Talladega National Forest

Cindy and I just got back from camping at the Coleman Lake recreation Area in Alabama. It was a wonderful time for finding all kinds of little treasures.

I found the painted rock on the water hookup at my campsite. It was very appropiate. It was so peaceful there! There had been a horse endurance event in the area, and someone left a quarter horse on a picnic table. I photographed it, then left it to amuse the next person who happened along.

The first day out, I had no energy and was able to walk around our loop. Once. Period! But I got a good night’s rest that night. That, combined with the gorgeous weather, energized me, and I was able to get out and enjoy nature’s splendor! It was a lot more fun going than coming, though. It was for Mikky, too. Cindy ended up carrying him! Did I mention that she is a very good friend who loves my dog, too? 😋

As soon as I got home I ordered hiking poles, which I expect to enable me to go longer and farther next time out.

Oak leaf hydrangea almost hiding Cindy, Cindy’s rig. Cindy’s dog Missy, and Cindy and the dogs at the lake.

There were so many flowers that my phone camera simply couldn’t capture, especially the tiny ones. I also couldn’t capture the wild blueberries’ immature fruit. But I was thrilled to get the photos I did.

Immature elderberries and blackberries. I’m not sure what the white flowers are. They resemble bergamot, but they are not pink. On edit, Alabama does have white bergamot.

Cindy saw a couple of snakes. One water snake swimming. And Missy, her dog, STEPPED on a snake. Cindy didn’t recognize the markings, but the snake did not bite Missy. It was a little over a foot long, and Cindy said she guessed the snake was sick or had just eaten.

The composition of this photo is awful, but I love it anyway. Oak leaf hydrangeas are so photogenic!

Look at the difference in this photo after Judie cropped it for me! https://dorrieanne.wordpress.com/. Thanks, Judie!

Cindy likes to go to the same places over and over. I am going to try to coax her into expanding her camping range, especially since I LOVE to camp by large expanses of water. We have the problem of erratic schedules, though, and it seems that every time we make reservations, we have to cancel them. That gets expensive.

False Solomon’s Seal. I rarely see it, and I find regular Solomon’s Seal even more infrequently.
Swamp milkweed was everywhere! I discretely gathered several of the unopened flower buds to steam and enjoy the delicious, delicate broccoli taste with dinner.
Poison ivy and Virginia Creeper growing parallel up a tree. I’m not sure what the other plant is. Maybe a buckeye?
I wasn’t the only one worn out by our walk! In case you wondered, one side of the pillow is Mikkey’s. At night, the other side is mine. 🙂
My little van

Noccalula Falls

Noccalula Falls from the left side
Noccalula Falls from the right, most photographed side.

Noccalula Falls Campground and Park are part of the Gadsden, AL City Park. It’s a gorgeous place with a serene, peaceful feel.

The campsites are spaced very closely together, but there weren’t many sites occupied. Plus we got sites at the edge of the campground, so it felt spacious to us.

Noccalula Falls Campsite
Cindy and my campsites

My little van got lots of stares (probably of incredulity!) and one middle aged couple seemed fascinated by it and wanted a detailed tour. Then they asked if I lived in it!

It is remarkably comfortable. I am still amazed at how it can hold everything I need.

Heading toward the Falls
The wedding chapel

Cindy hiked all the trails except the one that goes behind the falls. It’s rugged and she was afraid her dog might lurch or lose his footing. And she wasn’t ready to meet Noccalula’s fate!

More photos of the falls. They fascinate me! The statue depicts Noccalula, the legendary Indian maiden who threw herself in the gorge when her father insisted she marry a man she didn’t love. The falls were called Black Rock Falls before they were renamed for the legend. I like the sound of Noccalula better, too. 🙂

We had hoped to tour the entire park, but my COPD is progressing and there are lots of hills. So I didn’t get to do my usual exploring. But Cindy and I still had a wonderful time. I still excel at eating hickory cooked hamburgers and home made potato salad! And short walks, good conversation, and drinking coffee.

We thought of riding the train through the park, but didn’t want to leave the dogs. But we both had a wonderful time and didn’t feel like we missed out on anything.

What are these strange smells, Mom?
Mallards at Noccalula Falls
Mallards
A cheeky squirrel stealing Mikkey’s food from right under our noses. There were also jet black squirrels there, but they were more skittish and I couldn’t get a decent photo of one. Also pictured is a scene I enjoyed of a mom and son feeding the geese.

I plan to get serious about catching up on Casita maintenance and fixes this week so Ron and I can camp together. I missed him!

Waters plunging over the rocks. Also, the black rocks that surround the falls area intrigue me.

Link to van build photos



Winter Really Is Over!

The little van and screen house on West point Lake

I finally made it out camping! After losing my reservations last weekend, I decided to wing it this time. I stopped at Whitetail Ridge only to discover that they were booked solid. So I drove another 20 minutes and was able to get into R. Shafer Heard for 2 nights. Not the 3 I’d hoped for.

King of the Mountain — Mikkey surveying his domain

But as unexpectedly brisk and chilly as the wind turned out to be, I didn’t mind leaving a day early and waiting for balmier weather. At least, a few spring flowers assured me that winter really was over, even though it wasn’t warm enough to sit outside. Until today when I was leaving!

See, spring finally arrived!
The van got decorated with yellow pine pollen, in case I missed the fact that spring is here.

Since brisk walks were our only outings, I entertained myself cooking inside the van.

This was a chicken and everything-in-the-refrigerator curry.


We watched geese, a big grey heron, ducks, and a hawk (not an osprey) dive for fish. It was the first time I had seen a hawk fish!

I really miss the old WordPress editor where I could intersperse small photos and have the text wrap around it. Maybe I still can, when I get used to this new one.

I plan to head out again as soon as being outdoors is comfortable.

Now– to get busy on Casita repairs and maintenance so Ron and I can go camping together!

Florida Again

A family feeding the peacocks at Magnolia Park. I had heard the peacock's caterwauling as they prepare to roost for the night. But I had never heard the sound like a Volkswagen's horn they make when the children got too close.

A family feeding the peacocks at Magnolia Park. I had heard the peacock’s caterwauling as they prepare to roost for the night. But I had never heard the sound like a Volkswagen’s horn they make when the children got too close.

Our first camping this trip was at Suwannee River State Park due to its close proximity to family.

Our first camping this trip was at Suwannee River State Park due to its close proximity to family.

Mikkey usually prefers to sleep with Mom, but Mom is constantly rolling over or getting up.....

Mikkey usually prefers to sleep with Mom, but Mom is constantly rolling over or getting up…..

I had not intended to blog about Florida again because we are, as usual, spending the winter here.  The biggest treat is having time with family.

Unfortunately, I had to do a factory reset on my phone and haven’t downloaded all the photos yet.  I’m waiting for our next data cycle.  So there will be no photos to share of the lovely 80 degree Christmas celebrated in shorts at Gail’s screened porch.

So when Mom wiggles around too much, Mikkey heads for Daddy's bed.

So when Mom wiggles around too much, Mikkey heads for Daddy’s bed.

So I’ll just share my available photos taken at random, and let the captions tell the story…. which is, it’s CHILLY down here now!

BTW, our water pump went out and our toilet needs replacing.  I have them ordered and Gail and I will do the mods when we get back to her house in a week or so.

Lake Apopka is a big lake bordered by vegetation that provides a perfect habitat for many aquatic and semi-aquatic critters.

Lake Apopka is a big lake bordered by vegetation that provides a perfect habitat for many aquatic and semi-aquatic critters.

Next was O'Leno Park--because it had available sites. Then Otter Springs. The spring is a black water hole in a cypress swamp. But it gave us a place to stay till our next reservations were available.

Next was O’Leno Park–because it had available sites. Then Otter Springs. The spring is a black water hole in a cypress swamp. But it gave us a place to stay till our next reservations were available.

Otter Spring did have one nice feature... an indoor heated swimming pool.

Otter Spring did have one nice feature… an indoor heated swimming pool.

While we were at Suwannee River State Park, I found my first ever Albatrellus mushrooms. I originally identified them as sheep polypores, but discovered they do not grow this far south.  All I know is that they are both Albatrellus polypores.

While we were at Suwannee River State Park, I found my first ever Albatrellus mushrooms. I originally identified them as sheep polypores, but discovered they do not grow this far south. All I know is that they are both Albatrellus polypores.

As much fun as an Easter egg hunt!

As much fun as an Easter egg hunt!

You never know if you will be sensitive or allergic to even good mushrooms. So this was my sample. After 24 hours I knew they were okay to eat. To be honest, they were slightly bitter and not very good. But I relished my discovery anyway!

You never know if you will be sensitive or allergic to even good mushrooms. So this was my sample. After 24 hours I knew they were okay to eat. To be honest, they were slightly bitter and not very good. But I relished my discovery anyway!

So now it's winter in Central Florida, but still heavenly compared to home!

So now it’s winter in Central Florida, but still heavenly compared to home!

This pond was covered with thick, scummy duckweed last year. This year we discovered they had found an elegant solution to the problem.

This pond was covered with thick, scummy duckweed last year. This year we discovered they had found an elegant solution to the problem.

But winter in Central Florida doesn't really mean winter. :)

But winter in Central Florida doesn’t really mean winter. 🙂

Ron trying to find a spot out of the wind. Note the wind blowing the Spanish moss around.

Ron trying to find a spot out of the wind. Note the wind blowing the Spanish moss around.

RIP Little Sunny & Updates

Best Camping Buddy ever

Best little camping buddy ever.

Little Sunny’s camping days are over.  Besides going blind and deaf, his hip sockets would give and often his legs would go straight out to the sides when he bent down to eat, drink… or sometimes for no apparent reason.  And he completely forgot his potty training.

My little ragamuffin buddy coming out of his sweater at White Tail Ridge.

My little ragamuffin buddy coming out of his sweater at White Tail Ridge.

But it was the dementia that finally defeated him.  At the last, he would wander around, bewildered, in circles.  He would get lost in a room and not know how to get out.  He would stand in corners, apparently waiting for a door to open.  He even became unable to find his food bowl, and I would have to put him in front of his food and water bowls to make sure he ate and drank.

Sunny waiting for Mom at Cotton Hill COE

Sunny waiting for Mom at Cotton Hill COE

He still loved his Mom, but his life just got too hard for him.  So we had him put down last week.  Sunny loved having his neck rubbed more than anything, so I was doing that when the vet gave him the shot.

Although I miss the little guy more than I can say, I am so relieved that his life is no longer a bewildering maze of the unknown.

June was a tough month.  My favorite aunt died, so we went down to Florida to the funeral.  We stayed and visited family several days, got back home, and got a call that my uncle had died, too.  So we went back and attended his funeral 2 weeks to the day after my aunt’s.

Sunny at the Casita window at Ft. Pickens

Sunny at the Casita window at Ft. Pickens

But it was so precious to get to see our cousins that we hadn’t seen for many, many years.  It felt like getting a new crop of sisters.  🙂

I had a couple of major emphysema flareups, but I’m doing great now — except for the weight that my meds keep packing onto me. Two of my sisters are laughing at my concern.  Their advice — I’m old now.  Eat strawberry cheesecake and don’t worry about it.  😀

Sunny camping in the Aliner before we got the Casita.

Sunny camping in the Aliner before we got the Casita.

Ron and I have started going through our things and sorting them into trash, donate, sell and keep piles.

We plan to camp this winter in Florida, and hopefully sell our place sometime soon.  We’d like to fulltime for a while.

But eventually we want to move near my sisters — if this place sells, of course.  If not, we’ll still spend our winters in Florida.

Being able to spend time with my family is more important to me than great adventure out West.  So we’ll probably stick pretty close to the Southeast.

I have felt pretty “blogged out”  lately.  Hope that changes when we get back on the road again.  🙂

Leisurely Progress

Vegan hopping john

Vegan hopping john and brown rice

The first order of business when we got back home was to catch up on medical appointments. My doctor informed me that my cholesterol was sky high. Since my body has zero tolerance for statins or livilo, that means my only options are diet, supplements and exercise.

So, I am planning three vegan days per week, and cutting back on meat and cheese the other 4 days.

Fortunately, Ron loves my vegan meals as long as I promise him a steak and a pork chop once a week. So tonight we had hopping john and brown rice. Ron went back for seconds, which assured me he wasn’t feeling deprived with the meatless meal. 🙂

I also found a highly recommended handyman who charges very reasonable prices to do the projects on the house that I can’t do. Needless to say, he is backed up, but should be here next week to put in the new back door and give me an estimate on the utility closet. So we are slowly on our way to getting the place ready to put on the market.

Ron is having cataract surgery Wednesday. The following Thursday I go in for a preop consultation about eyelid surgery. My drooping eyelids interfere with my vision enough that Medicare will pay to have that fixed. Then Ron will go in for the other cataract surgery, then this fall it will be my turn.

At least we should have all that done in time to head to Florida again next winter.

Between repair jobs this summer, we plan to schedule week-long getaways whenever we can work them in.

lbmWe have had tons of rain, so I know the mushrooms are going crazy out in the woods. I haven’t made time to check them out, so maybe I can squeeze a mushroom hunting expedition in tomorrow.

I did find a LBM (little brown mushroom) in one of the campgrounds we were in. I’m not sure which one. I didn’t try to identify it because it’s a tedious process for me and I didn’t have the inclination to spend that much time on it. At first I thought it was a deadly gallerina, but the gills are wrong for that. Anyway, it is definitely not one I was tempted to eat!

We have found the solution for Sunny’s incontinence problems.  It’s a belly band with a sanitary napkin inside.  It’s not very glamorous, but it works.  I thought he would hate wearing one, but he is so used to me putting sweaters and jackets on him that this is just another thing that Mom makes him wear.  🙂

Spring!

Spring is following us north.

Spring is following us north.

I was seriously tempted to take some of the redbud flowers to make pancakes with, but decided I didn’t want to have to explain to a ranger why I was eating his trees!

Field garlic

Field garlic

So I settled for using a little field garlic in our dinner omelets this evening.

It’s fun watching spring start all over again after experiencing it in Florida.

Dandelions.  My favorite spring flowers.  Seriously!

Dandelions. My favorite spring flowers. Seriously!

We have had to take turns walking since Sunny can’t be left alone now. We went shopping in Valley yesterday, but had to take turns shopping, too. It was too hot to leave Sunny in the truck without air conditioning.

Lush clover.

Lush clover.

I thought I would always have a dog. But after being so constrained by Sunny and Sheba this trip, I think that when Sunny passes on, I may wait a while and see how I do without one.

Nature's lace.

Nature’s lace.

Another beauty.  Can anyone tell me what it is?

Another beauty.

Another cute COE safety sign.

Another cute COE safety sign.

Joy!

View from our site

View from our site. Can you see the small tree on the point? I bet it will be beautiful once it gets its leafy summer dress. 🙂

This morning as we were getting ready to hit the road I was flooded with happy anticipation, which changed to sheer joy once we were underway.

As I’ve said before, I am happier than I have ever been. Ron and I are both talking about “when” we fulltime — not if.

Yesterday, at Pine Island, I sat outside observing the activity around me. Coots bobbed up and down on the sparkling waves. An osprey flew overhead and landed on the sandy beach, picked up a long stick in its beak that looked too big for it to carry, then flew heavily to its treetop nest on the mid-lake island.

Our Casita at R. Schafer Heard campground.

Our Casita at R. Shaefer Heard campground.

Later that evening, as the sunset faded, I watched dozens of small, maybe 3 or 4 inch long fish jumping out of the shimmering, liquid copper colored surface of the water. They fully cleared the water with each jump and it looked like they were trying to fly.

On our previous visit to that lake 2 years ago, a fisherman told me they were carp when I asked him what kind of fish were jumping out of the water then.

Another view from our site.

Another view from our site.

I deliberately did not have my camera with me because I feel and observe so much more when I’m not distracted with trying to photograph my surroundings. I think I need to devote one day a week (at least) to doing that. When I do, the sights, sounds and scents are more deeply embedded in my memory.

So tonight we are at West Point Lake in the R. Shaefer Heard campground. This is another of our old favorites, and is only a little over an hour from home.

We plan to stay here 7 days, then this fantastic journey will end.

We did discover anotther swamp at our last campground.  Fortunate the area was hilly and the campground wasn't swampy at all.

We did discover another swamp at our last campground. Fortunately the area was hilly and the campground wasn’t swampy at all.

Real Life in a Casita

 

A storm moving in over the lake

A storm moving in over the lake

As our trip is winding down, Ron and I are in agreement that we are happier living in our Casita than we have ever been before in the 23 years that we’ve been married.

We love living on gorgeous lakes, in landscaped flower gardens with peacocks, and in quiet woods. We love the idea of leaving cold winters and hot summers in the rear view mirror. And we love the friendly people we meet in campgrounds.

In sad need of defrosting

In sad need of defrosting

I could be happy fulltiming in the Casita. But Ron feels that we would need a bigger rig.

At least we are beginning to look toward making it happen. First, our place needs a lot of work before we could think of selling it. We are hoping to get most of that done this summer.

And if we change our minds, the house would be nicer for us to live in after the repairs and improvements.

Anyway, it’s something fun to dream about at this point.

I had no idea the refrigerator fins were so iced.  I keep lunch meat in front and never bent down low enough to see this!

I had no idea the refrigerator fins were so iced. I keep lunch meat in front and never bent down low enough to see this!

As far as life in the real world, 4-1/2 months in humid Florida meant that we couldn’t wait until we get home to defrost our freezer. (Ron holding the door open while he tries to decide what he wants probably had something to do with it, too. 🙂 ) It also was a great opportunuty to deep clean the refrigerator.

So I got it cleaned and cooled down. Then we headed to Eufaula to restock.

Good as new -- almost.

Good as new — almost.

I was surprised at how the refrigerator warmed up after putting refrigerated meat in the freezer and lots of fresh veggies in the refrigerator. For a while it got up to 60 degrees. It’s still in the mid 40’s now but should be at 40 soon. So tomorrow I’ll probably get rid of more foods I’m not confident will be safe.

Little Sunny is doing so much better than he was as far as his anxiety attacks. We left him in the truck while we grocery shopped. He was pacing when we got back, but exhibiting none of the hysterical yipping that I was afraid of.

No pretty photos today. It’s been overcast and raining.

Last of the Spooky Photos

Ron walking Sheba

Ron walking Sheba

I like this campground and love the campers we’ve met.  But I have had all the swamp I want to see for a while.  For that reason, I’ll be glad when we leave Thursday and head back to Gail’s  house for a few days.

Sinkhole

Sinkhole

I don’t know how I missed that the little Scotty trailer belongs to a camp host.  I talked with her today.  I asked what year model the trailer is.  She said 1962 is stamped on the tongue of the trailer, but her title says 1965.  It has always been in her family.  She bought it from her mother “15 or 20 years ago” for $800.  She said everything in it is original — even the cushions.  They were apparently made of extremely good foam because she says they are still springy and are not deteriorating.  I’m guessing it’s latex, based on that — although I would not expect even latex to last 50 years.

Another picture of the little Scotty -- with the clearly visible Camp Host sign that I missed before.  :)

Another picture of the little Scotty — with the clearly visible Camp Host sign that I missed before. 🙂

As for the surroundings here — swamps, sinkholes, and more swamps.  The nearby town, Marianna, is beautifully clean and well maintained, though.

I did feel a little spooked when we went to Walmart and saw several Middle Eastern men — and they were not smiling.  One had his wife (I guess) in a hijab with him.  (Or is it burqua?  It was all black, full body covering.)

Since I had never seen anyone actually wearing one, I took a long look at all I could see of her — her beautiful, expressive eyes.  Later I wished I had smiled into her eyes instead of curiously gawking.

Swamp 1

Swamp 1

 

Swamp 2

Swamp 2

Swamp 3

Swamp 3

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