Apalachicola: Day 2

The lazy days of fishing, strolling by the Gulf, and eating continue. On Sunday we took Carolyn to the airport in Tallahassee, as she has to go back to her medical practice in Michigan (she’ll be moving down here next January). In the meantime, here’s the house where we’re staying. Carolyn and Doug have another house right across the street; this one appears to be used for guests:

Carolyn and Cap’n Doug on the front porch of the other house:

Two trees in our front yard: perhaps readers can recognize them, as I forgot the names. This one has bark that naturally peels off:

I believe this is a pine:

The trees and vegetation grow very quickly here because of the warm and humid climate. Here’s a tree that has absorbed the wire fence like an amoeba absorbs its prey:

Every day for breakfast we head to the Apalachicola Coffee & Chocolate Company for the ideal breakfast: coffee and pie. This is a fantastic chocolate and coconut pie with meringue:

On the way to Tallahassee, we took a route through a region that harbors the rare and endangered red-cockaded woodpecker (Leuconotopicus borealis). This woodpecker has hardly any red color; as the Cornell website notes, “Males have a tiny, nearly invisible red streak (“cockade”) at the upper border of the cheek. (Females are red-less.) Here’s a photo of a male from the Audubon site that shows the red streak pretty well.

The Cornell bird site notes the reason for the species’ rarity:

This endangered species is a habitat specialist that is strongly tied to old-growth pine forests that burn frequently, leaving the understory mostly clear of younger pines and hardwoods. They were once common in vast tracts of longleaf pine; now they also occur in loblolly, slash, and some other pine stands in the southeastern pine flatwoods

These old-growth forests are rare, and burning is now done by the Forest Service rather than by lightning strikes. We drove through one, and naturalists had marked with a white ring every tree that harbored a red-cockaded nest. There were quite a few white-ringed trees, but the area is small. Here’s one; can you spot the nest hole?

Note that the burn is clearly visible as the charring of the trunks, the absence of undergrowth, and the new, bright green fern fronds:

Here it is; and it looks as if it’s been lined with a piece of pipe or something. Maybe readers can explain.

We did see one red-cockaded woodpecker, but I couldn’t photograph it as it was simply a dark blob hopping on the side of a tree. Still, it’s on my life list, and I gather that few people who set out to see one of these birds actually succeed.

We then drove to the tiny town of Sumatra, Florida (population 148 in 2010), which has a restaurant well known for its fried grouper.

Like many towns in this area, Sumatra is religious. There are plenty of churches to be seen and plenty of evangelical signs. I’m not quite sure what this one means. I suppose you could construe it as meaning that we’re going to live again after death, but are now inhabiting a world that’s transitory and torturous.

The old post office in “town” (if you can call it that; it’s just a few buildings and houses). A very atmospheric old place—no doubt once the center of the town’s social life:

The Family Coastal Restaurant, an old-time restaurant with friendly local waitstaff:

There was a Sunday buffet, which I didn’t get but Doug and Carolyn did. John and I opted for the grouper dinner with fried green tomatoes and hush puppies, for grouper (not on the buffet) is the restaurant’s signature dish.

I changed the buffet sign’s dessert feature from “chocolate cake” to “chordate cake”. I’m a bad boy:

A grouper dinner, with delicious fried fillets of the fish, fried green tomatoes, and two crunchy hush puppies. It was great. I washed it down with sweet iced tea (“the table wine of the South”); John also had a bowl of oyster stew, which he couldn’t finish as it was the size of a huge soup tureen.

After lunch we combed the roadside to find the local carnivorous plants: pitcher plants and sundews. We found both, though we got wet. (These plants live in marshy, nutrient-poor soils, which is why they’ve evolved to catch insects.) I can’t remember the species of large pitcher plant, but perhaps a reader can oblige (to me it looks like the hooded pitcher plantSarracenia minor, which flowers in April and May; the purple flower is not the pitcher plant’s).

