Frustrations, part eight: Where is it?

There’s not going to be anything insightful hidden within this post, I’m just writing it out because I’m hoping it will be cathartic.

First things first. I’m actually pretty good about being able to find some place on a map that I’ve been to years before, based largely on the general landscape and my memory of how I’d arrived, and this even applies to little unplanned side trips. It helped create the Google Earth placemarks that are available on several pages of the photo gallery, such as here. And yet, there’s one place I simply cannot nail down, and it’s pissing me off.

In 1999 when I was living in North Carolina, I took a photo trip to Florida. I had overnighted in Gainesville and left very early the next morning to the closest area I could locate on a map that might provide something scenic for sunrise, a small park on the Suwanee river. I remember being in a very rural area, and turning off the main road onto a semi-long drive (perhaps a kilometer in length) before reaching the parking area. By flashlight, I checked out the info kiosk, and followed the footpath to the river overlook – maybe a few hundred meters, certainly not a long hike. There was a raised, railed wooden platform, perhaps the size of a porch, right on the water’s edge yet still largely shaded by the forest. Dawn revealed a quiet stretch of river, perhaps half a kilometer wide, with pads of river weeds floating by, and not a single identifying characteristic other than flowing, as I recall, close to due south at that point. I took two frames, just for the sake of having shot something, and headed back. I chased a couple of insect images (you’re shocked, I can tell,) including a huge grasshopper, but mostly what I recall from the walk back, now that the sun was up, was the number of vast spider webs just above my head that I hadn’t seen earlier. Golden silk spiders (Nephila clavipes) are disturbingly large arachnids that belong in prehistoric movies, and not hanging a meter or two over the path that you’re walking upon.

The other thing that I remember was, on the connection of the park’s access road with the main route, a small field of wildflowers that was besieged by butterflies, where I stopped and shot two rolls of film. It was barely out of the trees, bordering a quiet road that I turned right onto later to head south and reconnect, eventually, with Interstate 75.

Knowing that I would have taken the most direct route from Gainesville to the river, I figure I had to have driven either Florida Route 26 or 24 for most of the side trip there, probably 26, which would indicate I was near Fanning Springs State Park – but that doesn’t look right at all. I wasn’t keeping a journal and there’s nothing in any of the images that provides a clue. While the river overlook deck may not be visible from the air, I still should have been able to find the park by the nature of the roads… but it just ain’t happening.

Edit, several days later: I finally realized that I probably still had the road atlas I’d used for the trip, and dug it out for reference. The only park that was illustrated, and seemed to fit, was Manatee Springs State Park near the town of Manattee Rd, Florida (that’s not a typo.) The locale and parking lot seemed right, but I couldn’t spot the observation deck or the location of the butterfly field. Obsessed now, I checked the park’s website and began going through the photo gallery. On page two, I found this image, which demonstrates a startling connection when it is superimposed on my own image, seen below. Pay particular attention to the background treeline:

So, my memory was pretty solid, except that the weeds were probably fixed and not floating by, and I’m still not sure about the butterfly field, but I think it might be the little turnoff to the left only a few hundred meters up the access road from the parking lot. Oh, and the river’s only a quarter-klick wide right there. Sue me.

And just as a side note, the last image seen here was taken on the same side trip. Also, the butterfly image on the home page slide show was taken in that field. I try to make the most of my photo trips ;-)

But yeah, I feel better now.