Monday, December 25, 2023

12/24 Koreshan Historic State Park Tour

I have driven past this state park and stayed here briefly once before, but the campground spaces for RVs are a bit cramped and trees often block satellite access, so have pretty much passed it up in the past.  This trip, I originally made reservations for the 23rd, 24th, and 25th at a state park near Tampa, thinking I might fly out of that airport.  However, I decided to stay in Florida for the holidays and found three days available here at Koreshan, which saved me a drive of 230 miles round trip.  Easier to stay here because is is closer to last and next campground.  

Anyway, I will post photos of this campground tomorrow.  Today, since I had some free time, I booked a walking tour of the historical area of this state park.  In the late 1800s and until the property was deeded to the state in 1961, this place was a utopian religious community with some strange beliefs.  For example, they believed that the earth was round, but they believed that it was hollow, with the stars, sun, and moon  in the center of the globe and the people and ground were inside an outer shell.  This is hard to visualize, but a photo later will explain it a bit more clearly.  They also believed that members needed to be celibate.  You could join the group with your children, and they were treated very well, but you could not have an relationships with the opposite sex or have more children.  THAT was one of the biggest reasons that the group died out after the founder's death in 1908. 

When the first people from the sect came here, there were no roads and not many other people in this area, other than cattle farmers and some people living on fishing.  The group worked hard and built homes and dormitories, plus a store, bakery, industrial metal working shop, farms, and other places where they earned money to support themselves.   

Anyway, there is more information on this on these sites:

The volunteer tour guide did a great job of explaining the history of this place, by the way, so here are some photos!

This building was built as an art hall, but mostly served as a meeting place and a concert hall for its orchestra. 

This is a model that the world as the Koreshans saw it.  What this photo does not show clearly is that the left and right parts were convex and were supposed to depict the outer shell of the world that contained the land, oceans, and people.  The middle part depicts the hollow center that contained the heavens, with the sun, moon, and stars.  Takes some brain twisting, however!!!


Supposedly, this is a model of an instrument that proved that the earth was hollow.  

While the religious founder managed the beliefs of the sect, there were seven women who were in charge of the actual running of the compound and its many businesses.  They each had a private room in this house instead of living in the dormitories where the rest of the members lived. 

Imagine this area filled with buildings.  Most were burned or fell apart or torn down. 

The land was purchased from an original settler who lived with his family in this little cabin.

This very fancy entrance was along the river and used by visiting dignitaries, including potential members.  Apparently Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Harvey Firestone all visited here. 


This building was originally the home of the founder, with many of the sects children sleeping in the second floor. 

The inside of the founder's home, or at the inside of the lower level.  There is a long story about this, but one of the religious beliefs of the founder was that he was the 7th savior, right after Jesus, so he would rise from the dead and bring with him all the members who had died in the past.  He lived here with a woman who was supposed to assist him in rising from the dead---strangely!

When this did not happen, this caused many members to leave the sect.  The few who were eventually left, owned the property together and were the ones who donated it to the state.

Throughout this place, there was some amazing woodworking, including this beautiful staircase.  There were two in this building--one for each side of the children's space on the second floor, which was divided by sex. 

Another room on the opposite side of the first floor, where the woman chosen by the founder lived.  (As the tour guide said, "Obviously, all people are equal, but some were more equal than others!)

A photo of some of the members and the children in the sect.  The tour guide said that the children were given excellent educations and training for careers, and could choose to leave when they were 18 for girls and 21 for boys.  And they apparently were given enough money to give them a good start in life when they left.  

Another view of the house where the seven women who managed the compound lived.

Another beautiful staircase. 

At the far end of the compound was the industrial and metal working businesses, along with the bakery and kitchens for the sect. 

Interesting industrial equipment.  They maintained the water and other systems, as well as manufactured things like wrought iron that they sold to the public. 

All of these businesses and their use of technology that was modern for the time meant that the community was financially stable and the members comfortable.  It was the lack of new people joining to replace those that had died that really ended this colony. 

