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



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.

Adventure in the Woods

Pink Ladyslippers

Pink Ladyslippers

I was outside when the sun was too high, so I hope you enjoy the subjects of the photos. The pictures themselves aren’t great.

This was the first ladyslipper I found.

This was the first ladyslipper I found.

I suppose first I’ll tell you the adventure part, as the photos are pretty self-explanatory. I set out toward the back of our property, heading toward the area that is the best mushroom habitat around, by a little steep-banked creek. I never made it that far. There were many blowdowns, thick underbrush, hills and a steep ravine. I didn’t make it back that far, either!

Another double ladyslipper.  In this shot you can see a little of the flower's interior.

Another double ladyslipper. In this shot you can see a little of the flower’s interior.

I did make it a few hundred steeply sloped feet. I found several varieties of LBM’s (little brown mushrooms) that the experts have difficulty identifying. I also found a couple of medium tan-colored mushrooms that I intended to try to identify when I got back to the house. And several tiny orange mushrooms that looked a little chanterellish, but it’s way too early for them. They went in my bag to identify, too.

(But — pink ladyslippers are blooming! They were my consolation prize.)

Anyway, I got very tired and out of breath, so decided I’d better head (uphill) home. I climbed one little ridge, and that was it. I sat down on a thick cushion of forest duff and hyperventilated for a while.

Yu can see how soft and downy the young bull thistle flower stalks are at this stage.  (Pardon the dirty fingernails... it happens when I grub around outside!  :)

You can see how soft and downy the young bull thistle flower stalks are at this stage. (Pardon the dirty fingernails… it happens when I grub around outside! 🙂

I was going to stay there until I recuperated, but then I heard some of the dogs that run free around here sounding like they were fighting. That REALLY scared me, so I bushwacked over blowdowns, greenbrier, blackberry bushes, sapling trees… until I couldn’t go any farther.

This time I found a nice log to sit on. I beat on it with my hiking pole and prodded around to make sure there were no nasty critters under it, sat down, and the log cracked and sent me tumbling.

The bull thistle flower stalks after scraping.

The bull thistle flower stalks after scraping.

So I phoned Ron and told him where I was and asked him to bring me my inhaler. After using that, I felt better. And after resting a while, we made it home.

Exhausted, I threw the mushrooms I had planned to identify in the trash, too tired to mess with them, and crashed for a long nap.

So, apparently the COPD is getting worse… which means stick to easy trails and always carry my inhaler.

Before I headed into the woods I saw a couple of bull thistles with flower stalks and unopened flowers. At this stage the prickly flower stalks are downy and can be easily held with bare fingers.

Wild strawberries are blooming.

Wild strawberries are blooming.

I had them in my mushroom basket, so did put them into the refrigerator before I crashed.

When I got up, it was an easy job to scrape the down off the flower stalks and pop them in the pan with my chicken stew. At this young stage they have a very mild celery flavor, and they didn’t add anything to the dish I was cooking except fun.

When the stalks get older, they get prickly and hollow. I hold them with a pair of needle-nose pliers and peel off the prickles with a pocket knife. They have an intense celery flavor and are much better for cooking.  They get tough at that stage though, so need to be sliced thinly then.

So today was a good news-bad news day.

Tasteless, invasive Indian strawberries are crowding out the sweet wild strawberries.

Tasteless, invasive Indian strawberries are crowding out the sweet wild strawberries.

Oh, I almost forgot! I saw the plastic surgeon this morning who will be tightening up my droopy eyelids which is supposed to improve my vision significantly. I hope it does. But I’m secretly thrilled that my eyes will look better, too!

Little orange mushrooms

Little orange mushrooms

A Mini Post

It's been a while since I've seen an old fire tower.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen an old fire tower.

…A mini post as far as content today.

We didn’t see the ships today.  Ron was sick and spent most of the day in bed.  I am not feeling great, either.  It didn’t help that it was really cold today.

Another wonderful old tree.

Another wonderful old tree.

So I just walked Sheba around the park, and that was the extent of our adventures.  Except for the price shock of the little country grocery store we stocked up at this evening.  WOW!

But the refrigerator and freezer are packed, so we are good for a week or so.

