The story behind the blog and I
Havre De Grace came very close …
To being the capital of the country.
And who’s to say it wouldn’t have been the perfect spot. At the confluence of where the Chesapeake and its main tributary meet, two centuries ago it was hard to argue it wasn’t the perfect spot. Eventually of course they picked Washington D.C., in part because the Potomac was a deeper water port, and Havre De Grace was shallower and silting in. Or maybe there were other reasons, too. My point: Havre De Grace went on to miss out on being the state capital (to Annapolis) and county seat (to Bel Air), too. Talk about a fall from grace! Or maybe not. Havre De Grace has an eclectic charm all its own, and is somehow preserved in time. So maybe swinging and missing at all three was its saving grace.
It makes me think about Maryland at large as being my “home state.” People always ask me: “Bob, where are you from?” My knee-jerk reaction is to say Maryland (the full state). But really when I think about it there are only two counties of the 23 that I know really well — Harford and Baltimore Counties — and can truly lay claim to knowing if not as good as the back of my hand, then as well as the bottom of my feet will ever know.
Or is it the watersheds I know best? As a kid my brother and I worshipped Deer Creek. Sometimes we told our parents we were going to church we’d drive there instead. The Gunpowder was our other spot. Unlike Deer Creek that flowed into the Susquehanna River, the Gunpowder emptied straight into the Bay. Both cut deep valleys into the Piedmont Plateau imparting a rolling landscape in reverse: the highest spots the highest remnants of the flat plateau and the waterways forming the base of the large hills.
So, am I a Marylander or a Harford/Baltimore Countian? Probably a Deer Creeker describes me best. Standing on top of the King and Queen Seat looking down, sometimes I wonder why I ever left.
Well it took a while,
And it’s still a work in progress …
But finally I’ve turned the corner on a “new and improved” version of Go Hydrology. Or maybe it’s the same old blog? In fact, fully embracing the “blog” element of my work was a major breakthrough event. I’d previously short of shunned the term, and in that spirit tried to turn it into more of a static website. Then came the meteor strike of the Nature Folk Movement (NFM). It not only expanded my repertoire of topics, it made me think very hard (and allowed me to experiment) on the structure of Go Hydrology. The result? The blog is now front and center with the caveat that behind it working in the background is a powerful and easy to navigate database, also known as a Table of Contents (TOC).
What exactly is the NFM? It’s a return to nature and the simplicity of its cycles, and most of all rethinking and recapturing the old traditions and values we used to adhere to prior to getting consumed in our smart phones. And thus the humble goal of Go Hydrology and the Nature Folk Movement (NFM): To connect people with the water cycle and the way we did things in that mysterious geologic epoch called Before Phones. Oh, and BTW: Beware of the Boogie Phone!
Find out more about Go Hydrology 2.0 in this podcast.
Over the years, people have liked the blog, and read my blog, but they’ve also had questions, too. Questions range the gambit. Sometimes they are about the blog itself. “Bob, how did you start Go Hydrology?” Other times it’s about finding the data: Bob, I love the charts, but how do I find the one, you know, that shows discharges down the Caloosahatchee?” Periodically I get peppered with inquiries on hydrograph literacy. “Bob, it would be cool if you described how to better understand each chart, especially the ones with all the colors.” Still other times, I’d be asked: “Bob, I love you posts, but do you ever go into deeper detail, and have you ever considered a podcast.”
With the above questions in mind, and other motivations of my own, I went to work on improving the Go Hydrology user experience. By user experience, I mean both you and me. Go Hydrology is as much about sharing with others as it is about keeping it fresh at my fingertips, too.
The missing link seemed to be organization. After a year of playing around, I seem to have finally hit pay dirt. I’ve kept the blog at the front and center of the Go Hydrology experience, while also retrofitting it with a powerful background database.
And thus the Table of Contents (TOC) below was born.FAQs: 1. What motivated you to write a water blog? | 2. How has the blog evolved over time? | 3. What’s the story with the water drop? | 4. Who is the author? | 5. How do I sign up for the newsletter?1. Why a user manual? | 2. What’s special about your charts? | 3. Where do I buy a swampulator? | 4. Are diagrams really data?1. Why cycles (and not seasons)? | 2. What is a hydrologic holiday? | 3. Why wet (and not rainy) season? | 4. Does it rain in the dry season? | 5. Winter in Florida, really? | 6. Isn’t spring drought an oxymoron? | 7. Does Florida’s summer ever end? | 8. When does fall begin?1. Is the water cycle practical? | 2. What’s your favorite watershed? | 3. Is the water table in the kitchen? | 4. Do you prefer eco-hydrology or hydro-ecology? | 5. Who controls the water? | 6. Is climate the new weather? | 7. What is cultural water? | 6. Are tidal waters always salty?1. Why does a “talking guitar” host your podcast? | 2. What is a watersh-editorial? | 3. Have your movies won any Oscars? | 4. Do your photo galleries offer audio tours? | 5. Can I get a certificate for listening to a lecture? | 6. Are your reports “coffee table” compatible? | 7. What other Deeper Dives do you have planned?1. When does After Hours start? | 2. Does Bobby Angel have a tour bus? | 3. Who tends the fire at Campfire Park? | 4. What makes a book “rereadable?” | 5. Is the Nature Folk Movement (NFM) contagious? | 6. How do you write a campfire trilogy? | 7. Has a guitar ever hosted a podcast?1. About the blog | 2. About the newsletter | 2. About the author | 4. Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Greetings fellow water drops,
My name is Bob. I’m a hydrologist who works for the National Park Service at Big Cypress National Preserve in the great state of Florida. Go Hydrology is a water cycle blog where we illuminate and celebrate the continuously changing and always interesting wetlands, waterways and watersheds of mostly south Florida.
What is Go Hydrology? And who is the mad hydrologist behind it? And was Go Hydrology an instant blog, i.e. “just add water” – or did it evolve over time? The answers to those questions and more is explored below.
My goal? To help make you feel at home in the water cycle, and also to give you an insider’s view. You won’t find any fancy talk here. Just a lot of charts, diagrams and most of all explanations of data and terms that is both current and reaches decades into the past. I may not know everything about the water, but I know enough to share.
So enjoy and, as always, thanks for stopping by!
“Are you fascinated by the weather but find yourself continually in the dark about by the water cycle’s other half?
Go Hydrology shines a light on the entire water wheel of south Florida using a concept I call the water-cycle approach.
What is the Water Cycle Approach?
South Florida is unlike any other part of America. It doesn’t have winter the noun – i.e. northerners escape winter (the noun) by wintering (the verb) down in south Florida. Meanwhile, when they leave to go back up north in spring, they are greeted by continental spring floods just at the same time that south Florida is descending into the complete opposite state – a seasonal (and sometimes deep) spring drought. But drought in south Florida? How is that even possible in the same place that gets a whopping 55 inches of annual rain? To confuse matters even worse, the clouds that bring that rain actually move in the wrong direction (… long story).
Suffice it to say, south Florida’s unique seasonal pattern is contradictory by normal northern standards. And even for the folks that understand the seasonal water fluctuations have trouble keeping up: south Florida’s seasons don’t let the water cycle stay in any one spot for long – some would even call it hyperactive. Half the year is as wet as it can get (except when it isn’t) followed by an another half of desert-like drought.
Arguable no place is more tied to the hip with its water than south Florida – to the point that you might assume there was a hydrology page in all the local newspapers. Instead, water seems to be startlingly under-reported in the local news. For example,
- Newspapers report on the Everglades, but it’s usually policy-oriented articles that don’t viscerally connect the reader with current conditions in the swamp. Meanwhile, television provides viewers with the local weather, but broadcasts are invariable limited to what’s happening up in the sky: how water is affecting watersheds on the ground is almost completely left out.
- Newspapers and television are five-day forecast centric: the historical, seasonal, statistical, regional or Florida-wide context of drought and rainfall are usually lacking. Yes, it’s wet or dry, but by how much, which area is driest, how does that compare historically, and what does that mean for the ecosystem?
- Even at the most basic level, readers overwhelmingly find themselves out of touch with south Florida’s seasons. When does fall begin? What counts as a winter day? When does the wet season finally fill its cup? When does a normal winter drought turn into severe drought?
The net effect is that readers put down the newspaper being no more informed about trends in the region’s vital (yet perplexing) water resources or shifts in the peninsula’s (fascinating but glanced over) subtropical climate than when they picked it up. This is a noteworthy missed opportunity for both the newspaper and readers alike …
And precisely where Go Hydrology! steps in.
