Amelia Island has a long pirates tradition. Pirates had large treasure chests and so does the island that we call home until the end of March.
Treasures such as walking along Egans Creek Greenway:
Treasures such as watching the re-enacters at Fort Clinch taking us back 170 years:
And each beach walk is a treasure by itself:
There are so many quotes about "home", but I very much like this one from Jane Austin: "There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort".
It is hard to believe that it is already one month since we have started our winter volunteer assignment at Fort Clinch State Park.
What a wonderful time to reconnect with all our friends and to settle in at the ocean campground.
We enjoyed walking the familiar trails around Willow Pond:
Watching the local wildlife, gave us a magnificent view of this soaring Osprey:
Fort Clinch, the pinnacle feature of the park, presents us always with new lines, corners, light settings and compositions that make it to a paradise for photographers:
With time flying by so fast, I have to agree with Dr. Seuss: "How did it get so late so soon? It's night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon."
We just finished our first full year living in the motorhome and returned to our home base Fort Clinch State Park. It is so wonderful to reconnect with friends after 8 months on the road. All are interested in our journey and the question "what was the highlight of your travels" became a standard. We had so many interesting and overwhelming experiences that we cannot give an answer. To create a somewhat structured feedback, I have to brake it down in three areas and let the images speak about Places, People, and Partnership. Let's start with places.
Alexandra Stoddard once said: "When you leave a beautiful place, you carry it with you wherever you go". We were blessed to experience Small Town America and the Texas backcountry. We were overwhelmed by the beauty of Big Bend National Park, amazed by the unknown Ozark Mountains, and blown away by the tasks introduced to us at the Norfolk National Fish Hatchery.
Meeting wonderful people from all walks of life is one of the treasures of the RV life we are living and Anna Sewell's quote resonates with me: "It is good people who make good places". See for yourself.
Cate Blanchett was once asked if marriage is a risk, and here is what she answered: "I think it is a great and glorious risk, as long as you embark the adventure in the same spirit." Our journey was a risk but the reward of having even a closer partnership than when we went out is such a great reward. We will keep the same spirit and look forward to the years on the road to come.
I always liked the song "what a wonderful world". We feel blessed for the journey that we were able to experience this year and invite you to join us over the next years traveling through this wonderful world:
I see trees of green
Red roses too
I see them bloom
for me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
I see skies of blue
And clouds of white
The bright blessed day
The dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
The colors of the rainbow
So pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces
Of people going by
I see friends shaking hands
Saying "How do you do?"
They're really saying
"I love You"
I hear babies cry
I watch them grow
They'll learn much more
Than I'll ever know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
Yes, I think to myself
What a wonderful world.
What a great feeling it was when we came down Atlantic Avenue turning into Fort Clinch State Park. Eight months ago we drove through the same gate, yet in the opposite direction. We are very much looking forward to staying for four months at camp site 1, reconnecting with friends, and being part of the Fort Clinch volunteer team.
But before we write about our winter season on Amelia Island, I would like to step back and talk about the last few stops we had made on our way home.
Choctaw Lake was our home for two days. What a wonderful, quiet, family oriented campground with peaceful views from the hike around the lake. It was very close to Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge.
This highly rated refuge will be our home from April through June of 2020. It offers a place for migratory birds and native wildlife. Noxubee attracts hunters, hikers, and fisherman alike. Can't wait to learn more about the different species and plants in the refuge, and to assist in maintenance projects. One of the great values of our RV life is that we get introduced to places which have such totally different missions.
After staying one more day at a COE park near Silas, AL, we crossed the FL stateline and were welcomed by sun, palm trees, and temperatures which made us to turn the A/C on the first time for months. Topsail Hill Preserve State Park amazed us with Caribean beaches and nice hikes. One more stop to go.
Three Rivers State Park, a very cosy park northwest of Tallahassee, was our harborage for the last two nights on the road. Sunrises were magnificent and the nearby Florida Caverns State Park was worth the day trip. The small town of Marianna was already decked out for Christmas and we even found the rarity of a shoe maker. The time away from home went by so fast and we are back to the place where we left eight months ago. This will also be the starting point for our next years journey and T.S. Eliot's quote resonates with me: "Home is where one starts from".
Sardis, Mississippi, was our next stop on the way to the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge. It was another example for the Small Town America we encountered on our journey off the beaten path. All those towns have a specific character and show how people are trying their best to make a living.
Small Town America is also a place to meet interesting and wonderful people, such as Miz Beasley, who kindly invited us into her beauty salon, where she proudly showed us the decorations for her 25th Wedding Anniversary.
One of my favorites are side streets, the sleeping beauties of Small Town America. Workshop fronts, deteriorating buildings, back entrances, and even a closed Elvis museum gave Sardis a special character in the twilight of the evening.
After a photowalk in a foreign city, I always have to think about a saying of a photography friend of mine: Everything has beauty, you just have to see it.
Can you imagine that time once stopped in the central Mississippi Valley as the earth suddenly began to shake, roared, and violently moved about. The peaceful woodlands rolled like ocean waves, landslides covered many rivers and streams, and the air was dark and filled with sulfurous vapor. A great depression was formed and the forces of nature let the Mississippi River run backwards to fill the sunken area.
Reelfoot Lake is the remnant of one of the most violent earthquakes in North America that happened in the winter of 1811. It was our first stop on the way home to Florida and will be one of our volunteer sites in 2020.
We had a wonderful time meeting Tara, our volunteer coordinator at Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge. She showed us around the refuge and even had a flock of white Pelicans as a welcome committee.
Tiptonville is on the west side of Reelfoot and as per the information of the proprietor of the smallest and oldest liquor store in Tennessee is the poorest county in the state. By the way, the former General Manager of the New York Giants Jerry Reese, was born and raised in Tiptonville.
Louisville was one of the other stops while at Reelfoot. It is the County Seat of Winston County, and the home of Tyler Pearson, the 2017 world champion in steer wrestling. The downtown area is grouped around the county court house and especially some of the side streets leading to the square showed some healthy retail activities.
Looking back to the event that created Reelfoot lake and seeing it's current beauty makes us better understand Einsteins's quote: Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better.
We had no idea what we were getting into when we accepted our assignment to volunteer at a National Fish Hatchery. We have to say that volunteering at the Norfolk NFH exceeded our expectations by far.
We were introduced to so many tasks at a cold water hatchery from cleaning to feeding to moving fish.
Being in charge of the Visitor Center gave us the opportunity to meet great people from near and far and to explain the hatchery operations.
Most of all, we will miss the people we have worked together with. Dedicated folks that know what they are doing and keep their sense of humor even after 90 minutes cleaning of raceways in freezing conditions.
We will miss you all and fully agree with Winnie-the-Pooh: How lucky we are to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
The Ozark Folk Center presents such a wealth of information that we decided to stop by a second time and to watch the highly skilled artisans practicing their trades.
Rachel and Skip, the copper colorists, demonstrated how to "paint" on copper with a flame and how the temperature and the layers impact design and color.
Tom at the knife shop told us how fulfilling it is to be on his own. He learned how to craft hunting knives after a successful career with the Ford Motor Company.
Robin in the woodcraft shop made us aware that making a wooden spoon is an art.
Shawn in the broom shop taught us that it takes up to two hours and strong hands and arms to build a kitchen broom from scratch.
The apprentice at the chandlery showed us how many dips it takes to make the perfect size candle.
The pupil at the chair shop surprised us with a guitar concert.
All of the artisans are wonderful story tellers and we love listening to them. Since I have spent many years in the printing industry, I always have to stop at the print shop. Troy Odom is running two letterpresses and I have learned from him something new:
The letters of the text that is to be printed are held in a metal frame. The space between the text block or phrase and the frame is filled with metal spacers, which are squeezed into the frame with wedges. In the old times of letterpress printing, those wedges were called lockup coins, thus creating the term "coining a phrase". Thank you Troy!
While our cooking club visited us from Amelia Island, we went over to Bull Shoals Lake. The dam construction was completed in 1951 and the main purpose was flood control of the White River and power generation. The lake and the White River offer great recreation opportunities. Jim Gaston was instrumental in developing the recreation "industry" in this area of Arkansas and to make his fishing lodge, restaurant and marina to an Eldorado for trout fishing. The resort even includes a small air strip, giving fly fishing a totally new meaning. The wonderful visitor center across the dam carries Mr. Gaston's name.
The White River is a great reflecting stream for the colors of Autumn. Watching the fisherman, Schubert's German song "The Trout" came to my mind:
"In a clear little brook,
there darted, about in happy haste,
the moody trout
Dashing everywhere like an arrow.
I stood on the bank
And watched, in sweet peace,
The fish's bath
in the clear little brook."
Calico City Bluff was our next stop with Brian. This is a place near Calico Rock where families meet for picnics, teenagers have their first dates, and visitors enjoy the look over the majestic White River, one of the best trout fishing streams in the country.
Birders enjoy watching Bald Eagles soaring above them and the fishermen are casting their lures hoping for the next big fish.
Leaving this spot, a quote from Thomas Campbell came to my mind: "Tis distance lends enchantment to the view, and robes the landscape in its azure and golden hue".