Bryan Lindenberger

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Saturday, November 2, 2019

Top 6 Nature Trails and Hikes Near Palatka: Putnam County, Florida

Find this list at Google Maps.

John's Landing Trailhead

Welaka State Forest Trail in Putnam County Florida
There are several trails, including a half mile Education Trail loop and a connecting trail that leads to Mud Spring, but the main attraction is a series of trails that form a seven mile loop. In succession, these are Longleaf Lane, Deer Run, Black Bear Slough, Turkey Path, and Indian Pond Road with Hammock Hideaway cutting through for those who want to cut the hike down to 4 or 5 miles. If all this sounds confusing, don’t worry. The trails are wide and clearly marked, with pamphlets available at the trail head, so you will not lose your way.

The diversity of forest is amazing, with open stretches of long leaf pine as well as dense, old growth areas of palms and leafy evergreens. There are also two side extensions of the trail to take, leading to the primitive camping areas of Orange Point and John’s Landing, each overlooking Little Lake George of the St. John’s River.

John's Trail at Welaka Trail and Location Maps with other Information

Longleaf Pine Trail at Etoniah Creek State Forest

Hiking Longleaf Pine Trail at Etoniah Creek State Forest near Palatka, Florida
You’ll never run out of hiking on this shaded, 4.4 mile there-and-back trail. That’s because Longleaf Pine Trail at Etoniah Creek State Forest is part of the Florida Trail system, currently at about 800 miles.

After turning onto Tinsley Road, you go 50 or 100 yards and are greeted by off-road parking and a kiosk with brochures including maps. You’ll find pine and oak growth with few sunny areas and plenty of deer. You won’t get lost here as the narrow trail is well-maintained with Florida Trail blazed in orange and Longleaf Pine blazed in blue.

A flat, well-maintained and serene trail with opportunities for birding and wildlife viewing.

Rice Creek Conservation Area

Tree frog on palm
After parking in the wide parking area, a dirt road continues beyond a simple gate and soon splits. You can continue straight ahead on the no vehicle access road for horseback riding and biking, or veer northwest for a great trail hike. The hiking trail takes you across an open prairie and into the dense woods about half a mile away.

Here you will follow a segment of the Florida Trail that takes you through canopy forest, marshlands and a creek that flows year around, with well-maintained bridges throughout, and even an observation platform.

Dunn's Creek Conservation Area

Lake at Dunn's Creek Conservation Area, Putnam County, Florida
The park, just south of Satsuma, FL, is very well maintained with a short loop of a couple of miles, picnic benches both covered and uncovered, and even grills for family gatherings You’ll encounter all manner of wildlife, including birding opportunities, but I have a fondness for bugs and turtles.

Where the park really shines is with the very large Blue Pond (differentiated from the Green Pond on the trail which can be marshy but mostly dry). The Blue Pond is simply gorgeous in its expanse after a mile or so of hiking through the thick woods. There are two places on the loop to reach it for viewing, one with a bench to sit, watch, and relax with your thoughts.

Ravine Gardens State Park

Walking bridge over creek in autumn, Florida
What makes this stop unique for the region is its namesake – it is in fact a gorge with a nice stream at the bottom. This means you will have many more inclines in the well-kept sandy trails than in most places and get a good workout. In spring and summer you will find an abundance of butterflies and dragonflies, and the flowers change throughout the year. I have not measured the trails, but it is easy to get a good five miles in and the suspension bridges, pond, and water wheel are all very cool.

This is a relatively well-visited area, so one thing you will not find is time alone. But even on weekends I have been able to hike and take pictures in relative calm despite some loud people who tend to scare the birds and other wildlife away.

Caravelle Ranch Wildlife Management Area

Trail at Caravelle Ranch Wildlife Management Area
After pulling over into ample parking, you can grab a map that leads you through 8-10 miles of hiking loops through the woods with the longest, single loop being 4.5 miles.

That route covers white, yellow, and red trails. It’s really one of my favorite hiking trails in the region as you can experience dense, subtropical forest full of pine, southern magnolia, American sweetgum, and bald cyprus one moment, and large, open fields of of downy lobelia and sheep’s sorrel the next.

Take note of hunting season, as hunting is permitted here.

Trails are designated by the St. Johns River Water Management District as multiple use, so whether on bike or by foot, you will enjoy your time here and could likely spot deer, birds, and even bears. As always, take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Top 8 Nature Trails and Hikes Near Ocala: Marion County, Florida

Find this list at Google Maps.

Salt Springs Observation Trail

Salt Spring Observation Trail Entrance
This two mile loop through Ocala National Forest leads to an observation deck overlooking Salt Springs Run, connecting Lake George and Lake Kerr, fed by Saint Johns River.

It’s one of those nice places where there are always people – an attractive jogger on a morning run, a nice little family with their dog – but never crowds or noisy tourists.

The trail is short. You get back to your car after only 2 miles of hiking, but the observation deck can hold you for awhile watching boats and birds.

There are a few pines, but this area of the forest is mostly old growth with lots of leafy evergreens.

With so much else to see in the area, it’s a definite must stop.

Images and trail maps.

Silver Springs State Park

Silver Springs State Park Trail Entrance
Silver Springs State Park offers glass bottom boat tours, kayaking and more at the main entrance on East Silver Springs Boulevard, but your best entrance for hiking is the one mapped here.

It’s amazing how close to town you can be while still feeling away from it all for hours.

Trails include Sand Hill Trail near the entrance, Sink Hole Trail with plenty of signs to help you learn about and recognize local flora and fauna, and the River Trail and Swamp Trail which meet great views at Silver River.

Silver Glen Spring Recreation Area

Silver Glen at Salt Springs
Silver Glen Springs in Salt Springs, Florida, offers canoe rentals as well as snorkeling and swimming in some beautifully clear spring waters. We’re hear to talk about the hiking, and though the two trails are short, they’re worth the price for great views of Lake George and some wonderful wildlife viewing.

And why not bring along a swimsuit? After a hike, that water looks mighty inviting!

There are crowds at the springs in the summer, so I recommend waiting for a warm day some other time of year if you go for the swimming. The trails seem to never be crowded, so there is a good chance of seeing many animals without them being spooked by people.

Silver Springs Connector Trail

Silver Springs Connector Trail Entrance
Part of the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, this short, 3-mile there and back trail is great for a hike, jog, or a run any time of the year and not far outside of Ocala, Florida.

The look and feel of this subtropical forest of sabal palm and laurel oak will make you wish it were raining with its organic and earthy feel.

Just two and a half miles from Silver Springs Forest Conservation Area, in case you want to make more of a day of it, you’ll find the entrance with an easy to spot sign and ample parking just off of Fort Brooks Road (FL-40) on NE Highway 315 in Fort McCoy, just outside of Ocala.

The trail is easy to follow, and you will find yourself alone among the cabbage palm, laurel oak, and southern magnolia.

Silver Springs Forest Conservation Area

Pine Forest in Early Morning Fog
Dozens of miles of trails. Entrance is easy with plenty of parking either from either County Road 315 or from 326, and while the White Blaze Loop offers 6 miles of great hiking or biking from either end of the conservation area, there are many miles left to see.

Entrance is easy with plenty of parking either from either County Road 315 or from 326, and while the White Blaze Loop offers 6 miles of great hiking or biking from either end of the conservation area, there are many miles left to see.

In early morning hours I have spotted many deer and also a boar, so use sensible caution. The trails are ideal for either hiking or off-road biking. I did both and could hardly believe I was the only person there on a Sunday. If you want a great outdoor opportunity not far from town, this is ideal.

Chernobyl Memorial Forest Loop

Hiking Chernobyl Memorial Forest
This portion of the Ocklawaha Prairie Restoration Area at the south entrance offers a 5 mile loop great for hiking and horseback riding with opportunities to deviate from the main trail. I’ve provided my hiking map below which plots once such deviation, and I found it very worthwhile with great birding opportunities and a diversity of plant life.

You will access this portion of the restoration area from the south entrance parking lot (Google map below to get you there) rather than the north entrance. I prefer this Chernobyl Memorial Forest entrance for a day of hiking.

The trail is a mix of packed earth, short grass over packed earth, and some portions of sweet sand that may prove prohibitive to off-road biking unless you are up for a challenge.

Gore's Landing Unit WMA

Ocklawaha River in Ocala National Forest
You might confuse Gores Landing Unit WMA with the park just a quarter mile up the road from it, Gores Landing. Gores Landing, the park, offers fishing, picnic area, and amenities for only $5 per car with an additional $5 for overnight camping.

The Wildlife Management Area discussed here is purely for fishing, hunting, and of course hiking.

Starting at the main trail head, veer right at the first break you reach in a small clearing, and it will lead you to a very nice spot along the Ocklawaha River. I saw plenty of fish in summer and spring, and the view is beautiful with bird sightings year around. There and back will take you just under 3 miles, and there are other trails to follow.

Orange Creek Conservation Area, South Tract

Young Pine Trees at Orange Creek Conservation Area
On County Road 318 just east of Fl State 301 near Citra, this is one of those hiking and horseback riding areas that you are prone to drive by daily without thinking to make a stop. In fact, I did just that for close to year.

It’s an amazing area for hiking south of Hawthorne and Gainesville and north of Ocala once you do stop. If there is a downside, it’s that the trails are maintained by machine tilling up the soil which, in this area, creates a lot of soft, sweet sand to trudge though. But the trails are wide enough to walk along in the grass in these recently tilled area.

While the sand is too soft for enjoyable biking in the woodsy trails, a main dirt road will provide the workout you crave, and there are few better places for hiking or horseback riding in the area.

Locate and explore more hiking and nature trails at >> Live Florida Beauty.

Friday, June 28, 2019

10 Surprising Careers in Biology

When you think of careers in biology, pre-med or veterinary science might come to mind. Yet paths for biology majors are far more diversified and organic than you may realize.
Let’s take a look.

From feeding the world to beautifying our environment, the field of agriculture requires experts in biology. Career paths range from developing hearty hybrids for healthier cuisine to the study of pests destructive to our farms and management of agricultural firms.

Imagine yourself as an environmental scientist or consultant doing just that. Experts in biology are in high demand with careers ranging from coastal preservation and marine biology to stewardship of ecosystems found in forests and prairies.

If you like solving mysteries, a career in forensics might be just right for you. Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) meets entomology (the study of insects) in this important field, and a degree in biology from UWG can help get you there.

Biological Illustration
Some of the greatest minds in history have just as much talent for art as they do in science. Instead of choosing between the two, consider combining them with a career in biological illustration. A dual major or major/minor in art and biology can help you achieve your dreams as both an artist and a scientist.

Attorney-Patent Law / Environmental Law
For those pursuing a degree in law, the addition of a biology degree offers an array of lucrative career paths. From patenting of hardier, more nourishing crop strains and ornamental flora that embellish our surroundings to understanding the laws that help protect our delicate ecosystems, biology offers much for those seeking a degree in law.

Politics and Policy Development
Public policy touches many aspects of our lives, and the same goes for careers in biology. From regulating the foods we eat to balancing preservation with commercial growth, experts in biology are needed to shape the policies that affect our health and our environment.

Guide or Naturalist
If your ideal weekend is strapping on boots and a backpack, a degree in biology could turn your hobby into a career. Nature guides and naturalists are needed for state and national preserves, zoological parks, and botanical gardens in both the public and private sectors.

Fishery / Wildlife Biologist
We often associate a biology degree with a career in veterinary science, but a biologist can have a major impact on animal health and well-being beyond the family pet. Fisheries, ranchers, and state and federal reserves all need experts to monitor animals to keep them healthy and strong. You just might be the biologist who is needed!

Environmental Health Inspector
A healthy, nurturing environment is vital to personal success. Plants and animals need healthy environments to thrive, too, and biologists can help. Whether it’s limiting the impact of an invasive species or reinvigorating our forests through controlled burns, environmental health inspectors are required for making informed assessments.

Museum Curator
Becoming a teacher is just one way to share your knowledge of biology. But if the classroom isn’t for you, consider becoming a museum curator. This in-demand field requires a wide range of skills, from administrative planning for best community impact to research, acquisition, preservation and more.

The 10 careers listed above are just a small sample of the range of highly sought-after occupations awaiting those with a degree in biology.

For more information, [university contact info]

Originally written for University of West Georgia > College of Science and Mathematics > Department of Biology

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Top 5 Nature and Hiking Trails in Putnam County, Florida

Field of purple flowers

Top Five Trail Hiking and Nature-Viewing Destinations in Putnam County, Florida

We often think of great outdoor viewing and nature hiking as somewhere far away - maybe a place we'll visit on our next vacation. But every faraway place is someone's home.

Suppose your home is little Paltatka, Florida in Putnam County. Did you know of all the great and often overlooked trails there are to hike, right nearby?

I've explored many of them, and here are my top five.

5: Caravelle Ranch Wildlife Management Area

Tree in field of flowers 
Just a bit down the road from Caravelle Ranch Conservation Area on Florida 19, Caravelle Ranch WMA offers miles of hiking and biking opportunities! After pulling over into ample parking, you can grab a map that leads you through 8-10 miles of hiking loops through the woods with the longest, single loop being 4.5 miles. Whether on bike or foot, you will enjoy your time here and could likely spot deer, birds, and even bears. As always, take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints. Visit Caravelle Ranch WMA page for hiking and destination map plus pictures!

bridge over creek in autumn

4: Ravine Gardens State Park

This beautiful destination would be higher on the list except that anyone in the area likely already knows it. Ravine Gardens State Park was the first conservation park I visited when I moved to the area, and it remains one I keep going back to. Some of the major pluses include clean and far less buggy trails, and the fact that scenery changes with every season. Best known for its colorful azaleas in February and March, you will find amazing changes in flora and fauna throughout the year. There is a welcome center, plenty of paved trails for biking, a playground and much more. Visit my location and trail map plus photos.

3: Dunn's Creek State Park

Lake with forest behind it
I've added a good number of lesser-known places to Google Maps, but here is an instance of a beautiful Florida state park where it took some convincing to get Google to believe it exists. And what a wonderful place it is! The park, just south of Satsuma, FL, is very well maintained with a short loop of a couple of miles, picnic benches both covered and uncovered, and even grills for family gatherings You'll encounter all manner of wildlife, including birding opportunities, but I have a fondness for bugs and turtles. Where the park really shines is with the very large Blue Pond accessible from two trail locations for great viewing and relaxing. Check out more pictures plus location and trail map!

2: Florida Trail at Buckman Lock

winding trail in foggy forest
Here's one off the beaten path! The trail back here has many beautiful views including several ponds and great hiking views, yet remained a mystery to me on initial visits. The trails are made of old roads shaped like a tiny neighborhood, yet I saw no homes, abandoned or otherwise. I have since learned this area is a failed and abandoned subdivision known as the Mondex Complex. It is comprised largely of wetlands with the ponds I saw intended as retention pools. The trail is easy to follow with orange markers and I understand leads to FL 20. I turned back after a few miles in, with a 7.2 mile hike round trip. Very peaceful and nice back there, and the ponds offer great viewing, especially if you like dragonflies! Check it out with location and trail maps plus pictures.

1: Rice Creek Conservation Area

frog resting on palmetto leaf

My favorite hike in Putnam County, an easy five-mile hiking loop with plenty to see in deep woods and across fields covering 4200 acres. After parking in the wide parking area, a dirt road continues beyond a simple gate and soon splits. Here you will follow a segment of the Florida Trail that takes you through canopy forest, marshlands and a creek that flows year around, with well-maintained bridges throughout, and even an observation platform. That "back to nature" feel comes with the downside of lots of mosquitoes and ticks. Banana spiders - big ones - build webs throughout the trail in summer, so carry a stick to clear the way. WORTH IT - so check out location map, trail map, and more pics at

More Nature Trails in Putnam County

Plenty of gorgeous hiking trails near Palatka and Interlachen did not make the list. Find more at my Putnam County hiking page and leave feedback on where you like to visit. Most importantly, get outside and enjoy. Often, the most beautiful places are the closest to home - you just have to look!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

On Chaos and Determinism

Common Buckeye Butterfly

Hero of mine, chaos theory pioneer Edward Lorenz, gifted us with the term “butterfly effect.” Simple idea – the slight atmospheric disturbance created by the flap of a butterfly’s wings could, through a chain of events, result in a typhoon or hurricane 10,000 miles away.

What the meteorologist was attempting to explain was why long-term weather predictions were so infeasible.

Edward Norton Lorenz (wiki)

Popularly used in fiction including time travel stories, this “butterfly effect” has come to be construed as how the smallest thing, a single person, can change the course of history.

My interpretation is not only different, but contrary: deterministic.

The point isn’t that a butterfly’s wings “causes” a hurricane, but rather that conditions are set so that the slightest catalyst will put the wheels in motion. If not the butterfly, then the wave of a child’s hand or the sneeze of a mouse.

This is not to say there is no free will – I won’t argue either way – but the actions of an individual are more akin to tossing a pebble in a pond. It creates some ripples, the ripples spread but are absorbed by time...the pond itself. No one expects that tossing a pebble in a pond will cause a tidal wave.

(Massive forest fires are another example, where a “cause” is always attributed as an object of blame. If it’s not a lightening strike, it’s a poorly doused campfire. Or perhaps an indiscriminate smoker. But the conditions are predetermined; the catalyst is arbitrary.)

Reacquainting myself with events that led to the Great War, I’m struck by what I was taught in school, namely that there were two “causes.” First the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which even my teachers didn’t take all that seriously. He had no legal heir to throne, there was not great uproar over his death. So to add some validity, the second posited cause was “ultra-nationalism” - nationalism being a common pariah among globalists.

Again, rather than a preventable cause, I see something more deterministic. If a vastly growing Russian army had been tolerable to Germany, the Franco-Russo Entente could not have been. Austria-Hungary and the feuding nationalists in the Balkans aside, virtually each day Germany found itself in a position where not to attack in a likely unwinnable war also increased the likelihood of – in the long run – being erased from the map.

Patterns on spider abdomen
To this second point, stunned again to rediscover how hard – in fact, how desperately – royalty among the eventual combatant nations (many of them related by blood or marriage) fought to avoid widespread conflict. For that matter, even the military elite, where you always find doves and hawks, tended to cancel each other out at worst and lean toward limited actions for the most part.

If Ferdinand had not been assassinated in 1914, war was still determined. Perhaps a few years later, but inevitable. Pebbles do not create (or prevent) tidal waves.

More bluntly, Edward Lorenz never argued that killing butterflies would prevent hurricanes.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Random Text Jargon Generator - MBA in Marketing Edition

Confound your co-workers!
Astound your friends!
Sound in control despite having no idea what is going on!

Try out the Random Jargon Generator for Business and #Marketing.

Could be a raise in it, if you don't get fired first.

Those Monday morning meetings will never be the same.

Amateur, free, and just for fun. :-)

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A lasting (I hope) legacy of the Obama Admin in education

I lean somewhat politically conservative. Working for over a decade in higher education, in three institutions and with nearly a dozen colleges and programs, this sometimes makes me the odd person out. It's not so bad. As with graduate school, learning to keep my thoughts to myself is an opportunity to shut up and listen.
But I'm also more practical than ideological.
I saw some very positive things come out of the Obama Administration, and particularly in education. The greatest among these in may be his public emphasis on STEM learning.
While science and engineering colleges grow in economic importance, and arts and humanities (as popularly seen) have become more divisive if not radicalized, Obama's push for STEM (Science Tech Engineering and Math) in education was practical. As was his emphasis on Community College Education, where I have direct experience as well as indirect through university collaboration.
In fact, contrary to popular belief among some conservatives, this practicality even reached into grant funding such as with the National Science Foundation. Suddenly, in the Obama years, pork-funded research for its own sake wasn't enough. They wanted outcomes that could, in fact, be monetized.
The public emphasis on STEM and life-improving, patent-worthy outcomes has seen some great collaborations across departments this past decade..
The STEM push has led to the need for more STEM educators both secondary and post-secondary, and thus awesome collaborations between Colleges of Education and Colleges of Sciences across university campuses.
Which in turn, at least in research institutions, pulls in the Business Departments and Research Parks as well where regents have a vested interest in internal patents and corporations have need for risk-taking R&D. Colleges of Business, Business Institutes, and Research Parks tend to be the most meaningfully connected university divisions in terms of meaningful connections to the surrounding community and its economy.
Education, though their own colleges, traditionally have more cultural/political alignment with social sciences and even the arts, but here they are, working hand in hand with STEM Colleges and business. At a time when campuses appear more divided than ever in popular media, what often is not reported is at least as meaningful. There are roads and bridges being built across large divides, largely attributable to the Obama STEM push.