Couple of times a year I try to get down to Orange Park, Florida to visit my mom who turned 90 yrs old this past December. She is doing quite well and I hope I have her energy and heath when I get to her age, if I make it that long. Orange Park is just south of Jacksonville, where I grew up. On my sojourns to Florida I of course always bring along my camera gear and look for new photographic opportunities while there. Not far from mom’s home is a small community of Dr’s Inlet, which is along a small finger off Doctor’s Lake off the St. John’s River.
While driving along CR 220 toward Dr’s Inlet I came upon a something I immediately recognized from my childhood. A sign along the roadside among some old live oaks read “Whitey’s Fish Camp”. I immediately remembered a time when I was young that my dad used to boat in this area along the St. John’s River and we stayed overnight here on one weekend boat outing. I recall an old cook coming out of the camp restaurant in the evening and he would
entertain the guest by playing wooden spoons like some type of musical instrument with is hands. I was impressed. It’s interesting how small things imprint on your mind from childhood.
Just down from Whitey’s I noticed a small branch as I crossed an overpass. It turned out to be a section of Little Black Creek, another offshoot of Black Creek and the St. John’s River, just south of Dr’s Inlet. It looked quite interesting and seemed to exemplify the area’s character. The water was motionless and the creek had a thick growth of oaks, cypress and sweetgum along the banks. It was early morning light and the air was quite still, so I had to stop and explore. I donned my Think Tank harness and belt packed with several lenses and filters, slung my tripod over my shoulder, and began my exploration. Unfortunately, in areas like this just off of the highway you’ll find where people have often dumped trash and other items. This was no exception. Old tires, a sofa, beer cans, what looked like a washer fluid reservoir from an old vehicle, and other items were scattered about. I just shook my head in dismay and continued deeper into the thicket to make my way along the creek.
As I hiked along the cypress knees, sweetgum balls, and oaks, I could see there was not really a shore line. It was really more like a swamp. I could imagine running across maybe a poisonous cotton mouth snake along my walk, or some tropical spider like those I remember from my childhood. Snakes I have a healthy respect for but spiders just plain creep me out. Taking my time, moving slowly, I was able to explore possible photographic compositions and stay vigilant for the creepy crawlers. As I began to photograph a fisherman floated by in his small jon boat. “Catching anything”, I asked. “Only a gar so far”, he replied. I wondered to myself, what the heck is he going to do with a gar? Not my kind of eating. Anyway, he soon moved down stream and I was back to my creative exercise.
I thought a pano shot of the opposite bank might work well to give a feel of the character of this area. With the perfectly still water I was able to capture the reflections of the tropical like forest along the banks of this creek. Looked like a good place for a gator to hang out, which would not be unlikely in some of these areas.
A few more images and I noticed the light was changing. I’m thinking now it’s time for a trip to Starbucks. I will have to return another time to continue to explore this area. Certainly some good possibilities and the nearby Whitey’s Fish Camp serves up some great gator tail appetizers.