Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fort Matanzas National Monument

fort Matanzas

Fort Matanzas National Monument is situated on a coastal island south of St. Augustine, Florida. It was constructed by the Spanish in 1740 and completed in 1742.  The main material used in the fort’s construction was coquina which was a common shellstone building material at the time. The fort was used in the effort to ward of the British who wished to encroach on St. Augustine. The only battle that occurred off of Matanzas Inlet was in 1742 when Governor James Oglethorpe of Georgia arrived with 12 ships. The ships were soon detected by the Spanish who responded with a single cannon shot. The fleet left after the fire without causing further action for the Spanish.

Matanzas boat transportation

Fort Matanzas is only accessible by way of a guided tour boat. Matanzas Queen III was our ride to the inlet. Our tour guide was dressed in the apparel that would have been worn by the Spanish who guarded Fort Matanzas. He must of been relieved to remove the thick cloak after the tour.

the fort

After the United States took control of Florida in 1819, the fort was discontinued in use and became a ruin. In 1916 restoration began in an effort to restore the deteriorated fort to its former glory. In 1924 it became a national monument.

gun firing demonstration

Upon the gun deck, I experienced a piece of the past. I was able to see the cast iron cannons which would of been used as a defense mechanism at the fort. Then, I entered the officer’s quarters where a rough bed and fireplace was located. I also observed the powder magazine which was used in storing gun powder. To end our tour, the guide explained history of the fort and gave an exciting demonstration of a musket firing. Everyone held their ears for the firing!

Elizabeth’s Traveling Tips: Fort Matanzas National Monument is free! Find more information at

Monday, July 19, 2010

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park in Palm Coast, FL

Washington OAks sign

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park is located in Palm Coast, Florida in Flagler County. The property was once owned by a relative of President George Washington. In later years it was purchased by Louise and Owen Young who built a winter retirement home on the land and named it Washington Oaks. Soon after Owen Young’s death in 1962, his wife Louise considered donating the property to the state of Florida. On January 1, 1965 the Washington Oaks Gardens State Park was officially opened. The park is now well known for the formal gardens which host a variety of ornamental and exotic plants. Included in the park is a rose garden, herb garden, and native plant garden which attract an array of butterfly species.

The park is attractive to those interested in bird watching and nature photography. The gardens peaceful setting makes a morning stroll one of pleasure. Trails are available for hiking or bike riding. For an afternoon meal, picnic tables are available. The area is nicely shaded by a canopy of live oak trees.


Among the gardens is a lake surrounded my oak trees and Florida’s State tree which is the Cabbage Palm. Kio fish and Triploid Grass Carp reside in the lake. The Triploid Grass Carp is an effective control for aquatic plants and algae build up. Near the lake is a gazebo where visitors can relax and enjoy the view.


The rose garden shows signs of tender care and is kept well pruned. I couldn’t resist the temptation to take a sniff of their sweet fragrance. Roses have colors of oranges, pinks, reds, and white.

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The natural boundaries of the park are the Matanzas river and Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic beach at Washington Oaks is famous for its unique coquina rock shoreline. Long before the Europeans arrived, Native Americans used the water for fishing and to gather shellfish. The Matanzas river has served as a waterway since the time of the Native Americans to the present. Visitors at Washington Oaks can enjoy the waters by walking along the beach shoreline or fishing on the dock.


Before leaving you can visit the gift shop and go through the Owen D. Young Visitors Center. Learn interesting facts about the areas history and listen as recorded speakers give you a peek into the past. To learn more about Washington Oaks Gardens State Park admission prices and hours visit:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Falling Waters State Park in Florida


Falling Waters State Park is located 3 miles south of Chipley, Florida. The park has campsite with available electricity, picnic tables, and grills. Nature lovers can take a walk through the trails and might spot a pileated woodpecker pecking at a pine tree. To cool off, you can take a dip in their two-acre lake or walk along the white sands beach. Fishing is permitted for those who have a freshwater fishing license. 


The main attraction at this state park is a 73-foot waterfall cascading over the edge of a steep rock. This is Florida’s highest waterfall and I was proud to witness its splendor. I wouldn’t suggest visiting in winter though! The wind and cold releases its fury and has no mercy.


Among the waters, I saw a beautiful rainbow.

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Falling Waters has natural features such as various sinkholes. They actually served as a hideout for native American warriors during the Seminole Wars.

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At Falling Waters, a butterfly garden is prepared each year for migrating butterflies. Wildflowers and nectar rich varieties provide food for weary travelers.

Below is a video of the Falling Water’s Waterfall


Friday, July 2, 2010

Blessed Earth, “Serving God, Saving the Planet”

Hope for Creation

As a special event at Northland Church to celebrate Earth Day, the founders of Blessed Earth were invited to speak. Blessed Earth is a nonprofit which was founded by the Sleeth family in response to the need for a healthier planet. They responded to God’s calling by starting the journey of a more simple life style and caring for God’s creation in the process. The Sleeths’ share their vision with colleges, churches, and media. In the last two years, they have spoken more than 850 times!

The Sleeths’ share their vision to churches of the changes they can make to help the environment such as conducting energy audits on their buildings, installing rain barrels, using green cleaning products, using reusable dishes and instead of disposables, recycling, and creating community gardens. These changes help churches to save money and put towards other needs.

Visit their website at 


Booths at Northland gave brochures with eco friendly tips. Above, I am standing by the table which was selling books about living “green”. I also had an opportunity to show them my eco bag hand knitted by recycling plastic bags. For my pattern 


Here are the purchases we made. Starting on the left is a book by Matthew Sleeth’s daughter, Emma Sleeth. It is titled “It’s not easy being green.” This is a book for youth who want to make a positive difference in the environment. In the middle is a environmentally friendly Bible made with mixed sources from well-managed forests, controlled sources and recycled wood or fiber. The third book on the right is “Serve God Save The Planet” by Matthew Sleeth. It includes practical ways to to be caretakers of God’s beautiful creation.