Goals of Go Hydrology!
Go Hydrology! is your guide into the inner realm of south Florida’s ferocious fly-wheel of hydrologic fury. It is aimed to resonate with the water management community and simultaneously make sense to the lay person fishermen, kayaker, or recreationalist, too. The water cycle is the great fountain in the sky and on and under the ground that binds us together as a community here in south Florida. It more than anything forms our common bond with the environment and each other.
Go Hydrology! helps translates vital water information (fresh out of the oven as it comes in) and …
- Chronicles major (and minor) milestones of south Florida’s water cycle,
- Illuminates and simplifies the complex inner-workings of south Florida’s major wetlands, watersheds and water ways – including the Kissimmee River, Lake Okeechobee, Everglades, Big Cypress, and more,
- Celebrates south Florida’s seasonal rules-of-thumbs and trends, including adding water cycle twists to traditional holiday lore, i.e. the meteorologic meaning of Memorial and Columbus Days, why Labor Day is south Florida’s rendition of Groundhog Day and why the hydrologic New Year doesn’t start on January 1st,
- Compares and contrasts seasonal water patterns of the south peninsula to the panhandle and the Continental US,
- Showcases rainfall and drought levels across every part of south Florida and Florida-wide (at daily, weekly, monthly, wet and dry season, annual and decadal scales),
- And more.
Go Hydrology! is your guide to the inner workings of the south Florida’s constantly spinning water cycle. Oh, and don’t forget if you haven’t already to sign up for the Weekly Wave Newsletter. We deliver it straight to your e-mail inbox about once per week.
Ecosystems evolve over time …
But it’s the initial conditions that sometimes matter most of all.
The Power Point was originally presented at a conference
Here’s the story (above video) of how Go Hydrology got its start, plus some lessons learned along the way, and as always the unexpected twists. What was the biggest lesson? Probably the Rule of the Ninja: “Never fear, never doubt and never overthink.” Another lesson learned was that appetite comes while eating, or in other words, getting started is the hardest part.
As for the twists? I go back to the beginning: I never set out to be a blogger. It just happened over time, or rather all of a sudden. Am I a good blogger? I think it’s a skill I’ve refined over time. But I can write until the cows come home. The bigger trick is organizing the information that it becomes a helpful and enriching resource, which brings me full circle to where I am today. In the early years I shunned the word blog and blogger, fancying myself a more serious writer and the website being less about the words and more about the charts. Fast forward to today, and I’ve embraced the blog for all it’s worth. A blog is a powerful way to organize and share information in ways I am only starting to learn.
Robert V. Sobczak is a full time poet-philosopher and sometimes hydrologist who specializes in deciphering and celebrating the water cycle of the Big Cypress Swamp where wetlands, coastal waterways, ground water aquifers and drenching downpours from mammoth meteorological events meet. Bob got his start in the water trade at a sinuous riparian run called Deer Creek (a tributary of the Susquehanna River), and in particular the stretch that runs through Rocks State Park and which Bob likes to think of as “The Yellowstone of the Mid Atlantic Piedmont Plateau region of the United States.” In his free time, Bob enjoys the endorphin rush from a good run, writing and performing an original song on his guitar (think: four chords at most and a monotone voice, usually in front of a crowd of ten), and being unable to keep any line of conversation on a linear path, although eventually looping it around.
My name is Robert V Sobczak. I am a long-time National Park Service (NPS) hydrologist and blogger who got my start plotting data and “waxing poetic” (and scientific) about the water cycle in the early 2000s. Some people even say I resemble a water drop.
I am also an author – or rather, co-author – of three full-length novels called the Centennial Campfire Trilogy, including: (1) Legend of Campfire Charlie (2016), (2) Last Stand at Boulder Ridge (2018), and (3) Final Campfire(2020). The trilogy recounts the day-in-a-life of a park ranger. His mission: To make it through an epically long day at the Visitor Center to give a campfire talk at a nearby campground at 7 o’clock. Let’s just say it turns into a bit of a journey starting at the crack of dawn.
Did I mention “accidental” co-author?
Rudi and I never set out to write a book, let alone 3 of them. Our goal much simpler: All we wanted to do was team up to give a 30-minute “campfire talk” to celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th Birthday, also called the Centennial. A dozen campfire talks later we decided to try to put the story in a book. One book led to another until 6-years later the 3-book trilogy was finally done.
That major milestone complete, I set out to create an online home for the books. But instead of focusing on the books, I found myself creating Campfire Park – “Home of the Campfire Talk” – and specifically CampfirePark.org. To be clear: These are not your grandfather’s campfire talks, but rather a new take on the venue that blends a little bit of the old with the new — and most importantly brings the campfire talk to your, right in the comfort of your own home.
An unexpected surprise happened while making Campfire Park. And this is where it gets a little crazy, but in a good way. For many years I wrote and performed farewell songs to colleagues leaving Big Cypress Nat’l Preserve, usually for the greener pastures of other parks. Because Rudi and my original campfire talk featured three of those songs – one called Three Jacks, another called One More Melaleuca (for the Road) and another called Higher Moral Ground – it only seemed natural that I include those “campfire shanties” in the the Campfire Park website.
Oh, and by the way: my singer/songwriter alter ego is known locally, in the hallways of where I work – as Bobby Angel. Important caveat: I did not give myself that name. But you know how nicknames are. Sometimes they just stick. And Bobby Angel stuck. And over the years, as the songs piled up, people always (or sometimes) asked: Those songs deserve a home.
To be honest, I never thought about it that much. And sometimes I would go a year without picking up the guitar. But because Bobby Angel songs were featured in our original campfire talks, and because — and here is the really important point — Bobby Angel was featured as a “Bob Dylan-esque” character in 3 books Rudi and I co-wrote, the Bobby Angel website (BobbyAngel.org) naturally took form.
Bobby Angel’s specialty is penning and performing nature-folk/campfire shanties. My first album – New Pangaea – includes 10 nature shanties woven together with interviews on each song and a beguiling epilogue at the end, soon thereafter followed by my second studio work called The Green Album (and loosely modeled off of The Beatles White Album).
To bring this story home, the same creative process that fueled Campfire Park and Bobby Angel website inspired me to bring my Go Hydrology website into the Word Press website building platform. No longer a single website, I was managing multiple websites; but they all seemed connected, too, to a broader overarching concept called the Nature Folk Movement (NFM).
What exactly is the NFM?
In a nutshell, its goal is to reconnect society and individuals with the traditional activities and values that have been taken away, or devalued, by smart phone culture and the internet.
So there you have it,
That’s my story of how Go Hydrology got its start, and how it’s evolved over time. Oh, and by the way, don’t forget to subscribe. You’ll get the Weekly Wave newsletter sent straight to your email inbox about the water about once per week.
Thank you for your support!!!
Who is Water Drop?
He’s just like any other old water drop. Or in other words – yes, he’s that special! You see, whether falling on Yellowstone National Park or landing on a city sidewalk, all drops are equal and part of the Great Water Cycle of Life.
How does the Water Cycle work?
For one, it’s a continual work in progress. That means whatever you saw today, don’t expect it to last. The water cycle is constantly changing and repeating itself. That’s where Water Drop comes in. Not just any “1/20th of a milliliter” globule, what Water Drop lacks in volumistic stature, he makes up for by wearing “many hats.
More about Water Drop:
He’s also the mascot of Go Hydrology. Go Hydrology is a website/blog that celebrates and illuminates the water cycle. Yes, I’ll admit – Go Hydrology is a bit centric to south Florida and specifically the Big Cypress Swamp. But the thing about Water Drop, he gets around, too. Whether it’s discussing flows in the Mississippi River, Colorado River, or virtually anywhere else – Water drop is a big fan of keeping it clean, flowing and fresh. And maybe that summarizes best what Go Hydrology is all about.
Until next time, thank you for reading.
Let’s keep the water cycle conversation flowing.
P.S. Be sure to sign up for the Weekly Wave Newsletter. You’ll get an e-mail about water in your inbox about every week.
It took a long time …
And then it happened all of a sudden.
Go Hydrology has been migrated over to Word Press (i.e. previously it was Blogger).
Maybe, finally, at long last, this will put me on the path to bringing it back to some semblance of its former glory. Like most things, it will be a learning curve. In the meanwhile, enjoy the new map, photo and video archives available on the menu bar up top.