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….

 

Feels Like Home

Palmettos and ferns

Palmettos and ferns

Primitive tent site

Primitive tent site

Cypress swamp

Cypress swamp

One of the water-only sites

One of the water-only sites

WordPress is redoing the way they handle photos so I have no control over the placement tonight.  Sorry.

Rarely do I feel like I am back “home” when I come to Florida.  But being out in rural north Florida with the palmettos, ferns, Spanish moss… and the old-Florida peace and quiet… stirred long-dormant memories today, and I finally experienced a strong sense of being home again.

Playground and swimming beach

Playground and swimming beach

This campground is just beautiful.  This morning a few of the rigs on the lakeside moved out and we could have grabbed one of them.  But I just love the way our site is situated, so was very content to stay here.

Ron drove to Live Oak to pick up our mail from Mom’s today and then he did some shopping.  So I got to pretend I was solo camping for a few hours!  What a lovely, peaceful interlude it was!

Since Gail converted her cargo van to a camper van, I have been fascinated by van dwellers.  We have one in the water only section of the campground.  I would love to strike up a conversation with him or her. 
I took a photo of his or her rig, but won’t post it since I didn’t get permission.
This evening I heard a loud rustling in the brush out in front of our site.  I got a flashlight, then spotted the small possum who was making all the fuss.  He took off before I could grab my camera!

Fish Eagles, Alligator Encounter & Deer

View of fish eagle nest and Casita from water

[On edit, Peggy, of Camping Tales, identified the “fish eagles” for me as ospreys.]

We started our day with a sweet little worship service at the picnic pavilion.  Two brothers have been coming here on Sunday mornings for the past 16 years to provide this service for campers.   We sang some of our favorite songs, then one of the brothers gave a talk on the passage in Ecclesiastes, to every thing there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.  He tied it into the good and bad seasons in all of our lives and how they are appointed by God for specific purposes — the good times for joy, and the bad times to develop different aspects of our character.

This looks like gator habitat!

After the service, I took Sunny and Sheba for a walk.  I usually head for the clear water near our campsite.  But this morning I wanted to see different scenery.  I came to a little canal that borders Sandy Creek.  It was loaded with water vegetation and I thought, This looks like alligator habitat.

I was very hesitant to allow Sheba in the water, but she was determined she was going in.  I spotted a small area free of vegetation, and kept an eagle eye on her.  Then I saw it.  A small alligator (about 3-1/2

Young alligator on the edge of the canal

feet) was swimming directly toward Sheba — fast!  I yanked her out of the water and ran up the bank, hoping the gator wouldn’t follow us.  It didn’t.  WHEW!

Lesson to self:  If it looks like gator habitat, it probably IS gator habitat!

Closeup of alligator’s head

Later, dogs safely penned at the campsite, I went back to see if I could find the gator and photograph him.  I found it in the grass on the bank of the canal.

Both parents on the nest

Later a neighbor saw me straining to get a shot of a large nest in one of the cypress trees growing out in the water.  He asked if we would like to go out in his boat to get a closer view of it — and he said that there were also other nests out on a nearby cypress island.

I asked him what kind of birds they were, and he answered “fish eagles.”  I have never heard of them before, and am guessing that it’s a local name for them.

The pontoon boat ride was incredible.  How amazing to be in the wind on the water — in the shade!  Ken and Sharon took us past the best nesting areas and explained how the main body of water is about 20 feet deep, but the cypress tree islands grow up in about 3 feet of water.

Fish eagle nest on cypress island

One nest actually had young in it, but I was unable to get a picture of them.  I also saw one large gray and white speckled egg in another nest, but couldn’t focus my camera properly to photograph it.

As if all those fantastic photo opportunities weren’t enough, this afternoon I saw two deer across the canal near our Casita.  One was in the water.  The other was deeper in the underbrush.

One parent flying away

This was one of those days that will live in my memory as a highlight of this camping year.

Deer in the water

Deer in the underbrush

Ken and Sharon and their boat

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