Tomorrow is supposed to be up in the 60’s and sunny.  Probably it would be a good day for visiting the Pinta and Nina.  But we have decided to wait until the weekend crowd is over.  The ships will be here until the 23rd.  So we’ll wait for a warm, sunny day during the week.

I love rock scaping!

I love rock scaping!

I was thrilled to see two kinds of tiny wild violets blooming all over the campground today.

Also tomorrow is laundry day.  I have a new laundry system that I tried out at Gail’s house, and it’s a perfect solution to being where laundromats are not available or are not clean.

It’s a Wonder Wash and a spin dryer that gets the clothes damp dry.  (I also have a Wonder Wash at home for power outages and love it.) And I have a wooden rack I’ll secure to the trailer as unobtrusively as possible to dry them on.  I’ll show you how it works out tomorrow.  🙂

 

I’ll close with some sweet little violet pictures:

violet3

violet2

violet4

 

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.

 

 

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

 

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!

 

So Beautiful Here

This is an unretouched photo of our sunset this evening.

This is an unretouched photo of our sunset this evening.

Today was a little cool, but I was comfortable in a light sweater.  Until this evening.  Now we are inside for the night enjoying the cozy warmth of our little camper.

Ferns growing in palm tree trunk

Ferns growing in palm tree trunk

Ron and I take turns walking Sheba.  She requires so much exercise to stay happy when she has to be tied out all day.  So this way she gets double the amount of walks that she would if we walked her together.

Today I walked in a different direction than yesterday, and I found blooming pink and red hibiscus!  It was just before sunset, so the petals had curled up for the night.  Wish I could have caught them open.  But I was thrilled to see them anyway.

Pink hibiscus blossoms.  The flowers close in the evening.

Pink hibiscus blossoms. The flowers close in the evening.

Little Sunny appears to be doing better.  I think camping agrees with him.  But when we walk him, we just meander around our campsite and let him sniff trails to his heart’s content.  He can’t walk any distance.  My baby boy is now an old man, I’m afraid.  🙂

We have loved it here.  The only thing lacking are washers and dryers.  I continue to be surprised with how well designed this park is.  Even the barbeque grills are nice ones with heavy covers.

Red hibiscus blooms

Red hibiscus blooms

We had planned to go to Fore Lake tomorrow.  But since it’s supposed to rain Saturday and Sunday, we need hookups.  I doubt the solar panel would be able to keep up with our power usage without a lot of sunshine.

So we’ll head back to Ocean Pond to camp with Mike and Gail for a while again.  They found an adorable house and put in an offer today, and we want to be with them to celebrate.

American beautyberry

American beautyberry

Closeup of beautyberry

Closeup of beautyberry

Picnic area

Picnic area

 

Change of Plans

Screened porch

Screened porch

Today the guys had planned to go fishing in Mom’s new husband’s ponds, but Ron got sick yesterday and was in bad shape today.  Some kind of stomach bug. So they ended up postponing the fishing.

Mom and Jean (French for John, apparently) are keeping both their houses.  Mom has a very modest little frame house.  Jean’s is a big, comfortable brick home a few miles farther out of town.   He has cattle and sweet, beautiful working dogs, so Mom and he make frequent trips back and forth, but have chosen to live in Mom’s little house.

Another view of the porch

Another view of the porch

So they took us to see Jean’s house today.  I didn’t take photos of the beautiful interior because it just didn’t seem right.  But I couldn’t resist their huge screened in porch!

We were very impressed with Jean — most importantly because we have never seen Mom so happy before.  He’s friendly and easy-going, and we enjoy being around him.

The bream and bass pond.  He has another catfish pond.

Gail and Mike at the bream and bass pond. Jean has another catfish pond.

We were planning to leave tomorrow, but since Ron was sick, he needs another day to recover before we hit the road.  He’s doing a lot better this evening, so we expect him to bounce back fast.

I took a few pictures of Jean, but they didn’t turn out well.  But just so you know, he is tall, thin and handsome.  🙂

Side yard

Side yard

Looking out of the porch toward the pond

Looking out of the porch toward the pond

My tiny little Mom

My tiny little Mom

 

%d bloggers like this: