Cypress cairn

Out west I remember looking for piles of rocks, called cairns …

To indicate the right path of up a trail.

These three knees always
point me in the right direction

These knees serve the same purpose for navigating to the center of this dome.

View from Thoreau’s Cabin

Thoreau’s cabin is a replica, not the real thing.

In fact, it’s not even on the real spot.

View of Walden Pond
from Thoreau’s actual cabin

The real spot wasn’t re-discovered until the 1940s or 1950s.

By that time any remnants of the original cabin were long gone.  Or were they?  A local Thoreau buff found it by way of some amateur archaeology work: He located the chimney stones and even more importantly, the actual hearth of the fire place.  It’s located about a third of the way around the pond from where the replica now stands.

Why did Thoreau chose Walden Pond?

It was the last remaining spot of forested land as far as the eye could see (from the bell tower in Concord).  The rest was all cleared (to supply timber) and for farmland.  Ironically, there’s more woods in New England today than in 1845.  The reason for that is that wood is no longer used as the predominant form of energy for heating homes.

And it’s a good thing, too: Today’s homes are much bigger than Thoreau’s simple cabin.

Sharp drop into dome

This is an interesting dome.

It doesn’t have one true center …

Double tree:
Can you see the two trees
one straight up the other at a slant
growing from the same
widely-fluted base?

But multiple smaller ones instead.

The transition from prairie to deep cypress is also very sharp.

Here’s another look:
Probably a lightening strike 
to tree on right. Tree from
top photo is standing to left n

Lots of trees in various stages of falling, too.

 Downed trees have a long afterlife.

Some of them take a long time (years, decades) to finally fall flat.

Snail kite escargot

I‘m always running into “real” apple snail shells.

Compare that to the snail kites who are finding more of the fakes.

As seen at downstream end
of the plugged Turner River Canal

Rarely if ever have I seen a live adult apple snail …

But then again I probably just don’t know where to look.

Here’s to hoping the snail kites do.  (read article)

Spring detour

So close yet so far …

Forget about the maps:
All Ponce De Leon needed was
some well marked signs.

I made it as far as the Silver Springs sign,

But that was as far as I got.

Between parking and admission,

It was over $40 to get in.

These movies are ageless

“It’s well worth the money,” I was assured and to which I didn’t for a second doubt:

After all, Johnny Weissmuller starred in 6 Tarzan movies there.

Not having more than an hour or so to spare (I was in transit from Gainesville to Naples), I opted for nearby Silver River State Park instead, to which I had a free pass, and from which I figured I would find an alternative route to the spring:

I didn’t. (What was I thinking?)

This boardwalk looked promising!

Instead I found my way to the banks of the river, upstream from which – perhaps just a twist or three around the bend – lay its source:

Silver Springs, one of Florida’s
biggest ground water gushers …

Bubbling up at 516,000,000 gallons per day.

That’s 798 cubic feet per second if I did my math right.

And judging from what I saw I think I did.

Unfortunately for Juan Ponce De Leon,
he did not have this map.

Silver Spring was among Johnny Weissmuller’s favorites. 

As to what I didn’t see:

Besides the spring I also missed the monkeys.

Stragglers or ancestors of stragglers left behind from the Johnny Weismuller days, monkeys are regularly seen climbing in the cypress trees across the river from where I stood.

“We saw them up there yesterday,” a couple assured me.

Monkey’s from the Tarzan era are still there:
Presumably beneficiaries of the ageless spring water.

Judging from my luck
I could only figure they were back at the spring.

I’m assuming they get in for free!

“Into the Water”

Readers of the “Into the Wild” everywhere …

This hydrograph is for you.

It shows the fateful “fall and rise” of the Talkeenta River in Alaska where Chris McCandless – also known as Alex Supertramp and eulogized with great poignancy by Jon Krakauer – crossed the river but couldn’t cross back.

The reason?

For one, the protagonist was a Continentaller. He probably assumed that the river peaked in spring and slowly ebbed through the summer, only to bottom out in fall. But Alaskan streams are snow-melt fed. That gives them a trademark summer peak of roaring and frigid water (as the author points out and that the protagonist was astonished to see) which pumps up the flow volume “nine or ten times” above the baseflow recession of the still frozen spring he crossed.