Anyway, the volunteer gave much more detailed information than I have summarized here, and I am very glad to have taken the tour and learned more about this interesting group.  And by the way, even after the land was given to the state, the remaining members stayed here, the last one dying in 1982!!

Sunday, December 24, 2023

12/23 Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

This place is one of my favorite places in Florida, and though I visited today, I will almost certainly visit at least once or twice again this winter.  There is always something different to see because the water level varies and this causes the number and types of birds who are here at any one time.  In addition, I was told by the ranger that not all of the migrating birds from the north have arrived yet.  So, maybe my next visit will be at the end of January or beginning of February. 

If you have never been here, I strongly encourage you to put this place in your high priority "bucket list."  You will not regret it.  (And before I forget, there is good parking for bigger vehicles like mine.  Just follow the signs and turn onto the grassy area just before the main parking lot.)  Click here for more information:   Also, they are open 365 days a year and that also includes the gift shop which has some really neat bird shirts!

Here are some photos that show my most recent visit:

The boardwalk is 2.5 miles, though you can cut a section of it off, if you choose.  If you really want to see birds, I strongly recommend you walk quietly and softly on rubber-sole shoes.  Also, it helps to stop every once in a while and just listen for a splash or a rustling in the greenery, indicated a bird is nearby.

This part of the boardwalk enters the bald cypress tree area.  They are the tall trees with greyish bark and no leaves during the winter. 

On the other hand, the Corkscrew has some open areas that attract different birds than the cypress areas.

I was alone on a stretch of boardwalk, so I was standing still listening.  I heard a splash and found this American Bittern catching snails.  He/she was very shy so it took several photos to get photos of all parts of the bird.  He looks a little like a limpkin, but he has vertical stripes instead of spots like the limpkin does.

I had never seen an American Bittern before, and he is the only bird I have ever seen with stripes on his beak.  I stopped several noisy groups that were behind me, put my finger to my lips to shush them, and showed them this bird.  If you walk too quickly on this boardwalk and talk, you will never hear or see birds, so a lot of people are disappointed in this sanctuary. 

Lots of different lichens on trees.  Last time I was here, a squirrel was eating these. 

Such a beautiful place.  The green stuff floating on the water, by the way, is a tiny plant called "duckweed" NOT pond scum!!!

Wonder how much these ferns would sell for in a greenhouse?  Also, note the air plant on the center tree.

A lot of plants growing on the trunks or bases of trees. 

A ten-year-old boy had spotted this tiny snake and pointed it out to several of  us.  I tried looking this up by searching for black snakes in Florida that were about a foot long.  I could not find any with the spots that were on this one and with the coloring on his lower face.  I give up on this one because I could not find a photo that perfectly matched this one.  Maybe a juvenile cottonmouth or a southern water snake or a black snake of some kind!!

There were several covered observation areas in the swamp, but a lot of them lost their roofs in the last hurricane.  This one at least still has its sunshade!

The smaller stems around the bottom of the tree are stranger figs.  They do take some nutrients from the host tree, but generally support it in a hurricane.  They also produce a fruit which is eaten by a lot of animals and birds.

This sign points out one of the largest bald cypress in this virgin cypress forest. 

More really big cypress trees in the next few photos.  These huge trees used to be nesting places for endangered wood storks, but climate change has caused these birds to nest farther north these days.

More photos of this lovely swamp. 

A swamp lily.

This red-headed woodpecker was being very noisy!!

A bit hard to see his face, but this is a little blue heron. 

This tree truck is holding onto the boardwalk railing!

Ditto for this one.

Heading back to the visitor center. 

Several of use saw the back of this bird, so we first thought it was a barred owl. 

Finally, it turned around and we saw it was a red-shouldered hawk.  We were told at the visitor center that it was a young bird, so his reddish shoulder marking has not yet developed.  

Such a pretty bird!!