Spring Road Trip

Our latest road trip destination was southwest Virginia. The scenery was spectacular as we drove north from Georgia through the mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

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Eastern Redbud at rest area in Western North Carolina

After an overnight stop in Asheville we continued to be awed by the scenery as we drove north through the Blue Ridge Mountains. The flowering eastern redbud trees added splashes of pink as we traveled to Southwest Virginia.

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View of the Blue Ridge Mountains from North Carolina Interstate Overlook
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Tennessee Welcome Center between Asheville and and Virginia
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Virginia welcome center in Bristol
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At the Virginia Welcome Center in Bristol

On our way to see Luray Caverns we took  a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia
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Blue Ridge Parkway Virginia

After we purchased our tickets at Luray Caverns we had a short wait before we walked down the steps to begin the 90 minute tour. We followed our tour guide and stopped a few times along the way to admire the spectacular formations (and of course take photos).

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Reflecting pool, Luray Caverns, Virginia
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Wishing Well, Luray Caverns, Virginia

All three generations of our family enjoyed the caverns, even our two teenage grandchildren!

Pink Spring Blossoms

Where I live in coastal Georgia, March is the month when our azaleas and some flowering trees show off their brilliant colors. Some of the beds in my yard are filled with azaleas I planted about 30 years ago. Every spring they still delight me with their beautiful blooms.

Many of the blooms are gone now and after our first April shower this morning, a lot of the remaining flowers now lay on the ground. I’ll have to wait another year for the pink blooms to return.

McQueen’s – Tybee Island Trail

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy nonprofit organization has created a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines. The McQueen’s – Tybee Island Trail near Savannah, Georgia is one of the those trails. The gravel trail is a popular place for walking, biking and jogging.

The trail suffered extensive damage in 2016 when Hurricane Matthew came through the area in October. Less that a year later, Hurricane Irma caused more damage. The work to repair the damage is still not complete and parts of trail are closed.

As of now, the only access to the trail is a parking area at the trailhead near the entrance to Fort Pulaski National Monument.  Starting at the trailhead, we walked until we came to a damaged bridge that still can be crossed safely. In all we went about about a mile and a half round trip.

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The bridge to Fort Pulaski National Monument as seen from McQueens – Tybee Island Rails To Trails, Savannah, GA
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McQueens – Tybee Island Rails To Trails, Savannah, GA
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McQueens – Tybee Island Rails To Trails, Savannah, GA
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McQueens – Tybee Island Rails To Trails, Savannah, GA
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This bridge was damaged during one of the storms that went through the area
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A great place to sit and enjoy the view
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Driftwood in the salt marsh beside the trail

We spied some wildlife along the trail.

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This little diamond back terrapin was crossing the trail in front of us
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Great blue heron in the salt marsh beside the trail

It was a gorgeous March day to get out and explore close to home.

 

 

February Wildflowers in North Florida

The calendar said February but the flowers said spring!

As we wandered along the trails of Silver Springs State Park and O’Leno State park in north Florida this February, wildflowers added a pop of color to the lush green forest around us.

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Wild Azaleas at O’Leno State Park, FL
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Carolina Jasmine along the swamp trail in Silver Springs State Park
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Pickerel Weed in the Silver River
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Wild Dogwood blooms in O’Leno State Park
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Can you identify this Florida Wildflower seen near the Ichetucknee River?
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The Wild Dogwoods were in full bloom at O’Leno State Park

Happy spring!

Wandering around Silver Springs State Park

After our four hectic days in Daytona we enjoyed a relaxing week at Silver Springs State Park. Up until the last day the weather was perfect for getting out and exploring the park.

There are two entrances to the state park. The main entrance (also called the historic entrance), on highway 40, is the location of the world famous glass bottom boat tours, a boardwalk trail, kayak and canoe launch and rental, a restaurant, meeting rooms, and paved trails on the beautifully landscaped grounds. The other entrance, on highway 35,  leads to the campground, several hiking and biking trails, a day use area, The Silver River Museum, and a cracker village.

A trailhead next to the Silver River Museum is the starting place for the swamp trail and the river trail. We chose to explore the swamp trail first. This two mile loop trail took us through a lush tropical forest before crossing a boardwalk over the swamp. At the end of the trail is an overlook on the Silver River.

Another day we walked on the river trail to a different overlook on the Silver River. We returned by way of the river field loop which meanders along the Silver River before meeting back up with the main trail.

We chose to drive to the main entrance instead of taking the 2 1/2 mile walking and biking trail. From the Ross Allen Boardwalk Trail we could watch the kayakers paddling out to Silver River. From the paved paths beside the springs we were able to look down into the crystal clear water. We continued along the path next to the river and stopped at another overlook before following the path beside gardens blooming with azaleas.

One day we drove about 30 minutes to Juniper Springs Recreation Area for a swim and a picnic. Swimming in the 72 degree water was a great way to cool off on a warm day.

Relaxing at the campsite one day, we spied this gopher tortoise munching on the grass.

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Gopher Tortoise, Silver Springs State Park

On Saturday morning, the Friends of Silver River State Park had a pancake breakfast to raise funds for their organization. After breakfast we took a tour of the cracker village, a replica of a 19th century settlement, and the Silver River Museum. The term “cracker” refers to the people who settled in Florida.

The Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center is a program of Marion County Public Schools. During the week, the museum is closed to the public while school children are attending classes. On some weekends, the museum is open to the public. The well done exhibits cover the history of the area from prehistoric days to the present.

We had planned to rent a canoe and paddle on the Silver River on our last day but we changed our plans when cold weather moved in. On our visit last year we took a glass bottom boat tour so we decided to skip it this year.

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Glass Bottom Boats, Silver Springs State Park