A Family Weekend

We started our Saturday by going to Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka, Florida. The day was mostly overcast, so our creamy Northern skin finally got a break.

We did their Azalea walk through the park and crossed two suspension bridges.

The ravine was a bit lacking, but many of the azalea were in bloom, which added a colorful background to our walk. We also spotted a few orange trees through the vines and palms, their deliciously round ripe fruit just out of reach. This reaffirmed my love of foraging; I contemplated bushwhacking with my bare hands to get to them. Maybe I was dehydrated.

We remedied the situation quickly with two buckets of sweet tea. And nothing goes better with sweet tea than fried okra, fried pickles, and corn fritters. Southern fried food is so much better than Northern fried food. I’ve said it. It’s crispy and not greasy and it doesn’t hurt my stomach. They also serve everything with ranch.

After refueling, we drove an hour to the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings house at Cross Creek. She is best known for her novels The Yearling and Cross Creek, and moved from Rochester to Florida before writing her great works at this idyllic homestead in the swamp.

We toured her house and her property and were offered a glimpse into her life. I loved so many of the little details, like her bed on the porch for those hot summer nights, or the Lucky Strike cigarettes lying next to her typewriter. Her broom made of corn cobs. The way she always sat facing the window at dinner parties so that no one else had to stare at the outhouse.

Apparently, when she finally had plumbing installed in her house, she had an inaugural party and placed flowers in the toilet.

The house was filled with fresh flowers and oranges picked from her property; it demonstrated the love and care they put into her home to maintain the legacy of this great American novelist.

We also enjoyed touring her property. The chickens pecked at oranges thrown into the compost pile. We decided we wanted some too (oranges, not compost).

We picked a few different citrus varieties on our walk around her property. A tart orange picked right from the tree is a delicious experience. I enjoyed every bit of Cross Creek and recommend visiting if you get the chance.

On Sunday, we relaxed and recharged a bit. Tiffany cooked a delicious meal for us to take to my aunt and uncle’s, and Ryan and I went out to buy a few books for the next leg of our journey. We plan to head to Kissimmee Prairie on Tuesday. They are a Dark Sky site, which means we get a night of complete darkness (no flashlights allowed!) to better see the stars and constellations. Then Wednesday we head to the Everglades and Big Cypress National Park for a few nights. If you have any recommendations for things to do or see in those areas, let us know in the comments!

Dinner with Uncle Dom and Aunt Carol was filled with lots of laughs. We had a great time chatting about our trip, childhood memories, and a little bit of everything. There’s nothing like family to fill you up with love and laughter. One more day with Tiffany, and then we’re off again. We’ll leave you with my uncle’s crowning glory.

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