Posts tagged: Florida

Welcome home!

By , August 17, 2011 5:34 am

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Sorry for the lack of updates, but we’ve both been super-busy. Most of that has been because we’ve purchased a new home in Jacksonville, FL. It’s a bit of a Fixer-Upper, but we like it and we think it has a lot of potential. I keep telling everyone that “if it was in good shape, we couldn’t afford it”. 🙂

The actual purchase was a bit of a fiasco, mostly due to me traveling and my bank being pretty much useless. I may tell that story later.

Anyway, I just wanted to post a quick update filling everyone in on our status. I’ll probably post more about the house and what we’re doing with the RV (most likely available for sale in a couple weeks)… Things are starting to settle down a bit, so we should be able to keep up with fairly regular posts.

We’ll cover a bit about the house and what’s been involved there, some of the reasons why we’re settling back down, some of the activities over the past few months and what’s next.

‘Till then!

Fun, Family and Mishap at Juniper Springs

By , January 30, 2011 3:48 pm

Juniper Springs is located at Juniper Springs Wilderness and Recreation Area on the Southeastern part of the Ocala National Forest off of SR 40. It offers a full range of outdoor activities.

The springhead area offers swimming, a pleasant picnic area and a great nature trail that runs along the spring creek run. One of the highlights of this place has got to be the canoe run on Juniper Creek, Juniper Springs’ crystal clear spring run. It is 7 miles long and it takes an average of  4 hours to complete the course. Because the course runs through a National Wilderness area, you are guaranteed to see wildlife.

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We had visited the park once before last Spring and we had a blast! We did the canoe run and walked the nature trail.

Last week my sister and her husband were visiting his folks in Kissimmee, FL. The whole family drove up from Kissimmee to Juniper Springs last Friday to do the canoe run with us. We invited another friend of ours along as she has never been on the  canoe run before.

Ladies

NOTE: You cannot bring any food/drink in a disposable container on the canoe run (I believe it is an effort to minimize trash in the pristine wilderness area). So, put your food/drinks in a reusable container.

The canoe rental/loading process is a little lengthy. First, you check in at the gift shop. Then you walk over to the canoe rental area to load your canoe on to a cart. After that you wheel your canoe down a path to the take out point and drop it off. Now, walk back to the check in and collect your oars, life jackets and whistle and walk back to your canoe. Before you lift you canoe into the spring, there is a cooler check to make sure that you don’t have anything disposable. Finally, off you go!

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The canoe run has a lot of challenging turns with many low hanging trees that you have to duck under. Some branches are so low, you have to lay back  completely. Since we recently has a couple storms come our way, the water level is higher than normal thus creating “rapids” in a few sections . One fork of the path had a fallen tree completely blocking the entire length of the creek.  We had to get out and lift the canoes over. There are a couple places along the run where you can take a break and stretch your legs. We decided to take a lunch break at once such spot. Jonathan had pulled the canoe half way up the bank. He got out. As our friend got off the canoe, it rocked and SPLASH!!! I was under the water! I was so certain, we would not flip that I put on Canon PowerShot SD770 in my shirt pocket! So, no more still pictures after this moment. I reverted to using the waterproof video camera.

Sometime after this episode, we converged at a point. We hear my sister making funny noises and I turned around with the video camera in hand to catch her & her husband flipping their canoe over. The look on her face and the events proceeding that were priceless! I feel so bad for them but it was so funny! No one was hurt, thank goodness! (You’ll have to wait for Jonathan to edit the video.)

The wildlife scenery is incredible. We saw lots of turtles sunning themselves with their legs spread out, a couple of alligators sunning on the bank and otters swimming around. My sister and her husband saw a snake hanging from a branch. We saw one otter playing in the “rapids”, its heading was bobbing up and down with the waves. There was a variety of birds including blue and tricolor heron. It is a wonderful thing to see animals in their natural habitats.

It took us (3 canoes) about  5 hours to get through. Last time when it was just Jonathan and I , it took us under 4 hours.

We got picked up at Juniper Wayside, located about 4.3 miles north of SR 40, on SR 19. 

The events of the day was certainly memorable:

  • Park entrance: $5 per person
  • Canoe rental: $35
  • Dinner at Lena’s Seafood:  $44
  • Camera damage: $145
  • Whole experience: PRICELESS

Yes, my handy dandy Canon PowerShot SD770 IS is toast! Every time I tried to power it on, I get “Lens error, restart camera” and the camera lens will not retract. I am saddened by my loss but I am already researching a water proof one for my next purchase.

A Day at De Leon Springs State Park

By , January 25, 2011 9:39 am

Last month our friends from southern Maryland came to Florida to get away from the cold and visit some old friends. We were on their list too. Smile 

We spent an enjoyable afternoon at De Leon Springs State Park in De Leon Springs, FL in Volusia County.  The park covers over 600 acres and is built around a natural sulfur spring flowing at a rate of about 20 millions gallons a day. The spring water remain 72 degrees year round (the spring water is still cold even if the weather outside is lower than 72 degrees). The park offers a wide range of activities from boating to wildlife viewing.

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The park used be the site of an old plantation with a mill to grind corn and sugar. The plantation was destroyed during the Civil War but the waterwheel and building remains. The building now houses a pancake restaurant called The Old Spanish Sugar Mill. Each table in the restaurant has a griddle on the table where you make your own (all you can eat) pancakes. The table also has honey, molasses, honey and pure maple syrup for the pancakes. We came into the park around 1PM and we told the restaurant has a waiting time until 4PM. We decided to put our name down and take a boat tour in the mean time.

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We saw lots of wildlife! Some that I could remember included: American alligators, turtles, otters, great blue herons, American white ibis, egrets, limpkins, tricolor heron, hawks and vultures. We saw manatees playing in front of the springs. Manatees are cool! Scenery was beautiful too.

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After the boat tour, we went to check on our waiting status. As it turned out, they were ready for us! The three men and myself ordered pancakes. I can speak for myself, I ate too many pancakes but it was good!

Pancakes

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After this meal, I felt I wasn’t going to be able to eat until the next day. I was stuffed. We were invited to Eustis/Mount Dora for an authentic home cooked Peruvian lomo saltado dinner. It was delicious! Our hostess prepared this delicious meal for eight people (I was so caught up in the moment and conversation that I forgot to take pictures!). Needless to say, we had a wonderful day! Good friends and good food make for a good time any day!

A couple days at Sanibel Island – Florida

By , April 26, 2010 11:52 am

After the rainAfter our stay in the Everglades and south Florida, we needed to work our way back up the coast as we made some kind of progress towards Texas.  One of our stopping points was Sanibel Island, Florida.  Parked

We don’t have many pictures and we didn’t do much.  This was mostly just a nice place for us to wind down for a couple days after all the non-stop activity of the Keys, the ‘Glades and Big Cypress.  We did some very minor RV maintenance, ate some good food and went bike riding (with just a little bit of shopping thrown in to keep Dasy happy). 😉

Be warned, the ground get’s very soft when it rains.  I came back from somewhere to find the TW laying down on the job. I had to put a cutting board under the kickstand to stop it from sinking.  I should have just left the TW on the hitch rack.  The one time I took it out, it ran out of gas and I had to push it back.  Of course, if I’d paid a little more attention, I might have realized that I didn’t have the fuel petcock turned on correctly. :S  Lesson learned.

 

Dinner!The Seafood Combo from the Island Cow…  very tasty and enough for both of us. 🙂

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Signs for Periwinkle Park, the only RV spot we could find on the island.  The signs are easy
to miss, especially in traffic when you need to stop a 38’ motorhome and a Jeep.

Five Fingers

A little shopping…  I tried on some Vibram Five Fingers.  Right size, but I didn’t like the style.  You can find out more about them at BirthdayShoes.com if you’re interested.

After the rains…  Drainage is a bit of an issue when you’re already at sea level.  This is one of the main roads through the park.  It was probably eight inches at the deepest point.

 

Nice yard
Dirty

Nature’s windshield washer fluid – It rained, which got all the Everglade’s bugs “unstuck”.  I took advantage of it to do a much needed windshield cleaning. I was standing on the Jeep bumper and I still couldn’t reach the top. 🙁

 

Note: We’re still playing ‘catch up’ on the blog. I’m posting this from Texas about two weeks after our actual stay there.

Biking Through Gators

By , April 10, 2010 7:05 pm

Yesterday was a pretty busy day for us.  IMG_9667We started out by packing up and leaving Florida City.  We headed West on the Tamiami Trail to the Shark Valley Visitor Center.  Our setup was a bit too long for the parking area, so we disconnected the Jeep and parked it separately.  Then we pulled the bicycles off the rear rack of the RV.  Due to the amount of locks, cables, wires and everything else that secures the Jeep and bicycles, this is not a small amount of effort.  I’m only telling you this so you understand that I was hot and tired before we even really started exploring anything.

IMG_9592The Shark Valley Visitor Center is known for it’s trail.  The trail is a 15 mile loop that goes out into the Everglades, where an observation tower has been erected.  It’s paved and quite wide.  You can do the trail by walking it (hah!), biking it, or on a tram that runs every half an hour or so.  Unless it’s raining, cold or dark, I’d suggest the tram.  I think it was $17.50 a person.  I think that’s a bit steep, but it does support the park and it’s probably worth it if you’re not a fitness nut in really good shape (I’m not).  There is no shade on the trail and there may often be extremely high humidity and no wind.  We were lucky to have a bit of a breeze, because we brought our mountain bikes and put them to good use.

IMG_1815Even before actually pedaling anywhere, we spotted a couple of alligators and a lot of Florida gar at the visitor center.  We’d spot plenty more gators on the way, along with a fair variety of birds.  The tram and bikes go opposite directions, and bikers are asked to pull off and stop if a tram is approaching.  We only had to do so three times, so it wasn’t a great inconvenience or anything.

IMG_9669-Edit-2If you have a fear of gators, you will definitely want to be in a tram.  They are quite close, no matter where you are.  They also can and do come up onto the path, although we only saw “evidence” of such behavior.

The west leg of the trail has a canal dug beside it.  That pretty much guarantees that there will be gators on that side.  The east leg is a bit drier, but it does have “borrow pits” dug out that generally keep the areas around them damp enough for most critters.  IMG_9633There are culverts under the  trail to allow water to flow from one side to the other and gators will often be in these slightly deeper parts.

While the gators are the obvious attraction, there is an astounding array of other life to appreciate.  There were more varieties of birds than I can remember and I can only recognize IMG_9658a handful of them.  Redwing blackbirds, spoonbills, tri-color herons, ibis, swallowtail kites, vultures, purple gallinules, IMG_9577and a whole host of others.  If you’re into birds, I think it’s kind of hard to have a bad day in the Everglades.

At the half-way point on the trail is an observation tower.  I don’t know how tall it is and I’m a horrible judge of stuff like that, but it’s definitely tall enough to give you a slight idea of how big the Glades is.  It’s surrounded by a borrow pit, which is usually full of gators.  In our case it wasn’t, probably due to the amount of rain we’ve had here this spring.  They aren’t forced to congregate at the pits.  Don’t worry, you’ll still see plenty.

There are a few other “side trails” you can check out, but we skipped them.  We were cooked from just biking the 15 mile trail.  I’m not a complete couch potato, but 15 miles in Florida heat is not something I’m accustomed to.

We got back in the RV, cranked on the air condition and continue down the Tamiami Trail to our next destination, which I’ll cover next time!

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The observation tower

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Me, enjoying the shade in the observation tower

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That’s about as close as I could convince Dasy to get to the gator

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The west leg is almost dead straight, just keep going and don’t run over anything that moves

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There’s always another gator!

Shark Valley Trail Map 4-9-2010

GPS track of our ride

Bolen Bluff Trail

By , March 3, 2010 5:04 am

Some spanish moss

Dasy and I both managed to carve out some time yesterday, so we took the opportunity to visit Paynes Prairie.  We’d been trying to get out here for some time, so we just decided to go, even though the weather wasn’t great.  It was windy, overcast and threatening to rain the entire time, but it held out long enough for us to do some exploring.Intertwined

Paynes Prairie is a natural oddity.  It’s part of Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, which includes a lot of area beyond the prairie itself.  The “prairie” is not the kind you think of when you think about Little House on the Prairie.  It’s basically a floating mass of plants that pretty much just sits there while the water slowly flows under it.  It’s a pretty strange, but interesting place.  Of course, due to it’s very nature, you can’t exactly go walking around in the prairie.  The Preserve has several good trails that will keep you dry and allow you to do some exploring.  We took Bolen Bluff Trail, Nothing lasts foreveras it’s one I pass almost every day I go to work and I know that it actually goes out into the prairie.

Bolen Bluff is listed as being a 2.5 mile loop.  We took some detours, so probably ended up doing about 5 miles, but didn’t actually complete the loop.  Expect about 3 miles total if you just want to go to the viewing platform and back to the parking area.

The trail starts at in “woods”, which are pretty much the standard Florida old woods, but a bit more “open”.  Florida woods and forests generally get overgrown with brush.  This one doesn’t.  You can see a fair distance and it’s quite open.  A dirt trail is your guide most of the time.  From the parking area, take the left fork if you want to head to the prairie.  Can't we all just get along?

While in the woods, keep your eyes open for deer and horses.  There are a few herds of wild horses on the prairie and they will sometimes come into the woods.  We didn’t actually see the horses on this trip, but there was “evidence” of their passing. 😉

ArmadilloWhile on the prairie itself, we were pleasantly surprised to see an armadillo.  We were even more surprised to see that he wasn’t the “flat” variety most often seen while driving. ;)  He was foraging for something and really couldn’t have cared one bit that were a couple feet from him taking pictures.

Also be on the look out for hawks, bald eagles and sandhill cranes.  We saw a couple hawks and the cranes, and I’ve seen bald eagles here before.

While the prairie is interesting because it’s so different, take the time to explore the scrub and forest areas too.  We didn’t make it to the grass bluff on the other half of the loop, but the woods we did manage to check out were a bit different than the overgrown scrub areas I’ve been accustomed to.

It was a couple hours out of the way for us, but we’re glad we made the effort.  It’s an area worth checking out if you’re anywhere near Gainesville.

Click on any of the pictures to see larger versions.

 Looking back A little flower Prairie pool The walkway Got fern?

A Day With Manatees

By , January 17, 2010 8:29 am

We went to Salt Springs Recreation Area on Thursday.  We’d heard from friends who are staying there that manatees are coming up into the springs, probably due to the recent cold weather (most Florida springs are 72 degrees, regardless of how cold it is everywhere else).  Our friends were also nice enough to lend us their kayaks.  It was even better that one of their neighbors lent his kayak so one of them could join us!  🙂

It didn’t take long for us to spot a manatee.  It took a bit longer to get decent video of one, but that’s mostly my fault… I hadn’t used the camera underwater before.  I also had to hold the camera with one hand and paddle the kayak with the other.  That’s a lot easier to explain than it is to do it. 😉

But, we did get a few minutes of decent footage of the manatees!  We also had a great time just paddling around with new friends.  We also went to the big Florida RV show in Tampa with them, but we’ll post separately about that later.

I’m not sure if the video shows up in RSS clients… if you don’t see it, you’ll have to go to our web site to check it out.  If you want to see the HD version (highly recommended) go check it out directly on YouTube and hit the HD button on the bottom of the player.  BTW… if anyone knows how to get the HD button to show up in my embedded version, leave me a note. 

Next stop, Sarasota…

By , December 20, 2009 6:56 pm

The Star is all cleaned up, packed up and ready to roll a little further south.  We’re heading to Sarasota tomorrow morning. 

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We have some close friends and some family in or near Sarasota, so we’ll be spending about a week there catching up with as many of them as we can track down.

We’ll be staying at the Sun ‘N Fun RV Resort, which also happens to be where Duncan and Jessica of Traveling On The Outskirts are currently workcamping.  I’m not sure what else we’ll be up to, as I’m waiting on everyone involved (ahem) to tell me when we’re doing things so I can plan other things around them.

See you when we get there!  🙂

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