Category Archives: Florida

Posts related directly to the state of Florida.

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Late in the Day Trip to Smyrna Dunes Park

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One of the long boardwalks that make up the park.

Recently I went to Smyrna Dunes State Park to walk, visit the beach, and take photos. My camera was full, so I had to keep deleting photos to take more, which was annoying.   I would have taken a lot more photos.

My son had his girlfriend visiting over the Christmas break. She lives in New Hampshire and had never been to Florida. Well, the Christmas break is NOT the time to visit as everyone in the world is visiting Florida then…. or they are waiting to come for the spring break, which is also a horrible (touristy) time to come here.

We went to Smyrna Dunes Park late in the day and had to leave by 6:00PM or be locked in, so I was constantly checking the time. I was the odd man (woman) out accompanying the young sweethearts on a romantic stroll among the dunes, but I did come in handy when it came to photo taking.

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We ended up on the west side by the Intracoastal (Indian River) where the sun was beginning to set and my son wanted pictures. So I used the girlfriend’s cell phone to take most of them, and got some very good photos (if I do say so myself). The sun was setting and they posed in silhouette… ah, young love!

The Park is a long boardwalk over the dunes that leads to the ocean and river  in several places, and Ponce Inlet. I had visited this place years ago – probably 15 or 16 – and it has changed. Now there are trails just for dog walkers, and there were many people taking advantage. The dogs are not allowed on the boardwalks except at certain places.

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At one point we walked down to the beach by the rocky jetty. The tide was out, and lots of little shells were caught in seaweed along the beach. My picture here shows some of the seashells I found. Pieces of shells that were once quite big, and the regular finds of the incongruous arks and cross barred venus clam.

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We saw a gopher turtle (tortoise) snacking on some weeds in the dunes (no photo, camera issues), and I was reminded of the one that used to live in the corner of my yard. They are big turtles and slide down into their dens that are a maze of underground tunnels. My daughter volunteered at the Central Florida Zoo (named differently now) and learned all about them. They are quite amazing wild animals. With all the building going on constantly in this state, they are threatened. The gopher turtle, like much wildlife in this state, has lost a lot of it’s natural habitat.

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Ponce Inlet lighthouse and beach at the end of the boardwalk.

We had a lovely time walking the boardwalk, and I was sorry I didn’t just buy the $20 yearly pass. I may go back and use this place as my exercise area. But I do have a beach pass, so I can drive onto the beach and then use the boardwalk, or simply walk along the beach. I’m lucky to live so close to this beautiful area.

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Pictures of Breakers and New Smyrna Beach After Hurricane

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Breakers, still standing
I was in New Smyrna for a closing on my new house, and my son and I took a look at the beach. It was four days after Hurricane Matthew and we wanted to see how badly the beaches were hit. Happily I found that Breakers Restaurant, right on the beach, was still standing, and open for business!
If you’ve ever visited the area, you will know it’s the pink building at the end of Flagler Ave., with that awesome view of the ocean. If you are lucky enough to get a seat at the front, you can eat at the bar and watch the waves roll in.
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Breakers Restaurant on the Beach, 4 days after Hurricane Matthew – It was open!

The parking lot across the street from Breakers is no longer free to park (that stinks), so we drove in just long enough to get a few pictures. It was raining, so my photos aren’t that great, but I wanted to share the better ones I took. I would have liked to get out and walk around, but the weather did not allow for it.
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Rough Seas in New Smyrna, October 11, 2016

The ocean was churning up sand and the tide was high – at least the water was high – I don’t’ know what the tide schedule was. The beach entrance was blocked off to drivers (you can drive on the beach here), mainly because there was no beach. Below is a bad photo of the sign at the beach entrance.
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Sign at Flagler Ave. entering and exiting the beach

One thing we noticed as we drove around the area was that the coast had been hit with more wind than we were inland. Everywhere we saw debris piled up along the roads ready for removal. Power trucks were everywhere, which meant that a lot of people were still without electricity. Buildings had shingles missing, and trees were down in some areas. Some places had tarps on the roof.
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Debris from Hurricane Matthew Piled for Pickup Along Flagler Ave.

Luckily, the damage was a lot less than what was predicted. Many people along the coast evacuated, and had to sit for days wondering what shape their homes were in.
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Leaving the Beach, heading for the north causeway

We headed south at Peninsula Ave. and took the south causeway home. The north causeway has a drawbridge for tall boats, mainly sailboats I would assume, but the south causeway bridge does not open. We headed home feeling very lucky that, at our rental house inland, we did not even lose power during the hurricane.
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South Causeway, New Smyrna

Finding a Remote Boat Ramp in Scottsmoor

While we were over on the east coast of Florida one day, we decided to head south from the Edgewater area and try to find the next closest boat ramp.  Down that way the ramps go into the western part of the Mosquito Lagoon.  From there, make your way (in your boat) across to the Haulover Canal which passes through to the east side of the Lagoon.