What shocks me about the hydrograph is its tightness: Unlike precipitation fed rivers whose hydrographs are “spiked” with rain storms and variable depending on seasonal and annual rain patterns, snow melt is a steady and very predictable producer. As August progressed, Alex noticed a chill in the air and rapidly declining daylight hours, or in other words – an end of Alaskan summer, and so with it, a rapid recession of the ephemeral raging river back down to its creek-like winter state.

Mid latitudinal continental streams like this one recede through the summer

This book haunts at many levels:

Who in their youth was not a bit rebellious and equally touched by a Utopian disgust of a world gone wrong which, with vision and conviction, we set ourselves out towards restoring, if not in whole then only (and ultimately) as some small but significant vindication of who we ourselves aim to be? I too am on a search of sorts for a perfect hydrologic world – of which I attempt to plot with scientific rigor and aesthetic flair – and which in great fervor, with said hydrograph in hand, I set out in mind and body to those distant shores to touch whatever of its silky waters I may find and to splash its wetness on my face (or alternatively just take a few photographs instead).

Usually I’m not too far from a U.S. Geological gauging station when I do (which is where I got the data to plot the hydrograph up top). Had only Alex Supertramp known the same (that’s a hint to read the book – I don’t want to give it away), he would be alive and well, although quixotically with the result that his story, as retold by Jon Krakauer, may have never been born.

As a reader, “Into the Wild” leaves me with so many questions, among the top is which one he would have preferred.

World’s smallest sunset

Is it still safe to call it “sunny” Florida despite the early onset of dusk?

The days are mostly sunny through the morning and mid afternoon hours, but yes, its true, like the rest of the Northern Hemisphere, days have finally ebbed to their sunlit low.

Today (Dec 21st) is the turning point:

From here on out – for the next 6 months – the hours of daylight will dilate …

Not that sunsets tomorrow or the next day or the next will be noticeably delayed – they won’t (other than of course that instantaneous and quite disorienting one-hour leap in daylight on the second week of March:

Otherwise it’s an imperceptibly slow process.

The photos do not show the sun set of the year’s “smallest” day – both were shot about a week ago when the days were still shortening.

But they were both taken over the “smallest” post office in the United States:

Better known as Ochopee, Florida

Zip Code 34141.

Close enough!

And yes, Florida is always “sunny” relatively speaking.

The sunset in Ochopee went down over one hour later (at 5:40 pm) than the 4:14 sunset over Cape Cod Bay in New England, as viewed from Wellfeet looking west toward Boston.

Street smart

Hydrologists aren’t born, they are bred.

And there’s a lots of educational training that goes into becoming one.

My father used to continually remind me that there was a difference between “book smarts” (as he called it) and “street smarts.” (I heard both those terms a lot.)

While he was forever vigilant of what grades I was scoring – in the end, it didn’t really matter how high I scored in my father’s not-easily-budged opinion – for he would continually point my attention toward some unreachable horizon on whose distant shores could be found the grail I was in most desperate need: “common sense.”

And I can’t say he was altogether wrong.


But as a burgeoning hydrologist, I had just enough “common sense” or “street smarts” (or whatever it is you want to call it) not to waste my time chasing the adolescent grail of proving his father otherwise.

Quite simply, there was a “fountain of youth” to be found …

And I knew that lay somewhere down in Florida.
But what about being “brook” smart and “stream” smart?

The only way to get either is with heaping helpings of both hitting the books and splashing in the water.

(But never jump into a river with a book in hand:
That’s just common sense! – It will damage the book.)

And splashing in the water is not playing, either!
You can’t be a hydrologist without getting your feet wet.


But don’t we all channel our “inner hydrologist” at various times in our lives – and not just professional-grade hydrologists.

Case in point:

What’s the first thing you say to an old friend you run into on the street?

Probably something along the lines of … “Funny weather, ain’t it” … or the fool proof “weather’s been funny” … or the more standard “this weather is funny stuff, isn’t it?”

That’s our inner hydrologist speaking, or trying to speak.

And we all have one,

Just like we all have common sense.
(It’s not a holy grail after all.)

Who hasn’t driven on a “street” that leads to a bridge under which a lot of water has passed, or watched the rain hit the “street pavement” and flow down into the gutter below.

We all know where that water goes.

That’s right,
If you live in the Chesapeake watershed,
It’s on its way to the bay.

Now that’s what I call “street smarts,” or “common sense,” or whatever it is you want to call it.


Next up: if I could only find that fountain of youth!