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Santa Fe River Beauty and Perils

Santa Fe Cypress Knees, the Buttresses of My Cathedral

Santa Fe Cypress Knees, the Buttresses of My Cathedral

Kayaking down the Santa Fe River recently, I came across this section of cypress knees and immediately felt that I was looking at some kind of spiritual edifice.  Though these knees were supporting much taller trees, I was drawn to the root structures and their reflections and the way they united earth and water and spiritual and material dimensions.  To experience the sacred in nature is profoundly regenerating to me, because when duality disappears externally it disappears within me as well.

Algae, Vegetation, and Cypress Knees, Santa Fe River

Algae, Vegetation, and Cypress Knees, Santa Fe River

A short way passed Rum Island, I came to this section of river and my heart sank.  There was lots of long ropey lyngbya wollei underneath the surface of the water and green slime proliferated above.  Saxitoxins (or Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning toxins) are frequently found in lyngbya  wollei.  Green algae leads to oxygen depletion, the blocking of light, and other issues that upset riparian ecosystems and some fear this will become the norm in Florida's waterways.  Frequently it becomes toxic and authorities then urge people to stay out of the water.

Pair of Turtles, Santa Fe River

Pair of Turtles, Santa Fe River

Turtles, birds, fish and other creatures inhabit thee compromised waterways and their health is impacted.  Turtles shells are often coated in algae that is the result of inadequately treated sewage manure, and fertilizers .  Serious algae outbreaks can be fatal to turtles and cause serious public health outbreaks in humans.   

Wood Stork Among the Cypress Knees

Wood Stork Among the Cypress Knees

Wood storks have been moved from the endangered to threatened list in Florida, but there is some debate as to whether this reclassification was premature and the result of pressure by developers so fewer wetlands would have to be preserved.  According to Audubon Florida, the nature cycle of high and low water in Florida's wetlands has become so altered that wood storks often can't find enough food for their young, who starve (http://fl.audubon.org/birds/wood-stork).

Vulture in Repose, Santa Fe River

Vulture in Repose, Santa Fe River

Though we think of vultures as being able to eat anything, and in fact they perform a valuable service in feeding on carrion, vultures are in danger of becoming extinct through ingesting dietary toxins.  This problem is most acute in India and Southeast Asia, but it could happen in the US as well.  Insecticides, rodenticides, and lead from ammunition are the biggest culprits here (https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/wild-things/vultures-are-vulnerable-extinction).

Decomposing Trunk Providing Shelter for Other Life, Santa Fe River

Decomposing Trunk Providing Shelter for Other Life, Santa Fe River

Droughts and lower water levels from siphoning too much water from or rivers can lead to weakened root systems and even tree borers.  Thought it is somewhat alarming to see the base of a tree decompose so much, these holes and chambers provide shelter for other creatures.

Roots Near the Rock Spring, Santa Fe River

Roots Near the Rock Spring, Santa Fe River

A little beyond the place on the river with the green algae, I came to this area that was the intersection of the spring run with the river.  Visiting this spot helped me visualize the connection between earth and water.  There was some algae even this short distance from the spring head, but the water was still much clearer than the tannin filled water of the main artery of the Santa Fe.

Ghostly Ginnie Springs

Ghostly Ginnie Springs

After I finished kayaking the river, I went back to my campsite near the headspring of Ginnie Springs.  When I got there it was getting late and the light was such that I was able to see ghostlike reflections that spoke to the fragility of the springs and the delicate balance they need to survive unimpaired.

Water and Cottonwoods are the Source of Life in the Bosque

Riparian Landscape of the Bosque

Riparian Landscape of the Bosque

When I was in Albuquerque recently, I spent a day exploring the Bosque by bicycle.  I rode along the bike path and took several trails to the water's edge.  In many places, you could not see through to the Rio Grande because the banks were so wild and the vegetation was so thick.  That was good news for this section of the river, because much of the Rio Grande, as all rivers, has been channelized. Here I still saw sandbars, which are essential to the health of the river and the Bosque.  

Water is the Source of Life in the Bosque

Water is the Source of Life in the Bosque

Water is the source of life for the Bosque, with cottonwoods being the heart as they provide habitat for so many creatures.  Cottonwoods have deep roots that reach down to the water table, though they can only grow in areas with permanent water supplies.  Sadly these important trees are being threatened and many forests have been cleared for farming, development, and river projects.  Here is a link to some information about the Bosque and cottonwood trees: http://www.nmnaturalhistory.org/bosque-education-guide/chapter-2-bosque-background .  

Silvery Minnow Creek, the Bosque

Silvery Minnow Creek, the Bosque

New Mexico is a desert, so water is a scare resource.  To provide enough water to the Bosque and the creatures that live here requires healthy creeks and channels and periodic natural flood surges. These smaller bodies of water are necessary to the health of native ecosystems since the flow is slower, which is particularly critical during spawning season.  The restoration of the Silvery Minnow system was partially to help this endangered fish which once made 1900 miles of the Rio Grande its home but now only occupies about 200 miles along the river.

Along the Rio Grande, Bosque State Park

Along the Rio Grande, Bosque State Park

The image above is from the trial in the State Park at one end of the Paseo del Bosque Trail.  You can see through the vegetation to sand bars in the Rio Grande.

Blooming Cactus, the Bosque

Blooming Cactus, the Bosque

This stunning blooming cactus was near the Aldo Leopold Forest.  Maintaining areas like this with native species is critical to the survival of the Bosque.  The introduction of non-native species in other areas is threatening cottonwoods and other native plants and that often reduces biodiversity in a region.

Butterflies Pollinating along the Banks of the Rio Grande, the Bosque

Butterflies Pollinating along the Banks of the Rio Grande, the Bosque

The teeming life in the desert around waterways always astonishes me.  The Bosque is such a rich area and I know I only skimmed the surface of what it has to offer during my visit.  Hopefully, I can return soon and get to know this beautiful area even more intimately.

Ginnie Springs, A Magical Underwater World

Seeing Heaven from Ginnie Springs

Seeing Heaven from Ginnie Springs

A couple of days ago I got down to Ginnie Springs about an hour before sunset.  Miraculously, I had the springs to myself almost the entire time I was there.  Swimming about in the clear water, I looked up through the lens of the surface and saw the sun make a starburst from one of the trees. I felt I was in heaven.  Suddenly I forgot all the political problems our country is experiencing, and all the suffering I have been witnessing.  For a moment it was all washed clean and I had hope.

The Vibrant Colors of Ginnie Springs

The Vibrant Colors of Ginnie Springs

The rocks were green and red and the water a deep blue.  There were patterns below and patterns above. It was pure delight for my senses and so beautiful.

A Secret World, Ginnie Springs Vegetation

A Secret World, Ginnie Springs Vegetation

Over on one side there was a clump of vegetation.  It was vibrant green and very detailed against the impressionistic surface of the water.  I couldn't quite figure out why the underside of the water's surface was so blurred against the details of the plants, rocks, shells and twigs that were scattered across the sand.  Perhaps it was the way the light was hitting the water.  There was no real turbulence.  It was a mystery that called me in further.

Diagonal Reflections Mirror the Crevice in Ginnie Springs

Diagonal Reflections Mirror the Crevice in Ginnie Springs

As I swam along the crevice, I may have created my own turbulence by kicking.  I supposed that is what created the unusual diagonal reflections.   The surface tension of the water broke in places and hints of the blue sky and green trees broke through, reminding me of the world I usually inhabit.

The Craggy Bottom of Ginnie Springs

The Craggy Bottom of Ginnie Springs

The floor of these springs is so unusual with boulders and craggy rocks.  Shape, color, texture, all are present.  I couldn't believe my luck in getting to spend so much time down there alone.  Each photograph was like a painting. 

The Ominous Side of Ginnie Springs

The Ominous Side of Ginnie Springs

Around the edge of the pool, there were tree roots that seemed to attract algae and other growths.   There was also algae on the rocks near the headspring itself.  Mark Wray and his family have been working hard to protect these springs. Jacques Cousteau once said this water was the cleanest in the world.  It has not been easy to keep them this way and these images show they have not been entirely successful due to increases in nitrogen. This article from the Tampa Bay Times discusses Mark Wray's efforts and also how concerned he is about excess pumping, since that depletes the aquifer and the flow of the springs.  Compared to other springs I visited recently, I did feel the water was cleaner.  It must have been incredible before pollutants made there way here.   http://www.tampabay.com/news/environment/water/ginnie-springs-owner-fights-off-threats/1262973

Ginnie Springs Headspring

Ginnie Springs Headspring

Fortunately the algae stayed mostly on the rocks and was not throughout the water column, as it was in some other springs I visited along the Santa Fe the next day.  It was magical exploring this underworld, which continually surprised me with new angles, colors, reflections, creatures, and light.  There is something about swimming in the springs that brings you back to life, especially in 90+ degree days in North Florida, where we don't have beaches or much of a breeze. Everyone I spoke with in the campground felt the same way.  If we allow these springs to me further harmed, we will be destroying a treasure and people from surrounding states and overseas will stop visiting.  The springs are invaluable on so many counts, not the least being that they are the source of our drinking water too.

