Girl’s Trip

Last week two of my girlfriends and I made a road trip to a resort in Orlando near Disney World. Our goal was to hang around by the pool, do some shopping, go out to eat, and have a few umbrella drinks.

Spent a lot of time chilling by the cascades at the pool
Spent a lot of time chilling by the pool

One night we arrived at The Whiskey during happy hour.  We were the only tourists at this hip locals hangout and also the oldest people there! The wait staff was great, the food was good, and we enjoyed watching the young crowd.

Happy Hour at the Whiskey
Happy Hour at the Whiskey

There is no Trader Joe’s near where I live so I am always happy to find one when I am on the road.

Got my Trader Joe's fix
Got my Trader Joe’s fix

To  celebrate my birthday on Friday we spent the afternoon at Disney Springs. This used to be called Downtown Disney and since my last visit seven years ago it has totally changed. Parking lots have been replaced with new upscale shops and parking garages have been added.

There is no fee to go to Disney Springs and parking is free. Be prepared to do a lot of walking. Although we didn’t give ourselves enough time to really enjoy it all I was able to find gifts for my grand children that can only be purchased in the shops there or in one of the theme parks.

Rent an amphicar to tour the lake
Renting an amphicar is one of the attractions at Disney Springs
Birthday dinner at House of Blues Orlando
Birthday dinner at House of Blues Orlando

On the way back home we stopped at Skipper’s Fish Camp in Darien, Georgia for some delicious fried shrimp and a great view of the shrimp boats.

After three days of laughter and fun, I returned home exhausted but with happy memories of a great adventure with my friends.

A few Florida curves

On our recent spring trip to the Gulf Islands National Seashore we encountered a few curves the day we moved on to Falling Waters State Park.

Sand covered parts of Fort Pickens Road as we exited the National Seashore
Sand covered parts of Fort Pickens Road as we exited the National Seashore
Curve in Garcon Point Bridge, Florida
Curve in Garcon Point Bridge, Florida
Curve in Boardwalk at Falling Waters State , Florida
Curve in Boardwalk at Falling Waters State , Florida

This is my contribution to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Curve

Tomorrow is a Mystery

Five years ago I had just gotten over a very serious illness and did not know what the future would be for me. One of my best friends gave me this plaque in the above photo that now hangs in my kitchen to remind me that every day is a gift.

Sunrise behind Fort Pickens Campground in Gulf Islands National Seashore

Every time I see a sunrise I know that I have been given the precious gift of another day on planet earth.

This is my contribution to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge. For more interpretations of the future visit WordPress Photo Challenge: Future

Way Down Upon the Suwanee River

Stephen Foster Museum

Way down upon de Swanee Ribber,
Far, far away,
Dere’s wha my heart is turning ebber,
Dere’s wha de old folks stay

Florida State Song, “Old Folks at Home” by Stephen Foster, 1851

Carillon at Stephen Foster Folk Cultural Center
Carillon at Stephen Foster Folk Cultural Center

One our favorite Florida State Parks, we have camped here numerous times through the years. Located on the banks of the Suwanee River, the park is named for American compser Stephen Foster and features a museum with exhibits about some of his most famous songs, a 97-bell carillon, a craft square with demonstrations and a gift shop, and a historic Spring House which once brought many tourists into the town of White Springs.

The Stephen Foster Museum houses many exhibits including several dioramas representing some of his most famous songs. Two of his songs have been adapted as state songs – “Old Folks at Home” is the state song of Florida, and “My Old Kentucky Home” is the state song of Kentucky. You may recognize some of his other songs such as “Oh! Susanna”, “Beautiful Dreamer” and “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair.”

According to The Center for American Music at the University of Pittsburgh, “Old Folks at Home” was written for a minstrel show and became the most popular song ever published at that time. Stephen Foster was never in Florida and never saw the Suwanee River. In his original draft of the song he used the name Pedee River but later changed it to Suwanee.

Diorama of "Old Folks at Home"
Diorama of “Old Folks at Home”

The road through the state park winds around the museum and carillon with ancient Live Oak trees covered with Spanish Moss all through the park. The campground is surrounded by pine forest with miles of hiking and biking trails. We love hearing the bells of the Carillon as it chimes on the quarter hour and plays Stephen Foster’s music throughout the day.

Live Oaks with Spanish Moss
Live Oaks with Spanish Moss

On the banks of the Suwanee River sits a Spring House which brought many tourists into the town of White Springs in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. An interpretive sign at the spring house calls it “Florida’s Original Tourist Destination”. The waters from the sulphur springs were thought to have healing powers and people flocked to the town of White Springs for the cure.

Spring House at White Springs, Florida
Spring House at White Springs, Florida
Florida's Original Tourist Destination
Florida’s Original Tourist Destination
Swimming Pool at the Spring House
Swimming Pool at the Spring House
Spring House at White Springs, Florida
Spring House at White Springs, Florida
Cypress Trees on the banks of the Suwanee River
Cypress Trees on the banks of the Suwanee River
Azaleas blooming in White Springs, Florida
Azaleas blooming in White Springs, Florida

Spring flowers were blooming all around the park and in the town of White Springs.

Flowering Dogwood in White Springs, Florida
Flowering Dogwood in White Springs, Florida

We drove to nearby Big Shoals State Park do a little geocaching and to hike along the Suwanee River. Our destination was an overlook on a bluff high above the Suwanee River to see Florida’s only Class III White Water Rapids.

Big Shoals Trail along the Suwanee River
Big Shoals Trail along the Suwanee River
Big Shoals on the Suwanee River
Big Shoals on the Suwanee River

Henry found the geocache and when he opened the container he found this little critter inside.

A surprise visitor in the geocache
A surprise visitor in the geocache

Several years ago during one of our stays at the park we had a delightful lunch at the historic Telford Hotel in White Springs. In one room of the hotel were old hotel registers with signatures of some of the famous visitors to the hotel including Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft in 1913. I dug out this photo of the register I took that day and you can see their signatures are the last ones on the page.

Telford Hotel Registery from 1913
Telford Hotel Register from 1913

Sadly, the hotel is now closed and the building for sale.

Telford Hotel in White Springs, Florida
Telford Hotel in White Springs, Florida

My review of Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park can be found on Campendium.

Florida’s Tallest Waterfall

Florida's Tallest Waterfall

When I first read about Florida’s tallest waterfall at Falling Waters State Park my first thought was “I didn’t know there were ANY waterfalls in Florida!” I had to see it with my own eyes.

So off we went to Falling Waters State Park to check it out. The campground sits at 324 feet above sea level on top of one of the highest hills in Florida.

An easy trail down the hill leads to a small pond and boardwalk trails to the waterfall and around several sinkholes. We observed the 73 foot tall waterfall from a platform above the falls but construction on the platform near the bottom of the falls prevented us from seeing the water dropping into the sinkhole at the bottom.

Florida's Tallest Waterfall at Falling Waters State Park
Florida’s Tallest Waterfall at Falling Waters State Park

The trails meander through a long leaf pine forest with southern magnolias scattered among the pines. A few wildflowers blooming along the trail let us know that spring was almost here.

Boardwalk trail at Falling Waters State Park
Boardwalk trail at Falling Waters State Park
Carolina Jessimine
Carolina Jessimine
Wild Azalea
Wild Azalea

While exploring the trails we did some more geocaching and found two in the park. We’re getting better at this!

A Zebra Swallowtail became fascinated with my shoes when we stopped to take a break along one of the trails.

Zebra Swallowtail
Zebra Swallowtail

We continued our quest for good local food and stopped at the Main Street Market in downtown Chipley for some Plant City strawberries. These wonderful, sweet strawberries are only available for a short while and although we had been getting them at grocery stores I had to have some more. While we were there I was thrilled to see some Florida Honeybells. These strange looking orange citrus fruits are sweet and juicy. The also have a  very short season so of course I grabbed some of those, too.

Florida Honeybells
Florida Honeybells

Falling Waters State Park is located south of Chipley, Florida just a couple of miles from I-10.

My review of Falling Waters State Park can be found on Campendium.