Salt Springs, FL

Fishing buddies

Fishing buddies

I was surprised to see an egret calmly scouting for fish next to the fisherman.  They did look like they appreciated each others company.  The egret let Sheba and I approach fairly closely, but then started getting a little agitated.  So I moved around him in a wide arc, and when I looked back, he was searching for fish again.

This man and his wife are camping with a cat, dog, and 22 year old bird.

This man and his wife are camping with a cat, dog, and 22 year old bird.

We have camped at Salt Springs 3 or 4 times before, but when we drove into the park this time its beauty really struck me.  I had forgotten how pretty it is.

We have been unable to go to the day use area and springs this time.  When we were here before, we could leave the dogs in the truck in the shaded parking lot while we explored.  But now, in addition to rules against leaving pets unattended, and no pets in the day use area, there is a new one forbidding leaving them in vehicles.   Maybe Ron and I will take turns pet sitting  so we can enjoy it one at a time.

Our site

Our site

Nevertheless, we are loving being here.  We had a couple of chilly days, but now it’s up in the mid 60’s again.  Wonderful walking weather!

We are planning to have lunch with my cousin tomorrow, then friends from Silver Springs are coming to visit us Sunday.  I’m looking forward to both visits!

Bird prints in sand

Bird prints in sand

There are 6 camp hosts here.  The others have big rigs.  One has this little not-quite-restored vintage trailer.  :)

There are 6 camp hosts here. The others have big rigs. One has this little not-quite-restored vintage trailer. 🙂

This is as close as we can get to the spring area with our dogs.

This is as close as we can get to the spring area with our dogs.

One more picture of Sunny sleeping on his "binky."

One more picture of Sunny sleeping on his “binky.”

There are still things blooming -- even in January!

There are still things blooming — even in January! I’m not sure what the red things are.

 

Cell service is almost non-existent here.  Sometimes we can’t get on the net at all.  Sometimes we can send text emails.  And once in a while we get two bars and can upload photos.  Apparently there is wifi available at the office because I saw 4 campers working on laptops when we checked in.

 

So Very Happy!

at magnolia park

I can’t remember when I have been so happy and felt so contented.  It’s so beautiful here at Magnolia Park.  It’s been in the 70’s, but a cold front is moving in so it will be in the 60’s for a while.

One of several large fire pits for youth groups.

One of several large fire pits for youth groups.

I checked the weather at Salt Springs (where we will be heading Monday) and today it’s the same temperature as here.  It is feeling like a perfect, endless spring to me.

No exciting news.  We shop.  We do laundry.  Walk the dogs.  Eat.  Sleep.  And I’ve been catching up on hand sewing in the evenings.  I had to hem the shower curtain yesterday because it dragged the bathroom floor a little — just enough to bother me.  And I’ve hemmed two pairs of Ron’s new jeans with only one more to go.

So peaceful!

So peaceful!

I was talking to Mom this morning about the miracle of Ron and I being in a 17′ trailer with two dogs for going on three months — and still liking each other.  🙂

Sunny has made a dramatic improvement. I am astounded.  If we take him out to go to the bathroom after 10:30 p.m. he is making it through till morning without accidents.  He has only had a couple of mild anxiety attacks.  I was really shocked when I took him to the vet to get more eye medicine and he trotted into the vet’s office without a qualm.  Then on the way home in the truck, instead of hyperventilating and shaking, he fell asleep on the truck’s floor.

Sunny asleep on the truck floor.

Sunny asleep on the truck floor.

He can even enjoy short walks again with us.

I think camping is very good for him.

Sheba is okay, but being tied up while we are not walking her is not something she enjoys.  But she seems to be tolerating it pretty well.

One more cool thing — I found the cutest mini colander for the Casita.  It’s just 6″ in diameter and it will come in handy for so many things.  I can also put it in a larger pot to make a steamer.

But the main reason I bought it was simply that it is so cute!  🙂

The cute little mini colander

The cute little mini colander

 

 

 

 

Gnarly Old Trees

palmetto growing in tree fork

This is the first time I have seen a palmetto growing in a tree fork.

