Wednesday, January 20, 2010
I love winter in Florida!
North Florida is kind of invisible to most people. When people think of Florida, they think of palm trees and flamingos. Friends and family are flummoxed when I tell them that Gainesville is closer to Atlanta than to Miami. And that it gets frickin' cold here.
Like the last few weeks, for example. Temps plummeted into the teens at night and barely hit the forties during the day. There were rumors that we might get snow (we didn't). But we did get cold. Very cold.
On a Saturday walk at La Chua, Glenn and I found out the hard way that it was even colder out than it looked. Alachua Sink and the surrounding streams, normally rippling with the movement of fish, water snakes, and alligators, were oddly still. Big, clear, sheets of ice covered the streams, and Common Moorhens and American Coots skidded awkwardly over them. Other birds, like this Grackle, went about their business near the edges of the ice:
A lot of birds were feeding closer to the trail than normal. Wood Storks, usually visible only at a long distance from the observation tower at the end of the trail, were foraging in large numbers only feet away from us:
Even odder were the dozens of Turkey Vultures congregating on the islands in the water just off the trail; I'd only rarely seen them there before. It didn't take long for us to figure out why they were there: the icy water was filled with stiff, frozen fish, done in by the cold:
And a great feast was had by all!
Except, of course, for the fish. And the alligators, who were apparently too cold to even put in an appearance that day.
There was no doubt a lot more to see on that cold Saturday, but after a few hours out, my fingers were almost completely numb. By the time we got back to the car, I could barely feel or hold onto the car keys in my pocket. Even after an hour indoors scarfing down an excellent (and hot!) deep-dish pizza, our toes were STILL cold. We wondered if we had frostbite, something neither of us had experienced before. And I wondered how I'd explain to people that I had lost my toes from frostbite suffered while hiking through a swamp in Florida.
Just another gorgeous winter day in our little slice of paradise, somewhat north of the tropics.