End of road?
Or just a momentary reprieve

There’s a saying that …

The darkest hour is just before the dawn.

Firelight Radio is available on Apple Podcasts and Podbean

Well, sometimes you don’t even have to wait that long. That’s where campfires come in. There have been a lot of major inventions over the eons. The toaster. The comb. Just as seen on TV products. The list goes on. But has there ever been as good an invention as the campfire? Maybe the wheel. But that’s splitting hairs. The truth is that the there’s really no other antidote out there for what ails the soul than spending some quality time around a campfire. At least for my money. And campfire’s are usually free. That’s the best part.

Find out more about the campfire talks at Campfire Park at https://campfirepark.org.

bobby angel

Ode to a river
Pretty Boy and the Gunpowder music video

To be honest I was miffed:

How could cartographers leave the Gunpowder out?

Words and music by Bobby Angel

My response was to right this song. Yes, the Susquehanna River is the Chesapeake Bay’s largest tributary, and the Potomac River is bigger too and also drains the Shenandoah Valley. But to look at a map of the drainages of the Chesapeake Bay and to leave the Gunpowder out downright irked me on too many levels to count. But what is a hydrologist to do? And who do I complain to? My philosophy: Never complain and never explain, and rather get down to the business at hand. And specifically, that means telling the story of a pretty special river that sadly people don’t know exists, or sorely misunderstand. The opening line to the song came to me while hiking the river trail just above Jerusalem Mills. I refined the lyrics in the following days in the loft overlooking a brook that feeds the river. But it wasn’t until returning to Florida that I finally put the final touches on the song, and in particularly the last two lines.

Where does this song rank in the Maryland song canon? Behind the Star Spangled Banner and Maryland My Maryland, I’m having trouble coming up with a third. That being the case, I’ll rank it 2nd since Maryland My Maryland is a knock off of Oh Tanenbaum.

Hydrologic identity
Contemplation of a near miss or two

Havre De Grace came very close

To being the capital of the country.

Major counties and watersheds of my youth

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.

View of Deer Creek Valley from the King and Queen Seat

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.

holidays

Beware of this Holiday Monster

The Abominable Snowman is probably the scariest character …

In TV/Movie Holiday Special history.

During day

As a kid I remember covering my eyes when those scenes came on.

Today, adults and children view Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer commercial-free, thus dampening the devastating effect of having to “wait it out” (through a string of ads) to find out what would happen after those menacing scenes when “Bumbles” (as Yukon Cornelius knew him) appeared — peering over the snow-capped mountains, leaving giant footprints in the arctic plain and most of all the climactic cave scene.

At night

I‘m not saying I’m still scared,

But I did use a zoom lens for this shot.

cultural waters

Chunk o’ tabby
A diamond in the rough?

Remember being coaxed into being good as a kid …

Or else risk not getting something on your list?

This chunk of limestone
is on display at the Palm Cottage

Like a chunk of coal, or a hunk of rock (as shown above).

Well despair no more!  That’s no ordinary stone: it’s a prized piece of Tamiami Tabby.  The original settlers of Naples didn’t have any cement mills, but with plenty of sand and water and shells they were pretty well set. Mix them together in a broth over the high heat of a buttonwood fire, and then let it dry, and tabby is what you got.

Palm Cottage is the oldest 
house in Naples, Florida

Not as strong as modern cement, but good enough:

They used it to build the Palm Cottage – Naples oldest house – which, just a few blocks from Naples Pier, is still standing.  At least, that’s what I read on the sheet of paper above the rock.

Couldn’t think of a better gift!

bobby angel

The Tony Doctrine
And why its the new Art of War

We begged Tony before he left:

“Please write everything down.”

Bobby Angel’s exclusive interview on the song

The problem? Tony was more a man of action than long-winded with his words. The proof? As Exhibit A, I point to his farewell address. It was three sentences long. And three sentences that reverberated, too. The reason of course was that Tony spoke softly and carried a big stick, although not even that threadbare expression properly describes it correctly. The thing about Tony was that he possessed the unique trifecta of (1) leading by example, (2) never being afraid of a solo mission (no matter how perilous he always had a way of making it safe), and most of all (3) being a team player. Time spent with Tony was always time well spent. I remember many days sitting on Tony’s couch saying “yeah, we should get out there (and look at that issue) some day. “Let’s go now,” was always his predicable response. Tony knew the fine art of seizing the day whatever it took. That’s probably the core essence of what The Tony Doctrine is all about.

As for the big question: Will it ever be written down? If and when that happens, it will be the new Sun Tzu’s Art of War on my bookshelf. Check out the Bobby Angel interview in the interview above to find out more.

bobby angel

Time to Retire
A farewell song for Tony Pernas

First the bad news:

Tony Pernas is retiring.

Bobby Angel’s retirement ballad to Tony Pernas

The good news is he’s right around the corner. And without supervisory responsibilities, that frees Tony up to do what Tony does best — solo missions into territory that only Tony knows how to find. Some people talk about the Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades (KOE) ecosystem. Well, Tony’s canoed it, and not just over time, actually all at once, and somehow after the multi-week odyssey managed to gain weight. Other feats: There are too many to count, and all confidential. Do you need a fish? Tony can get you a fish. Any fish. But only if its in season because here’s the real secret behind Tony’s success. He’s a person of great character, high energy and knowledge of navigating in the backcountry that rivals the early pioneers.

The song tries to touch on a fraction of his feats, but is also incomplete, and — here’s the real inside scoop — also destined to rapidly get outdated as in the weeks, months and years ahead as Tony embarks on new adventures near and far. My guess is when its all said and done it will be worth another song, possibly two!

Water Drop

Half or full way island?
A brief history of Planation Island

Technically speaking,

Plantation Island isn’t an island, or is it?

Plantation Island, looking south to where Halfway Creek spills into Chokoloskee Bay

Chokoloskee a little further off coast, on the other hand, is an island. It’s located in the background of the photo to the far left and pretty close to the mouth of the Turner River where it empties into Chokoloskee Bay. Chokoloskee is a shell midden that dates back to the coastal empire of the Calusa Indian Tribe that dominated south Florida in pre Columbian Times. Believe it or not, it’s maximum elevation is nearly a whopping 20 feet above sea level. That’s higher than most if not all of Naples. Up in 1953, Chokoloskee was a true island community. The only way to travel back and forth to the mainland was by boat. That changed with the construction of the Chokoloskee Causeway that provided an overland route (visible as a thin sliver in the photo above).

Another view of Plantation and Chokoloskee Islands

Compare that to Plantation Island that was built along the banks of Halfway Creek in or around 1968. How did Halfway Creek get its name? Answer: By merit of its location about halfway between Turner River (Chokoloskee) and Barron River (Everglades City). As for its height, my guess is its just a few feet above sea level, or a solid 10 feet lower than the island the Calusa built. And if you consider its surrounded by a creek and mangroves on all sides, despite being on the mainland I think its designation as an island holds up.

Self-named strand?
The answer may be lost to time

Do you ever wonder …

How and why things got their names?

As seen looking Northeast

Case in point is Kirby’s strand. Why Kirby Storter and not someone else? I can only imagine he loomed large in his day. How else could he have succeeded in being honored with both a strand and boardwalk in his name. Yet he wasn’t a titan of industry as was Barron Collier, although he worked for the latter as a carpenter and electrician, as well as overseeing construction of Tamiami Trial. If I were to guess, it was probably during that stint that he looked at one of the groves of cypress trees that the Trail intersects and decided that he wanted to name it after himself. Naming something is the easy part. The real trick is making a name stick.

My hunch is that had something to do with a map that overtime became accepted as fact. I never knew the man, nor does anybody living today. But I know the strand and it wouldn’t feel right with any other name.