America’s Best Idea

April 27, 2011

What could be more democratic than owning together the most magnificent places on your continent? Think about Europe. In Europe the most magnificent places -the palaces, the parks – are owned by aristocrats, by monarchs, by the wealthy. In America, magnificence is a common treasure. That’s the essence of democracy.

Carl Pope, Sierra Club, in the PBS documentary The National Parks: America’s Best Idea by Ken Burns, 2009

To celebrate our “common treasure” (our national parks),  the  U.S. National Park Service sponsors a National Park Week every year, with free admission to all National Parks in the country. Last week, April 16th-24th, was this year’s sponsored week and we participated by heading to St. Augustine and the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, otherwise known as the old Spanish fort in historic, downtown St. Augustine.

The Castillo de San Marcos is “the oldest masonry fort and the best preserved example of a Spanish colonial fortification in the continental United States.” It sits on the edge of the  historic district, right on the water. It may not be the Grand Canyon, but it is history and it is beautiful.

The courtyard allows access to rooms within the fort, including the guard quarters and a confinement room for those who required a little discipline. Other rooms contain historical information boards.

Courtyard, Castillo de San Marcos

And no fort is complete without cannons….

There are 394 National Park sites in the United States and Florida contains 10 of them. They are:

  • Fort Caroline National Memorial
  • Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
  • Fort Matanzas National Monument
  • Canaveral National Seashore
  • Big Cypress National Preserve
  • Biscayne National Park
  • Everglades National Park
  • Dry Tortugas National Park
  • DeSoto National Memorial
  • Gulf Islands National Seashore

I’m not sure I would call the establishment of the National Park System America’s Best Idea, but it does come close.

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Not Just Another Palm

May 14, 2010

If asked the question, what kind of tree is Florida known for, the majority of people would say the Palm Tree.  And we definitely have those.  But how many people would guess that Live Oaks are also prevalent throughout Florida?

Exploring for a new hiking trail, we pulled into the parking area for the Fairchild Oak of the Bulow Creek State Park in Flagler County.  The massive oak tree spread out before us.

It has been reported as old as 2,000 years, and as young as 400 years.   A quick Internet search on the Fairchild Oak presents in-depth analysis, history, botany and arborist-speak.  But it doesn’t take a genius to realize the minute you set eyes on this massive tree that it is old, that it is special.  To read more into it diminuates its power as a symbol of the beauty and resilience of nature.  The child in you immediately wants to climb up on the branches and into the arms of the tree.  The adult in you however can only stand in awe of its size and strength. 

History and scientific facts are nice to know but cannot compare with just being there, looking up into the branches of such a massive tree.  You want to touch it, hug it, stare at it, sit under its shade and rest against its massive trunk.  You want to throw down a blanket and have a picnic near it, maybe even get married under it.  It is nature at its best. And for me totally unexpected in the Sunshine State, a state I have always associated with beaches, theme-parks, and yes, with palm trees.