Homosassa Florida :: Jan 1-4 2004 Part 1
Mander and I headed southward for the new year, to escape the cold and hit the waters of the gulf in search of manatees. Our first stop was the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park. Mander had called ahead to check the place out, and they claimed to be a rehab center for local wildlife. In actuality, while they do seem to have some rehab stuff going on, it felt more like a local wildlife zoo; not exactly our kinda place.
In the end we didn’t dig it too much, given our attitudes towards zoos and the like, but we shot some stuff regardless.
This is the mighty Lucifer, Hippo extraordinaire. What’s a hippo doing at a so-called native wildlife park? Originally this joint was a privately owned exotic animal zoo, and when the state took over they transferred out all the other exotics, save for ole Lu here. The claim is that the locals of Homosassa had taken a liking to Lu, and petitioned to keep him around.
Lu seems pretty damn lonely, if you ask me. If Homosassa really cared about Lu, they’d hook him up with a better life than this.
Fish! The water here is crystal clear.
The park does rehab injured and orphaned manatees. They’ve got this underwater thingy you can enter to watch the dudes feed. Manatee aft! Baby got… umm… tail!
Manatee fore! Baby got… err… whiskahs!
And, yes, more fishes.
Here’s the feeding pen. The manatee’s aren’t trapped in it. It’s just a floating square made to keep most of the lettuce and whatnot from floating downriver. Essentially it’s their very own salad bar.
Homosassa Florida :: Jan 1-4 2004 Part 2
Chompagain. Manatees are harmless. Unless, of course, you’re made of leaves.
Anhinga, comin’ up from a fish chasin’ dive.
Manuel and Norwood, very special pelican and anhinga friends, this fall on PAX.
“I buhleeeeve I can fly…”
“I believe it’s past time you kep’ yer distance from lil’ gurlz.”
This owl didn’t seem to pleased about having his sleep interrupted. Nope; he ain’t in a cage. Check them talons.
Stupid humans. Hooty hooo!
Homosassa Florida :: Jan 1-4 2004 Part 3
Pink Flamingoes, and Manuel movin’ in for the kill.
A Florida White Ibis.
My nose is big. Uh uh, I’m not ashamed! big like a pickle, I’m still gettin’ paid.
A Whooping Crane strikes a schweet pose for me.
Pedro the Bald Eagle wants you to know that, just as he was chosen as national bird over Franklins turkey, you too should chose someone other than our current turkey in the 2004 election.
A wounded Red Shouldered Hawk and his buddy Kit the Kite.
Homosassa Florida :: Jan 1-4 2004 Part 4
The majestic crowned Wood Stork. “There’s nothing quite like a shorn scrotum. It’s quite breathtaking!”
The all powerful Crested Caracara. Maraca the Caracara.
Red Tailed Hawk blingin’ his tailfeathers. Don’t hate the playa!
The Common Moorhen… she is so coy.
Some kinda crane in the midst of aiming for my head.
Two young Black Bears hangin’ out. Why do they have these? I dunno. I hope this is an orphan rehab project.
Homosassa Florida :: Jan 1-4 2004 Part 5
Whatchoo doin’? There’s people present!
Florida, exactly as Hernando de Soto found it.
Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about. A wittle baby crocodile. Awwww….
And an awesome scarlet king that aught to be out in the wild rather than stuck in a tank.
Leopard Tortoise. I love tortoiseses. Wise creatures, tortoiseseses.
Lu again, in all his miserable glory. Poor Lu.
A stack-o-gators. Amanda astutely pointed out that, compared to the gators we saw in the Everglades, these puppies are downright obese.
Homosassa Florida :: Jan 1-4 2004 Part 6
Ok. Enough of the so-called “Wildlife Park.” Ultimately that place was more depressing than anything else. I vote no on the park. Unless, of course, your bag is scopin’ out bipedal wildlife. That place is overrun with the choicest of trailerific foam trucker cap sportin’ game. Nothin’ like a family of 4 with a set of 32 teeth amongst them. France ain’t got nothin’ on that joint fer kulture.
The next morning we hired us a guide to take us into the backwater of the rivers.
It’s a gooood morning. Warm, calm and clear, Hayl yeah!
Approaching one of the many hammocks.
A number of folks floated construction materials out here and set up residences. This one, like most others, is made of cypress.
Most have no power (though some of the fancier ones sport solar), and are just weekend and getaway joints. All the ones we passed were unoccupied, and our Bill, our kickass guide, told us that many haven’t been visited in years. A squatters paradise, say I. Next time I’m skippin’ out on the econo-lodge and settin’ up camp out here!
Island for sale!
Welcome to Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. The gulf lies dead ahead.
Homosassa Florida :: Jan 1-4 2004 Part 7
See that skull and crossbones sign? That’s a warning to the rednecks in the area, who think it’s great fun to spraypaint or tape over the reflectors on these poles. The reflectors serve two purposes; navigation and avoidance. Homosassa could do with a few less ‘necks.
