The Star Party that Wasn’t, a Park Liner & Long Gray Hair!

Looks primeval, doesn't it?

Looks primeval, doesn’t it?

We heard about a star party at the visitor’s center around 6:30 this evening and were really looking forward to going.  But, due to overcast skies, it was canceled.  I hope they schedule another one while we are here.

Letting my hair grow.  I usually wear it up.

This is for Kim and Judie who know I am letting my gray hair grow long. I’m really loving it after decades of ultra short cuts.

Today was a leisurely day of chatting with other campers and meandering walks.  While we were out, we met a nice couple from Pennsylvania, Tina and Sam, camping in a 15′ Park Liner.  Park Liner is the latest manufacturer that I am aware of to build molded fiberglass trailers.

I was so excited when I saw the Park Liner that I asked Tina if I could take photos.  She graciously consented.  I apologize that my camera didn’t do it justice.  It doesn’t do well in low light conditions and gave the pictures an odd color cast.  But you can still see the layout.

The Park Liner exterior.  I love the wood, residential style screen door.

The Park Liner exterior. I love the wood, residential style screen door.

I have found (and sampled) all kinds of good edible plants and trail nibbles here.  But since I haven’t stayed intensively committed to it, I have forgotten many of the plants’ names.

I’ve decided to start brushing on on both the edible plants and mushroom skills.  Especially while we are essentially living in the Casita  (temporarily, of course), it helps to have an absorbing hobby to focus on.  It keeps life new and exciting.

Large comfortable bed in the Park Liner, which can become another dinette.  I apologize for the color cast my camera gave it.

Large comfortable bed in the Park Liner, which can become another dinette. I apologize for the color cast my camera gave it.

I am surprised at the number of families with young children that are camping here in tents and popups, considering the cold nights we are having.  I love to see them enjoying campfires and outdoor pursuits.  Those are memories that will last!

Another view of the Park Liner interior.

Another view of the Park Liner interior.

A tiny 13' Scamp is camped next to the Park Liner.

A tiny 13′ Scamp is camped next to the Park Liner.

Nightfall in the campground.

Nightfall in the campground.

These little flowers are blooming all over the place, unfazed by the below freezing weather the  night before last.

These little flowers are blooming all over the place, unfazed by the below freezing weather the night before last.

Manatee Springs, Buzzards & Bites

Incredibly blue Manatee Spring

When we first arrived at Manatee Springs State Park, I was a bit taken aback at how rustic the campground was.  Sand roads, sand campsites, no laundromat.  Then when I got my first look at Catfish Hole, a green scum covered entrance to underwater caves, I told Ron I wanted to leave tomorrow.

But we kept walking…. and then we saw the spring.

Pristine.  Blue. Primeval. Otherworldly.

Cypress knees

We followed the spring run on a boardwalk above a swamp where an alien looking world of cypress trees and cypress knees created a weird jurassic park type landscape.

Eventually we came to the end of the boardwalk overlooking a wide expanse of water where we hope to spot manatees in the coming days.  When I was a kid, we called them sea cows.  In the winter, these gentle vegetarian giants congregate around Florida’s springs which are a constant, year round 72 degrees.

Primeval looking swamp

But this evening, we didn’t see manatees.  What we did see were thousands of buzzards heading for roosts in the trees at the edge of the water.  The sound of thousands of buzzard wings is pretty impressive…. and they just kept on coming!

Very fortunately they are not roosting in the trees in the camping areas as they are a bit away from the water.

Where we hope to spot manatees

Buzzards roosting in trees by the water

Looks like something from Alfred Hitchcock, doesn't it?

Spanish moss

Manitee basics for boaters

Our Casita at Manatee Springs State Park

When we pulled into the campground, we saw another Casita at the beginning of our loop.  Later the friendly owner from Washington State told us that there were three other Casitas at this small campground this past weekend.

We had a couple of notable mishaps today.  First, we had our initiation into the world of dumping disasters when our sewer hose came apart.  We learned the hard way how they are supposed to be secured to the clamps.

And when I put on a clean shirt after my shower this evening, I got two fiery bites on my underarm.  I was really worried imagining what kind of venomous, deadly creature might have bitten me.  Then I saw the wasp on the window blinds.

The Casita got a generous spray of Black Flag insect killer!



Talladega National Forest

our Aliner campsite

Our campsite

We just got back from a week at Coleman Lake Campground in the Talladega National Forest in the Alabama hills.

The sites are spaced pretty far apart in a heavily wooded setting, so we felt like we had our own little hideaway in the woods.  A short trail led to the lake’s fishing, swimming, and trail areas.

The plant diversity is astounding.  I took

primeval looking forest

Primeval looking forest carpeted with bracken fern

hundreds of photos of plants suited to many different environments… from low,  almost primeval looking fern swamps to steep, hilly hardwood and pine forests.

A small swimming beach was usually host to children and young people early in the day.  Later, when the people left, Canada geese brought their families out for leisurely paddling around the lake.

A few people rowed out on the lake to fish while we were there.   And one couple went

hilly trail

Trail through the hills

frog gigging and came back with seventeen bullfrogs.  Ron chatted with them as they were skinning and cleaning the frog legs.

Can’t say that’s my cup of tea, but it is nice that there is an area where those who enjoy such things can pursue their interests.

Past the swimming beach on the lakeside trail, we took a side trail and stumbled upon a beautiful little hidden grotto complete with small waterfall.  Screened by rock walls and a profusion of tall flowering shrubs and trees, we felt as though we had stumbled upon a secret hideaway.

hidden grotto with small waterfall

Hidden grotto with small waterfall

Coleman Lake swimming beach

Coleman Lake swimming beach

For the first time ever, we had camping equipment stolen this trip.  Saturday night (with the campground full of weekend campers) our Weber Baby Q gas grill disappeared.  We went into town Sunday to replace it, but couldn’t afford another Baby Q, and I didn’t like the cheap, flimsy model that Walmart had available.  So we returned to the campground without one.

Then Sunday evening the camp host stopped by our site carrying our grill!

“Bet you’re glad to see this!” they announced.

They had found it abandoned against a tree in the overflow parking area.  Another camper told them ours had been stolen, so they knew who it belonged to.

I had been pretty sick the first few days we were out, and the frequent rain was starting to wear on my nerves.  But I bounced back and felt a lot better so I could enjoy hiking.

And…. we found a huge amount of chanterelles!  And they wouldn’t have sprouted without all that rain.

I’ll save the chanterelle pictures for the next post.


Sweet little pipsissewa (medicinal) was blooming all over the forest.

tiny islands

Little micro islands are forming on a submerged log in the lake

unknown showy white flowers

These strikingly beautiful shrubs with large, showy flowerheads were all over in the lower areas. I later identified them as Alabama's state wildflower, the oak leaf hydrangea. They are gorgeous!

common milkweed

Common milkweed were in full bloom. We only found one unopened flowerhead with the mild, broccoli flavored buds.

water arum

Water arum - wild calla

white bell flowers

Another small tree that I was not familiar with. The flowers are like small white bells. I later identified it as a sourwood tree.

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