Photos of two flowering pitcher plants. Insects fall into the pitcher and are digested by enzymes in the pool of liquid in the pitcher’s bottom. To the right you can see a dead reddish-brown pitcher:

A very strange flower:

And a sundew. This species isn’t known to me but resembles the pink sundew, Drosera capillaris. The plants are very small—just two inches across. The leaves have sticky tentacles that entrap attracted insects, and then curl inward, dissolving the insect with enzymes and absorbing the digested goo into the plant.

Wakulla, Florida, a town that loves Jesus, but appears to have done so for only a decade:

In Wakulla, Doug made us stop at the local general store, 95% of which was devoted to fishing gear. I had to walk around for about an hour while these guys looked at fishing porn, as they’re doing in the photo below.

At the counter Doug had a chat with a guy buying a case of Dr. Pepper (a soft drink beloved in the South). They chatted briefly about the guy’s boat parked outside, which was a flat-fronted skiff different from Doug’s boat. Doug observed to Mr. Pepper that “you can never have enough boats.” The guy replied, “Yeah—the problem is convincing The Wife of that.”

A sign outside the store. For the life of me I can’t figure how they could spell one word right and the other word wrong. It’s possible that “swimware” doesn’t mean “bathing suits” but “all accoutrements for swimming,” in which case it might be correct, but I’ve never heard that word.

The whole road was dotted with “watch out for bear” signs, as American black bear (Ursus americanus) are fairly common around here.

Tomorrow: a birding trip on which I meet reader and videographer Tara Tanaka,whose videos have often graced this site.


  1. Barry Lyons
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    I want that chocolate and coconut pie! Damn, that looks good!

  2. paablo
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    That first tree looks like a birch.

    • Rita
      Posted April 17, 2018 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      I thought so, too. A river birch, betula nigra. Though it would be good to see a pic of the leaves as well as the entire tree, to see the shape and branching pattern, ie. are the leaves alternate or opposite, etc.

  3. GBJames
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Is that “Wakulla loves Jesus” sign an official town sign? (Attn: FFRF!)

    • Posted April 17, 2018 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      Believe me, I looked, and had I seen any sign of government involvement, I would have reported it to the FFRF. But I think it’s a private sign.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted April 17, 2018 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      I gather from hunting the web that the “Wakkula Loves Jesus” billboard is 10 years old [hence anniversary] & according to a 2009 video it was rumoured to be costing someone $450/mnth – paid [presumably] to the county. From Google images I see there’s been a few different designs put up each time it’s renewed, but the message remains the same.

    • Diego
      Posted April 17, 2018 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

      I’m pretty sure it’s private individuals. The religiosity in Wakulla County is quite high, but I don’t think it’s state-sponsored.

  4. kieran
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    If it’s painted on it’s a marker for removal of the tree.

    If it’s not it could for DBH, diameter breast height a measurement for assessing the quality of wood.

    • Posted April 17, 2018 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      No, no. The painted rings tell the naturalists that this tree harbors a red-cockaded woodpecker nest, as you can see from the nest in that tree. No way that it would be a marker to cut the tree down!

      • Posted April 17, 2018 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

        Yes PCC is correct, and you can see that the nest is an insert – a false nest cut into the tree. You can see the metal protector to prevent other species enlarging the hole. RCW’s only nest in live trees and making a hole takes ages and so researchers give them a start by making ready to use nest holes for them

        • Posted April 17, 2018 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

          Ah, that explains the insert. Thanks for the information, and how clever to save the birds trouble by giving them pre-fab nests!

  5. Ron DeBry
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    I gather you did not visit Wakulla Springs. A very deep freshwater cave system, complete with mastodon fossils on the bottom. Most famous as the spot where many of the early Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies were filmed. Also where wedding was held, but that bit seems to have escaped Wikipedia’s attention. Unfortunately, human activity is degrading the water quality – not from visitors to the park, but from humans all over the aquifer that feeds the springs.

    • Ron DeBry
      Posted April 17, 2018 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      oops – “my wedding”

      • Diane G.
        Posted April 18, 2018 at 4:36 am | Permalink

        What a venue! I’ll bet your wedding pics are a lot more interesting than most.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 19, 2018 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      I was wondering if it were that place. Some serious diving goes on there – pushing the cutting edge all the way in. Some serious straw-gripper stories come out. Unfortunately, it’s fame also attracts appreciable numbers of the over-confident, resulting in relatively frequent deaths.

  6. Posted April 17, 2018 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    The sign might mean “we are a hopeful people living in a horrifying world.” Too bad their hope is based on a fiction.

  7. Dominic
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    You took a picture of the pitcher!

  8. Posted April 17, 2018 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    My guess is that “swimware” really was going for “all things to do with swimming”. In the computer software world, we often add a “ware” ending to words.

    • John Black
      Posted April 17, 2018 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      It could be, but I’ve never seen that word used anyware else. 😉

    • Harvey
      Posted April 17, 2018 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      My thought was similar to that of darwinwins, nbr. 6. Swimware might refer to hardware use in swimming, not to be worn.

    • glen1davidson
      Posted April 17, 2018 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      Were it “scubaware” I’d immediately think of tanks, masks, fins, etc. It’s possible that they’re using “swimware” instead of something like “scubaware” because it’s hardware not strictly for scuba, but it could be used for skin diving or what-not. A Gulf States term, perhaps?

      Not seeing what’s inside, though, we’re just guessing.

      Glen Davidson

      • glen1davidson
        Posted April 17, 2018 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        Well, we do see inside, but only a whole lot of fishing gear. No swimwear, no swimware, and not even any sportswear.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted April 17, 2018 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      There are a few businesses using the term “swimware” in their business name, eg Dolphin Swimware, Australian Swimware Comp, etc. It equates to “bathing suits, towels, swim bags, espadrilles, hats, wraps etc”

    • allison
      Posted April 17, 2018 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

      Being in the rural southern U.S., it’s probably best to assume the word was misspelled.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 19, 2018 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      Meatware wearing swimwear while running swimware in the wetware?
      I’d be wary of taking this any further.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted April 19, 2018 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        But we could get weary of this PDQ.

  9. DrBrydon
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    I live in a town on the Atlantic not too far south of Daytona Beach. Last year a sign went up by the Walmart, which is right next to I-95, warning of bears.

  10. BobTerrace
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    I eat many types of fish, but for some reason, I can not eat grouper, because I do not like the taste. Grouper is served by many restaurants in Florida.

  11. Posted April 17, 2018 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    If you like the carnivorous plants, fried green tomatoes, and sweet tea, you should visit NC!

  12. Posted April 17, 2018 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Perhaps the pipe in the woodpecker hole is to help prevent pine sap from leaking into the nest. The sap could endanger some chicks, and so this is to help prevent that.

  13. glen1davidson
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    I suppose you could construe it as meaning that we’re going to live again after death, but are now inhabiting a world that’s transitory and torturous.

    Yes, but I think that in a more exact sense it means that ‘we’re reborn in the resurrected Christ, but we still live in the cursed world.’ The immortal kingdom of God lives in us, but we still live in a mortal world subject to death.

    It’s not so much that we will live again, but that we will not really die–in the most important sense–because of Easter. We transcend the curse, while the world does not.

    Glen Davidson

  14. Posted April 17, 2018 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Hard to know the ID of the tree with peeling bark. In Florida it could be Bursera simaruba, or turpentine tree: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bursera_simaruba
    Or Acer griseum, the paperbark maple: http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=q110 That too is common down there.

    • Mike Cracraft
      Posted April 17, 2018 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      I agree with a previous comment. It looks like a river birch.

  15. glen1davidson
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    If it existed alone, I would have thought that “swimware” was a pun, an attention-gathering device. But it looks rather less deliberate when “sportswear” reverts to the normal spelling.

    Oh well, local color.

    Glen Davidson

  16. Posted April 17, 2018 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Congrats on the life Red-cockaded Woodpecker! (You saw about as much of yours as I did of mine.)

