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!

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

 

 

 

Wandering around Saint Augustine

It’s been over 40 years since we last camped in Anastasia State Park. We were camping in a tent with our kids and back then you could drive on the beach.

Today there is no more driving on the beach in the state park. Instead, there is a huge parking area with walkways over the dunes and a wheelchair accessible beach mat to the beach.

It was chilly, foggy and raining during most of our stay. On the first sunny day we went exploring. After a drive south on famous highway A1A, we headed to the Saint Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park.

Founded in 1893, the Alligator Farm started out with just a few exhibits of Florida reptiles. It has expanded over the years to include not only reptiles but also birds and mammals from all around the world. Today, in addition to the educational shows and exhibits, it is also used for research.

As we wandered through the zoo toward the Native Swamp and Rookery to see the nesting birds (I posted about them here) we stopped to observe the many varieties of animal life.

We took a break for lunch and drove to the nearby Conch House Marina and Guesthouse to eat outside on their waterfront deck.

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Lunch with a view at Conch House Restaurant

After lunch it was back to the Alligator Farm to watch the 3:00 alligator feeding. Can you say feeding frenzy?

Our next stop was the Saint Augustine Lighthouse. Gorgeous views were our reward for climbing all the steps to the top.

When we weren’t exploring St. Augustine we enjoyed being in Anastasia State Park. Our campsite was surrounded on three sides by natural vegetation and the beach was only a 10 minute walk from our campsite. One afternoon we explored the nature trail near the campground.

 

 

Saint Augustine Alligator Farm Rookery

The next stop on our winter RV journey was Saint Augustine, Florida. We had a beautiful campsite in Anastasia State Park to call home for a few days. The weather was lousy most of the time but we picked a perfect sunny day to do some sightseeing.

At the top of my to do list was visit the Saint Augustine Alligator Farm Wading Bird Rookery. During nesting season wading birds come to nest in the trees in the Native Swamp at the Alligator Farm. The birds who nest here are wild and can come and go as they please. Although it was a little early in the nesting season there were a lot of great egrets and roseate spoonbills wearing their breeding plumage and some pairs were starting to build their nests.

The trees surround a swamp area filled with alligators. A boardwalk winds around the swamp giving visitors close up views of the alligators in the water and the birds in the trees.

The Great Egrets showed off their breeding plumage and pairs worked on their nests.

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Great Egret with breeding plumage at St. Augustine Alligator Farm Rookery
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Pair of egrets working on their nest
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Pair of great egrets at St. Augustine Alligator Farm Rookery
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Egrets at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Rookery
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You can take my picture now
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Great Egret Breeding Plumage

The Roseate Spoonbills were my favorite.

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Roseate Spoonbill at Alligator Farm
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Roseate Spoonbill at Alligator Farm Rookery
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Roseate Spoonbill at Alligator Farm Rookery
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Roseate Spoonbill at Alligator Farm Rookery
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Roseate Spoonbill at Alligator Farm Rookery
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Roseate Spoonbill at Alligator Farm Rookery
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Roseate Spoonbill at Alligator Farm Rookery
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Roseate Spoonbill at Alligator Farm Rookery

Coming up next, more about our St. Augustine adventure including other critters at the Alligator Farm.

Sunsets and the Okefenokee Swamp

We are off again on our first RV trip of 2019. Our first stop was Laura S. Walker State Park in Hoboken, Georgia. We were there during the weekend and the park was full of families enjoying their days off. The park was a perfect home base to explore the Okefenokee Swamp Park which is a short drive away.

During the last 12 years we have visited the Okefenokee Swamp several times from the southern end in Fargo. I posted about our last visit there at The Land of Trembling Earth It’s been over 40 years since we visited the Okefenokee Swamp Park in Waycross. Our two young children were with us back then. Oh, the memories!

This well run and well maintained private park has been attracting visitors to the swamp since 1946. There are boardwalks with views of the swamp, a train ride, educational exhibits, and wildlife presentations which are all included in the entrance fee. For an additional fee, visitors can take a guided boat tour through the swamp.

Not all of the boardwalks were open when we were there. Some are closed due to the high water level caused by heavy rainfall in December and January. One of the boardwalks that is open took us by several American alligators in their native habitat.

After seeing an interesting presentation on native reptiles of the Okefenokee we took the train ride through the swamp.

After so many visits to the Okefenokee Swamp in Fargo, it was fun to see it from a different location.