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!

 

Contentment

Evening coming on.

Evening coming on.

As lovely as Ocean Pond is, I think it is the mix of people here that make it so special to me.  It’s a mix of all ages, but everyone I speak to is friendly and laid back.  No Type A’s here that I can tell!  🙂

I just fell in love with a little guy around 4 or 5 years old today.  He walked up to Sheba while we were out for a walk and started petting here.  He said, “I know this dog, and she won’t hurt me.”  Sheba was as calm as I’ve ever seen her, instead of her usual rambunctious inclination to jump on people who pay her attention.

I asked him his name and he said, “Zayton.”  “I’m Mrs. Sharon,” I replied.  He solemnly stuck out his little left hand and said, “It’s good to meet you.”  I was stunned at his poise and good manners.  And very, very impressed with him. Someone is doing an amazing job of parenting him.

One of the things I love best here is taking a walk a while before sunset.  Then on the way back, I get to walk toward the sunset and see all the people finishing their bike rides and walks before dark… and I usually find several campers with their backs to the road, just lost in the splendor of the unfailingly gorgeous sunsets over the lake.

Serenity

Serenity

One of our neighbors is a couple we met at Eastbank.  They are the ones with the self-built motor home.  Sheba is crazy about them because they always have a dog biscuit in their pockets for her.  What a sweet, fun way to make friends with dogs and their owners, too!

So we don’t have any exciting news, but we are so happy and content.  Next week it’s supposed to be chilly when we are at O’Leno State Park.  So I hope we can find available sites farther south after that.

I have had to cancel two sets of reservations on this trip due to our changing our plans.  We really hate to tie ourselves down to being at a certain place at a certain time.  As a result, we do miss out on some of the places we’d like to stay when they are booked solid.

There are still a few wildflowers blooming.

There are still a few wildflowers blooming.

I’ve noticed something about availability in state parks during winter in Florida.  Central and East Florida are usually booked solid.  However, sites on Florida’s west coast usually have sites available (except for the most popular parks).  I don’t understand why that is because the west coast is a lot more beautiful to me than the east.  But they also are usually more expensive, which might explain some of it.  Also there are stretches that don’t have any big cities, which makes a difference for people looking for attractions to visit.

Anyway, all of the places I wanted to see there are out of our budget, so we’ll just go where and when we can find spots.

 

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.

 

Last Day at Suwannee

These tree roots by the river look like modern art sculptures to me.

These tree roots by the river look like modern art sculptures to me.

Today is our last day at Suwannee River State Park.  I grabbed my last opportunity for a long walk with Sheba on the trails.  I am amazed at how much stronger I am than when we started this trip.  I am regaining my long effortless stride that I thought I had lost forever.  I feel great!

This is a little spring that bubbles up and rushes to lose itself in the river.  :)

This is a little spring that bubbles up and rushes to lose itself in the river. 🙂

I don’t know why I retain my childlike wonder at exposed tree roots, but I find them endlessly fascinating.  So that’s what today’s post will consist of — tree roots that look to me like they are out of a fantasy novel.

We had planned to go to O’Leno State Park tomorrow and stay until Christmas Eve, then go to Gail’s new house.  But she asked Ron if he would help Mike move some of their things from storage tomorrow.  So I am delighted to head over to their place instead.

Mushrooms hiding in an eroded root cavity.

Mushrooms hiding in an eroded root cavity.

I was really afraid of wearing out my welcome by staying too long at Gail’s, but she sat me down and preached me a sermon (figuratively, not literally!) on how welcome I am and will always be at her place.

So the new plan is to go to her house tomorrow, help any way we can, and stay there until after the 1st.  Oh, yeah… and I do a beef stew tomorrow.  🙂

This giant tree's trunk was as twisted as some of the roots.

This giant tree’s trunk was as twisted as some of the roots.

I got my little Casita decorated for Christmas and I think it’s adorable!  But I’ll wait and post those pictures tomorrow.

Limestone outcroppings along the river bank.  I think that acid rain eats away the limestone base causing Florida's numerous sinkholes.

Limestone outcroppings along the river bank. I think that acid rain eats away the limestone base causing Florida’s numerous sinkholes.

More fantastic roots.

More fantastic roots.

