I wouldn’t have seen this hidden treasure if it hadn’t been for another photographer. My wife, some friends of ours, and I were driving into Ft. Clinch State Park at the north end of Amelia Island, Florida, when we noticed a woman with a huge lens on a tripod aimed at a tree.
That could mean only one thing: she was photographing a bird. I parked and exited the van, eager to know what her subject was. She had me look through her long lens. This beautiful Great Horned Owl stared back at me.
I quickly pointed my camera at this beautiful bird and carefully snapped away. I quietly thanked the woman for graciously sharing her find with me. Thanks to her, I was also able to view this superb owl resting in the fork of a live oak tree.
My wife and I and some friends of ours from Ohio were visiting Ft. Clinch in Ft. Clinch State Park in Fernandina, FL during a “Living History Day.” A volunteer in era-appropriate Civil War attire was eloquently sharing about the old fort’s infirmary when this oil lamp caught my attention. The morning sunlight warmly played upon the lamp and the table on which it sat. The white-washed brick wall, with some original mortar showing through, served as an appropriate backdrop. The setting made for an impromptu capture without me being too rude to our guide.
I’m glad to be home from vacation. But I have to be honest. I miss Amelia Island, Florida and all the charm and variety it has to offer.
I miss waking early in the day to welcome the sun, or rain or fog, whatever weather greeted me. It often changed quickly from good to bad or bad to good, just like in Ohio.
I miss the rising sun painting with its broad brush, constantly rearranging the brilliant arrays of pinks, blues, oranges, yellows and reds on twilight’s canvas. I miss the sun’s shimmering, silver dance on its forever rolling sea stage.
Equally so, I miss the moon, full or half or quarter, glimmering its creamy, seductive light into our night lives. I miss being transfixed by its profound beauty.
I miss seeing the sun sink behind the trees beyond the Intercoastal Waterway. Unless the fog or rain clouds interfered, the alluring sunsets nearly took our breath away. Like the days began, each evening glow was emotionally evocative.
Side by side/
Sky on fire.
Morning and evening, I miss the dolphins slicing through the hoary sea, first one, then two, then three, then more, fins intermittently marking their gourmet gallop. Their appearing and disappearing mesmerized me.
I miss the slow walks on the beach with my wife. She hunted for seashells and shark’s teeth while I photographed birds, people, and patterns in the sand. Then I’d hustle to catch up.
I miss the delectable seafood meals Neva created. Locally caught, fresh shrimp sautéed in butter and olive oil, a little lemon and a dash of salt and pepper combined with locally made sweet potato pasta and flax seed rolls beat any pricy restaurant entree.
I miss the strolls through Egan’s Creek Greenway, a salt marsh wildlife preserve set aside for painters, birders, photographers, joggers, bikers, walkers and admirers of all things nature. The Greenway is home to alligators, snakes, river otters, rabbits, bobcats, deer, wading birds, shorebirds, birds of prey and songbirds.
I miss the drives and walks through well-maintained Ft. Clinch State Park, a marvelous blend of ecosystems and history. It was equally easy on the eyes and wallet. The 3,300 ft. fishing pier that paralleled the inlet to the Amelia River afforded panoramic views and a perfect perch for birding.
The welcome sign said it all.
Kelley’s Courtyard Cafe.
In Fernandina Beach, FL, trees take priority.
The Nassau Co. Courthouse at night.
The beach at Ft. Clinch State Park.
Fishing in Ft. Clinch State Park.
A trail in Ft. Clinch State Park.
Oystercatchers on a break wall off Ft. Clinch.
The Pippy Longstocking House in Old Town.
A Trident sub is escorted through the Amelia River off Ft. Clinch.
The beach near Ft. Clinch is a popular spot for finding seashells and shark’s teeth.
An artsy entrance to a gallery in Fernandina Beach.
Beautiful old homes are the hallmark of Fernandina Beach.
The fishing pier in Ft. Clinch State Park is a great place to see rare birds like this Northern Gannet.
The 3,300 ft. fishing pier at Ft. Clinch State Park is a good place to fish, walk, bird, and just enjoy the views.
I miss the charm of historic downtown Fernandina Beach, the only city on the island, and the nation’s oldest settlement. Founded three years before St. Augustine, the quaint town attracts customers from around the world.
I miss the eclectic mix of Amelia’s people. From tourists to shop owners to fishermen to photographers, everyone, I mean everyone, was friendly, like open books if you took the time to turn their pages.
I miss the quirkiness of the island that has seen the flags of eight different nations fly over its humble geography. Florida’s oldest continuously operating hotel and bar stand less than a block apart. Businesses boldly display the scores of football games when Georgia’s Bulldogs beat Florida’s Gators.
Those in the know like to say that Fernandina Beach is the East Coast’s western most port. In other words, drive straight north, you run into Cincinnati, Ohio.
Of course, I miss the warmer weather, too. However, warm is a relative word. Our Florida vacation ended the way it began, wearing winter coats. Still, we had it nice compared to what much of eastern North America experienced in our absence.
I like it so much that I could live there. But I won’t. As incredible as Amelia Island and its people are, I like it right here in Holmes County, Ohio even better.
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