 

The trees here at Magnolia Park fascinate me.  Such noble old great-grandfather trees with fantastic stories to tell if only we could understand tree language.  These trees are so individualistic.  It’s almost like they ought to have names — like Joseph, Methusela, Luther and Eugene.  Oh, and Harold!  😀

This tree is a gigantic flower pot for ferns.

This tree is a gigantic flower pot for ferns.

The day use park and campground were full of little children today.  They are so cute and so much fun to watch.  It is especially sweet to see a shy little girl trying to scrunch up her courage to pet Sheba.  Sheba bounces, but rarely actually jumps up on them now.  The kids are always amazed at her soft, silky fur.

I have almost floated through the day… so happy for the gift of being here!  Other than being happy and grilling yummy pork chops tonight, it’s a slow news day!

This tree needs to have a tire swing hung from it.

This tree needs to have a tire swing hung from it.

A see-through tree

A see-through tree

Sextuplets.  5 still living.  :)

Sextuplets. 5 still living. 🙂

A long, skinny split

A long, skinny split

Quintuplets

Quintuplets

This tree has had extensive surgery.

This tree has had extensive surgery.

Only the palms are straight.

Only the palms are straight.

 

 

Wintering in Florida

Azaleas blooming in January

Azaleas blooming in January

I am still in a bit of shock that we are really spending the whole winter down here.  I used to think that was only for well-to-do snowbirds from way up north — never me!

There was a group of 4 peacocks today, but I couldn't catch them close enough together to get them all in one picture.

There was a group of 4 peacocks today, but I couldn’t catch them close enough together to get them all in one picture.

The affordableness of it is what staggers me!   Just by making it a top priority, the finances just kind of fall into place.

We had both dogs groomed yesterday — a full grooming for Sunny, and a mini groom for Sheba.  Sunny looked so bad, I was ashamed for anyone to see him.  I kept putting the grooming off for him due to his anxiety attacks.  But finally there was no putting it off any more.

Another leaning tree (besides the one I photographed yesterday).

Another leaning tree (besides the one I photographed yesterday).

Also I wanted to get Sheba a sanitary trim so she would be easier to keep clean (and smell better).

While we were in Ocoee doing laundry yesterday, we noticed a dog groomer in the same shopping center.  I asked if they accepted walk-ins and they did.  So I got Sunny and Sheba off the truck and left them at the groomer.

Sunny was already having an anxiety attack from the truck ride.  I give him a Benedryl when he is really out of control and it does calm him down — a little.  But it didn’t do much for him yesterday.

Base of the leaning tree.  Looks like it's not going to be able to support itself too much longer.

Base of the leaning tree. Looks like it’s not going to be able to support itself too much longer.

Sunny apparently was yipping, pacing and shaking during the entire grooming… and got so upset that he wet on the table.  The groomer said he really went ballistic when she tried to trim his face.  This is so unlike the little dog who used to stand statue still for grooming.  Everyone always told me what a good boy he was.  But he even does that now when I try to brush his ears or tail or wash his face.  And he gets aggressive if I keep trying.

Resurrection ferns on the leaning tree.

Resurrection ferns on the leaning tree.

So I think that might have been his last grooming.  I will try to keep his hair from getting too bad myself.

Sheba, on the other hand had ticks that I had missed in her thick fur.  So the groomer hand picked them off and gave her a dip.  She also got a haircut and it is amazing how much neater and cleaner she looks (and smells).

So the bill for having my two difficult dogs groomed was $115 plus tip! But it was worth every penny to us.

Sunny's haircut

Sunny’s haircut

There is another couple in a Casita here.  They parked next to us for a couple of days, but had to move today as another person had a reservation for the site they were in.  So they moved across the loop from us.

Ron has spoken to the man, but I haven’t had a chance to speak to his wife except for a few words.  They are constantly going and doing.  They did ask Ron if he would close their windows (from the outside) if it rained today.  But we lucked out with no rain.

Sheba

Sheba

We are an odd sort of snowbird, I guess.  We aren’t much for going and sightseeing.  Instead we love to choose beautiful places to camp, then spend our time there observing the marvelous details of nature around us.

What matters is that Ron and I are content and are loving our lives as they happen day by day.

Sheba showing off her haircut

Sheba showing off her haircut

 

Flowers and Peacocks

Flowers in January!

Flowers in January!

Our site

Our site

We drove over 3 hours yesterday through heavy fog and driving rain on what was supposed to be a 2 hour trip.  Today is mostly cloudy, but sunshine is on the way.

More flowers blooming!

More flowers blooming!

Today’s high is 74 and the low tonight 58.  But it’s going to get down into the 60’s for a few days.  With the humidity today it felt steamy to me, but Ron was comfortable.  The mosquitos seem to be targeting only me!

But I’ll take muggy and buggy in return for all the beauty around us!

We are at Magnolia Park in Apopka, Florida.  I hesitated about booking a site here because Apopka is not a town you

But wait!  There's more!  :)

But wait! There’s more! 🙂

want to be out in after dark.  But the park has locked gates and video surveillance, and it had reservations available.  It feels safe to me now.  When we need to go out after dark, we’ll go to nearby Ocoee.  It’s beautiful and (relatively) safe.

The park has several peacocks wandering around the day use area.  Sheba would love to play with one!  Only her leash keeps her out of trouble.  🙂

A camp road

A camp road

We went ahead and booked two weeks here.  After we leave, we have reservations at Salt Springs until February 4.  Then we’ll driveway camp with family… and see where else we can score reservations.

I am steadfastly refusing to think about going home.  But our bank debit and credit cards expire in March, so that will present its own deadline.

Lake Apopka, the boat launch and more picnic areas are across the street from us.

Lake Apopka, the boat launch and more picnic areas are across the street from us.

Rear entrance to camp bathrooms on common area side.

Rear entrance to camp bathrooms on common area side.

Playground

Playground

One of the peacocks

One of the peacocks

Leaning tree and Ron

Leaning tree and Ron

Walking from campground to day use area

Walking from campground to day use area

 

Knobby Knees

Giant cypress knees and tree bases

Giant cypress knees and tree bases

Today was one of those days when plans just don’t work out.  Ron woke up coughing, sneezing — and grumpy!  🙂

More giant cypress knees

More giant cypress knees

Instead of hitting the museum, we took it easy most of the morning.  Read a bit.  Walked the dogs.  Cleaned the trailer.  I discovered some real surprises when I cleaned the refrigerator.

If you have a small camper refrigerator, you know how it is.  There’s not enough room to put away the groceries, so stuff gets piled on top of stuff, and the things in the back disappear from memory.

More cypress knees.

More cypress knees. It occurred to me that if the limestone underneath did cave in, the ground would probably still be supported (for a while) by all the cypress roots.

I discovered an almost liquid yellow squash in the abyss along with a brown-spotted cabbage.  And several styrofoam take out containers.  When I finished, the refrigerator had been scrubbed and sanitized.  Half of the stuff was thrown out, and I can find the things that are left.

This was the last of our perfect outdoor days for a while.  It got up to 67 with sunny skies.  Sheba and I walked down to the day use area and just meandered around admiring the cypress swamps, the river, the sunshine, and the incredible aura of peace that pervaded the area.

Flood level marker (I accidentally cut off the top mark),  A sign said that it generally floods like that about 4 times a decade.

Flood level marker (I accidentally cut off the top mark). A sign said that it generally floods like that about 4 times a decade.

Then I came back and grilled ribs.  Ron was recovered enough to enjoy the ribs, so he’ll be fine tomorrow.

It’s going down to 24 tonight, and tomorrow’s high will be in the mid 40’s.  So it remains to be seen what we will feel like doing outdoors.  It looks to me like it would be a great novel-reading day.

We will eventually get to the museum.  Manana!  (Which I have been told does not mean “tomorrow,” but “not today.”)   🙂

Classic CCC construction

Classic CCC construction

Limestone outcroppings

Limestone outcroppings

Rock remainders of one of the mill dams

Rock remainders of one of the mill dams

Nature doesn't miss an opportunity to fill a vacuum.  Here a new little shrub or tree grows out of a knothole on a fallen tree.

Nature doesn’t miss an opportunity to fill a vacuum. Here a new little shrub or tree grows out of a knothole on a fallen tree.

 

I have often seen old trees down by rivers covered with resurrection ferns.  But this was the first time I had seen the ferns just beginning to colonize a tree trunk.

I have often seen old trees down by rivers covered with resurrection ferns. But this was the first time I had seen the ferns just beginning to colonize a tree trunk.

Little Sunny.  Almost blind, almost deaf, and with severe arthritis.  He walks until he bumps into something then heads the other way undaunted.  He still love sniffing trails, eating, and getting under his chin scratched.  :)

Little Sunny. Almost blind, almost deaf, and with severe arthritis. He walks until he bumps into something then heads the other way undaunted. He still loves sniffing trails, eating, and getting under his chin scratched. 🙂

 

 

 

 

The River Sink

Right past the river sink

Right past the river sink

First, I’ve heard from several people asking about my dead water heater.  Just want you all to know it resurrected and I’m enjoying steaming showers in my little Casita again!

A tiny cypress island surrounded by rushing water.

A tiny cypress island surrounded by rushing water.

I don’t know what the problem was.  Earlier I had noticed the stove burning erratically with a lot of yellow in it.  I told Ron, “We’re running out of propane.”  Then I noticed that the red light on the water heater was on, meaning it was not operating.

So I switched propane tanks and the stove lighted beautifully… but the water heater still wouldn’t come on.   Ron insisted there was plenty of propane still in the first tank.  He was right.  It was way too heavy to be empty.  I shook it and it felt like it was just shy of half full.  So we put the original tank back on.  And the stove still lit beautifully.  But the water heater still wouldn’t.

The little museum for the town of Leno.  I'll check it out tomorrow.

The little museum for the town of Leno. I’ll check it out tomorrow.

I punched (or tried to punch) the reset button outside to no avail.

I knew there was a temperature regulator that prevents the heater from coming back on until it reaches a certain threshold.  So I waited.  Then I checked the water temperature at the overflow valve, and it was very comfortable on my skin.  I figured the heater had to be below the temperature it needed to relight itself.  But still no luck.  So I waited a couple more hours, ran a little warm water, then turned the water heater switch on just to see if it had miraculously healed itself — and it lit!

The Nature Center, open Fri - Sun.

The Nature Center, open Fri – Sun.

It’s been purring away the past two days.  Maybe there was water in the propane line?  Anyway it has recovered from whatever ailment or condition that was bothering it!

Today Sheba and I took the River Trail to the sink while Ron napped.  The weather was perfect for a walk — sunny and cool, but warm and breezy while we were walking.

The river current is really fast.  Swimming is only permitted in a carefully roped off area, with big Swim at Your Own Risk sign.  So we followed the river toward the sinkhole where it disappears.  There were occasionally big black rocks in the river.  Interpretive signs said they had been dams to regulate the speed of the river for the mill that was once here.  But over the years the dams have washed away, leaving the scattered rocks we saw today.

Rocks remaining from the old mill dams.

Rocks remaining from the old mill dams.

More signs informed us that the 3-1/2 mile land bridge between where the river goes underground and reemerges was crossed by Florida’s first federal highway, the Old Bellamy Road.

In the 1990’s another sinkhole area opened, but I can’t remember where.  It did make me hope that yet another one didn’t open up while Sheba and I were on the trail!

Anyway, the Santa Fe River flows 44 miles from Santa Fe Lake to here, 900 million gallons of water per day flow underground from this sink, and the river reapppears 3-1/2 miles away at Santa Fe River Rise.  Then it continues 35  more miles until it merges with the Suwannee River.  I photographed that merger when we were staying at Suwannee River State Park before Christmas.

Natural levies built up by repeated river floods.

Natural levies built up by repeated river floods.

It sounded so exciting!  I pictured the sink would look like a big whirlpool — kind of like flushing a giant toilet, especially since the current was so rapid upstream.

So I was a little puzzled and underwhelmed to see perfectly-looking calm water, that looked like a big peaceful pond.  Nearby there was another much smaller round sink with clear water, and next to it another one of green scum.

The Nature Information Office  is only open Friday-Sunday, so I guess I’ll have to wait until then to ask how it can look so calm when 900 million gallons a day are disappearing there.  The water level can’t be dropping or we could hear it falling.

Our underwhelming destination.  This calm pool is where 900 million gallons a day disappear underground... without a whimper, I might add!

Our underwhelming destination. This calm pool is where 900 million gallons a day disappear underground… without a whimper, I might add!

That means there must not be a very thick layer of limestone over the water.

YIKES!

I missed visiting the museum for the town of Leno today.  It will be open tomorrow, so I’ll look forward to seeing it then.

One of my readers commented that big ugly gall I photographed yesterday was a burl that would make the most beautifully colored and patterned bowl.  So I’m posting another photo for you today, Ron.

This photo is for woodworker Ron.  :)

This photo is for woodworker Ron. 🙂

And the Lazy Daze picture is for Judie.  🙂

This Lazy Daze picture is  for Judie!

This Lazy Daze picture is for Judie!

And if you ever wondered how we fit 2 dogs in a Casita....

And if you ever wondered how we fit 2 dogs in a Casita….

 

A Dump — or Just Rustic?

Suspension bridge.  The original one was built by the CCC in the 30's.

Suspension bridge. The original one was built by the CCC in the 30’s.

campground road

Campground road

After I saw the dirt campground road with the sandy dirt sites, and the 90 degree back-in between two trees, I understood why O’Leno State Park had reservations available.  🙂

rustic

It’s rustic. Hope it doesn’t rain.

To be fair, when I chose this site online I didn’t know that it was the hardest one to get into in the park.  There were others that would have been a breeze to back into.

But, by the time I got the Casita situated, I would have left immediately and gone somewhere else — if there had been somewhere else to go.

I had read that there are some really interesting history and features of nature here, though.  So Ron, Sheba and I took off to find some.

no jumping

The sign says “No jumping off bridge.” Just in case you were tempted to. 😀

The nature center and little museum closed at 3:00, so we missed them.  But the little we did see whetted our appetite for more.

I’m especially curious about where the river disappears into a sinkhole and resurfaces again 3 miles farther on.  I read that the places where the river disappears and reemerges are not accessible to vehicles — and I doubt very seriously my arthritic hips could stand a 6 mile round trip hike, but hopefully I can at least see where it disappears.

The town that was on this site, settled in the 1860’s, was originally named Keno.  However “due to ecclesiastical and commercial pressures” the name was changed to Leno in 1876.  O’Leno is from Old Leno.  The town was a bustling commercial success until it was bypassed by the railroad and deteriorated into a ghost town.

1930's CCC work

1930’s CCC work

Tonight my floor feels like a beach.  We leashed Sheba to the trailer steps so she could lie on the mat and not get too dirty.  She promptly decided she preferred to  lie in the sand underneath the trailer.  So much for trying to keep the trailer clean while we are here.  Sheba is a giant sand powder puff.

But after I came to terms with all the dirt, I am glad we came.  The area is beautiful and there is lots to see.

Even though the site is dirt and sand, we do have a nice private front yard.

Even though the site is dirt and sand, we do have a nice private front yard.

I took this picture simply because it is the biggest ugliest tree gall I have ever seen!

I took this picture simply because it is the biggest ugliest tree gall I have ever seen!

