Time for a fall road trip

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Trouble in Cedar Key, Nov. 10, 2011

By Gene Benedict

Some days back, not that many, the weather chilled off in North Central Florida. This chill followed a couple of showers on the Cedar Keys. Not only did it get cold, it became windy, quite windy here on the Gulf Coast.

Lows were around fifty degrees and mid-day highs were in the sixties for several days. Even though the sun shown through, the winds created a chill that made it unbearable without covering most of the body with layers of clothing.

It is apparent that fall is upon us. It is time for a road trip to observe the changes. This year, a late, dry summer caused many trees to drop their leaves early. Gone are the maple leaves that usually herald late summer. The road-side grasses are no longer green, a mottled assortment of gray and brown replacing that.

The thistles have all but dried up and now spread seeds to the wind. The yellow hickory leaves that still remain are flittering about like large, dirty snowflakes blowing off the roads, accumulating around drab grass clumps.

Cypress trees that are left when loggers removed the pines stand in tall groups, their foliage already a reddish brown and disappearing rapidly, an occurrence usually delayed until late November.

Still there, though thinning rapidly, are sumacs. Their flowers have long since browned and fallen off with the seeds. Leaves still remaining are striking red.

Reddish black foliage of the gums, usually the last to turn and drop, joins the sumacs. And brown of poplar trees is still evident. These trees are usually the first to turn and drop. Not this year.

Wild grape vines have turned to yellow and brown. Most of their leaves are gone as is the fruit. While most of the goldenrods have shed, the silver and green of the ragweeds still sway and bend in the winds.

Bright and stark are the red of the forest dogwood whose remaining leaves are yet a pleasing red and brown.

An eagle flies down the middle of the road impatiently hoping I’ll turn and go elsewhere. He’s the one who finally turns.

And with the sun just right, low off the horizon, coming back to the Cedar Keys, you can notice the deep green of hollies with now swollen clumps of red berries around the leaves. There are several types of hollies in North Central Florida, all stunning this time of year.

Now, back in Cedar Key, ride or walk down Third Street between F and D Streets.

Notice the peppering of live oaks by firey red vines woven through the trees.

We have a range of colors of lantanas in our yard. These are punctuated with spider-worts, and Indian blankets, all visited by monarchs, cloudless sulphurs, fritillaries and longtailed skippers.

We live here. We can see a show that's different nearly every day. I slow down and experience that daily. Here's hoping you do the same while out there looking for Trouble in Cedar Key.

Dick Benedick can be contacted at tnckgebe@yahoo.com