So Monday morning I get a phone call from Sleazeweasel about a several hundred-acre property being subdivided and sold within the Archer Karst area that I have enjoyed exploring and caving for lo these past 3+ decades. Oh, dear, what change is being wrought? It wasn’t exactly a boyhood haunt being butchered, but there are some fine karst features in that region, like caves with Pleistocene fossils, near-champion redbay trees and dozens of small caves important to local wildlife based on spoor.
At the entrance to a Pleistocene fossil-containing cave that Don M and I mapped some time back, we saw today an even more ancient fossil at the cave entrance. It was a bit of exoskeleton of a crab that died and became limestone 30, 40, 60 million years ago, I don’t know. Occasionally we find fossilized crab exoskeletons in Florida caves. When first entered, one cave had a claw arm extending from the limestone wall that was so well preserved that the arm looked like it could articulate at the “elbow.” Of course, we didn’t try that for fear of destroying the claw.
I wish I had a pic of that awesome claw, but here’s a different, non-articulating crab sticking out of a cave wall, photographed by Brian Williams, that will give you some idea:
Five of us guys drove to the site and found a sign advertising lots for sale, so with that warm invitation we just drove right on in, parked and wandered for awhile. This property had long been heavily grazed, and lately had been planted largely in pine, so was uninteresting ecologically. Limestone outcrops, the fount of our ferneries, were totally absent. With a couple of unnotable exceptions, sinkholes were shallowly bowl-shaped, being relatively inactive in recent times, and without rock outcroppings. Altogether, it was boring, not a promising area for finding interesting flora or fauna, or karst features.
We wanted to see the rest of the property regardless, so we hopped into my truck and drove around in leisure rather than pretend to enjoy the sweaty walk in the muggy summer late afternoon. Who wouldn’t rather goof off in the back of a pickup, riding down every sand road out there, looking for patches of old forest and active sinkholes with rock gardens that just aren’t out there, and telling stories along the way?
Remember when you could do that almost anywhere?
We half-expected having to explain our presence to onsite residents by pretending to be potential buyers. We worried a bit about that approach, though, ‘cuz we were dressed in camo, carrying gps units and macro lens cameras, navigating via Google Earth printouts with important waypoints superimposed in red, and driving around in a 4wd pickup looking for all the world like a platoon of guerillas without guns. Thank goodness we didn’t have guns! Uh, we didn’t have any guns, did we?