Friday, April 15, 2016

Update and Minor Rant (Louisiana)

I'm still making my way back to OKC to be with Sheryl while she is helping our daughter recover from her back surgery. Good news, she is recovering well, her back and leg pain is gone, but she is still pretty sore at the bone graph site.
I left Florida a few days ago with plans to stop in New Orleans. It has been 25 or so years since I was last there and wanted to stop in and check it out again. I took up residence at the Navy Base Campground in Belle Chase just outside New Orleans. Now the Navy Base and Campground here are very nice, a definite oasis from the big city. Last time I was here, New Orleans and the French Quarter was actually a pretty decent place to visit, fairly clean for being a big party area. This time however it's a different story. Parking the Jeep on the Algiers side, I caught the ferry across to the Canal St area on the edge of the French Quarter. Walking around the quarter I immediately began to notice a change. the whole area is dirty and smells like a landfill. There seems to be many more homeless people, drunks, panhandlers  and con men then ever before, just making for a very unpleasant time. After about a half hour it was all I could take and just had to leave and get back to the base. The area has really gone down hill. The architecture, food and music are still great, just being surrounded by the rest of it.......we won't be back. On another note and equally as bad are the roads in Louisiana, seems like no matter what part of the state you visit, the roads are just horrendous. Every time we drive an RV through the state, something gets damaged or breaks due to the beating the RV takes. This time it rattled the screws out of the back up monitor and broke some stuff in an underneath storage bay. Now I remember why we avoided Louisiana for so long before, and if at all possible will from now on.........Ok, rant over!!!
I currently in Northern Louisiana on my way to spend a couple of days in the Dallas area visiting the grandkido's. I should make it in around 2:00-3:00. So, that's all for now...........see ya next time.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Central Florida State Parks

 During my stay here in Central Florida, I've had the opportunity to visit 3 State Parks. First was Blue Springs in Orange City. We had visited Blue Springs a couple of years ago during the height of Manatee season (Jan/Feb) to witness hundreds of Manatees in this short spring run. This year however, I was a bit late and they had all headed out into the St Johns River. The waters of Blue Springs, like most all the Central and North Central rivers, are crystal clear with blue to green waters, just beautiful. With no Manatees to photograph, I wanders around and just enjoyed the park, Here are just a few.

 Divers heading into the abyss

 Elevated boardwalk along the spring run.

 Old homestead of the first family to inhabit the area. Look at the size of that Oak Tree.

 Next up was Hontoon Island a few miles east of Deland. This park is unique, as it can only be accessed by Ferry or private boat. It's a small island in the middle of the St Johns river and not much to it, just few primitive campsites and a hiking trail along with the Ranger Station and museum of the area. The hiking trails were closed this day as they were having a controlled burn on the island, so not much to see.

 Did however spot this Sandhill Crane and her baby.

 Lastly was Silver Springs just outside of Ocala. For many years this was a private tourist attraction and was very popular. I remember coming here as a kid some 45 years ago with my parents. From talking with the Rangers, the park changed hands several times over the years and became more and more run down. Seems each owner was just in it for the tourist dollar than actually keeping the park up. The State finally bought it and is working hard to bring it back to it's former glory.

 Hint, be the first one in any state park and enjoy what it has to offer be for all the regular tourists invade. Funny, in that I don't really consider us full time RV'er tourists, as we more often than not will visit an area, stay for a while (actually live there) and basically become a local for a time. We want to experience the area, not just pop in, run through the tourist attractions and head home.
This day I was first in the park, the fog was still on the water and the quiet peacefulness was just amazing.

 This is a single Palm Tree which this deck was built around. pretty wild how it struggled to stay out of the water.

 The glass Bottom Boats are still in operation, just now under the watchful eye of the state.

Hmmm, seems to be the same theme at each state park

Well that's it, three State Parks of the many that Florida has to offer. If you have not had a chance to visit any of the parks, please do so. I grew up in this area and I can tell you Florida is not all beaches and Disney World. Get out and (as the state parks motto says) experience the Real Florida, you won't be disappointed.
Don't know how much longer I'll be in Florida, heading out in the morning. Seems Sheryl has her hands full with three Grandbabies to care for by herself and is screaming "Uncle"!!! So I"m headed that way to help out and keep the little heathens from driving Sheryl insane (just kidding) but three youngins can be a handful and a half. Ok, so , until next time from parts yet unknown........................

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Animal Life in Everglades National Park

 Now, Everglades National Park is well known for it's abundant animal life, however finding that life and photographing it can be easier said then done. Luck seemed to play a big part in being able to find what I did, I could go back to the same area every day and only see a certain animal once the entire week. I was pretty happy with what I did capture and since pictures speak louder than words...........hope you enjoy the shots.

 American Crocodile

 Manatee Feeding

 Found this little guy in a seed pod.

 Colorful Bird


 Crazy eyed bird

 Sneaking under the boardwalk

 Birds in love nesting together


 Dragonfly, kept coming back to this one stick for me

The only good sunset in six days

Now I'm all caught up from the Everglades. We headed out to spend some time with our son and his family in the Miami area. We had a great visit and fulltiming has sure allowed us to see them more than we would have, had we retired to a normal home. It's a great life, but family emergencies still happen and Sheryl had to fly back to OKC to help out her daughter as she was having emergency back surgery. So, that leaves me flying solo and making my way back to OKC, however I won't be rushing right back as there is not much I can do. So until next time................................... 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Everglades Back Country Boat Tour

 While at Everglades National Park, we thought the Back Country Boat Tour would be a good way to get back into areas otherwise only accessible by canoe/kayak. Now while we did bring our inflatable kayak, the ranger advised us, it was spring mating season and the alligators were being very territorial and it may not be the best idea to go out in it. Well, being one to not tempt fate too much and listened to the rangers advise, the boat ride it was.
 We also chose to take a early tour as most of the tourist that come in from Miami don't make it till later in the day. I'm glad we chose the early one, as there were only us and two other couples on the boat, normally they can have 30 plus, so it was nice having room to wander around.

 The main attraction of the ride is hopefully spotting the American Crocodile and we were lucky this day. There are several that inhabit the canal during the first part of the tour, but they (like any wide animal) can be elusive. We spotted this large 13 footer and a few baby ones like the shot below. The Flamingo area of the Everglades is the northern most habitat of the Crocodile and one of the few places in the United States that you are able to see them. We feel privileged to have seen and been able to capture a few shots of them.

 Baby Croc Chillin

 Bird life and tropical plants abound in this area and our guide was very informative about them.

The waterways are lined with Red Mangroves, it's really interesting to see their long root systems reaching down into the waters. The tour consist of the man made canal which leaves the marina area, through Coots Bay, through a natural canal and out into the second largest lake in the state before turning around and heading back. the whole tour is approx 2 hours.
There are several tours in the park, both guided and self guided. from hiking to canoeing however, this being the end of the busy season, most all were not being givin. We can highly recommend this tour and at 35.00 per person we thought it was a bargain.
Ok, that's it for this entry, we leave from the Miami area tomorrow and I'll post the last entry I had planned of the Everglades next time We have WiFi. So, until then.......................................

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Goodbye Key West, Hello Everglades National Park

 Wow, our 4 month stay in Key West was over, we had a great time, met and made a lot of good friends. However, it was time to leave and see different sights, We'll miss it here, but will be back again one day.

 The first stop on our trek northward was Everglades National Park and the Flamingo Campground. Even though I was brought up in Florida, I never was able to visit the Everglades themselves so I didn't want to miss this chance since we were so close. Now growing up in the Central Florida area (when it was still pretty rural and wild) there were and still are areas similar to the Everglades, but not as expansive, so this was a place I just had to see.

 We made reservations at the Flamingo Campground 40 miles inside the park for 6 days. We were able to get an electric only site (it's either elec only or dry camp) for our stay, so water conservation was still going to be needed. Luckily, with our vast dry camping experience in Key West, it was a piece of cake doing 6 days.

We camped in the "T Loop" the sites are very large, level and paved, each come with a picnic table and fire ring. The only down side was the shower house, while very clean, they are cold showers only, burrrrr. I tried one day and just couldn't do it, call me a wimp, but  the ice cold water was just too much!!! Now the other other loops A, B, and C have solar heated showers, but we just did good ole Navy showers and baby wipes to stay clean, which worked out very well. Now, there is a small store here in the Flamingo area but it is very expensive and not well stocked so make sure you stock up before heading down to spend any time at all here. We also found mosquito spray and lots of it is a life saver! With the mild winter down in south Florida this year, they were out in force earlier than normal and especially down here at the end of the world. All in all we enjoyed our stay here, Sheryl stayed inside most of the time, as she seems to be a mosquito magnet!!! I, on the other hand, don't seem to be bothered as much by the little critters, of course a good dosing of repellent helps. One of my main reasons for wanting to come to the park, was to photograph the wildlife and try and capture the expansiveness of the place, which I found difficult as you really have to experience it to understand.
That will do it for this post, I'll save some of our outing for the next one, just wanted to give you an idea of the RV Park and our trip here. So until next time...............................