Mysterious Underworld of Ginnie Springs

Mysterious Underworld of Ginnie Springs

Black and Whites from the Bosque in Albuquerque

Secret Places Along the Rio Grande in the Bosque

Secret Places Along the Rio Grande in the Bosque

Jodi Hedderig, manager of the Open Space Visitor Center, describes the area’s bosque as “a forest supported by a riparian environment — in the desert.” While I was in Albuquerque, I rented  bicycle and drove through the Bosque stopping wherever I could to see the river.  The riparian landscape was very wild here and there are actually few places where you can get an unobscured view of the Rio Grande.  Every now and again, I would find an area where you could pear through the trees and underbrush to catch a glimpse of the water beyond.  Not only do these wild banks provide habitat for the many creatures that live here, they are an oasis from the strong sunlight of the desert southwest.   I would come across a section like this and feel like I was in some secret little haven, as I watched the beams of light dance on the water.

Trees and Shadows, Alameda Open Space

Trees and Shadows, Alameda Open Space

At one terminus of the Paseo del Bosque bike trail was the Alameda Open Space.  I stopped my bicycle there and sat on a bench looking at the river and also the trees that provided welcome shade.  The pattern of light through the foliage and the way the shadows intersected on the forest floor were beautiful.  I met a young man who'd been bicycling the trail for the past six years and took photos here of the forest and river in every season.  To get to know a forest so intimately sounded very special.  

Old Cottonwood with Gnarled Bark, Rio Grande Nature Preserve

Old Cottonwood with Gnarled Bark, Rio Grande Nature Preserve

This tree was in the Rio Grande Nature Preserve.  Many in the forest have thinner trunks, but the old ones grow up to 90 feet in height with trunks that measure five feet across.  This tree is also known as the water tree, since it signals the presence of water.  The one in the image above was truly magnificent.  Sadly, these trees are under assault in the desert southwest.  According to an article my Jay Sharp in Desert USA, "Along rivers and streams throughout the Southwest, man has dammed, re-channeled and regulated stream flow, often holding back the spring floods which would otherwise disperse Rio Grande cottonwood seeds and water the river bottoms. He has drawn down water tables, putting them beyond the reach of Rio Grand cottonwood roots. He has cleared watersheds, allowed detrimental salt and mineral buildups, developed roads, opened mines, effected intense overgrazing, polluted the water, trampled and overrun new forest growth, introduced aggressive alien species, and eliminated or severely reduced beavers and other wildlife. The Southwest’s riparian forests are now among the most threatened woodlands of North America."  He regards this tree's disappearance as a metaphor for man's abuse of the desert. Fortunately, riparian wildness was still evident in this stretch of the Bosque in Albuquerque.  See these banks and some of the many creatures that exist here made me realize how important it is to preserve open spaces here and all across the country.

Roadrunner Camouflaging Itself in the Trees

Roadrunner Camouflaging Itself in the Trees

Trees provide habitat for the many creatures that live in the Bosque.  When I was in the Rio Grande Nature Preserve, I came across this roadrunner who kept me company for about twenty minutes.  He would venture out holding this lizard and then dart back to the roots of the tree to camouflage himself. 

In an article in American Forests magazine, the cottonwood was referred to as the heart of the Bosque.  "The cottonwood trees, with heart- or triangular-shaped leaves, are sometimes referred to as the heart of the bosque, as they provide critical habitat for many of the birds, mammals, insects, spiders and crustaceans of the riparian ecosystem. Resident birds of the bosque include Cooper’s hawk, red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, roadrunner and a variety of hummingbirds, woodpeckers and owls. Porcupines rest high in the branches of cottonwood trees, and toads seek shelter in the leaf litter on the forest floor." (http://www.americanforests.org/magazine/article/beauty-of-the-bosque/)

Cottonwood Madonna, Virgin of the Tree, San Felipe de Neri Church

Cottonwood Madonna, Virgin of the Tree, San Felipe de Neri Church

In 1970, a parishioner carved this statue of the Virgin in a cottonwood tree, no doubt indicating the importance of this tree to the region.  It is on the grounds of the 300-year-old San Felipe de Neri Church in Old Town, the oldest church in Albuquerque.  

Salt Springs

Salt Springs Rocks in the Late Afternoon Light

Salt Springs Rocks in the Late Afternoon Light

Salt Springs is one of the four springs in the Ocala National Forest and flows into Lake George, part of the St. Johns river system.  I found it the most fascinating.  The water comes from deep fissures that are underwater windows into the earth.  The water also has magnesium, potassium, and sodium salts, which is how it got its name.  No one is certain of the source of these salty waters, but some believe it is sea water.  Archeologists believe tribes once inhabited this region 5,800 years ago, and it is still a popular campsite.

Fissures, Salt Springs

Fissures, Salt Springs

It was fascinating to swim along the fissures, and the colors of the chemicals in the water turned the rocks interesting colors.

Hydrilla, Salt Springs

Hydrilla, Salt Springs

Native grasses were not evident but invasive hydrilla was instead.  I was with springs artist Margaret Tolbert, who has been swimming in and inspired by springs for twenty years and she told me that she no longer objects to hydrilla as much as she used to since fish do feed on it and it provides some structure for sea life on the floor of the springs.

Salt Springs, Underwater Stepping Stones

Salt Springs, Underwater Stepping Stones

Viewed rom land, the rocks in the springs looked like stepping stones.  The water was clear blue and I could see one of the largest vents bubbling up.  It was so visually interesting.  Though the hyrdrilla was present, it was mostly on the rocks around the edge of the springs which are rimmed in concrete to make access easier for visitors.

The Many Layers of Salt Springs

The Many Layers of Salt Springs

From another vantage point and when the light changed and it became sunnier, the reflections from the trees and clouds added to the layered intrigue of this special spot.

Algae in Salt Springs

Algae in Salt Springs

The area where we had been swimming was filled with clear blue water, but when I looked across to the forested bank, away from where the volume of water was spewing forth, I noticed a lot of algae mats along the shoreline.  

Algae Close Up, Salt Springs

Algae Close Up, Salt Springs

I walked over to that side of the park and noticed there was in fact thick algae, as these images show.  I was glad I hadn't swum near there.  I wasn't sure of the level of toxicity, but I knew it was blocking the light below and probably making it difficult for any natural vegetation to grow.

Algae Carpet, Salt Springs

Algae Carpet, Salt Springs

There are no nitrates in the forest springs and dissolved oxygen is still present, but still we see this algae explosion (see the green slime section in: http://stateofwater.org/ecosystems/springs/).  On theory is that the algae crowds out native grasses and then multiplies itself.  As in any body of water I have visited, the algae is found where the water is most sandy.  It was interesting to see this much cyanobacteria in water with such high salinity levels and so curiosity led me to do some research.  I found that cyanobacteria is predicted to get a lot worse in coming years due to increased temperatures (which I already knew) and because certain strains of cyanobacteria which used to be killed off by salinity are becoming adaptive and are managing to still live and in fact thrive.  Here's the link to the scientific journal: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2386806/

Silver Glen Springs

Stripers Heading Towards the Headspring, Silver Glen Springs

Stripers Heading Towards the Headspring, Silver Glen Springs

Silver Glen Springs is a 1st magnitude spring with a large, semicircular pool that is approximately 200 x 175 feet. The bottom around the main vent is mostly sand covered now, with algae that is perplexing scientists.  This spring is also within the Ocala National Forest and discharges approximately 65 million gallons of fresh water per day.

Stripers Everywhere

Stripers Everywhere

The stripers and I were headed towards the vent at the same time from opposite directions.  Soon they were everywhere.  Silver Glen Springs is one of the most important and frequently used thermal refuges for striped bass in the St. Johns River system.  I have never seen so many in one place.  Though algae was primarily relegated to the sandy bottom, which was mostly devoid of natural grasses, there were also clumps of lyngbya wollei in the water column.  

Lyngbya is a genus of cyanobacteria that contains a toxin that proposes a health hazard to humans and other creatures that come in contact with it.  According to the British Columbia Ministry of the Environment, cyanophytes found in freshwater habitats experience cyanophyte blooms more than in any other habitat they are found. This report goes on to say the following about blooms:  

"Two genera of cyanophytes account for the vast majority of toxic blooms world-wide: Microcystis and AnabaenaAnabaena and Nodularia have been implicated in skin and eye irritations in man and dogs, while MicrocystisAnacystis and Lyngbya have been reported to cause hay fever symptoms, particularly as aerosols. It has been suggested that toxic products released from cyanophytes may be the cause of unexplained forms of human gastro-enteritis. Microcystis aeruginosaAnabaena circinalis and Nodularia spumigen blooms produce a characteristic pungent, musky or earthy smell. Fish deaths during cyanophyte blooms may be caused by the toxin in the cyanophyte, by the depletion of oxygen in the water, by the liberation of hydrogen sulphide and ammonia caused by cell decomposition or by clogging of the gills." (http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wat/wq/reference/cyanophytes.html)   

Stripers Glen Springs

Stripers Glen Springs

It was disturbing to see huge chunks of filamentous algae on the surface of the water.  With much of the natural eelgrass beds destroyed, carp fish will sometime eat lyngbya wollei. The aforementioned report states  that "all warm-blooded animals are susceptible to cyanophyte toxins, including people, waterfowl, furbearers, game and non-game animals, livestock, poultry and household pets." Though why algae makes people sick is known scientists really can't understand why there is algae here, as the springs are at least 30 miles from any agricultural development.

Stripers

Stripers

One theory for how there is so much algae in a spring located in a forest with extremely low nitrogen levels is that the algae mats produce enough nitrogen to sustain themselves.  Another is that the increased salinity is favorable to their production.