Suwannee & an Extinct Town Named Columbus

Suwannee River State Park is situated where the Suwannee and Withlacoochee Rivers merge on their way to the Gulf.

Suwannee River State Park is situated where the Suwannee and Withlacoochee Rivers merge on their way to the Gulf.

We are really enjoying our stay here.  There is so much to see, and the walking is doing me a world of good.

Old sawmill site and remains of a small steamboat paddle wheel from the town of Columbus that was situated here in the park.

Old sawmill site and remains of a small steamboat paddle wheel from the town of Columbus that was situated here in the park.

Gail and Mike moved to a hotel when she was so sick.  She is bouncing back, and is already missing camping here in the van.  That’s hardcore!  😀

They close on the house Thursday, and we’ll head to another campground until the 24th to give them time to settle in and for Gail to recuperate.  Then we’ll driveway camp at their place for a few days before heading somewhere else after the 1st of the year.

I'm not sure what this is.  It looks like tracks from a very narrow gauge railroad with train wheels on it.

I’m not sure what this is. It looks like tracks from a very narrow gauge railroad with train wheels on it.

I bought some miniature Christmas decorations for the Casita today.  Will plan to put them up tomorrow after we visit with Mom.

Oh, I got reported for being a bad dog mom today.  We had gone out for a late lunch, shopping, then stopping in to see Gail and Mike.  We got back right after sunset around 5:30 or 6:00.  The new neighbor next door told me that Sunny was clawing at the door and making distressed sounds, so he reported us.

Confederate defensive earthworks situated across from where the two rivers merge.

Confederate defensive earthworks situated across from where the two rivers merge.

I know that as Sunny’s health declines, he sometimes has panic attacks.  I thought he would be okay inside the trailer with Sheba for company.  Apparently no more, though. So I will have to take him everywhere with us from now on.

He is not using the puppy pads that I place strategically on the floor.  So I think I am going to have to set the alarm to get up in the middle of the night and take him outside for a walk around the campsite so he doesn’t wet on the floor.

The town of Columbus had around 500 residents.  Their old cemetery had 4 separate enclosed areas.

The town of Columbus had around 500 residents. Their old cemetery had 4 separate enclosed areas.

I have thought about when it might be time to have the vet put him to sleep.  But he still loves his walks, loves being around us, and loves eating, so he still is enjoying his little doggie life.  So it’s not nearly time yet.

BTW, no one stopped by to check on the dogs, so I imagine the Ranger saw our truck parked out front and no dog noise coming from the trailer, so he probably just drove on.  I’m guessing that’s what happened anyway.

There were a lot of children's graves and a couple of babies' graves.  This tiny headstone has a symbolic cut off tree monument.

There were a lot of children’s graves and a couple of babies’ graves. This tiny headstone has a symbolic cut off tree monument.

Another area

Another area

Another enclosure

Another enclosure

Cemetery

Cemetery

This person must have been much loved and must have loved the beach. The grave has its own enclosure, and it is lined with conch shells.

These two graves were the only ones that weren't in a fenced in enclosure.

These two graves were the only ones that weren’t in a fenced in enclosure.

Sheba patiently waiting while Mom takes photos.  It was a bad time for photos--midday--but that's how imy day worked out.  :)

Sheba patiently waiting while Mom takes photos. It was a bad time for photos–midday–but that’s how my day worked out. 🙂

Suwannee River State Park

Spanish moss covered tree overhanging the river.  The trunk is covered with air plants and ferns.

Spanish moss covered tree overhanging the river. The trunk is covered with air plants and ferns. (The color of the water is not enhanced.)

We’re at Suwannee River State Park near Live Oak, FL.  It’s pretty chilly, but is nice if we bundle up and walk fast.  🙂

A stock pot takes up a lot of real estate in a Casita!

A stock pot takes up a lot of real estate in a Casita!

Gail was still very sick today, so she finally went to a doctor.  It’s good she did.  She was sicker than she thought.  But if all goes well with her meds, she should start feeling better in a couple of days.

I took some homemade soup to her this evening, and hope it will be the cure-all that chicken soup is reputed to be.

Looking toward the old railroad trestle.

Looking toward the old railroad trestle.

She was so funny.  She called me a little while ago and said, we need to define exactly how sick she has to be to be treated like that again.  😀

I spent most of the day working in the trailer, walking Sheba, and tending the soup pot.  Tomorrow I want to find the old cemetery again and get some good photos of it.  There are also all kinds of geological and botanical oddities here that I want to capture.

Some kind of fungus.  At first I thought it was leaves caught up in a spider web.  But it may be a feature of the mushroom.

Some kind of fungus. At first I thought it was leaves caught up in a spider web. But it’s mushrooms, and the webby stuff (that looks like mycelium) may be a feature of the mushroom.

Picnic area

Picnic area

Another old tree gracefully bedecked with Spanish moss.

Another old tree gracefully bedecked with Spanish moss.

Swings offering a perfect river view

Swings offering a perfect river view

It was a nearly impossible job to back the Casita in here without slamming the truck into the trees or the posts on the other side.  I'm ready for pull-thrus for a while!

It was a nearly impossible job to back the Casita in here without slamming the truck into the trees or the posts on the other side. I’m ready for pull-thrus for a while!

 

Surprises at Ocean Pond

Back at Ocean Pond

Back at Ocean Pond

We snagged the last available water and electric site on our return to Ocean Pond.

The home built RV from Eastbank

The home built RV from Eastbank

Gail is too sick to visit this evening, so I’ll see her tomorrow.  Ron and Mike have gone grocery shopping and are picking up take out food, so we are off the hook for cooking this evening.

The last time we were here, most of the RVs were big rigs.  This time I discovered it is the week for small rigs.

Cute teardrop

Cute teardrop

And remember the home built rig I posted a photo of a couple of days ago at Eastbank?  They are here now.   I stopped and  chatted with them.  I reminded them that I had met them a couple of years ago and they had told me the story of why and how they built their rig then.

They asked me if I knew their rig was on the internet.  I said yes, I put it there!  After a good laugh, they told me they remembered my Casita and Sheba from Eastbank, and that someone else had told them to look out for me.  I didn’t stay too long because they had visitors and I didn’t want to intrude.

More small rigs.  There was also an R-Pod, but I didn't get a good shot of it.

More small rigs. There was also an R-Pod, but I didn’t get a good shot of it.

 

Small world!

So here’s hoping Gail feels better tomorrow.  I am thinking of making a pot of homemade chicken soup for her.

Ron is picking up puppy pads for Sunny, so hopefully our problem with his not being able to make it through the night anymore will be solved.

We are in for cooler days and cold nights for a while.  I checked the weather in Central Florida and it’s about the same as here, so it looks like we can’t escape the cold for now.

It sure is a friendly bunch here in the campground.  🙂

From a lake view to a deep woods view.  I'm loving it!

From a lake view to a deep woods view. I’m loving it!

 

Eastbank COE

Our Casita at Eastbank COE

Our Casita at Eastbank COE

Casita at sunset

Casita at sunset

We’re at beautiful Eastbank COE campground on the Georgia/Florida border.  There is not much to do except fishing and a couple of short trails.  But soaking in the beauty is a full-time job!  It’s a quiet, heavenly place to relax.  It’s also only $11 a day with our senior pass.  We’ve spent much of the day reading, doing crosswords and walking Sheba. And admiring the lake view from our door and all of the windows.

We are also having to make sure everything that touches the ground is sprayed with bug spray.  There are tiny ants everywhere.

Coots at sunset

Coots at sunset

Sheba has been more combative when other dogs are walked by our site than usual.  I’m guessing she’s getting tired of having to be tied up all the time. And little Sunny is exhibiting symptoms similar to an elderly person with Alzheimers.  It’s stressful for him and for us.

These sunset photos are all unretouched.  The colors were more magnificent than my camera could show.  And if I had retouched them to make them match the splendor my eyes saw, no one would believe it anyway!

Cypress tree surrounded by cypress knees

Cypress tree surrounded by cypress knees

The coots are so numerous here that it is startling.  At first we thought they were trash floating on the water.  Then we realized they were coots.  There are hundreds of them.

We plan to go to Bainbridge tomorrow to shop and look around.

And Wayne, we haven’t seen an alligator, but with all those coots out there, they probably do just fine without ever coming ashore!  🙂

Sunset 1 of 3

Sunset 1 of 3

Sunset 2 of 3

Sunset 2 of 3

Sunset 3 of 3

Sunset 3 of 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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