On Monday January 6, Friends life member Donna Thalacker will lead a nature walk on the Barnett Creek Loop Trail at the Lower Suwannee NWR. The trail is on high ground and Donna expects it will be dry. It is a 3-mile round trip walk in one of the prettiest parts of the Refuge. One mile will be along Barnett Creek Road and the remainder of the walk will be behind the gates along a broad grass pathway through mostly hydric hammock. If you are interested in joining the walk, please let Donna know. You can email her at email@example.com
A group will car-pool from Cedar Key Park. Gather at 9:30 a.m. Leave at 9:40 a.m.
It would be good to wear long pants, long shirt, comfortable walking shoes and bring along insect repellent. As anywhere in this area, the no-see-ums can be a problem if there is not a good breeze. Ticks can be expected, although they are not usually too bad in this area of the Refuge.
For the third year in a row, the sunset hid behind thick clouds at Shell Mound on winter solstice. Heavy rain threatened and held off. The rain threat did not stop the Friends Gathering. We still enjoyed our cookies, hot herb tea, and guided walk on the Shell Mound trail.
Shell Mound was built on one arm of a U-shaped, parabolic dune formed in the last ice age. Palmetto Mound, a now-destroyed native American burial site, was located on the other arm. The dune aligned with the winter and summer solstices, making it sacred ground and a marvelous place to celebrate the longest and shortest days of the year.
The native Americans who lived and gathered at Shell Mound to honor their ancestors also probably had many years with no visible sunsets. We will be back to share their special place.
Friends members and other Shell Mound enthusiasts will gather again this year on the Shell Mound To walk the interpretive trail and to share the sunset at Winter Solstice. the guided walk will start at 4:30 from the parking lot at the pier. Sunset is at 5:39 P.M. It has been blustery and foggy the past couple of years. Here's hoping for a lovely evening this year. But even blustery is mystical as we watch the sun over the end of the parabolic dune where much earlier people buried their dead and celebrated the Solstice.
Almost one-third of the members of Friends of the Lower Suwannee & Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges are Life Members. Their memberships do not expire.
Until a year or so ago, the Annual Memberships of the other two-thirds of Friends members expired at the end of the calendar year.
Friends changed that system about a year ago and now Annual Memberships expire one year after the member joins or renews. Friends sends you an email reminder when it is almost time to renew and greatly appreciates both Life and Annual memberships.
What About End-of-Year Philanthropic Gifts?
And, Friends also greatly appreciates the gifts that members send in December's traditional "giving season." Last year, in addition to trail guides, brochures, interpretive panels and lots of other activities, membership dues and philanthropic gifts went to help support tracking of "our" Swallow-tailed Kite, "Suwannee".
You can make a donation by check to Friends of Refuges, P. O. Box 532, Cedar Key, FL 32625 or online here.
More trails are coming. For several years, because of the shortage of staff and equipment, the Refuge managers had to allow some wonderful areas on the refuge to grow back and become inaccessible. Finally the heavy equipment has become available and the staffing shortage has eased a bit. Hurray for visitors!
Preliminary surveys are complete of an area south of the South Entrance to the Nature Drive off County Road 347. It includes pine forest and pleistocene era dunes. Using mechanical and herbicide applications, all the roads that have historically been maintained are being reclaimed. Watch for more information here and in the Friends News Brief.