St. Augustine

Visiting Florida, Thanksgiving Week 2009


We joined Dan and Patti Betz for a respite to Florida, as we celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary.  Our first stay was in St. Augustine, which was founded in 1565 and is the oldest continuously occupied European established city and oldest port in the USA (444-years old).

Michelle kicks-off the Night of Lights, a 10-week celebration of Christmas, as the town mayor fires-up over two-million lights throughout the historic district.


St. Augustine, pretty much the oldest of everything!


St. Augustine Catholic Church was named as such when founder Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed on the shore, and with the explorers priest celebrating Mass on the beach on August 28, 1565, the feast day of St. Augustine (42-years before the founding of Jamestown, VA).


The statue of de Aviles in the town square is shared with the statue of Ponce de Leon, and the Fountain of Youth at the waterfront.


The historic district is absolutely beautiful and is rich in cultural history, being the first “lighted community” as design/built by Thomas Edison.  The power plant stack for the historic electricity dynamo shares the skyline with Spanish spires.


We took a carriage ride through town, and our equestrian interpreter did a great job describing the richness of this quaint, deep southern town.


Fort Castillo de San Marcos is a National Monument run by the National Park Service and is located on the north side of town on the waterfront.


The Spanish fort, built in 1672 helped Spain hold Florida for many years.  Most all of the historic structures in St. Augustine are built from mined coquina, compressed fossilized shells.  During the American Revolution the fort was a British stronghold.


We stayed at the historic Casa Monica Cordova, built in 1888.


Dan, Patti, Michelle and I were guests at a 8000-acre private conservation facility/foundation, which was a former rice plantation.  This photo is a scene of the fresh-tidal St. Mary’s river that flows through the property on the Georgia/Florida border.


The foundation includes many cultural resource antiquities and biological preserve elements.  This photo is of Davy Crockett’s musket and powder horns.  The NRA Museum would be envious to have the collection that we were able observe and handle.


Davy Crockett was America’s “King of the Wild Frontier,” folk hero, frontiersman, soldier and representative of Tennessee in the US House of Representatives, at a time when we exercised states rights over federal bloat.

His most famous quote in the House was “it’s not ours to give,” referring to the House wanting to build a memorial using taxpayers money.  Too bad we don’t have any fiscally austere members of the House today!


All of the firearms on the right side of this wall are the private collection from Founding Father, Thomas Paine.


Thomas Paine wrote the powerful Common Sense and was a radical, intellectual revolutionary, articulating the importance of liberty and freedom from tyranny.  His counterpart today may be Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Michael Savage or Judge Andrew Napolitano.  Remember, in WordPress you can click on this image for see a full resolution photo of the detailed engraving on the powder horns.


I held this, WOW!  Thomas Paine, 1775.


We played a round of sporting clays on the estate, and fished a stocked lake in the evening.  Absolutely incredible, it does not get any better than this!


The facility has an emphasis in veterinary science, research and husbandry of rare animal species.


We had an opportunity to observe dozens of species at length, including this cheetah.


A definite photo-op as this giraffe relishes some sweetbay magnolia.


Grumpy fishermen – gag photo of Dan and Mark.  We spent two days at the Amelia Island Ritz Carlton.  Very nice!  Amelia Island is 13-miles long and is the southernmost chain of barrier islands along the eastern seaboard.  Savannah is to the north and St. Augustine is to the south.


I took every opportunity to botanize, with anything in flower catching my eye.  William Bartram (1739-1823) was the son of John Bartram (1699-1777), both botanists who cataloged and classified much of the southeast.

Many plants are named in honor of these father and son botanists, and with many other plants being named by William Bartram, the son.


Bartram was named Puc Puggy by the Seminole Indians, which means flower hunter.  Bartram traveled from Maryland through Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia and east and west Florida from 1773 through 1777.  He said that South Carolina was his most favorite location in the world, when it came to floristic diversity and interest.


Bartram published American Revolution on the Southern Frontier in 1791, which was a widely successful best seller in London.

He named a shrub after his friend Ben Franklin, the Franklin tree, and America’s first rare plant.  Observed near Amelia Island in an aggregate of several hundred plants in the camellia family.  Bartram made a field collection and grew the plant in Pennsylvania, and the native wild plant has never been observed again.

The National Arboretum has a plant growing in Washington, DC and the plant can be purchased at very select nurseries at great cost.  If not for Bartram, the beautiful flowering shrub would be extinct, just like the passenger pigeon, once numbering in the hundreds of millions, and hunted to extirpation.


We took a charter with the son of Terry Lacoss, Bassmaster Champion redfish fisherman, author of the book How to Catch and Release Redfish, and Sportsman’s Magazine writer.  Mr. Lacoss met us at the docks and gave us a signed copy of his book.  His son is currently on the BASS Bassmaster circuit and fishes with a Triton LTS Flats Boat and is sponsored by Pepsi and Triton.


This is may favorite photo from our trip.  Shrimp is the commercial crop, and were saw many shrimp boats.  Large shrimp sell for two to three dollars a pound at the docks.


We fished for redfish and sheephead.  We caught many speckled trout and bluefish, using live shrimp.  Speckled trout are an inshore coastal waterway fish of brackish water and can be found from the Chesapeake Bay (uncommon in Maryland and Virginia), down through Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico.

All of the redfish were feeding high up in the grasses at high tide.  If we had of fished low tide, all of the red’s would have had to leave the exposed oyster beds and grass, and then would have been feeding along the exposed and cast-able grass edges.


In the evening, up through midnight we went flounder gigging.  What a blast!  The airboat was a modified, commercial grade Sea-Ark (G3 aluminum boat), loaded with spot lights and railing.


Patti and Michelle on the helm with the boat captain, spearing fish in the grass.  The boat was able to run through a veneer of only a few inches of water.


We saw loads of redfish, but were not allowed to gig them by State law.

Thank you Dan and Patti, and Justin and Christy (Dan’s sister and brother-in-law) who live near all of the sites that we visited and were primarily responsible for setting-up our vacation.

Congratulations Dan and Patti on 25-years of marriage!