Friday, July 14, 2017

MSC Summer Camp Day 5: Raptors

We dropped Madison off this morning for her final day of Marine Science Center Camp, and on the way home, we were eaten alive!

But not by this thing!  A few notes before continuing.  First of all, this is a big concrete dinosaur built in the 1940's as a part of "Bongoland," a small park named after a baboon that used to live there.  There were other dinosaurs built, and painted too (hopefully), because these looked pretty worn over time.

This triceratops here is in better shape, perhaps because he's located near the outdoor chapel area.  Yes, there he is, a triceratops, located nearby the chapel to let all know about the Trinity.  They should  call it the "Church of the Triceratops" or something.

No doubt you're intrigued, so let me explain what's going on here.  After dropping Madison off, Mommy and Daddy went by a historical location called Dunlawton Sugar Mill Plantation.  If any place is cursed, this might be it.  To start out with, there are mosquitoes galore.  Wear plenty of repellant if you can, because Daddy got eaten alive, and I don't usually get bitten at all.

The second reason for considering the curse would be the the false hopes that were placed upon this land time and again.  To begin with, it was a sugar mill, an operation that required lots of labor, and apparently much of it from slaves.  Noise and heat - and probably mosquitoes.  They lived on the edge out here in Florida, long before it was an official state, and therefore long before it could really be adequately protected from others.  The Seminoles were constantly raiding this place, and time and again it would burn down or in one case the owner was savagely killed.  One owner's wife hated the place so much she longed to leave, because they were even worried if there would be enough sugar for they themselves.  She never left.  She died giving birth to twins, who also died.

Later on came Bongoland.  That's the natural direction to take an abandoned sugar mill, right?  Build giant dinosaurs, put a train in there, and have a working Indian village, and see how many tourists will come.  Apparently they did come, but not for long.

Today, Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens is actually a nice place to visit, once you've properly applied approximately fifteen gallons of bug repellant.  Volunteers take care of the place, although it's an overwhelming job.  There are many different styles of gardens, from Asian to fern gardens to rose gardens and more.  It was a nice little park, and with sufficient tree covering, there was plenty of shade.  Some of those trees were large and beautiful, with long arms stretching horizontally over the ground, draped with streams of dangling Spanish moss.

Ultimately though, it's all about these guys here though!

It was a nice morning trip, with a trip afterwards to the Marine Science Center one last time.  We were there for a family lunch together.

Earlier, we got a few items (including Madison's favorite Arnold Palmer half-and-half tea/lemonade), and dropped them off for today's lunch.  There was plenty to eat there, including watermelon that had been carved to look like a sea turtle.  Or, at least a sea turtle/gopher turtle combination.

Regardless, it was good.  We enjoyed a meal together, and then went in to a classroom inside, where we watched the premiere of a video actually shot at the Marine Science Center.  The kids, one by one, afterwards told us all what their favorite days were.  Madison's was not today, clearly.  On one hand, she enjoyed learning about raptors - not the dinosaurs.  A staff member was bringing into the classroom various birds of prey, and the kids were learning about their diets, habits, and general appearance.  Here's Madison and the other classmates watching a presentation with a live owl in the front of the room:

The other part of the day was the one she knew about ahead of time.  She was laughing about it, talking about the one thing she was going to have to do, and here it was:  dissecting owl poop!

It stunk.  But Madison, that's one of the things that poop does!  Anyway, she and the others dissected owl poop today, and one team even found the skeletal remains of an entire rat.  Their mother was kidding when she said how proud she was:  "I think I'll put this in a shadowbox, and hang it on my wall!"  Here's Madison waving hello as she looks for bones and fragments:

Madison's favorite day was the one where the kids went fishing, although she enjoyed the canoe trips as well, and the snorkeling at Blue Springs.  All the kids enjoyed something different, but all of them enjoyed the week as a whole.  If it is possible, we'll be back next year!

We got home, and started packing.  Already, we're supposed to be home tomorrow.  We'll be getting ready next week for a new series - lots to do there.

One last time, the three of us walked northward on the beach, and the weather was absolutely perfect.  The sea turtle nests were all intact:  none of the ones with the May ribbons on them were hatched, so we didn't really miss anything the last few nights.  The walk was very nice, with us getting our feet wet and just enjoying the perfect temperatures.  There was a larger cloud in the sky that was blocking out the sun for much of the walk, so there wasn't any of that Florida heat coming down upon us, and instead a nice gentle ocean breeze.  On more than one occasion, we all stopped and had a bit of a group hug, gazing out at the ocean horizon, or up and down the beach.  It's a pleasant place, certainly something good for the soul.

We went to bed early tonight, as it's going to be a big day tomorrow.  Obviously it was a full day, and just part of a very full and memorable week.  We're grateful for the time away, and although it was just a week, it seems so long ago that we left.  We'll be back soon enough though!

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