A four-lane highway over the Hawthorne trail tightens into winding country roads, picturesque with views of small lakes and ponds, cozy country cottages and the expanses of wildflowers, tall timberlines dominating the landscape. And somewhere, we swing into Putnam County...home of the Azalea festival, and home to some spectacular landscape.
The azaleas bloom, every year, in rioting color, all over the ravine trails at the Ravine Gardens State Park. On one hike during the spring season, I counted 19 varieties...but I am no botanist. Just a faithful photographer, and somewhere, an ecologist and a nature lover.
Palatka, and her twin-city over the bridge, East Palatka, is beautiful, and home to some spectacular real estate.
The river St John is big and beautiful, and its tumultous waves and depths reminds of the Ganges, back in India. The sun sets or rises over its wide expanse, depending on which bank you are on.
In my understanding, great cities and settlements have always grown around rivers. It is but human nature to congregate near rivers, since time immemorial.
Yet the towns suffer. A drive around town revealed very few eateries which are not local grease-spoons. I was told restaurants open, but cannot remain open long enough to sustain being in business. And I have heard of at least a couple of other businesses that were forced to close its doors.
My puzzlement is about why this amazing town has not grown. You know what? I think it will. I think the new growth that has come to Florida, especially north Florida, will discover the beauty of Palatka one of these days. And property values on this bit of heaven will appreciate, big time.
I think, like much of north Florida, Palatka is the brink of something beautiful. It only makes sense. This is home to some spectacular opportunties. Orchards, mini-wineries and farms populate this place, yet it is not the wine-lovers' Mecca as it should be. But I have faith...someday soon, it will be. I only hope growth comes with responsibility, with a mind towards sustainability.