Some days past, not that long back, Terry and I embarked on a long-talked-about field trip. We left Cedar Key before daybreak. Terry drove the jeep.
I was his passenger. It was an early spring morning. No one, save school busses, was about.
Terry, of Sundance Studios, is a naturalist with a penchant for wildlife photography. He spent his boyhood in the Carolina backwoods.
As for me, my grandparents were my mentors. My grandmother hailed from the Blackfoot Nation. I inherited my love of nature.
We chose to go north up Route 345, then to head back along the river as far as roads and trails would take us. We passed through fields of red grass and along roadsides with patches of multicolored wild phlox.
Roadside ditches are spotted here and there by tall, purple-violet thistles with blooms as large as an open hand. Butterflies like these thistles. Maturing patches of wild mustard stand in fields of grazing cattle.
Remains of a deer, rediscovered by waking buzzards and crows, lay to the side, well-picked ribs rising skyward then dropping back on themselves.
Most of the trails and ditches had been flooded by the recent rains making traveling difficult. We wanted to get into back areas, a futile effort.
At Fowler's Bluff, we stopped to visit with John Cook. He normally is a late riser, but by now it was mid-morning. John was downing his first cup of coffee.
Terry and John talked a couple of minutes. I was enamored with a large, tall hickory tree, a pig hickory, just now gaining spring foliage.
John lives along the banks of the River in deep hardwoods. The smells in the air of dropping and decaying bark, nuts, limbs and last year's foliage were pungent.
Terry, with John's willingness, finagled a trip on the River. What an experience.
The water was not yet high from upstream floods, which take weeks to get here.
The water, clear, deep and red from tannins in the swamps carried flotsam from the storms, floating logs and debris.
The wind was still up some from the past several days. We floated with the current down the opposite shore, motoring into a couple creeks.
We heard but didn't see woodpeckers, followed an anhinga from stop to stop as it flew ahead of us, and shied a number of turtles sunning on logs as the sun lifted in the sky.
A few gators had managed to crawl partially out of the water. We got near a few reluctant to slide back into the cold water. A couple of them were about eight feet long.
Looking at them face on, you can see how wide a gator can be. They were blacker than the deep red water and easy to spot, their bony ridges above the surface.
Returning, we parked the boat at John's dock, noting the scents from new blossoms. Terry and I headed back to the Cedar Keys through the Refuge. We saw flowers of note and several butterflies; not much animal life.
As you travel about this week, note the undergrowth rapidly springing up. Take a trip in the next few days while you can still see through the bush.
So, till next time, join me in a search for Trouble in Cedar Key.