Every year for longer than I have been alive, the Crosby and Suber families
have had Thanksgiving
at Torreya State Park in Florida. The Subers are my
grandmother's family on my father's side, and thus I am a Suber of sorts and
sometimes I have Thanksgiving at Torreya. The Crosbies
enter into it because my grandmother's sister Joyce married Wright Crosby,
who will gladly trace out for you the route of the Apalachicola
and tell you
about the time he tried to fly from the smokehouse
roof ("I thought everybody
tried that-- with the umbrella
When I said "sometimes", I meant it loosely. This year was the first time I'd
been to Torreya in a long time. When I
arrived, I had only vague childhood memories of climbing a trail back up the
bluff from the river, and of another trail with a very small waterfall at the
end. The river is the Apalachicola, which is how it came up
with Wright, and it ostensibly flows from Lake Seminole, but it's really just
a continuation of the Flint and the Chattahoochee and so finds its real source
in the mountains of Tennessee. The bluff and the park are between Bristol and
Greensboro, and on the east bank of the river, which becomes important later.
For now, know that the trail of my memory leads down the bluff past six
emplacements, and that at the top of the bluff there is a plantation house
that was built not long before the Civil War-- on the other side of the river.
You can still see the landing across the water, and before I knew about the
house I asked what the purpose of the ferry was, whether there was some
town hidden behind the trees on that other bank.
I recognized fewer than half of my relatives, but that was plenty; they go to
Torreya because they need the space. There were carvings from two distinct
turkeys at table, a ham or two, and no fewer than six sweet potato dishes; and
then there were two more tables of casseroles, dressings, beans, peas, cakes
cookies, sweet tea and coffee. We sat under the pavilion and out in the grass
and we ate until we were full, and then we ate until we were done. Young
cousins I didn't know ran and played while we sipped our weak hot cocoa and
talked about the land and our family. Afterward, everyone slowly gathered for
the annual trek to the river, and lazily we made our way past the house,
around the trail, and then back up the hill for another crack at the cakes
While we were walking the trail, someone asked where the name of the park came
from, and five or ten people
answered: The park is named for the Torreya tree, a sort of needle-leafed
evergreen. The Torreya mostly grows in the Far East,
but there's a species in California and there's a species that only
grows on the east bank of the Apalachicola within the confines of the park.
Uncle Wright told us that the Florida Torreya is now nearly extinct, the
victim of a
blight several decades ago, but that a lot of people-- himself included--
used to come out there and cut the Torreya for Christmas trees. Supposedly
the one outside our pavilion is the only one left, though nobody was really
sure about that. I'm told it would stink to high heaven if you cut it.
It's an unusual part of Florida, because although the river banks are mostly
low and I'm told much of the surrounding area is swampy, the part of Torreya
State Park that I've seen looks for all the world like it was dropped there
from the Appalachians. There are evergreens and deciduous trees, and the
packed-dirt switchbacks (nothing drastic) crunch underfoot with golden
leaves at Thanksgiving.
I got there by meeting my parents at the gas station by the caution light in
Greensboro and then following them through Sycamore, but it's probably faster
just to take I-10 to exit 166 (Gadsden County road 270-A -- thanks panamaus). You'll see a sign for it. Mom covered
the $2 entry fee for my car, but she probably won't be there when you go.