12 Mar 2022 – 23 days after we arrived.
We rode into the Mcfadden Nature Centre on 17 Feb 2022. It was quite a long, hard ride. Forty miles battling a brisk headwind, I think we would have stopped earlier had we not already called ahead and known that we were going to be met by Raymond.
Almost by chance I saw the Centre on Google Maps and clicked on it for more information. It’s shown as a Preserve on the map but there are few other details on Google. It does have a website listed and I followed the link to that. From that I found the phone number of Angela, one of the directors. A lovely and very caring lady who is very much dedicated to the centre and serving it and the community around.
Life is full of chance encounters. Moments and split decisions that can bring you to meet a person or not if things had been just a little different. Finding ourselves at the Mcfadden Nature Centre is one of those moments. We have found ourselves in a paradise.
For a while we have known that we need a place to wait out the rest of the cold weather before we begin our ride up the east coast. We had thought to search for a Workaway or WWOOFing opportunity, perhaps in Florida, we have been so blessed and fortunate to find ourselves at the Mcfadden Nature Centre.
Just when we needed a place to shelter from the coming rains we found a place that is just so wonderful. 1300 acres of natural environment with miles and miles of paths cross-crossing through the forest, over green pastures, alongside the deep river and over dams. We have spent many hours riding along those paths and still get lost with ease. I love to drive and here at the centre there is a choice of different four-wheeled toys that we can take out to ride for the next exploring trip.
We love to ride out and see what we can find. Our favourite thing to look for here is the wild animals, chief among them are the alligators that are shy and elusive here. Besides the alligators we have seen all manner of different animals here. Snakes, deer, turtles and gophers. Opossums, armadillos and raccoons. Hogs and squirrels. Each sighting brings us great joy and excitement. They are wild animals, being wild, living within the centre. Mushrooms are the only thing we have hunted here at the centre. Delicious oyster mushrooms, they are fleeting and need to be picked within a few days of emergence. The ones we have found are thick, meaty and full of earthy flavour.
Sometimes we go out for a ride around the centre and only see one or two animals. But that’s just fine. We slow down, stop and turn off the engine. Silence, but it’s not really silent. There are many birds calling. Unseen frogs, insects and other creatures making their own songs. It’s not silence but it is peace. Peace, but not quiet.
Besides nature watching and exploring we have tried to keep ourselves busy and useful. We cleared a couple of fallen trees that were creating obstacles in the paths. It was not very easy but together we got the job done and were very happy.
We were very excited to be able to join the team and help out with a controlled burn. We were given the task of fire patrol, riding around the perimeter of the burn area making sure the fire did not jump across the fire breaks and get out of control. Sometimes a tree would catch light rather than just the underbrush and if it was within reach of our water sprayer we would douse the flames so the tree wouldn’t suffer any damage. We drove round and round spraying the flames that crossed the breaks. It was a good day’s work and we were happy and proud with what we had achieved.
One day we made fairy doors. Gale showed the team what a fairy door is and made two as an example. It was a lot of fun and great to see how everyone joined in and let their creative and fanciful talents show.
The Nature Centre is a real gem. We are so looking forward to seeing how it is developed and grown. There are exciting plans for a visitors centre to be built, the disc golf course has already been built and just needs a few finishing touches before the first disc golfers can come and play on the latest addition to the game of disc golf.
One of the special things about our time here is that we are often on our own. No one lives here and only a few days a week does someone come to work here. It’s like our own personal, beautiful place in nature. But this place would not be so amazing without the friendships we have made here. The people here are all very special. Truly very skilful, knowledgeable and with a deep love for this land.
Of special importance to us both are Raymond and Shelby. Two brothers who are both very similar but also dissimilar. We love to chat with them and listen to their wisdom. Watch as they play and laugh at their silly jokes. Again seemingly by chance we had the opportunity to ride with Raymond down to Florida. While he was taking his cruise to the Bahamas we took a holiday from our vacation and spent some time touring around Florida as well as spending some time with some amazing friends that we met while we were on the California coast.
These past few days we have been out riding around the centre for longer rides. There is a feeling of sadness as we know that we will be leaving here soon. Only the bad weather has kept us here for a few more days and I’m relieved that we can spend more time here.
The Mcfadden Nature Centre will always be in our hearts and we will always remember the happy and peaceful times we have spent here. We will mount our bike and ride out from here soon but I sincerely hope that we will return again someday.