Stripers Heading to the LIght

Stripers Heading to the LIght

It was magical swimming around with all these fish, watching them catch the light, and swim over the vent as the water poured out.  The water they were heading towards was clean and algae free, but to get there they had to traverse areas that were murky and unsafe.  This spring has also been designated as critical for manatee habitat, although I did not see any that day.  In fact, their use of this area has been limited since so many natural grasses have been damaged by algae and human use.  Many scientists recommend not swimming in areas where algae outbreaks have been reported. Sadly, in Florida that would not leave many springs left that are totally safe to swim in.  The most at risk are children and pets, since  they require less of the toxins to become ill.

 

Alexander Springs

Alexander Springs, Margaret Tolbert Heading for the Vent

Alexander Springs, Margaret Tolbert Heading for the Vent

Alexander Springs is another spring in the Ocala National Forest.  It is one of 27 first magnitude springs in the State of Florida and the only one in the forest.  The springs discharges into the Alexander Springs Creek and then travels 10 miles to the St. Johns river.  It must have been amazing before it became so compromised with algae.  Right at the main headspirings, there are sea grasses and white sand.  There are also deep cliffs and carved limestone boulders that extend to a depth of about 25 feet.  It is one of the most dramatic springs I have seen and swimming in it I felt small indeed.  

Floating, Alexander Springs

Floating, Alexander Springs

This spring really made me wish I was certified to dive, because I would have loved exploring all the edges of the cliffs and the caves below.   

Compromised Spring, Alexander Springs

Yet for all its natural beauty, bounded by hardwood and palm forests, pine wooded and hills and a sand beach, the water is filled with lots of algae.  Some is merely a thin coating on the sand and rocks below, which is a bit less alarming than encountering large clumps as I did.  

Floating in an Alien Algae-Ridden Waterscape

Floating in an Alien Algae-Ridden Waterscape

Algae clung to my camera housing and snorkel and I started to hyperventilate a bit as I noticed it permeate the entire water column the further away I got from the headspring.  It astounded me that so many people who were swimming there failed to notice the water quality issue.  My friend, the wonderful springs artist Margaret Tolbert and I discussed the concept of the "new normal".  For people who never saw the springs before they became impaired, it likely appears beautiful to them.  There are still contrasts between light and dark, the sunlight still creates patterns in the sand, there are sea grasses and vents and caves.  The volume of water coming out of the springs is still quite impressive.  Above the surface of the water, you can see how expansive the springs are and much of the riparian landscape is natural instead of bounded by concrete or manmade beaches.  Still, seeing all the algae made me very concerned for the ongoing health of the springs.

Alexander Springs, an Underwater World Where Algae Thrive

Alexander Springs, an Underwater World Where Algae Thrive

Why there is so much algae is the million dollar question.  Swimming away from the vent, I went closer to the shore on the far side and looked down upon the scene above.  The wide angle lens made the ground below appear spherical, like a planet in despair.  There were no visible sea grasses left here, as algae encroached upon the sand floor.  Other areas appeared almost black. 

Cliffs and Crevice Alexander Springs

Cliffs and Crevice Alexander Springs

I turned back and headed for the headsprings one last time to find some positive memory to take with me, so I could remember what I am working so hard to preserve.  What an impressive sight Alexander Springs must once have been with blue water, fresh white sand, limestone cliffs and healthy native grasses waving from the force of water instead of being crushed or held stiffly in place by the weight of invasive algae that reduces sunlight and made the whole experience feel kind of dirty in a place that should be all about rebirth and washing things clean.

Juniper Springs and Fern Hammock

Turtle Doppleganger, Fern Hammock, Juniper Springs

Turtle Doppleganger, Fern Hammock, Juniper Springs

Located in Ocala National Forest, Juniper Springs, built by the Army Conservation Corps in 1932 is one of the oldest in the State of Florida.  Near the main spring is Fern Hammock Springs, a pristine natural area situated in a subtropical forest.  My friend, springs painter Margaret Tolbert, and I hiked over to this area and marveled at the turtles, small springs, and bubbling mud vents.  It is not possible to swim here, which may have been why we saw so much wildlife. The turtle above swam right near a small bridge we were standing on for awhile. Several more hopped on and off a log, while others seemed to enjoying swimming right over the small springs. I loved the interrelation between the turtle and its shadow.  Somehow it made me think of its ancient lineage and the long history of these springs providing water for creatures inhabiting the waterways within the forest.

Turtle over a Spring,  Fern Hammock

Turtle over a Spring,  Fern Hammock

The water here was dotted with leaves and other organic material, indicating a healthy biofilm.  Perhaps this was due to being located in a National Forest and the fact that people are not allowed to swim here. The lack of people in the water is probably why the wildlife was so unafraid.

Branch with a Bubbling Mud Vent, Fern Hammock

Branch with a Bubbling Mud Vent, Fern Hammock

To the right and alongside the bridge were bubbling mud vents.  This seething, roiling underwater-scape made me realize how much water animates the landscape.

Small Alligator, Juniper Springs

Small Alligator, Juniper Springs

There was also a small alligator in the water just beyond the bubbling sand.  I wasn't sure if it was young or stunted, I hoped the former.

Filamentous Algae Smothering Sea Grass in Juniper Spring

Filamentous Algae Smothering Sea Grass in Juniper Spring

In Juniper Springs proper, I was sad to see filamentous algae cloaking and in some places over taken the native sea grasses.  The algae was an electric green color that held visual interest and drew me near, but all the while I was swimming I wondered if it was going to impair my health to swim so close to it.  I am working on an algae project with a microbiologist and he has stopped having his scientists and volunteers go in the water to obtain samples when blooms are present.

Margaret Diving into the Vent, Juniper Springs

As we got closer to the headsprings, there seemed to be less algae and the areas of the bottom not covered in native grasses was white sand.  The image above shows Margaret diving down to the she source of the springs.  Though it was better here, I was still upset to see so much algae in a place with no development or agriculture in the immediate watershed.

Margaret Ross Tolbert's Intimate Relationship with the Springs

Margaret Tolbert Floating Above Eel Grass, Juniper Springs

Margaret Tolbert Floating Above Eel Grass, Juniper Springs

The best part of living in North Florida these past four years was meeting the incredible springs painter Margaret Ross Tolbert.  Margaret has been painting springs in Florida for over twenty years.  She also paints the springs in Turkey.  On her website it says, the North Florida Springs "paradisiacal presence provides a sense of ideal destination and the exotic in the here- and-now that counterpoints the sense of passage, time and journey implicit in the Door paintings."  When I saw Margaret suspended over the eel grass in Juniper Spring, I saw that for her time truly is suspended when she is beneath the surface.  It was amazing we made it through four springs that day, as we both tend to get lost.  Perhaps that is why we are such good friends. 

Yet though time stops when Margaret is in the water, time has not stopped since she was first inspired by the springs.  Sadly, springs in Florida have become increasingly polluted over the last twenty years.  Filamentous algae cloaked the eel grass at Juniper Springs, even though ti is located in the Ocala National Forest.  In Alexander Springs, there was algae everywhere, and we saw it in Silver Glen and Salt Springs too.  Why this is happening in the middle of a forest is a mystery that scientists have not yet been able to explain.  In springs located near agricultural operations the reason is obvious.  Perhaps in these forest springs it has something to do with the increasing saltiness of the springs (from salt water intrusion or the lower, saltier aquifer making its way into the fresh water aquifer closer to the surface), or maybe warmer temperatures, or perhaps runoff travels much further than would be expected.  Whatever the reason, even these springs are being lost. 

Margaret Swimming over Cracks in the earth

Margaret Swimming over Cracks in the earth

When I saw Margaret swimming over the underwater cliffs and cracks of Alexander Springs, which were cloaked with algae, I felt the ephemeral nature of the springs and a deep sense of loss. It seemed ghostlike down there and I couldn't bear to focus on what I was seeing. Alexander Springs is the only first magnitude spring within the forest and at one time it must have been incredibly beautiful  Margaret has not abandoned even the impaired springs.  I wanted to flee as quickly as possible, especially after clumps of algae got stuck in my hair and on my camera.  I saw her suddenly as an ancient water guardian. I felt ties to a vanishing past, the trace of which still exist in the present through these crumbling karst rocks.  Margaret is fascinated with ancient cultures and ethnic dances and traditions that have been passed through the ages. Knowing her is a lens to the present and also the history of the world and water. Spending time together always makes me look at things differently and appreciate indigenous ways from when we were more united with the forces of nature and our watery essence.  

Margaret Pushing Herself Down into the Cracks at Sa;t S[romg

Margaret Pushing Herself Down into the Cracks at Sa;t S[romg

Margaret is such a great artist because she always goes deeper, never satisfied with merely skimming the surface,. She has always been a serious athlete, even training with Olympians during her running days.  She posses the strength and courage to meet the world's challenges and look at them from another perspective.  

Margaret Looking Up in Wonder

Margaret Looking Up in Wonder

When I saw Margaret in this pose, looking up at the surface of the water in wonder, I understood how deeply the springs inspire her paintings,  When she dives and goes in crevices or explores vents and bubbles and then suddenly shifts her perspective by looking at the world above from this watery underworld she feels so at home in, her lens is blurred and bended and reflections become as real as solid rocks.   

Margaret at One with the Springs

Margaret at One with the Springs

Perhaps my favorite image of all that day was this one of Margaret totally cradled in the rocks and at one with the springs.  If we all felt this close to these precious waters that provide life, fluidity, transformation, and eternity in each moment, we would not allow as much harm to befall water as has happened in this state.  

