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Amelia SanJon Gallery
Amelia Island Artists Workshop
Sandra Baker-Hinton
218A Ash Street., Fernandina Beach, FL 32034
904-491-8040,  904-557-1195 cell
Amelia Island Artists Workshop (for workshop schedules)

Excuse the misspelling of this wonderful stream.  It is Ichetucknee so I guess that makes it the "Itchy" instead of the Icky Springs.
As we left the wider more shallow area of the Ichetucknee the stream began to narrow, deepen, and enter a more forested area. 
As we approached the new environment, a Cormorant sat sentinel-like on the top of a tall stag which overlooked the prairie like section of the river.
Doug reached into the water in a shallow place and handed me an empty Apple Snail shell, one of the inhabitants of the spring fed waters.  Unfortunately, I left this remembrance in the kayak and did not get home with it.
We pass a group of Coots (not to be confused with Old Coots) which seemed to be eating the Duck Weed and Eel Grass.
We were all jockeying for position to get this very pretty composition of our Spring Fed-Spider Lily.  The little round leaves reminded us of Dollar Weed but we were not sure if that is what it was.  The way the Dollar Weed thrives in an over-watered lawn, it could be enjoying this wet environment.
The forested area along the water's edge was filled with Cypress trees and the characteristic Cypress knees.  I have seen lots of paintings and photographs of the Cypress knees but this is my first time to see it for myself.
I had been promised turtles and soon we were not disappointed.  Besides the one big one which swam underneath our kayak we were half way down before we saw any more.  From here on down they were often spotted out sunning and pretty much ignored us unless we really got close.  This is a Yellow-bellied Slider native to the Southeast, and often mistaken for a Cooter which also has a yellow belly but not the olive green spots on its plastron, (their underside armor plating).
This is the only person we saw on the river that day.  I don't think he was very happy to see us.  We later saw him at the take out and talked to him.  He is a photographer and goes out to shoot the wildlife.  His tactic is to pull in and just sit quietly and observe sometimes getting in the water.  His boat was very low and inconspicuous.  I guess we disturbed his quiet day on the river as we chatted our way down the river sending the birds flying.  Actually we were pretty quiet, but we of course still disturbed his and their day just with our presence.   There is something magical about having a place like this all to yourself.
Lots of interesting and mysterious looking places to see.
As the Great Whites do, this one was frozen in his stalking pose and held it while we quietly passed by.
Fifteen turtles in a row.   The reflections in the water start with the deeper water to take on beautiful patterns, especially with the intensified blues of the sky mixing in with the grays, and earthy greens.
The swirls of the reflections look just like a painter's strokes on the canvas.
The reflections almost cover the greens of the grasses underneath.  Abstraction in not only in the brush of the artist but in the brush of nature.  Artists only do a poor imitation of what that great artist does. 
On down this stretch of stunning reflections we head, deeper into the forested part of the river.
Nature has created interesting forms as it grows, lives, and dies, as it is with life.  (Except for Bruce, who has decided to live forever.)  Sometimes one of the storms of life shortens the living phase, and then, as with this tree, it replenishes new life with the seeds it has shed and with the decaying of its great body replenishes the soil enriching it for the next generation of baby trees.  This only seems to apply to the plant world as the funeral homes have kept us humans from being able to "get back to the earth" part of it with their sealed boxes and preservation techniques."  I'm not sure what that is all about.  I would much rather be wrapped in a blanket, cotton of course, and put under the ground to let the term "pushing up Daisies" be a reality.
One thing about Cypress wood is that it is so durable that it will remain intact underneath the water for hundreds of years.  A house built behind us before we moved here was paneled entirely with Cypress wood retrieved in this way.  Its beauty comes from its soft colors, which varies, and the worm holes that have been bored into it from its long stay submerged.  One room would have all pink hues, another green.  They also used the Cypress on the outside because they had formerly lived in Louisiana and never wanted to have to deal with termites again as Cypress is supposed to not be a draw for those pesky destroyers of wood. 
More gnarly, knotty roots as the trees grow in this wet world.
More replenishing of the earth as sculptured forms are created by more fallen trees.
The knees are great materials for sculpting and just two days ago a lady from up North came in to my gallery inquiring where to find them.  She does wood carving.  I told her I had just seen a lot but they were in the State Park in North Central Florida.  My friend and jewelry designer, Toni Fabriani was in the gallery and she knew just where in that same area she could find them, so we sent off a happy wood sculptor with directions setting off for Gainesville.
This was a fun outcropping of rocks with the erosion very visible.  Doug said that when he was a kid they called these skull rocks.  I think he must have been a fan of The Phantom (of the comics) fan because he used to live in the Skull Cave.  How many of you remember him?
We passed this Rare Snail Habitat fenced off from the public.  These snails are only found in this area.  I reached down into the pretty reflection into the grasses below where some of the snails had not read the sign, and spread out into the outside world.  A quick photo and they were back where I found them. 
More fallen trees, this time almost forming a bridge over the quiet waters.  I can see the raccoons using this as a regular trail.
Sometimes the grays of the trees and knees extended down with elongated lines into the water.
More tree sculptures and what is probably a condo complex for many critters, with tons of trails up higher than the water, but good resting spots for turtles on the lower levels and birds and other animals up higher.
Much too soon we reach the take out point, and Vernis our faithful kayak rental man and story teller of his beloved river, was waiting with the rest of our crew to take us out of the water.  He held steady the unstable vessel as we disembarked and got our land legs back.  This empties into the Santa Fe River which is unusual in that it flows along suddenly disappearing into a hole in the ground only to reappear a distance away.  Now how is that for another adventure.
Next it was Bar-B-Que at one of the, (U. of FL), Gators' biggest fans, with memorabilia spread all around and onion rings served by the foot.  No kidding; onion rings were served on a stick and the size of the order was gauged by the foot.  Barbeque was great, that was for sure, as we all tried different versions.  The trip back was through a part of Florida that is not on the normal route for most tourists.  It goes through an area where one would swear you were in Kentucky farm country with its horse farms, rolling hills, and fences.  I recommend that sometime you take the Florida Backroads and explore what is left of its small historic towns and countryside as well as what is left of its truly clear fresh water spring fed streams.

(Please take a moment to consider:
These photo-stories have always been offered completely free, to simply share the wonders of nature. Thousands of hours have been poured into them and it has even become necessary to enlist the services of a paid email service to send out the large numbers who now receive them. So, with the current economic situation if you are able to make a small donation to help ensure the continuation of the stories it would be greatly appreciated.)

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