Sinkhole to the Horizon

(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge wants to see horizons.)

I’m a disaster junkie. Natural disasters amaze me. I hate it when people get hurt, but the forces of nature that create the disasters leave me awestruck.

A couple years ago, I learned about Lake Okeechobee, a sinkhole that is the seventh largest freshwater lake in the United States. That’s a big sinkhole!!

I also learned that tragically, in the 1920s, hurricane winds blew water over the tops of Okeechobee’s levees, which killed hundreds of people. Since that time, the levee tenders say they’ve rebuilt to withstand anything the Earth can send their way. (Hmm. Where have I heard that before?) There is apparently some controversy about whether this is true.

Knowing all this, I had to see Okeechobee for myself. A family reunion staged on both coasts of Florida gave me the opportunity I needed. As my son and I drove from the Atlantic to the Gulf, he agreed to a detour so that I could see my sinkhole.

I only got to make one stop at Okeechobee, and that briefly. (I hope to go back for a longer visit someday — probably alone.) Still, it did not disappoint.

Here is what I saw.

Okeechobee is surrounded by a waterway lined with houses and boat docks:

The "moat" around Lake Okeechobee.

The “moat” around Lake Okeechobee.

The levees are maybe 30 feet high:

That human speck at the top of the levee is my son.

That human speck at the top of the levee is my son.

Boats go through locks to get from the moat to the lake:

Fishing boat heading for the lake.

Fishing boat heading for the lake.

A person works in a bunker, opening the locks for boats:

In the background, the bunker. In the foreground, my son jumping from post to post.

In the background, the bunker. In the foreground, my son jumping from post to post.

The lake is low on water, from drought and flood control, leaving a marshy area just below the levee:

okeewgrass

That glint on the horizon is the water of Lake Okeechobee, which is 20 miles across:

Florida has a lot of sky.

Florida has a lot of sky.

Many of the levees are topped with biking and walking trails. It could be fun to circle the lake!… Maybe… The circuit would take more than one day….

That is indeed a large sinkhole.

Unexpected Benefit of a Gator Quest

(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge asked to see a horizon.)

On my occasional trips to Florida to see family, I have been repeatedly disappointed in efforts to spot alligators out in the open (not planted at a zoo or theme park).

Please understand, I don’t have a death wish. It’s not like I traipse through the Everglades calling here gator gator. I simply search for remnants of gator culture in Florida suburbs, under the assumption that surviving gators will shun humans rather than eat them.

They certainly shun this human!

At the golf course where some of my family lives, signs like this one promise gator action near the pond:

An unfounded claim.

An unfounded claim.

I’ve never seen any gators at the pond, but one late afternoon, looking for gators did bring me to this wonderful reflection of the horizon:

Horizon-tal symmetry.

Horizon-tal symmetry.

Finally and at last, as we left for the airport to come home, I saw one! A little guy running away from us, toward the horizon:

littlegatorIMG_7016

We almost didn’t get the picture – took us many precious seconds to figure out that speeding up to see him before he got away made him run faster to get away.

Can You Guess Where I Am?

I’ve left my home in California to attend a family reunion in one of the other States of the U.S. Another State and another state! I’m definitely not in California anymore. Now I’m wondering whether the curiosities of this visit are unique, or can be found many places that are not-California. So – does this sound like lots of places you’ve been? Or can you easily identify this new State by the descriptions below? (If so, its features may be unique.)

Here are some local sights that you won’t see in California:

  • The nature preserve has a special section for hunters.
  • A popular Elvis CD is a collection of Gospel songs.
  • There are many lakes and most of them started as sinkholes.
  • The terrain varies from totally flat to really flat.
  • Outside it is wall-to-wall sky.
  • There are amazing thunderclouds more often than not.
  • The sign “Condominium Complex” points to a mobile home park.
  • None of the public bathrooms provide paper toilet seat covers.

Based on these features, what’s your guess? Where am I?

Sorry: family members are not eligible to participate.

I Had Better Get Busy

My “desert island” food is the blueberry. My “desert island” place is the ocean. Which proves convenient: I don’t have to bring my favorite place with me to the desert island, it will already surround me.

Desert island. Typing that phrase, I realize how comfortable I am using language when I don’t entirely know what it means. That must get me into trouble sometimes but apparently I don’t know when that happens.

Desert island. Somewhere remote and cut-off, I figure. Checking that infallible source of information, the internet, I learn that a desert island is an island that is not inhabited by humans.

(Sue’s first rule of blogging: start with a digression. Or four.)

Here’s the point: I love the ocean but I have only been to two of them.  Mostly the Pacific. Occasionally the Atlantic. Surely I need to see the others, and visit them from more than one location. Which means I had better get busy and travel faster.

Here is what the Atlantic Ocean looked like during my visit to a Florida beach:

The Atlantic Ocean from a beach in central Florida.

The Atlantic Ocean at sunset from a beach in central Florida.

At this beach it was not a good idea to walk while enjoying the view. There were dead jellyfish everywhere! I don’t know whether this was typical for this area. Perhaps I visited during a time of jellyfish affliction.

Dead jellyfish covered the beach like land mines.

It was a beach of dead jellyfish land mines.

(In response to this Weekly Photo Challenge.)

The View From High and Far

I can stare at a city view for hours, studying the structure, sensing the underlying chaos, sensing the history and the stories, hearing faint distant sirens and that lowgrade perpetual hum that comes from so many people in one locale. Below are shots of

  • Chicago adjoining Lake Michigan,
  • Boston at sunset across the Commons,
  • midtown Manhattan,
  • the East River and Queens as seen from the Empire State Building on a very clear day, and
  • downtown Los Angeles as seen from the hiking trails at Griffith Park at dawn.

I will leave it to you to figure out which is which.

PanoramaMoon

NYCtilted2010

NYCEastRiverfromEmpire

Boston

LakeMichigan

This post responds to this Weekly Photo Challenge.

Staycations Away From Home

Screen Shot 2013-07-17 at 2.52.24 PM

Not somewhere I’ve stayed nor want to, but it might be affordable. (Photo credit: UrbanPhotos on Flickr.)

My favorite kind of traveling is to plant myself somewhere new and stay for a while, to get a sense of what it would be like to live there. I’m not drawn to monuments or tourist meccas, even though I know those places get famous for a reason. I’d rather wander neighborhoods, sample restaurants, find hole in the wall stores. I’ve been to Manhattan maybe 8 times, and I can’t tell you what the Statue of Liberty is like but I can give you a carefully assessed ranking of my favorite bagel joints.

A whirlwind tour of ten countries in ten days sounds awful to me, while ten days in one spot sounds like a good start.

There can be two problems with this approach. First, when you tally all the places you’ve been, the list does not grow very quickly. Second, if you plant yourself in the wrong place, you get to know a place you, well, don’t want to get to know.

I can’t be the only one who travels like this – am I?

P.S. In Manhattan, my favorite bagel joints are:

  1. Ess-A-Bagel
  2. Murray’s
  3. H & H.

(This post responds to this Daily Prompt.)

Manhattan, Very Early

Last year I got to take my kids to New York for a few days. Our return flight was early one morning. I love this shot of my son – up way before his body clock would usually allow – taking in his last views of Manhattan before we departed. We were almost the only ones up…

Goodbye, New York.

Goodbye, New York.

Another crack-o’-dawn morning on the trip, my daughter and I walked out to the East River to watch the sun rise. That’s my daughter huddled on the side of the photo – it was colder than we had anticipated.

OK, we saw the sunrise, now let's go back to bed.

OK, we saw the sunrise, now let’s go back to bed.

(Posted for the latest Weekly Photo Challenge.)

Alligator Bubbles

Everywhere in Florida there are Beware of Alligators warning signs but after several trips to Florida with no ‘gator sightings, I was despondent. So the family took us to a long walkway inserted into the Everglades, and I saw this alligator – dive below the surface. See him? Right where those rings are.

Alligator evidence.

Alligator evidence.

Note to other travelers: we visited the Everglades in late summer. Mosquito season. Not recommended. (With three applications of bug spray, wearing long sleeves and pants, we got away easy with only a few thousand bites. Each.)


(Posted as part of the Weekly Photo Challenge.)