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!

 

Deja Vu (all over again) :D

Sheba telling me she wanted to play in the water.

Sheba telling me she wanted to play in the water.

My plan this afternoon was to take a 45 minute walk on the Florida Scenic Trail and then retrace my steps, which would have been a nice walk for both Sheba and me.

Mud puddles ahead

and the Mud puddles ahead

However, after I realized that it would involve stepping into ankle-deep mud puddles, I changed my mind.

What is so funny about these photos are they are almost identical to the ones I took when we were here in both the Casita and in the Aliner on previous visits.  The same post with its tiny garden growing in the top, the same trail sign, the same wooden walkway over the wettest places.

When I saw all the exposed palmetto roots, I remembered that Dad had always told me to stay away from them because rattlesnakes liked to hang around them.  I wasn’t sure if it was true or not until the mid 80’s when we were living in Altamonte Springs.

One of our neighbors and her husband had dug up a long palmetto root to dry, polyurethane, and mount over their bed as an intriguing sculpture.  They left the root on their screened in porch, and left the door between the screen room and their living room open overnight.

Rattlesnake haven?

Rattlesnake haven?

The next morning they discovered several baby rattlesnakes in their living room carpet!!  So I don’t go digging around palmetto roots much anymore, even if there is yummy palmetto cabbage under the new palmetto shoots.

We are looking forward to new scenery.  I’ve never camped at O’Leno, so next week I’ll have some new sights to share with you.

Florida Scenic Trail Sign

Florida Scenic Trail Sign

I promise!  🙂

Natural planter

Natural planter

 

 

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.

 

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!

 

Another Perfect Day

sunset2

Gail and I watched the sunset together this evening. With lots of “Oh, wows!” ::)

Our high temperature today was a sunny 76 degrees.

Another sunset view

Another sunset view

It was perfect for a long walk (for me) with Sheba.  Mike had gone to Jacksonville today and Ron puttered around, leaving the afternoon for Gail and I to bask in the gorgeous weather together and in just being with each other.   That opportunity has been a long time coming.

Ron and I are heading to Eastbank COE Tuesday for a week.  Then we’ll come back here and camp with Mike and Gail for 2 days, and then we’ll both leave here and go to Suwannee River State Park for a week.

Some areas are still soggy from the rain last week.

Some areas are still soggy from the rain last week.

Then Gail and Mike close on their new house.  We’ll head South and give them a while to settle in before we head to their place for a while.

Right now our camping agenda depends solely on what campgrounds have vacancies and what we can afford.  It’s a fun way to camp.

Deep, dark, mysterious looking woods along the trail.

Deep, dark, mysterious looking woods along the trail.

Ron hasn't quite recognized that the Casita has limited space for junk food!  :D

Ron hasn’t quite recognized that the Casita has limited space for junk food! 😀

The Sun Finally Came Out!

 

This photo was taken last week at Trimble Park, but I loved it in the evening sun so am posting it here.

This photo was taken last week at Trimble Park, but I loved the Spanish moss in the late afternoon sun so much that I am posting it here today.

We made it okay Saturday without hookups.  But we were getting tired of having to watch every light, use of the fan, use of the furnace, and use of our computers during the nonstop rain.  Our solar panel did charge a little under the leaden skies, but not enough to keep up with our usage.  It was muggy inside the Casita and we felt miserable and sticky.  So we decided to try to get a water and electric site.

A water only site

A water only site

Mike and Gail called us early Sunday to say, “One is leaving!  Get down here as fast as you can!”

So I threw everything off the TV shelf and counter onto the beds and we got the trailer hitched in record time.

It was good that we got that slot because we were in for two more days of nonstop rain.  I felt sorry for people who were parked in the water only sites.  They cruised through our loop several times a day hoping for an opening with power.  But not one other rig left.  All the people are here through Thanksgiving.

Our site

Our site

Many of the campers are local who have been coming here for years.  Apparently it used to be a primitive hunt camp.  But in 2001, they ran electricity and improved the campsites.  (Or so we were told.)

It amazes me that the spaces here are so huge.  They could easily get 4 or 5 times as many rigs in here.  But they have elected to keep it spacious and beautiful.  So the lucky people who do get sites here have beautiful vacation settings.

Our front yard is nicely screened from the road.

Our front yard is nicely screened from the road.

Gail, Mike, Ron and I are planning to barbeque huge slabs of ribs tomorrow for Thanksgiving.  They put up their screen room this evening.  They are planning to put plastic panels over it so we can run a heater in it tomorrow because it’s going to be cool.

But next week it’s supposed to warm up and we’ll have days in the 70’s again.

A cool mushroom --  Spongipellis pachyodon

A cool mushroom — Spongipellis pachyodon

We plan to leave here Dec. 2 and go camp down south again.  Then we’ll come back and camp with Mike and Gail again.  They should be able to move into their new house the middle of January.

I did have to break one of my cardinal rules — no cooking in the Casita.  The weather has been too raw to cook outside.  Tonight I was able to grill pork chops outside, but since I broke my rule during the rainy days, it was just easier to warm green beans and cook pan cornbread inside this evening.

I do hold the stove cover straight up to the hood with magnets and run the exhaust fan.  I figure that will keep steam and any grease off the carpeted walls.  I hope!

