Sunday, June 7, 2009

Escape to Jupiter, Part 2, Blowing Rocks Preserve

At the end of the last post, my group had finished a hike along Kitching Creek Trail, this is the rest of the story:
We left the Kitching Creek Trail parking lot and headed out. Along the way, the kids, once again stuck their heads out the windows to access the lovely, cool air and to listen to the sounds of the frolicking frogs.
As we drove on, we were lucky to witness another type of frolicking - that of a brand new baby deer. The fawn was tiny and rambunctious. At one point she looked directly at our line of cars and began running to us, like she wanted us to run and leap and play with her. As soon as she started heading our way, her family, mother at the lead, ran in a circle around her and gently guided her away. She jumped and leapt and put on a great show for us - what a wonderful treat for us city folk!!!

We left the park and headed south and east and then crossed the bridge to Jupiter Island, a barrier island just off-shore. It is a long, beautiful strip of sand, dotted with condos, parks, and beautiful beachfront houses -complete with long and mysterious driveways. Midway across the island you come to The Nature Conservancy's Blowing Rocks Preserve. It is a left-over little piece of what the island was before recent development. Sea Grapes rule here and line the road, creating a natural barrier to the surge of the ocean. On the western side of the island, the Nature Conservancy has its offices and a gallery filled with the most exquisite and creative works of art - unique representations of local animals and landscapes, like bats made out of fabric scraps and leather - really cool stuff! Also on the western side are lovely and sedate trails meandering through the hammock and lagoon of the Indian River.
We decided to hit the beach-side first. The wonderful trails on the eastern side take you through tunnels of Sea Grapes and Cabbage Palm. The ground is a bit higher and very shady - being protected from the sun by the trees.

The breezes coming up off of the Atlantic Ocean were cool and smelled sweetly of the salt and rain. We talked of the plants and trees and wildlife as we went, anticipating the excitement of the beach ahead.
The beaches here are different from the beaches further south. It is a bit cooler on average and the coral reefs less common. On this beach, there isn't any coral, instead the beach is lined with Anastasia Limestone.

Anastasia Limestone is a sedimentary rock, composed of thousands of tiny coquina shells, other shells, and sand pressed together over thousands of years. The forts made by the Spanish near St. Augustine were made of Anastasia Limestone - the bedrock of the area. It is soft when it is dug out of the ground, but when exposed to air for a few days, it becomes extremely hard and durable - as we can see by the still intact structures from 500 years ago. Like other limestones, when the acid in rainwater hits the rock, it leaches through and creates holes in the stone. Our aquifers are holes formed by acid dripping through the limestone bedrock under our feet.
The mini-cliffs of exposed Anastasia Limestone that line Jupiter Island beach are full of holes. Twice a day, the tide comes in and water rushes through the holes, exploding into geysers of water.
The fates were on our side that day - we arrived at the beach very near to the climax of the high tide. The skies were black and wet and thuderous in the distance, the wind was fierce, and the waves were wild. The kids were so excited to be at the beach and the electricity and force of the weather added to their fervor. They ran straight for the edge, amazed to see rocky outcroppings on the beach ( a very unusual site in Florida). My son and I were reminded of California's coasts - but on a much, much smaller scale.
Upon reaching the edge of the "precipitous" cliffs, the kids got quite a surprise. We hadn't realized just how high the tide was and when the water pushed its way in, it burst up and out through those holes with such power and force that it completely showered and drenched those standing by,; and gave them quite a scare I might add.

Screams of nervousness and excitement filled the air, they were so thrilled - all ages running to find a hole to stand by for the coming of the next explosion. After a while, us moms got nervous and encouraged them to sit down so that they wouldn't slide down through the holes into the angry ocean. I'm pretty sure they could have spent the entirety of the day getting sprayed with water. It was a truly explosive experience!

We continued to play, even when the clouds got so heavy with rain that they let loose, getting the dry parents wet. One of our moms joined the kids at the blowing rocks, so she was already wet, but the rest of weren't. We fought it at first and then celebrated the rain and just had fun. Eventually it was enough and it was getting late, so we headed to the showers - everyone's hair full of sand debris from the shooting showers.

Most of us continued over to the gallery at that point. The kids were mesmerized by the artwork being displayed. We spent quite a while admiring the creativity of the artists.

The park closes at 4pm but the naturalist there told us we were welcome to enjoy the lagoon trail anyway. I was very pleased because I didn't want my group to miss out.
The trail was calm and peaceful - after the excitement of the beach. The Tropical Hardwood Hammock is filled with such trees as: Strangler Fig, Gumbo Limbo, Sea Grape, Pigeon Plum and Cabbage Palm - attesting to the rise in elevation. A mischievous,but friendly male Cardinal was flirting with us, playing hide and seek amongst the leaves. Could it have been the same one as at Jonathan Dickinson? Was he following us?
The kids and parents were relaxed and having a wonderful day, we walked slowly and enjoyed each other's company and the smell of the plants after rain mixing with the smell of the estuary. Further along through the hammock going lower in elevation as we went, we reached the edge of the Indian River Lagoon. The river was calm and somewhat grey in color, with perfectly white sugary sand lining the shore.

Mangroves filled in the borders, along with Sea Oxeye Daisy and Sea Oats - to encourage the growth of dunes.
Along the shore, baby Red Mangroves have been planted - reminding us of the work we have to do to make up for what we have lost. At one spot, there is a huge root ball of a tree washed onshore, it is grey and windblown - offering a craggy outcropping for the kids to climb on. They climbed, ran around looking for crabs, and played in the calm water. Before we left we spotted the skeleton of a Horseshoe crab - more closely related to spiders and ticks then to crabs! What an ancient and primitive creature - their very close relatives were on Earth over 400 million years ago.

It was the perfect end to the perfect day! Well, it wasn't quite the end for some of us, half of the group went home, the rest of us went back to Jonathan Dickinson and bunkered down for a weekend of possibly wet camping. On the way to the campsite, my son and I saw a family of wild pigs crossing the road, we listened to the chorus of the frogs, and breathed in the fresh air. We were so glad to be staying a bit longer.
It turned out to be a fabulous weekend of camping, even if we were really wet and sandy by the end!

Thanks once again to all my photographers!


  1. I've heard lots about that beach, but have never been there. Thanks for sharing the photos, and on a great day no less, surf wise.

  2. Thanks Christy, your posts are so interesting, I look forward to each new one to learn more about the flora and fauna of the region. Pictures are great too, but you should consider adding like a 360 degree video from some of the more interesting locations... Keep up the great work!


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