 

 

The Little Things – Good and Bad

Beach weather  :)

Beach weather 🙂

It’s raining now and we are under a tornado watch until 6:00 pm.  Before the rain it was muggy and in the high 70’s.  But a beautiful stiff breeze made it comfortable — and fun — to be out in.

In spite of the windy weather, this morning a yellow butterfly’s random, seemingly chaotic flutter wowed me.  I tried to get a photo, but he was too fast and moving too erratically.

Dandy Lion :)

Dandy Lion 🙂

I was almost as thrilled to see a sweet little dandelion blooming, along with some other little yellow flower.  The wind bounced the flowers around so much that their photo is blurry.  But I’m posting it because yellow flowers and butterflies in January are a miraculous sight to me.

Our water heater died today.  I checked the Casita Forum’s fix for the problem.  I found the exact same situation we have, and very confidently attempted the repair that worked on the board.

What a beautiful assortment of plant life -- in January!

What a beautiful assortment of plant life — in January!

It did not work on my water heater.  So we’ll have it looked at sometime soon.  In the meantime, it’s campground showers for me instead of using my sweet little trailer’s bathroom.

We were caught unprepared for all of the fully booked campgrounds.  We’ve been down here for almost this long before and could always find someplace.  This time there simply are no vacancies in  any of the state parks we are interested in until late March and early April.  So now I’m trying to find PA campgrounds for after we leave O’Leno State Park on January 12.  Some of them do offer the discount all year, but I’m not sure it will be a lot of fun to stay there.

We could stay in the Forest Service campgrounds, but since we can’t count on solar power when it rains, we hate the idea of not having hookups to power our electronic toys to help pass the long winter evenings.

A primitive site in the now-empty primitive section.

A primitive site in the now-empty primitive section.

So we’ll have to be better organized next trip.

I have totally broken my cardinal rule of not cooking in the Casita.  If the weather is bad, I usually just fix sandwiches or a salad.  But that gets old, so I just bite the bullet and cook inside when I have to, and figure I’ll worry about cleaning the carpet of any lingering smells later.

I REALLY wish I had washable walls and ceiling!

We are really looking forward to staying at a park we haven’t visited before.  And tomorrow’s the day we leave here and head there!

 

Back at our “Home” Campground

Sunset reflecting off the Spanish moss in our "front yard."

Sunset reflecting off the Spanish moss in our “front yard.”

We spent a wonderful week at Gail’s new house.  And Gail invited everyone over for Christmas… even though she does not have her furniture in yet.  However, we did fine by improving with camp chairs, using the van beds as sofas!

To my delight, Gail's new yard sprouted several earthstars!

To my delight, Gail’s new yard sprouted several earthstars!

And it was the happiest, most relaxed Christmas I can remember.  Mom and her new husband Jean were there.  And between a spiral ham and a smoked turkey, we really feasted!

I’m getting my days mixed up a bit.  Can’t remember if my baby sister and her husband showed up Christmas or the day after along with their granddaughter Mikala.

We are back at Ocean Pond for a week.  After that, we’ll head to O’Leno State Park.  And I’m not sure where we’ll head after that.

I was sitting in the truck while Ron went into Walmart for a few items.  I watched the crows gather on the only two red vehicles in that area of the parking lot.  It struck me odd that they preferred red to all the other colors.

I was sitting in the truck while Ron went into Walmart for a few items. I watched the crows gather on the only two red vehicles in that area of the parking lot. It struck me odd that they preferred red to all the other colors.

I was praying that we could get an electric site here, which is tricky since you can’t make reservations.  But we scored the last one available!

We are happy and content, and after two months camping, we still don’t want to even think of going back home.

I doubt that you can see him, but a biker is standing watching the sunset, totally lost in the splendor.  He was still there when I walked back by him around 15 minutes later.

I doubt that you can see him, but a biker is standing watching the sunset, totally lost in the splendor. He was still there when I walked back by him around 15 minutes later.

Fishermen

Fishermen

Another shot of our beautiful campsite.

Another shot of our beautiful campsite.

 

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