To learn more about Margaret's work, visit her website at: http://www.margaretrosstolbert.com/ or http://www.aquiferious.com/.

Ichetucknee Head Springs and Blue Hole Spring

Crevice in the Itchetukcnee Head Springs

Crevice in the Itchetukcnee Head Springs

I finally broke down and got a housing for my camera, so I could take it underwater and experiment.  It was the perfect day to go, as it was 96 degrees and so dry I kept getting fire alerts every 20 minutes.  The springs were the perfect place to rejuvenate.  Though I spotted algae at the edges of the steps, when I swam out aways it was better.  There were still healthy grasses and colorful vegetation.  The reflections looking up were a myriad of colors.  

Unity of Above and Below, Itchetucknee Head Springs

Unity of Above and Below, Itchetucknee Head Springs

When I looked straight up and saw the blue sky and blazing sun I was hiding from down there, the lens I was using made me feel the world above and below were joined with no horizon line or demarcations separating these universes.  The colors in the water were earthen as well, while the sky was the blue I usually associate water with.

Itchetucknee Head Springs Underater Vegetation

Itchetucknee Head Springs Underater Vegetation

Near the head springs there is a log of underwater vegetation, some natural and some invasive. There was also a layer of algae underneath in some places.  

Fallen Tree with Algae  

Fallen Tree with Algae  

The fallen tree collected algae as well, likely because ti is stationary.  Every time I go back, the springs are a little less full of life, but there is a strange wonderland down there and these waters are the source of our lives.  We would do well to preserve them before more native grasses are lost and the water becomes too toxic to swim in and ultimately drink.  Florida just received the dubious distinction of having the second worst water in the country, beaten only by the State of Texas.

Caught in the Balance of Light and Dark

Caught in the Balance of Light and Dark

The big hole is the main vent and the force of the water pushes you back.  When I saw this woman floating at an angle, it was as if she was being pushed away and drawn towards the light at the same time.

Drawn to the Blue Water

Drawn to the Blue Water

Around every corner, I was drawn to the blue water beyond.  There were frequently shadowy figures at the edges of my frames.  I am not sure what the people of north Florida are going to do when its over 100 degrees on a regular basis and they can't swim to cool off.  

Underwater Mysteries

Underwater Mysteries

Every time I got near the big vent, I wonder what was beyond the edge and what the source of all this water looked like.  The thin yellow green line created by the reflection of the vegetation along the banks created the illusion of symmetry, but nothing matched exactly making it more intriguing to view.

Blue Hole Spring

Blue Hole Spring

Before I left the park, I hiked down to Blue Hole Spring.  It was too late in the day for the bright blue color to be visible, though the water was clearly that color.  The force seemed stronger here and I had difficulty swimming back to the dock with my camera in its housing from this direction.  I looked across the vent and saw two people swimming in opposite directionsNo one was directly over the Blue Hole.  

Tunnel of Light, Run to Blue Hole Spring

Tunnel of Light, Run to Blue Hole Spring

This was next to the dock to enter Blue Hole Spring.  There was a sign to this little run that said no wading to preserve clarity and off course someone jumped off the dock anyway.  I just floated a short way in because I was so drawn to the light.  The sun in the distance lit up the sandy bottom, making it feel like a tunnel in the midst of the dark bands created by the vegetation.  Sometimes it is rewarding to see the whole bottom lit up by the light, but the contrast between light and dark, and the shafts of light that penetrate to the bottom create drama in this fragile underworld.

Life's Desire to Perpetuate Itself Even in Hostile Conditions

Life's Desire

Life's Desire

This morning I decided to take my dog Takoda for a walk in Kanapaha Botanical Gardens.  I usually never go unless there are semi-overcast conditions because direct light on flowers washes them out or creates harsh shadows.  We have been under a fire alert every day.  Finally I decided that I wanted to go for a walk there anyway, since I will be moving soon, and these have always been my favorite botanical gardens in Florida.  I knew I would find at least a couple of flowers in the shade and would enjoy seeing if anything was alive in these conditions.  At least I knew the flowers were probably watered there.  I don't do that much at home, because I know the aquifer is being drained enough.  When I got back to the native garden, I came across this beautiful orange and red day lily. Many of the other flowers were wilted, but somehow this orange and red iris was still managing to hang on and thrive.

Prickly Heart, Agave in Bloom

Prickly Heart, Agave in Bloom

Then I came across this incredible agave cactus that was starting to bloom.  The magenta flowers were protected by these red saw tooth shoots that came off of glowing white stems.  It made me think of the layers of protection nature and human beings put in place to protect their flowering essence that gives and begets life.  I identified with this plant right away, was fascinated by it and wondering what lessons it had to teach me.  I am often very open and somewhat naive.  This plant did not fail to open its heart, but it made sure that it was surrounded by protection.

Bamboo Reflections

Bamboo Reflections

There were not many places to look for photographs with not a cloud in the sky, but then I looked down into the water, which served as its own filter and saw the reflection of dark bamboo leaves against the blue sky and greenery from the surrounding vegetation.  The plants were no doubt suffering from the hot sun, but in the water life was right again.  As always, I reflected on the necessity of water for keeping things alive.

Bamboo Dream

Bamboo Dream

A little further down along the edge of the pond, I came to an area with layers and layers of bamboo.  Periodically a fish umped and disturbed the water creating even more interesting patterns.  I loved the contrast between sharp stems and leaves against blurrier layers.  The richness of life was immediately apparent, especially when it is all united by water.

The Heart of Passion

The Heart of Passion

Most of the orange irises were along the water's edge in direct sun with burnt edges to their petals.  Then I spotted this perfectly formed one hiding beneath some other foliage.  Sometimes that is what we have to dot to keep blooming–especially in challenging times. 

Impressionistic Passion Flowers

Impressionistic Passion Flowers

The most incredible flowers I came across all day were these two passion flowers.  I watched them unfold for an hour with Takoda.  I couldn't believe he was so patient, or that I was for that matter.  The upper one was open when I got there and by the time I made this image its petals were open as wide as they could be.  The one in the lower quadrant had been curled in on itself but continued to open bit by bit while I watched it.  I realized that the slow deliberateness it went about opening was something worthy of study.  What I wondered, if conditions had been different, would this blossom have decided to do.  If there had been no shade or if it was hotter or even drier, though that was unimaginable.  Several bees and butterflies came to inspect it, but they landing only for a split second before moving along.  Why, I wondered, could they not see how special this blossom was.

Suwannanoa River, the Pisgah Forest, and Lake Powhattan, Wild Treasures

Rocky Banks of the Suwannanoa River

Rocky Banks of the Suwannanoa River

This section of the Suwannanoa River runs near Warren Wilson College and is on of the most popular recreation areas on this river that runs from Black Mountain to the French Broad River.  Though this section of the river remains very natural, with wild banks and rocks and ponds within its riparian landscape, the river has suffered from pollution from runoff from increased development in Western North Carolina.  It is constantly monitored from E coli, and in 2006 and in 2008, segments totally 14 miles wee placed on the list of impaired waterways. Urban best management practices subsequently lead to the removal of this waterway from this list.  (https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-10/documents/nc_swannanoa.pdf) The improvement of this waterway indicates the importance of the Clean Water Act to ensure that waterways are remediated when they fail to reach these standards in terms of turbidity and impaired biological diversity.  

Ponds by the Suwannanoa

Ponds by the Suwannanoa

Allowing ponds to remain on the banks of waterways is very important for biological diversity. They also are good for allowing toxins to be filtered, in addition for helping to contain floodwaters with the onset of more violent storms.

Butterflies Absorbing Nutrients from the Soil

Butterflies Absorbing Nutrients from the Soil

Though butterflies frequently absorb their nutrients from flowers and plants, sometimes they lie directly on the riverbanks and get their nutrients from the soil.  There were hundreds of butterflies doing this along this section of riverbank.

New and Mature Bamboo

New and Mature Bamboo

This small bamboo grove is on the grounds of Warren Wilson College along the banks of the river.  It is a gorgeous grove with rich golden yellows.  The leaves of this new growth contrasting with the thick stalks captivated my attention.

Jack and Takoda Enjoying a Stroll Through the Grove

Jack and Takoda Enjoying a Stroll Through the Grove

Lake Pohawtan is another lovely natural spot near Asheville where there are marshlands with lots of vegetation, geese and other wildlife.  

Lake Powhatan Marshland

Lake Powhatan Marshland

Marshlands function in much the same way as ponds and provide habitat for wildlife. 

Geese in the Lake Powhatan Marshaland

Geese in the Lake Powhatan Marshaland

Below is an image from the Pisgah National Forest.  We were walking along this trail and found a hollowed out log that wildflowers used as a natural planter.  it reminded me that fallen trees and decomposing logs often offer the perfect nutrients for new life.

Natural Still Life

Natural Still Life

Early Spring Sunset, Suwnnanoa Sunset

Early Spring Sunset, Suwnnanoa Sunset

The private campsite we stayed at in Suwnnanoa was on the top of a mountain.  A steep private dirt road led to the top and much of the landscape was left wild.d  Rocks with lichen, blooming trees, fallen twigs all made a harmonious but wild whole.  

Sunset Through the Trees Beginning to Wake for Spring

Sunset Through the Trees Beginning to Wake for Spring

The sunset through the barren trees that were just beginning to bud and wake for spring evoked a peaceful mood with space for possibilities.  It reminded me that the seasons are lessons that period of dormancy always transition into rebirth and growth as long as we allow nature to follow its own rhythms and maintain balance.

Endings and New Beginnings on the French Broad River

Sunset on the French Broad, Trees Bend Gently Over the Passing Water

Sunset on the French Broad, Trees Bend Gently Over the Passing Water

This period I am experiencing right now parallels that of the turbulence of the planet.  My marriage finally ended legally, my father is terminally ill, my house is ruined, our earth is on the verge of destruction, our rights are being stripped and freedom is a distant memory, and yet there are moments when it all smooths out.  The light is soft, judgment vanishes, and everything we see glows.  The worries of the times are put on hold as branches gently sway. and bend, not fighting what is  For a moment there is peace and grace.

Last Light French Broad River

Last Light French Broad River

As the last light glowed amid shadows, I felt the breath of spirit.  All that I love that is leaving this earth seemed suspended for a moment in an ethereal dream of wholeness.  The river a living proof that the beginning, middle and end of all that is never ceases to be present in some state. I watched and watched holding on to every last second of an eternity the image of which dissolved before my eyes.  I wished for this peace for my father and everyone and everything that is suffering on the planet right now, for myself for bearing witness.  I prayed that pain, like the small rocks in this river that caused temporary ripples, would be smoothed and softened by the power of love. My filter slowed the scene and I wished it could slow it even further, but at the same time I knew that sometimes pain is too intense and a time comes when letting go and being carried to another shore is the best course.  That time is not quite yet and so I hold the preciousness of life in my heart and shine all the half light I can muster now.

Teaching the Family to Swim in Turbulent Waters

Teaching the Family to Swim in Turbulent Waters

In the morning, I awoke to two geese teaching their goslings to swim in churning waters.  One parent would go in front and the other behind, to protect their young when they got caught up in currents that might take them in a direction where they might be harmed.  The downy goslings glowed in the morning light.  It was so touching to see the parents protect them so. 

There is Always One Youngster that Steps Out of Line

There is Always One Youngster that Steps Out of Line

While the parents were looking in different directions to see what danger might be lurking (and I was standing nearby quietly with my dog Takoda, who followed my example watching patiently without making a sound but was still likely a threat) one gosling seemed to stand up on its hind legs.  Was it trying to take off or just get a better look at what lies ahead.  How many times I must have failed to listen thinking I could figure out my own way.  Would this offspring I wondered come to a sad end, or did it possess courage enough to go on its own and survive if it became separated from its protectors.  

Mallard Couple out for a Morning Swim

Mallard Couple out for a Morning Swim

This mallard couple swam by next in perfect synchronicity.  Were they a pair that mated for life? What would happen when one approached the end faster and one swam no more?  I wanted to freeze this moment and protect them in a bubble, but they were soon down the river exploring new territories.

Heron Surveying the Scene

Heron Surveying the Scene

My gaze drifted along the rocks and I spotted this Great heron.  These birds always stand so still until they suddenly take flight and are gone.  Before they move on, they appear to be meditating, though perhaps they are just resting to garner enough strength to search for food and survive in waterways that are increasingly compromised.

Spending several days on the river listening to its sounds and feeling its rhythms has been medicine to my soul.  Listening to the rain has been cleansing too..  The impermanent life forms that I share its banks with seemed full of life, because they focused only on the present moment.  I hope to take these lessons to heart, so i will feel calmer and have more peace to share. There is no way to hang on to tree limbs or trunks at the edge of the water.  I and everything else will eventually be swept away.   

Buffalo with Brendan Bannon

Brendan Bannon in the Middle of Things

Brendan Bannon in the Middle of Things

I have long known how to get in the middle of a landscape and have no issues wading waste deep in a swamp, bushwhacking off a trail with my machete, or lying down over the edge of a cliff to get in the middle of things, but I am way more reticent when it comes to people.  I decided I wanted to learn how to do more justice to people in my photos and how to create more compelling stories, so I went to the best–Brendan Bannon.  We were going to photograph the Burmese fishing, but the weather was pretty chilly and we didn't find many fishermen at first.  We did find a group of guys playing volley ball though.  I wasn't really sure how photographing sports was going to do me any good, since my children are all grown and I am no longer photographing their sporting events.  I soon became aware that I was being given an invaluable lesson.  Brendan suddenly told me to go in and lie down on the field under the net.  I, of course, was chicken.  He asked permission and went and did it instead and the image above shows the reaction he got. The young men were a bit surprised at first and then continued on with their game.

Why I Love Brendan Bannon

Why I Love Brendan Bannon

The photograph above shows Brendan in the thick of things shooting blind, but anticipating every action nonetheless. He seemed to be having as much fun as the players.  He was also so aware of his own body in relation to the athletes that none of them seemed to fearful of his being in the middle of their playing field.  He later explained that photographing from inside the game instead of watching it from without and lying down and allowing himself to become vulnerable in relation to the people he was photographing would give his images a unique and immersive perspective.

Waiting for the Ball to Drop

Waiting for the Ball to Drop

Finally I got up my courage and went in under the net.  I was half up and half down and Brendan ever so kindly said either I had to trust them 100 percent and lie down, or I had to get up and leave the field.  The half in half out method was not going to work, just like it never does in life.  I made several images of people fighting over the ball at the net or leaping in the air to spike it, but the image that really expressed my feelings that day was this one.  I loved how every fiber of this young man's being is strained waiting for the ball to drop.  Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I was never 100% confident lying under the net.  This image was taken from my three quarters of the way down one quarter up position (the closest to the ground I managed to get) before he made contact with the ball and sent it on its way.  There is anticipation, a somewhat hesitant stance, but total engagement on the part of this athlete who was giving it his all but was not the super star with the red shoes, trendy haircut, jersey, and regulation sports pants that had first grabbed my attention.  This was a regular guy who was still in the game waiting to connect with a lofty ball and pass it along. I identified with this guy. Still, in the future I will work on getting 100 percent on the ground metaphorically speaking.

Immigrants Fishing and Photographing on the Niagraa River at the  a the Black Rock Canal Locks

Fishing and Photographing by the Confluence of the Niagara River and the Black Rock Canal

After the volley ball game, we did encounter some fishermen.  A boat that had just come through the locks and they'd seemed very impressed as it passed by.  This one young man continued photographing it until it was well in the distance. According to the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, over 80 species of fish have been recorded and it is still a popular fishing spot despite the impact of industry and development on water quality.  This has resulted in "chemical contamination from PCBs, mirex, chlordane, PAHs, dioxin, and pesticides."  The Niagara River has been listed as an Area of Concern by the International Joint Commission, a regulatory agency of U.S.-Canada shared waters. In addition there are frequent fish consumption advisories.  Yet immigrants and others economically disadvantaged people still fish in polluted areas. Sustenance living is an ongoing issue in this country and all people deserve access to fishable, drinkable water. In addition, as more contaminants enter our waterways, the entire food chain is becoming increasingly compromised.  This is an issue that affects all people.

Birds Flying Over a Cargo Ship, Niagara River

Birds Flying Over a Cargo Ship, Niagara River

The ship must have stirred up the fish that may have been lower down in the water column due to the cooler temperatures.  Before the ship went through, there had been no birds but suddenly, being opportunists, they filled the air and began diving for the surfacing fish.  I could see why this was a popular fishing spot.

Being Pushed Through the Black Rock Lock by a Tug

Being Pushed Through the Black Rock Lock by a Tug

This man had been on this vessel all winter and had loved it.  He said they had to take the canal, because the Niagara River was so shallow near here.  The lock was constructed between 1908-1913 by the Army Corps of Engineers.  The lock, the Black Rock Channel and the Erie Canal provide an inland water route between Lake Erie and the Atlantic Ocean.  Though it is an important shipping channel, locks and channels disturb the natural riparian banks.  The Black Rock Canal and Erie Basin continue to be impaired by PCB's and sewer overflows.

Tree Growing in Trapped Dirt Along a Pier, Niagara River

Tree Growing in Trapped Dirt Along a Pier, Niagara River

I was stunned to see this tree somehow growing along the pier.  Enough dirt must have gotten trapped along the rocks in much the same way trash had as well.   There were signs that it was going to begin leafing out soon.  It always amazes me to see the persistence of life in unlikely places. Development and industry along the river have altered habitat and water quality, as with most rivers in the United States.  According to the Riverkeeper, over "60% of the shoreline is lined with sheet metal or rock boulders that are difficult and dangerous to traverse for both people and animals."  (http://bnriverkeeper.org/places/niagara-river/

Cargo Ship and Tug Seen Through the Fence

Cargo Ship and Tug Seen Through the Fence

Everywhere I go, locks are protected by fences with barbed wire and guards–the larger the locks and dams the larger the security presence.  Yet the protection afforded nature is minimal by comparison.  

Boom by the Black Rock Canal

Boom by the Black Rock Canal

This boom was likely in place to prevent construction materials used in lock repairs from entering the river.  These are the devices typically used near construction projects on waterways as well as for oil and other chemical contamination spills. The problem is that they merely soak up and block surface water pollution. Most times I see evidence of oil sheen or contimination that has seeped through below.  Booms work best in calm water and are only 10 percent effective in open seas or turbid waters, and the Niagra River has turbidity issues due to large boats and weather conditions. Saturated booms cannot be reused either and their disposal is a big issue.  (http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/gadgets/a15666/santa-barbara-oil-spill-skimmers-and-booms/).    

Wastewater Pipe and Coal and Oil Train, Niagara River

Wastewater Pipe and Coal and Oil Train, Niagara River

This section of the Niagara River is right in front of the Bird Island wastewater treatment plant, which began operating in 1938. In 2014, he Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper worked to push the EPA and Sewer Authority to prevent billions of gallons from raw sewage from flowing directly into the river. Buffalo and older cities across the county have combined sewer systems, which mix human waste and stormwater runoff together..  During heavy rain events, there is too much stormwater for the systems to process and it is dumped untreated into waterways. The agreement between the EPA and the Sewer Authority allocated $41 million in upgrades.  After seeing how old that plant is, I was relieved to learn the need for improvements had been recognized although reaching that goal was 20 years away from the time of the agreement, so bacterial pollution continues.  (http://buffalonews.com/2014/04/20/sewer-authoritys-long-overdue-plan-will-slash-pollution-of-the-niagara-river/).  

In the 2016 Riverwatch Report, the Buffalo Niagar Riverkeeper reported that though the Niagara River is "a source of drinking water for much of the region. The NYSDEC considers this use to be threatened by known contamination from toxic sediment and suspected contamination from combined sewer overflows and urban stormwater runoff." In addition, while I was surveying the impaired riparian banks, a train carrying bakken crude oil and other fossil fuels from Canada passed over the bridge into the United States. It is essential that we uphold the Clean Water Act and continue to raise awareness of water quality issues.  Water is a diminishing resource as it is, and we cannot allow more of our waterways to be impaired to the point that they are no longer viable as drinking water sources.

Walking the Moses Cone Park Carriage Trails in Boone, North Carolina

Trout Lake

Trout Lake

Trout Lake is one of two man-made lake in Moses Cone Memorial Park in Boone.  The other is Bass Lake and both have been stocked with these fish since they were first created.  Moses Cone was the Denim King, but he and his family were naturalists before that designation became popular.  The 3,516-acre park also includes Flat Top and Rich Mountain, 25 miles of carriage trails, 32,000 apple trees, as well as black, white and red oak, hickory, birch, and maple trees.  Rhododendron and mountain laurel are also planted along the trails.  Though it is a designed park, there is much natural beauty to admire and once planted much of the park was allowed to become wild.

Fallen Tree covered in Mushrooms

Fallen Tree covered in Mushrooms

The tree above had fallen in the woods and was allowed to lie there, becoming a host for many mushrooms.  I have never seen so many mushrooms on one tree before, covering almost every inch of the remaining trunk.

Mushrooms and Rhododendron

Mushrooms and Rhododendron

The density of the ecosystems supported by the fallen tree was remarkable.  There were mushrooms, lichen and moss, and the rhododendron leaves gently brushed the scene in harmony.

Fallen Tree in a Stream

Fallen Tree in a Stream

Others were left in streams causing the water to divert in different ways , as in the image above. Everywhere the banks were left wild, which is so important for ecosystems and water quality.

Natural Riparian Bank

Natural Riparian Bank

I used to want to clean nature up in my photographs, and sometimes I will still remove an errant twig from a flower blossom.  However, now I see that what is so healing about being in nature is that nature does not exclude any part of the life cycle.  Dying things help create place for new life to spring up and none of their nutrients or organic material is wasted.

Fallen Down Fence, Moses Cone Memorial Park

Fallen Down Fence, Moses Cone Memorial Park

Even old fences were allowed to fall down or remain teetering.  It somehow seemed poetic.  Man-made creations from wood left to the elements decomposed in the same way as trees that were blown over or died from natural causes.

Tree Resin Protecting a Broken Tree

Tree Resin Protecting a Broken Tree

As I was walking, I came upon this broken tree that was either cut down or snapped during a storm.  The cut was uneven, so it may have been the latter.  Resin is how trees way prevent fungal diseases and insects from invading. It also has antiseptic properties that can prevent decay and it can help seal the tree so not as much water is lost. ( https://www.thoughtco.com/what-are-tree-resins-1343409).  I have often seen resin oozes out from scars, but never have I seen a stump covered so completely with it.  The image below shows the site of the break and the resin that has oozed over the edges.  

Trunk with Oozing Resin

Trunk with Oozing Resin

It was interesting to see all that was trapped inside it and how the tree still was trying to save itself even though it had lost all its branches and crown.

Layers of Trees 

Layers of Trees 

In the winter and spring, before the leaves come, the layers and layers of trees in the woods are evident.  Shadows also added to the density of the tapestry.  Yet somehow it did not feel overcrowded.  Perhaps it was the glimpse of the empty field beyond that created the sense of space.  As our planet becomes more and more overdeveloped and cramped, walking in wild spaces, even if they were originally planned and planted by man, will become increasingly necessary for human's to achieve balance.  In Japan they believe forest bathing, just being in the woods and doing nothing, is good for people's health and longevity. (https://qz.com/804022/health-benefits-japanese-forest-bathing/)

Field with Clouds, Moses Cone Memorial Park

Field with Clouds, Moses Cone Memorial Park

When I emerged from the woods onto this field, there were dramatic clouds brushing the hilltops. There was a stiff wind blowing, so stiff that I had to put my camera on top of the fencepost to get a focused image.  It reminded me that trees also provide shelter and protection.  Besides water, trees are essential to our survival and also in helping combat climate change by absorbing CO2 (https://www.arborday.org/trees/climatechange/treeshelp.cfm).  Planting trees at home, in communities in arboretums and in parks is more important than ever.

Crater Lake–Regenerating in a Pristine Blue Oasis with My Daughter

Crater Lake from Scott Mountain

Crater Lake from Scott Mountain

Last August, I flew to Oregon to meet my daughter Carolyn who had been working at the Andrews Experimental Forest all summer.  First we rafted on the Rogue River and then we went up to Crater Lake.  this image was taken from the summit of Scott Mountain.  For a long time, I have wanted to go to Crater Lake and see the incredibly blue water which gets its color because the lake is so deep and also at a high altitude. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and was formed after a 12,000 foot tall volcano erupted and collapsed 7700 years ago. There is a 655 m deep caldera, which formed after a land collision after a volcanic eruption of the ancient Mount Mazama Volcano.  All the water comes from rain or snowfall, since no rivers flow in or out of this lake.

Phantom Ship Island 

Phantom Ship Island 

The image above was taken from the summit of the Garfield trail.  When I saw the edge of the lake and the tiny Phantom Ship Island cut out from the blue water, it was almost electric.  The rock this tiny island is made from is andesite and dates to 400,000 years ago.

Carolyn at the Summit of Scott Mounain

Carolyn at the Summit of Scott Mounain

Another trail that offers exceptional views, and from which you can see the entire lake, is the trail to Scott Mountain.  This is the trail the first image in this blog was taken from too.

Crater Lake from the Garfield Trail

Crater Lake from the Garfield Trail

Along this trail we saw pines, fireweed, and small plants that found a way to survive in this park that has an average snowfall of 533 inches per year.  In 2016, Crater Lake broke its snowfall record with close to 197 inches of snow.  Yet, in the summer the subalpine climate is very dry due to the summer influence of the North Pacific High.  

Growing in the Cracks

Growing in the Cracks

The rocks in Crater Lake are Igneous and were formed by the solidification of magma from the caldera-forming eruption of Mount Mazama.  Most is porphyritic andesite, a volcanic rock that is high in ferro-magnesian minerals as can be seen in the image above.  

Twisted Stump and Heart

Twisted Stump and Heart

The way the stump of the tree is so twisted and growing into the steep, rocky hillside shows the difficult conditions trees and plants have to endure to survive here.

Towering Conglomerate Peak

Towering Conglomerate Peak

The cliffs are composed of volcanic conglomerate and lava streams.  Most are lava, but some, like the impressive monolith above, are of conglomerate.

Pool Above the Gorge

Pool Above the Gorge

The gorge is fascinating and the Rogue River actually disappears underground into a 250 foot lava tube and then reappears further down the river.

Old Growth Hemlock Bark

Old Growth Hemlock Bark

Western Hemlocks in the Pacific Northwest forests are typically between 350 and 750 years old.   Old growth trees are important for storing organic material and nutrients that they recycle back into the ecosystems.  The lichen, fungi, and mosses that grow on these trees create habitat fro many insects and small mammals.  The soil around the trees store huge amounts of water.  The bark of these ancient trees in fascinating and a record of the endurance. 

Pearsony Falls

Pearsony Falls

We also visited a few waterfalls in the area, and marveled at the dappled light on the cascades and  moss-covered rocks.  We were going to stop at the trail to Mill Creek Falls and the Avenue of the Boulders, but the parking lot was completely full. Instead we drove a short distance and had this lovely waterfall all to ourselves,.

Stream Before Tokee Falls

Stream Before Tokee Falls

When we got to Tokee Falls, I was so impressed by the water cascading in sheets from through the basalt cliff.  It was very dramatic as the water plummeted to a small pool below.  I used a very slow shutter speed and a filter to smooth out the water so the lines would parallel those of the rock face.

Tokee Falls Dream

Tokee Falls Dream

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Dunes Near Mount Baldy at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Dunes Near Mount Baldy at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is a beautiful section of Lake Michigan.  There are tall dunes with interesting lines and vegetation.  I had driven to the eastern end of the park, to hike Mount Baldy.  After I parked, I discovered the trail was closed due to excessive erosion.  Instead, I walked down this road that emerged with these dunes in one direction and the Nipsco Power Generating Station in the other.   After seeing the beautiful dunes with their undisturbed sand patterns, I was shocked to see plumes of pollution rise so close by.

NIPSCO Power Generating Station

NIPSCO Power Generating Station

The power plant was located on land directly abutting the dunes.  Power Generating Stations not only pollute the air, their coal ash pits leach mercury, arsenic, lead, and other toxic metals. Last November, NIPSCO requested $399 million in environmental protection projects and wanted a bill surcharge to pay for them, so they would be in compliance for coal ash rules.  

Interdunal Pond, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Interdunal Pond, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

In addition to the section of the park along the lakeshore, there are inland marshes, swamps, bogs, peatlands, and ponds.  According to the Park Service, the park could just as easily have been named the "Indiana Wetlands National Lakeshore."   When I drove through this area, the sun illuminated the cattails and other vegetation making them glow.  It concerned me that there was a power generating station with coal ash ponds so close to this wetland, which is no doubt very important to birds and other creatures.  Possibly as a result of human influence, cattails and duckweed now dominant.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Wetland

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Wetland

The duckweed is so prolific in this boggy area that it has likely crowded out a lot of other types of native vegetation that used to exist here.  A third of all plant and animal species that are currently endangered spend time in wetland habitats for at least part of their lives.  The species here have had to adapt to low mineral content, high acidity and low oxygen levels.  Clearly there were important natural areas here that run the risk of being disturbed if they aren't being hampered already, and human influence can be the deciding factor in whether an endangered species survives or not..

Bailey Homestead, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Bailey Homestead, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

The Bailey Homestead is a US National Historic Landmark preserved by the National Park Service in Porter, Indiana.  This home as owned by a fur trader named Joseph Aubert de Gaspe Bailly de Messein.  He acquired this home when the Calumet River was opened for white settlement in the 1830s.  The Little Calumet River passes right near the homestead.

Little Calumet River

Little Calumet River

The banks of the river were mostly wild, except for a narrow footpath that ran through the trees.  Calumet is the name for a type of Native American Cermonial Pipe that is used as a peace pipe.  I wondered if it was the same one that I smoked at Standing Rock when I went to the drill site near where the graves had been desecrated.  The Calumet and Little Calumet Rivers were no doubt sacred to the Miami and Potawatomi Indians that once lived near here.  Sadly, pollution by steal mills, foundaries, a meat packing plant. and other industries was unrestricted for decades and the river remains high in contaminants.

Lake View, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Lake View, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Takoda and I spent explored the area every moment until the sun went down.  We were able to view a beautiful sunset fro the beach at Lake View.  The area had so much natural beauty but under the surface there were so many issues facing the river, wetlands, and lakeshore, since the surrounding area was so heavily industrialized.  It frightens me to think what will happen to the environment if we allow parklands to be sold or used by corporations.  They are the last frontier of wilderness and are already frequently harmed by what goes on around them even when we don't allow them to be polluted from within.

Ushuaia and Tierra Del Fuego–South America's Southernmost Archipelego

The southernmost tip of South America is shared by both Chile and Argentina. We arrived in Patagonia via the Argentinian side and went to the town of Ushuaia.  When I woke up the morning on the ship, I walked out on deck and this is what I saw.  The clouds were phenomenal and picked up all the light and cast this glow on the snow capped mountains behind.  

Clouds and Mountains, Ushuaia

Clouds and Mountains, Ushuaia

We spent the day in Tierra del Fuego (translated as the land of fire), which some call the end of the world.  There were aboriginal people here originally, who were named the Yahgan, Yamana, or Tequenicia.  Ferdinand Magellan, Charles Darwin, Francis Drake and other encountered these tough people who survived naked in the elements.  There is an amazing story of a young boy Jemmy Button, who was found and purchased by Captain FitzRoy of the HMS Beagle for a single button and taken to Europe where he was taught English and other customs.   Eventually he was returned to Tierra del Fuego, but when he did he shed his clothes and returned to his native customs.  The arrogance of believing that customs taught almost 9,000 miles away would be applicable in such an extremely different geographical location.

Tierra del Fuego Lake

Tierra del Fuego Lake

When we arrived in the park, we went straight to a lake.  The snow capped mountains in the distance, the rocky shoreline, and the windswept trees were all memorable.

Tierra del Fuego Lake with Trees

Tierra del Fuego Lake with Trees

In some places, the trees arched over the water.  Everywhere the water had beautiful emerald colors and interesting rocks.

Rocky Coastline, Tierra del Fuego

Rocky Coastline, Tierra del Fuego

The lake was so spellbinding, I truly could have stayed there all day.  It appeared different from every vantage point.

Schist, Lava and Trunks, Tierra del Fuego

Schist, Lava and Trunks, Tierra del Fuego

When I looked in the direction of the woods, it was equally fascinating.  The schist and lava remnants were dotted with vegetation and glowed in the light.  Somehow, the trunks had figured out how to take purchase.

Growing at Impossibly Odd Angles, Tierra del Fuego

Growing at Impossibly Odd Angles, Tierra del Fuego

There were places that the trees seemed to grow at impossibly strange angles, no doubt from the windswept conditions.  The ground was carpeted with greens and wildflowers.  Life seemed to flourish, though the way it grew bespoke its difficulties and at least the elements were pure if harsh.

Mountain Viewed Through the False Mistletoe, Tierra del Fuego

Mountain Viewed Through the False Mistletoe, Tierra del Fuego

The vegetation was very unusual but lush here, and there was a preponderance of flowering false mistletoe.  I wondered what that could mean.  It was beautiful nonetheless.  

False Mistletoe, Tierra del Fuego

False Mistletoe, Tierra del Fuego

Above is a close-up of false misteltoe, although there is a lot of other vegetation surrounding it.  Darwin must have been ecstatic cataloging all the species of plants here.  Sub Antarctic tundra proliferates.  

Fall Color, Tierra del Fuego

Fall Color, Tierra del Fuego

I was there in March, but of course that is early fall in Patagonia.  When we got the end of our second hike, this is the scene we saw.  One day I am going to go back there and hike for a whole week or more, exploring all the trails.  This was one of the most interesting places we visited in Patagonia in terms of vegetation.

Darwin's Fungus, Tierra del Fuego

Darwin's Fungus, Tierra del Fuego

The golf-ball like fungus above was named in Charles Darwin's honor since he collected it on his voyage on the HMS Beagle in 1832.  It is a highly evolved parasitic fungi that grows on southern beech trees.  Also growing on the tree above is old man's beard lichen

Lake in Tierra Del Fuego4258-2.jpg

Lake in Tierra del Fuego

We picnicked near another lake and I soon set off walking around it.  The waves were crashing, even though it was inland, from the bluster winds, the clouds seemed to funnel angrily towards a point in the distance, while the sunlight simultaneously crept through.  Big pieces of driftwood dotted the shoreline.  This is not an easy territory for any form of life to endure in, but it is dramatic and beautiful and being in the middle of it really made me feel alive.  

Fire-eyed Diucon, Tierra del Fuego

Fire-eyed Diucon, Tierra del Fuego

Just before we left the park, we came upon this fire-eyeddiucon and all the birders went crazy.  This fly catching passerine perched ever so patiently for us, staying on the branch for enough time for everyone to take a portrait.  The fiery eye was very impressive

The End of the World is Where Life Begins

Basalt Formation, Cape Horn

Basalt Formation, Cape Horn

Cape Horn is the Southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago off of southern Chile.  When we arrived there by zodiac, it was a blustery day.  Rain and wind interspersed and I was astonished to see how many plants could survive under such seemingly hostile conditions.  

Cape Horn Rocky Coastline with Vegetation

Cape Horn Rocky Coastline with Vegetation

This is where the Pacific and Atlantic oceans meet.  I had hoped to kayak here, but the seas were too rough.  Ferdinand Magellan even dreaded rounding the horn and the Spanish were so concerned they sent their gold by land.  Fortunately, it wasn't nearly as rough as it could have been, as we were able to take zodiacs from the ship to Hornos Island when we got closer.

Seas Around Cape Horn

Seas Around Cape Horn

The Cape itself appears barren and moor-like, since all the plants are at ground level.

Cape Horn 

Cape Horn 

Cape Horn Bryophytes

Cape Horn Bryophytes

Cape Horn is actually a site of biodiverse richness, with many endemic species that are critical in preventing soil erosion and in supporting the life cycles of other vegetation.  Though it would seem unlikely at first glance, the Cape has a great deal of biodiversity, more so in many areas that are threatened my pollution and human development.  UNESCO and Fundacio Omora are working to design and implement strategies for sustainable conservation of the biodiversity found here.  (https://sites.google.com/site/capehornbryophytes/Home

Caracara Acting as a Sentinel 

Caracara Acting as a Sentinel 

The striated caracara is the southernmost breeding raptor in the world and is near threatened.  The white tail band is a distinguishing feature.  Charles Darwin was one of the first to become enamored with this curious bird, which shows little fear of humans.  

Lighthouse Keeper and His Girlfriend

Lighthouse Keeper and His Girlfriend

Last year was the 400th anniversary of Cape Horn.  This lighthouse is a Chilean Navy Station.  Many sailors have lost their lives rounding the horn and there is a large sculptor by Chilean sculptor Jose Balcells of an albatross, which was erected in memory of these sailors.  

Cape Horn Islands

Cape Horn Islands

You can see how formidable the rocky coastline is near Cape Horn and why sailors would have perished. 

Albatross Statue, Cape Horn

Albatross Statue, Cape Horn

Niche in the Cliffside with Madonna and Child Statue

Niche in the Cliffside with Madonna and Child Statue

Given the bleak conditions, I understood why there would be a statue like in the cliffside the stairway was erected alongside, to take people from the beach below to the towering cape above.

The Suwannee River Mass Civil Disobedience Action on 1-14-17

Suwannee River State Park Closed for the First Time in History for Reaching Capacity

Suwannee River State Park Closed for the First Time in History for Reaching Capacity

On January 14, 2017 I went to join the Suwannee Riverkeeper for a paddle down the Suwannee River in conjunction with the planned massive civil disobedience action at the Suwannee River State Park.  First we met at the boat launch and then we carpooled to the park.  When we got there, we were told that the park had reached capacity and was closed for the first time in history.  

Media Arriving at the Park

Media Arriving at the Park

John Quarterman went to talk to the rangers and park managers to see what the situation was at the same time they opened the gates for the media.  It was eventually decided that cars could drive out and bring people in to carpool them back into the park. Originally they said it was possible that cars along the road could be towed, but in the end they decided as long as cars were not blocking traffic they were safe.  The image below shows the cars driving out and then turning around to take people back inside the park.

Carpooling People Into the Park for the Civil Disobedience Action

Carpooling People Into the Park for the Civil Disobedience Action

While I was walking around photographing outside the gate, this beautiful woman whom I had met at a Center For Peace Building's workshop a couple of months ago came up and hugged me. I was so touched she was there speaking out for water.  She'd been very moved when I'd described my journey photographing water in Florida and around the country.  I sensed instantly that she was a very empathetic soul and dedicated to upholding the rights of ecosystems.  The day was off to such a great start knowing that someone like her was present for this cause.

Heartfelt Protector

Heartfelt Protector

We opted not to carpool into the park, since we needed to get to the other side of the river and launch our vessels for the water protest.  On the way back to the boat launch, we had to drive by the construction site on the ranch land adjacent to the park.  I was riding in the back of a pickup truck, so I could photograph the security there.  They saw me taking a photograph and waved.   I have to say that the civil disobedience seemed civil on both sides all day, which was not what I expected.  Yes, many of the people I know that attended, myself included, are strongly opposed to the pipeline in Florida or anywhere. I also suspect there was way more security than was needed at the park, Yet, on the other hand, I was at Standing Rock when things went awry and understand the importance of communication on both sides.  That is why I value the objectives of the Center for Peace Building so much. 

Security at a Construction Site Near the Suwannee River State Park

Security at a Construction Site Near the Suwannee River State Park

Protecting the Pipeline

Protecting the Pipeline

I got John Quarterman to drop me off, so I could hike up the riverbank to the construction site and see what was happening.  First I saw a couple of people in riot gear on the top of the bank.  Then, I came to the site and saw people stationed like this every few feet.  They left a row of trees to form a screen.  

A Water Protector and a Sheriff, Neighbors on Opposite Sides of the Fence

A Water Protector and a Sheriff, Neighbors on Opposite Sides of the Fence

While I was walking up the path, a most extraordinary thing happened. Two women recognized each other from opposite sides of the fence.  Turns out they were neighbors and their children played together.  They had a great conversation in which they both acknowledged what the other was doing and expressed how they respected each other's position.  I know it is difficult sometimes.  It is hard to understand when you are standing up for clean water to keep your children and the planet healthy and safe how anyone could be working for the other side.  Sometimes people have jobs they can't afford to lose in order to support their families.  The battle really is at a higher level.  Maybe because these two women were able to talk this way that day, this sheriff may decide in the future that she can no longer work extra hours for the pipeline company.  

Ready and Waiting

Ready and Waiting

All these sheriffs and armed security personnel were poised to defend the construction site.  These people were all standing at the corner of the construction site, shortly before the route took a turn to the right.  All along the site, there were people with riot helmets. I am not sure what they were expecting from peaceful protestors.  It was announced that there would be a mass civil disobedience, but no one ever said anything about violent actions, at least as far as I heard.

Multigenerational Protestors

Multigenerational Protestors

These protectors were all camped out at the corner, where the pipeline took a sharp right and headed along an easement the pipeline company acquired just outside the park boundaries.  The yellow sign reads, "Unless Someone Like You Cares a Whole Awful Lot, Nothing is Going to Get Better.  It's Not.

Pipelines Require a lot of Calculations

Pipelines Require a lot of Calculations

By this point, I have seen a lot of pipelines. However, never have I seen so many calculations scrawled on the side of one.  Perhaps it had something to do with the sharp turn this one had to make.  I am not really sure.  It did make me realize just how complicated this whole venture is from a surveying standpoint. Were there any figures that could tell them how to avoid the Falmouth Cathedral Cave System below.

Pipeline at a Right Angle to the Section Going Under the River

Pipeline at a Right Angle to the Section Going Under the River

The image above shows a piece of pipe perpendicular to the direction of the river crossing.  How these pipes were to be joined and secured making such a sharp angle, I am not really sure.  Hopefully, the connections will be entirely safe, but I suspect no aspect of a pipeline is ever that.

Palmettos and Maples Along the Trail 

Palmettos and Maples Along the Trail 

This is an example of the beautiful and lush vegetation directly across from the pipeline corridor, and an example of the vegetation that was likely lost when everything was clearcut.

Watching from the Safe Zone

Watching from the Safe Zone

Protectors were advised of a safe zone, which was here, behind a fence, and a gray area where people might be allowed to stand on an access road through the route. The route itself was a red zone and people were told it was a felony to trespass there. When I arrived there, the sheriffs were not objecting to people walking around.  They seemed to be giving people a chance to take a peacefully protest at least for awhile.

Mobile Command Station

Mobile Command Station

The sheriffs came equipped with a very large mobile command station.  They were prepared to deal with whatever civil disobedience they were going to encounter.

Crowds Congregating in the Access Road

Crowds Congregating in the Access Road

Here are some of the people who milled around in the access road.   There were people playing music and making speeches.  After I left, in the late afternoon, there was a sit in with people holding hands and chained together in pipes.  Still, by the end of the day it remained peaceful and there were no arrests.

Panagioti Tsolkas, An Organizer of the Event

Panagioti Tsolkas, An Organizer of the Event

Panagioti Tsolkas was an organizer for the event.  He has been working tirelessly in bringing people together to stand up to Sabal Trail and attempt to revoke the permits for the pipeline.

The Youngest Protector Who Likely Loves Solar

The Youngest Protector Who Likely Loves Solar

This was the youngest protector I encountered.  Of course the reason many were out here was to stand up for a cleaner, healthier planet for future generations.

In a Rush to Save the Planet

In a Rush to Save the Planet

What this generation seems to understand that many from my own do not is that the time is now to take action and that we have to be constantly vigilant, or more and more of the environment will continue to be irreparably destroyed.

Our Troops Didn't Die for Corporate Profits

Our Troops Didn't Die for Corporate Profits

A member of Veterans for Peace was there and is sign was totally on point.  So many veterans are joining water protectors right now.  They have seen the face of war and understand that the last battle was over oil and the one for the rest of our days will be over water, because as the indigenous say "Water is Life."

A Muscogee Tribe Member Speaking About Water

A Muscogee Tribe Member Speaking About Water

I was very glad that I was still there when this Muscogee tribe member told a legend about water and what happens when someone tries to hoard it.  Sadly, I was so focused on taking photographs of him that I do not remember all the details.  Hopefully, someone will fill me in, as I am sure it was very cautionary and had a great lesson to teach.

Singing a Spiritual Together

Singing a Spiritual Together

Then these two women sang a spiritual together. Again, I was so focused on their connection and making an image that evoked the emotion between them that I do not remember what song it was.  I was very moved watching them look into each other's eyes and sing from their souls.  Shortly after they concluded, I heard an announcement that if you did not want to be arrested it was time to go back to the safe zones behind the fence.  I knew the Suwannee Riverkeeper was waiting for me on the river, so I decided to go back.

Playing for the Guards

On the way out to the site where everyone was congregated, I had met these two musicians.  They had told me they were on their way back to play for the guards.  In fact, when I passed by the drill site, this is where they were still.  I thought that was a truly remarkable thing to do and such a gesture of goodwill. 

John Quarterman Walking Through the Woods

John Quarterman Walking Through the Woods

After we paddled back to the launch, John asked me if I wanted to join him on a walk through the woods.  I'd been on this same walk a month earlier and I was curious how things were progressing on this side of the river.  Last time I'd walked here, I could hear some noise in the distance.  This time it was very loud.  We didn't see any wildlife at all.

Construction Site on the Opposite Side of the River

Construction Site on the Opposite Side of the River

When we emerged from the trees, this is what we saw.  We weren't exactly sure what was going on.  The pipe was hoisted up, but it wasn't moving.  It was difficult to see what was going on behind the berm.  Perhaps they were pumping drilling mud.

Line of State Troopers

Line of State Troopers

There were about 15 State Trooper cars and multiple sheriffs vehicles lined up around the construction site, both down the side and in front. I was very surprised to see so many and wondered where they all came from.  At many of the construction sites I have visited so far, especially in controversial areas, I have encountered sheriffs.   This was the first time I'd seen State Troopers.  Were these personnel also off duty like the sheriffs typically hired by the pipeline company?  I am still not clear why off duty officers are allowed to wear their uniforms and drive official vehicles. since the pipeline company is private.  Nevertheless, despite the presence of so many officers people behaved respectfully on both sides.  None of the State Troopers said anything to us about being where we were either.  John had called the sheriffs and told them he'd be doing a paddle and asked to make sure walking in the park was still allowed and it was.