Throwback Thursday #13 – December 5, 2009

We’re not traveling as much in our fifth wheel anymore so I thought it would be fun to relive some of our most memorable days from previous RV trips.

On this day ten years ago, December 5, 2009, we were camped in the Flamingo Campground in Everglades National Park. We spent the day exploring the national park around Flamingo.

After entering Everglades National Park, the drive to the Flamingo Campground is another 38 miles through the park. Flamingo is the southernmost place in the mainland of the U.S. (The southernmost point in the U.S. is farther south in Key West.)

I wandered from our campsite in the morning to nearby Eco Pond where many wading birds were gathered.

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Egrets and Spoonbill at Eco Pond
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Wood Stork
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Roseate Spoonbill

Later in the day we went for a boat ride on a big pontoon boat in Florida Bay. There were some White Pelicans on a sandbar close to the boat. There were also hundreds of White Pelicans on a sand bar too far away to take pictures. As we headed back to the dock the rain started coming down.

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White Pelicans in Florida Bay
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Florida Bay on a rainy day

The Flamingo area of Everglades National Park is far from civilization and a wonderful place for bird watching and seeing other wildlife. In addition to the birds visitors can observe alligators and crocodiles in the wild. During certain times of year there may even be manatees in the water.

We enjoyed our stay so much we returned in 2012.

Throwback Thursday #11 – October 31, 2008

We’re not traveling as much in our fifth wheel anymore so I thought it would be fun to relive some of our most memorable days from previous RV trips.

On this day eleven years ago, October 31, 2008, our RV was parked in RV City in Jacksonville, Florida. We were there to attend the college football game between rivals Georgia Bulldogs and Florida Gators. The two schools have been playing each other annually since the early 1900’s and, except for two years while the stadium was undergoing renovations, has been played in Jacksonville every year since 1933.

Unofficially named “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party”, fans of both teams start arriving in Jacksonville and surrounding areas as early as a week before the game. Hotels are booked a year in advance and finding a last minute place to stay anywhere near Jacksonville is almost impossible.

We attended our first Georgia/Florida game in 1974 and it was an annual tradition for us for many years. Most of those years we stayed in a Jacksonville area hotel for the weekend. In 2008, we decided to take our fifth wheel to RV City for the event.

RV City is a large parking lot near the stadium that is reserved for RV’s. There is a limited number of parking for RV’s and at the time, in order to get a spot in the lot RV’s start lining up early in the week before Saturday’s game.

We met friends in Jacksonville early on Tuesday morning to follow them to get in line for our sites in RV City. We spent that night in line and were in our space in RV City early Wednesday morning. From Wednesday until Friday we enjoyed the festivities and entertainment leading up to the game on Saturday.

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Awning to awning in RV City
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Packed in like sardines in RV City in Jacksonville, Florida
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We had a great view of the stadium from our site.
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There were a few waterfront sites in RV City

Yes, we were dry camping in a parking lot. Yes, the RV’s were close together. Yes, there were crowds and lots of noise. Did we enjoy it? Yes! It was a great experience and great fun!

We have friends in RV City right now. Kickoff is Saturday at 3:30. We’re there with them  in spirit.

Go Dawgs!

 

 

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!

O’Leno State Park and three more Florida Springs

Our next destination was O’Leno State Park, less than a two hour drive from Silver Springs. This was our first visit to O’Leno, one of Florida’s oldest state parks. The park is located just a little north of Gainesville, near the town of High Springs, and close to several of Florida’s springs.

The campsites are arranged around a loop. Despite some overhanging trees we had no problem navigating the narrow road through the campground. Our site was at the end of the loop and our patio area faced the woods, not the back of another camper.

As soon as we got set up we started exploring. One of the focal points of the park is a swinging bridge over the Santa Fe River. Now, I don’t usually like walking across a swinging bridge but this one was very steady and I’m proud to say I went all the way across the river and back!

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Swinging Bridge over the Santa Fe River at O’Leno State Park

We followed the trail beside river for a few minutes before returning to our campsite.

The next morning fog made everything look eerie.

Later that day we hiked the River Trail to the Santa Fe River sink where the river disappears underground. The river rises back above ground about three miles away in River Rising State Park and can be seen by hiking or horseback riding about 2 miles each way.

Wild dogwoods were blooming all through the woods.

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Wild dogwood in the woods at O’Leno State Park

Florida has more springs than anywhere else on earth. Springs are huge underground caves and caverns that formed naturally to hold water.  From O’Leno it is easy to visit multiple springs in one day.

Ichetucknee Springs State Park is a popular destination for tubing down the crystal clear Ichetucknee River. When we went tubing there with our kids many years ago we never even saw the river’s headspring. On this trip we stopped to see the headspring before exploring the rest of the park.

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Itchetucknee Springs

When the weather is warm, the park fills up quickly with people coming to tube down the river. We did it with our kids twice and I remember the huge parking lot was full of cars. On one of our tubing trips Henry and our son donned their scuba gear to dive the whole way while my daughter and I lounged in the tubes enjoying the float. The most fun part was hearing people yell as they hit the 72 degree Fahrenheit water. On a hot day, after the initial shock the water feels wonderul.

It was too early in the season for tubing on this trip and we had the place pretty much to ourselves. At the end of a short trail was an overlook and boat ramp with a nice view of the river. The only other person we saw was kayaking down the river. He told us he paddled up river and was floating back down.

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Kayaker on the Ichetucknee River

The next day we visited two more springs where we dove during our scuba diving days. Our first stop was Troy Springs State Park. The water was high and closed for diving. When we dove there back in 1987 the spring was located on private property. When the state park was created they added ramps down to the spring to make it easier for divers to get their scuba gear to the spring.

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The high Suwanee River raised the water level at Troy Springs

We also dove at Ginnie Springs in 1987. It is a privately owned park that has been expanded since we were there.

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Ginnie Springs, FL

A fire in the fire pit was a great way to relax after all that wandering.

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A fire in the fire pit is a great way to relax at the end of the day

I’m glad we discovered O’Leno State Park. It was a great place to end our latest Florida adventure.

 

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