Things be widening out.
Mighty Josefek the flatwater paddle-king!
This dude bought a little island complete with its own lagoon. He trucked in a houseboat during high tide and affixed it to a dock he had made (and a little hut that prolly has a chemtoilet or somethin’ in it). Bill told us the guy hasn’t been back in years. Strange.
I wonder if I can get high speed access out here. Satellite, maybe.
Bill and Mander are headed towards the only way out of the lagoon.
Homosassa Florida :: Jan 1-4 2004 Part 8
Back on the road… err… river. We’re headed down the Tiger Tail, a little river that was dredged out by slaves to create Tiger Tail Island, where David Levy Yulee ran a 5,100 acre plantation back around 1855. His mackadocious mansion used to sit on Tiger Tail, until them damn yanks came and burned that bitch to the ground.I can’t imagine having to work out here, dredging this shit out by hand. Thankfully the plantation has reverted back to a fairly wild state.
Magic picture! Watch it for a moment… wait for it… cool, huh?
Mander’s checkin’ out the lushalicious foliage. It is gorgeous out here, but its checkered history sat at the back of my mind.
Hippie boatin’ man!
Pretty. Just pretty.
See that lump? Tis a river otter totin’ a freshly caught fish.
Homosassa Florida :: Jan 1-4 2004 Part 9
See? Thankfully Demanda got a better pic of him. She tried to get closer, but he was spooked and took off into the underbrush to finish his meal.
A Black Vulture lets Mander get pretty damn close. Can’t be a positive portent…
Manuel! What are you doing here?
So back near the put-in there’s this stupid man made island populated by a few of the monkeys that once resided at the wildlife park during its previous incarnation as a zoo (though I’m still callin’ it pretty zoo-like). We’re told not to actually let our boats hit the island, lest the monkeys leap aboard, rip our lips off, and chew ’em like freshly fried pork cracklins. This dude, however, don’t seem too threatening (or the least bit interested).
Back on land, and I’m plumb thrilled about it. You know, I really don’t plan on being in a sub-par shirt every time I’m photographed.It’s a ko-inky-dink.Honest.
Git a Haircut, kwar!
Backoff or I’ll use my skull crushing claw onya!That finger he’s standin’ on… that’s my pinky. Tiny but mighty!
We took off to check out some indian stuff next.
Homosassa Florida :: Jan 1-4 2004 Part 10
Time to climb the first temple mound.
Ancient native american temple mound stairs. Riiight.
Pretty. Wanna check out a panorama from atop the mound? Well alrighty; click here. Be warned; it ain’ small (no no no).
Homosassa Florida :: Jan 1-4 2004 Part 11
They’ve been workin’ on two dugouts. Apparently visitors are welcome to participate, but you gotta use traditional tools to do it.
Mander scopes the dugouts. “Come play, in a nappy dugout!”
They burn the inside to hollow it out.
Hmmm…. ancient native american paint can and lighter fluid.
Outlines the progress. Seems they’ve been workin’ on the main dugout since 2000! Methinks the indians were a bit more productive.
The tools you can use are on that stump.
Homosassa Florida :: Jan 1-4 2004 Part 12
The ancient sacred indian picnic grounds.
The back-foot hang. Now that’s talent.
Seemed like an appropriate picture to close on.
The next day we posse’d up early, rented kayaks, and headed out, sans guide, to where the manatees hang. We did indeed find manatees, and got to touch a few (a youngster included). Unfortunately as the day wore on more and more boats showed up. People were gettin’ into the water, snorkeling, and we could hear tour guides instructing snorkelers to do such forbidden things as “rub thatun’s belly! They like that!”
A sheriff boat came by, but all she did was pooter over to a shoal on the other side of the river and gab on her damn cell phone. Later, a guy kayaked in with lettuce on his boat, a definite no-no. Shortly thereafter I came across two ladies who apparently work for the park service, or some similar organization, canoeing about. I overheard them discussing how strange it was that so much of the lettuce had escaped the pen upstream (the floating pen you saw pics of earlier). I paddled up to them and informed them that, no ma’am, that there lettuce came from that there asshole in that there kayak. I don’t know what, if anything, they did to him. I recommended letting Lu have a crack at him.
As you can tell, we didn’t take any pictures at all. Frankly, between paddlin’, searchin’, touchin’, and explorin’ there just wasn’t much time. Additionally, there wasn’t much in the way of good shit to take snaps of. Boatloads of pasty dimple thighed snorkelmonsters? The high rent houses that surround the river? The bubba’s fishin’? Naw. An underwater camera (or an underwater housing for our coolpix… damn sweet. Anyone up to start a fund for that?) might have livened things up, but we had none.
In the end it was big fun, and I want to go back, but I’m torn. A big part of me wants to stick to the whole “don’t get in the water with them/habituate them” ethic. The other part of me really wants to swim with manatees, and recognizes that the ratio we saw of 6 kayakers to 40 snorkelers means it’s too damn late to prevent habituation anyway.