  17. GBJames
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    If I were down there I’d be asking “Swim where?”

    I’ll get my hat now…

  18. Posted April 17, 2018 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Wow, *several* species of carnivorous plants in one location! What wonders!

    Although I’ve never been to small-town Florida, I’ve always liked the other end of the country – small town New York. Keene, for example – even Lake Placid is a bit much.

    (And this from a guy who loves big cities for the food. :))

  19. Michael Fisher
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    From reading the Wiki the meaning of the pipe/mesh arrangement in the woodpecker hole becomes clear. Quote:

    “In an effort to increase the red-cockaded woodpecker population […] wildlife management are creating artificial cavities in Longleaf Pine trees. […] carve out a nesting cavity in the tree and insert a man-made nest […] Due to the energetically expensive process of excavating new cavities, more energy is expended competing for existing home ranges rather than colonizing new areas. Red-cockaded woodpeckers will make use of artificial cavities and even recolonize abandoned ranges when cavities are created.

    In addition to the creation of new cavities, methods for protecting existing cavities are also used. The most common technique employed is a restrictor plate. The plate prevents other species from enlarging or changing the shape of the cavity entrance. These restrictor plates must be carefully monitored, however, to ensure that no hindrance is given to the woodpecker. Adjustments must also be made as the tree grows”

    The Wiki also says the woodpeckers use the pine sap as defence against snakes & other predators – which presumably means the birds are continuously widening the burrow hole. I am guessing that the pipe set into a mesh is to make an old hole, that’s become too large, a suitably small size for this bird again. When the hole gets too large it attracts other unwanted, larger residents.

  20. Christopher
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Oh, you are just torturing us with food today! First, Grania gives us Indian street food, you follow with hush puppies, fried green tomatoes, pie with coffee, and the latest post about real bagels! My drab and dreary diet cannot compete.

  21. Diego
    Posted April 17, 2018 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Holy cow! It’s been a little while since I’ve visited the webpage in a while and so I didn’t see that Jerry was visiting my neck of the woods. Darn! I live in Tallahassee, am an FSU Bio alum, and love to pop into the National Forest. I’ve really missed my boat!

    P.S. I’m very happy to see that Jerry was able to try some of the food in Apalachicola. It’s a great place and offers some good local flavor.

    I hope your visit to the Big Bend has been as sweet as tupelo honey!

    • Diego
      Posted April 17, 2018 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

      P.P.S. Some of the black bear silhouette signs were altered by a waggish individual a while ago. This prankster added a black triangle over the black bear’s muzzle. The modification turned the bear into a very good approximation of a rhinoceros. Unfortunately, the signs have been restored to their original configurations.

  22. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted April 18, 2018 at 1:21 am | Permalink

    These travelogues are delightful- don’t take my lack of comment wrong – usually means I’m swamped. Note the time stamp.

    And : as a potato eating diet Pecksniff, I commend that breakfast. I might have done it too.

  23. Mobius
    Posted April 18, 2018 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    When I was in the Air Force I was stationed in Idaho. Curiously catfish were considered trash fish and not worth eating. I suspect that it was one of those deeply held opinions that no one ever bothered challenging.

    I grew up with catfish as a staple, so the local opinion in Idaho just confused me.

    • Posted April 18, 2018 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      Could it be that “catfish” are different in the two places? Lots of vocabulary variation in these things sometimes.

    • darrelle
      Posted April 18, 2018 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Yeah, I’ve never heard of freshwater catfish being considered trash fish not worth eating. Rather quite the opposite, though it is not a favorite of mine. Just okay.

      But saltwater catfish are definitely considered a trash fish. For good reason in my experience.

      Interestingly, to me anyway, is that mullet is really good. At least fresh mullet, the only kind I’ve had. Not too far from where Jerry is right now is a little hole-in-the-wall joint, about midway between Perry and Horseshoe Beach, that specializes in mullet. They serve it fried, on the rib, by the basket. Really good.

%d bloggers like this: