Everybody does something for a living. Pennsylvania had iron forges. Florida had sugar mills. And I spent an afternoon exploring two of them with Sayre Kulp.
Our first stop was in New Smyrna Beach, at what the Volusia County website simply calls “Sugar mill ruins.” The site on 600 Mission Drive consists of the ruins, historical markers, and a nature trail of a fifth of a mile.Access to the site is free.
I walked the trail, which was both my first taste of the Florida woods and the woods first taste of me.
“Ouch! Something bit me Sayre!”
“That’s probably one of the midges. They live in the sand and get kicked up when you walk. Its why when I mow my lawn I wear sweatpants and sneakers, even in July.”
Forewarned, we continued on to nearby Port Orange and Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens. The ruins are a side attraction to a ten acre public gardens, with free admission. Like the New Smyrna ruins, this sugar mill was destroyed in the Second Seminole War, the 1835-1842 conflict between the Seminole tribe of Native Americans and the US.
But the history of the site doesn’t end there.
While Dunlawton Sugar Mill Gardens is currently owned by Volusia County and run by the non-profit Botanical Gardens of Volusia, it was previously a theme park. “Bongoland” never prospered and was as dead as the dinosaurs contained in it by the late 1950s. But like the sugar mill, the ruins of Bongoland are still around. You never know when you will encounter a dinosaur or giant sloth. In the photo below, I show my attempt at portraying stark terror at facing T Rex. In retrospect it looks more like I want to eat the dinosaur as much as it wants to eat me.
The gardens and adjoining trails are about a mile of walking, and would be wonderful even without the dinosaurs. However, my photographs of the gardens were disappointing. The light was bad and one of Florida’s rainstorms struck as we were ending our tour. So I’ll leave this post with my last photo, the rain falling on a pond, taken from a wooden bridge spanning the water.