed a nice float along the spring run; about a 15 minute ride.  After that we swam in the spring run, going with the current, to the ending point.  The spring run is shallow; adults can stop and stand up in the water.  Swimming against the current is doable but fins are definitely recommended.  Even with fins, it’s a good swim to reach the spring head.  I love swimming against the current in other spring runs, but not so, this day.  I’d come woefully unprepared; it was a spontaneous visit, but very fun. I never pass up a chance to see a new spring!  Still, I’d have wanted my mask or at least, goggles, so I could view the spectacle of the spring vent and other tiny fissures where the water bubbles forth from the aquifer. So, I didn’t make it to the spring head from the water.

Instead, I walked along the lovely, shaded boardwalk; a 1/3 mile through the shaded hammock of hardwood trees, from the  St. John’s River, along the spring run, and ending at the viewing platform of Blue Spring itself. Oh, how I’d have have loved to be in that water, where fewer people were swimming.

(photo courtesy of Florida State Parks website – Blue Spring State Park)

It’s a large spring surrounded by trees, naturally maintained.  I’m not so fond of retaining walls built by  state or county parks that create a pool-like effect around a spring, but I can appreciate its purpose.  This enables visitors to perch along the edge and dangle their feet in the cooling waters. (Not everyone wants the full immersion experience!)  Or, they may sit, partially in the water,  on the shelf that’s built below the rim. Just like a nice swimming pool.  They’re lovely,  but it’s the rustic springs I’m drawn to…where the aquatic life flourishes and fish are plentiful. Retaining walls tend to restrict the growth of flora, and therefore, there’s fewer fish swimming about.  I’d prefer to look at fish and plant life underwater, rather than people jostling about!  Still,  there are springs for everyone’s preferences here in Florida.

So, no, I did not have the camera on hand to photograph this place.  Due to time constraints I had to make a choice, so  I left it in the car, and dove into the water.  Later, I took a few macro shots while my daughter waited in the car for me to finish, so that curtailed my photography fun. I snapped a few macro shots of the Spanish moss, and continued on the long drive home.  It had been a busy weekend already.

Friday Night Lights, Beach Style

So, yes, it was back in October when we made this little clip and when I watched it again it so perfectly captured a fall evening at the beach I had to post it here. Even if it is “the dead of winter” now.

Then, it was mid October and autumn was settling in around us. It’s always a relief by that time to have our change of season, and especially because we know we’ve got months of glorious weather ahead. Aside from the sometimes cold days and the freakishly frigid weather that does make its way down south and out to the beach at times – fall, winter, and spring are really fantastic months of weather here. During February and March, the live oaks shed their leaves to make way for the tiny leaflets to blossom, so it does require the lawn-raking that gets tedious in a hurry…and it seems a rather constant, gentle falling of leaves for several weeks as beachlife spring emerges. Of course we don’t get those breathtaking color changes of the deciduous trees further north… but I really don’t mind because missing that means I also get to miss Real Winter Weather: snow, sleet, slush, dangerous driving conditions, pot-holed roadways, rock salt all over my car, and sunless days – seemingly gray skies for weeks on end. Get the picture?

Now, it’s colder outside but still great for golf, biking, surfing in a wet suit, and wearing the fall clothes I’d snapped up even as early as August (those boots! had to have them! both pairs!). But this evening, as pictured above, was one of many we get to enjoy, living at the beach. Living here isn’t for everyone, but the coast speaks to my soul, so to have landed here has been a really happy thing.

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