A primitive site

A primitive site

Sheba checking out flooded ditches

Sheba checking out flooded ditches

The lighting on this picture is awful.  But it's Sheba in the cypress swamp by the primitive section.

The lighting on this picture is awful. But it’s Sheba in the cypress swamp by the primitive section.

Cooking inside the Casita

Cooking inside the Casita

sunset magic

Golden sunset magic

 

 

 

Camping without Hookups

Across the street from our site

Across the street from our site

We left Trimble Park and headed back to Ocean Pond instead of Fore Lake because this weekend is going to be rainy and we wanted hookups.  But when we got to Ocean Pond, all of the water and electric sites were taken, so we ended up in a water-only site anyway.

The magic solar panel!

The magic solar panel!

I’m kind of glad, because it gave me a chance to see what our solar panel would do.

This morning, the battery was at 12.22.  At noon, the battery was fully charged, in spite of its being in partial shade for a while.  I was thrilled.  I got my smart phone and Ron’s Nook charged, too.  But I took my laptop down to Gail’s electric site and she charged it for me.

We have all LED lights in the trailer, so that helps keep our electricity needs to a minimum.

Our site -- chosen for sun exposure morning and afternoon.

Our site — chosen for sun exposure morning and afternoon.

Today was beautiful.  It got cold last night, but it reached 70 today.  Tomorrow’s supposed to be cooler, but still nice.

AND Gail and Mike’s offer on the house was accepted!  They close the 18th and will move in 30 days later.  I am almost as excited as they are!

 

Last Day at Ocean Pond

campground road

Main campground road

Lunch time!

Lunch time!

Rarely have I felt such a profound sense of peace as at this campground.  Many campgrounds are quiet and peaceful, but this one outdoes them all.  Our loop is full of weekend campers, but I just stepped outside at 9:45 p.m., and the only sounds are the night sounds of –maybe cicadas?  Tree frogs?  (Last night’s noisy campers left early this morning.)

There are no street lights here so it feels almost like we have the forest to ourselves.  This is the only place I’ve stayed that I haven’t gotten antsy to move in a week.  In fact, I almost regretted that we are leaving tomorrow.  I think this is a place I could happily spend the winter.

Cypress tree

Cypress tree

At least, I felt that way until Ron got the truck packed this evening, and I finished my shower and turned the water heater off.   Now all we have to do is unhook the water and electric and make the beds in the morning and we’ll be ready to go.

We were considering boondocking in one of the Ocala National Forest campgrounds that don’t have hookups.  But then I remembered that big rigs will be running generators there.  So we’ve decided to head for Salt Springs instead.  They have full hookups for $16.00 a night with our senior pass.  And hookups mean no generator noise.

Florida Trail sign

Florida Trail sign

We are going to have to head back home in 9 or 10 days.  Ron’s temporary driver license is expiring.  We had our mail forwarded to Mom’s house this trip so we could pick up the permanent license as soon as it arrived in the mail.  But we didn’t realize they won’t forward driver licenses.  So a trip back home is mandatory.

Ron considered leaving me here and driving back home and taking care of business, then coming back.  But that would leave me without a vehicle.  And I need to see my doctor anyway, so we’ll just cut the trip short.  Then, maybe after we get done with taxes, we can head back down here.

Picture of the trail.  See, I really was there!  :D

Picture of the trail. See, I really was there!

We decided to check out one of the trails here this afternoon.  I had heard that there was a short trail that we could easily manage.  So we headed toward the trail sign and discovered that it was actually part of the scenic 1400 mile long Florida Trail! We walked a short distance just so I could say I hiked on the Florida Trail.  😀

Really cute tent

Really cute tent

Cute little Aliner

Cute little Aliner

Miniature garden growing in stump

Miniature garden growing in stump

Finally!  A mushroom sighting.  But I don't know what it is.  It looks similar to a Northern Tooth, but the books say they don't grow south of Tennessee.

Finally! A mushroom sighting. But I don’t know what it is. It looks similar to a Northern Tooth, but the books say they don’t grow south of Tennessee. (on edit – A member of my wild mushrooms forums has identified it as Spongipellis pachydon.)

Ocean Pond

front of campsite

Our HUGE front yard

Yay!  WordPress will let me insert large photos again!

We got to Ocean Pond Campground late this afternoon.  Ocean Pond is not an ocean, and it’s not a pond.  It’s a lake in the middle of the Osceola National Forest in northeast Florida.

Our back yard

Our back yard

It’s a beautiful campground.  Nicer than I expected.  It has a self-pay station and you choose your own campsite, then go back and put your money and registration envelope in the iron ranger.  All of the waterfront sites were taken, but that actually worked out better for us.

We have a HUGE campsite.  Behind us is a memorial plaque to a ranger who was killed in WWII, so there isn’t a campsite there.  And we’re on a curve across the street from the lake with a HUGE front yard, too.  Plenty of room to keep the dogs on long leads without bothering the neighbors.

Summer temperatures; fall colors

Summer temperatures; fall colors

All this space with water and electric is only $12 a night with our senior pass!

It was really hot today.  I was so grateful that our site is in deep shade during late afternoon.

This evening the mosquitoes are bad.  The camp host told Ron they’ve been bad for the past three days.  They aren’t sure why.

Sunset reflecting from Spanish moss

Sunset reflecting from Spanish moss

Sure glad I brought bug spray and mosquito repellant!

Boat ramp

Boat ramp

 

 

 

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