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Mosquito Lagoon West

We drove east for a few miles from Rt. 1 on a dirt road and finally came across the small boat ramp.  It has room to put in one boat at a time and the boat loads into a narrow channel that feeds out into the open water.

Looking south, the Kennedy Space Center vehicle assembly building is barely visible.

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Space Center, Cape Canaveral

I found some crown conch shells and thick clam shells, but the most interesting item I found floating among the weeds in the shallows was this horseshoe crab.  It was not alive.

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Horseshoe Crab

Area map of Scottsmoor Landing Boat Ramp, Credit: Google Maps, Google imagery @2016 TerraMetrics

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Boat Ramp, where we were, with Haulover Canal, Space Center view

Once we have a flats boat we plan to spend some time fishing in this area. For now, we have to stay close to the Edgewater ramp where we put the little boat in, as it doesn’t travel very fast, or handle waves well!

Cleaning the Big Horse Conch

While out on the boat the other day, I came across a large, empty horse conch just lying in the sand at low tide. It was a super hot day, and most shells were under water and inhabited by hermit crabs. I was thrilled to discover a big shell that was a keeper!

But it wasn’t pretty. Interesting, for sure, but not pretty. Barnacles encrusted most of the top (spire area) and most of the 10-inch long seashell was covered in black “skin” called periostracum. That info came from my seashell book, “Florida’s Living Beaches”.

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Florida Horse Conch – 10 Inches

I’ve never had such a messed up shell to clean, so I searched for a way to remove the coating and maybe see the shell colors underneath. I began by using my son’s toothbrush and scrubbing at the coating. (He’ll never know – haha, just kidding. Of course I bought him a new one).

At the best shell blog (besides my own, hee-hee) I found that Pam at I Love Shelling had written a nice article (see the link below) about cleaning her horse conchs. She has a lot of shells. She lives on Sanibel Island, where finding awesome shells is a daily thing.  I don’t have that luxury, but we both love collecting seashells and I often refer to her experience to share. We both live in Florida, but she is on the Gulf coast and I am on the Atlantic / east coast where nice big seashells are a rare find.

As of today, the photo below is what my horse conch looks like. The barnacles have been chipped away and some of the periostracum has been removed. After I soaked the shell overnight, the barnacles could be chipped off with a butter knife – it’s all I had. I find that letting the shell dry out makes the brown stuff flaky so I can brush it off. But this process is going to take a while.

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Slowly Making Progress

Pam’s Tutorial For How To Clean Horse Conch Shells contains lots of great information. I notice that her black / brown shell was not totally cleaned up. But she had two others that ended up beautiful.

I may have to invest in some dental tools to scrape mine down. It may not end up very colorful, but I’d love to see what’s under there. If I don’t find any good color, I will leave it outside in the hot Florida sun to bleach white. It will still be a unique shell to add to my collection.

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Aperture, 10-inch Horse Conch

FYI: The animal who lives in, and makes this shell is bright orange! A ten-inch shell seems pretty big to me, but the horse conch can grow to be almost twice as large!

Also, I found a tiny broken horse conch lodged inside one of the crown conchs I collected and you can see pictures of that in my next post.

Pictures of Ponce Inlet For National Lighthouse Day

As I was finishing up this post, I discovered that today, August 6th, is National Lighthouse Day. And I just happen to have lighthouse photography to share from our recent trip to the beach.

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Lighthouse at Ponce Inlet

Ponce Inlet is a place that is well known to Florida residents who head over to the Atlantic beaches. The name is short for Ponce De Leon, and the lighthouse is an attraction.  These photos were taken from the south side of the inlet at New Smyrna beach.  To get to the lighthouse you must travel up to Port Orange and come in from the other side.

The lighthouse is one of the tallest in the U.S. and is the tallest in Florida.  Pay the price and you can climb to the top, which I have never done. It’s on my to-do list / bucket list.

Jetty at Ponce Inlet
Jetty at Ponce Inlet

The day I took these pictures we were spending time at New Smyrna Beach and decided to drive up to see the jetty area.   The long rocky trail juts out into the ocean and is a popular place to fish.  Often surfers like to catch waves near the jetty, and it’s known as a shark infested area.  On our visit a complete stranger began telling us that because of the full moon, the tide was extra high and was washing out the area. You can see that in my photo below.

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Beach Erosion at Ponce Inlet near the Jetty

This area is at the tip of Smyrna Dunes Park, which contains a long boardwalk that goes out to the beach area and jetty. The day we visited the stairway to the boardwalk was taped off because the sand had been washed away from the pilings.

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This photo was taken on the inlet side of the jetty, looking out toward the ocean.

View the official page of the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse.