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! 😀

Last Day Camping & More Info on the Pinhoti Trail

 

New shoots on last year's dead flowerhead.

New shoots on last year’s dead flowerhead.

Although I am no longer physically able to do long-distance hiking, I did want to share this update on the Pinhoti Trail for anyone who might be interested in thru-hiking it.

On my previous post about the trail, reader Diane Kepley commented, and I told her I would add her information to a future post:

Georgia Pinhoti trail is open all the way through to the Benton MacKaye trail with new sections being upgraded and improved. Mapping needs an upgrade to be sure but help is out there. Contact me at Diane@mulberrygap.com and if I can’t help you, can point you to others on the Georgia Pinhoti Trail board who can. Many sections are multi use and not as hiker friendly as the Alabama Pinhoti. It’s a great trail system and trail angels are out and about especially if they know thru hikers are coming through!

…and thanks for helping us spread the word. It’s encouraging to know where there is shelter and help along the way! Happy trails to you!

I’m sure that this post will pop up in search engines for people searching for info on the Pinhoti, and I hope they will take advantage of Diane’s generous offer to provide more detailed information.

trail hazardI had planned to post a whole bunch of spring buds and shoots photos today, but after going through them, they look kind of boring.  So I’ll just post photos taken on the short two-mile trail around Coleman Lake.

beaver job

 

 

 

 

trail steps

Even in death, the remains of this little bird displayed exquisite grace and beauty.

Even in death, the remains of this little bird displayed exquisite grace and beauty.

 

 

footbridge by dam

my kind of trail

cool exposed root

 

blowdowns

There were a startling number of large blowdowns on the trail. Also, many of the pines have been infested with the pine borer. Some areas had been burnt — I’m guessing to help control their spread.

 

 

 

Plant covered roots span the water below.

 

 

Camping at Coleman Lake

Our campsite at Coleman Lake.

Our campsite at Coleman Lake

Coleman Lake is a small campground in Alabama’s Talladega National Forest.  It’s down a long, winding two-lane road off Hwy. 78, and it feels like you are driving to the end of the world to get there.  There’s no cell reception, so being without phone and internet makes it feel even more remote.

This is one of the birds that was throwing giant beakfuls of leaves into the air. Here he is taking a break.

Sites are very large and private in both loops  — a little more private in Loop B, but we chose Loop A to be closer to the little lake.  It’s a lovely place to soak up nature, listen to the birds chatter, chip and sing while you enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee in the morning, explore plant life along the trails, and absorb the pervading peacefulness of escape from civilization.  A stress-free zone.

The low-key entertainment included watching black birds with iridescent teal heads vigorously pecking through leaf litter and throwing huge beakfuls of leaves high in the air.  Over and over and over.  I tried to get a photo of the action, but none of them turned out.

The most excitement was when Sheba was attacked by a goose.  Well, warned of an attack, anyway!  While Ron was walking her by the lake,  she kept lunging on the leash and excitedly trying to get to a lone goose near the water’s edge.  All of the sudden the goose marched out of the water, got right in Sheba’s face and hissed at her.  We were so stunned, we weren’t sure what to do, so simply walked off, dragging Sheba behind us.  That must have been the right answer because the goose headed back to the water.

Another bird

Another bird

The campground was almost full when we arrived Sunday afternoon, and never did empty out after the weekend.  Thursday was the only day there were more empty sites than full, and new campers began arriving early Friday morning for the weekend.  Most of the campers were fairly local.

The nice thing about such a small, remote campground is that it attracts mostly hardcore nature lovers, who are generally quiet, considerate campers.  We loved it there!

There were almost no bugs out yet, although we did see a few mosquitos Thursday.  But I did pick up a tick on the back of my knee while out on the trail.

Looking toward the swimming beach.  The grass is starting to green up nicely.

Looking toward the swimming beach. The grass is starting to green up nicely.

I very rarely get to explore by myself when we are out.  But Wednesday and Thursday Ron offered to keep the dogs so I could roam to my heart’s content.  I felt euphoric as I wandered along the sun-warmed trail and cut through the woods to get a better look at emerging shoots and fiddleheads and whatever other wonders spring had in store for me.

I didn’t find any mushrooms this trip except for several old polypores.  I kept hoping that I might stumble onto my first morel ever.  But either the mushrooms were waiting a little longer to fruit — or they were really good at hiding.

Down by the little dam

Down by the little dam

I do so enjoy reading other camping and RVing blogs where people get out and explore all the restaurants and attractions in an area.  I envy their travels and all the sights and experiences they cram into their trips.

My kind of camping is different.  It’s total immersion into the natural features of the campground and surrounding area.  Seeing the world from a worm’s-eye view instead of a bird’s eye view, I guess.

Hmmmmm..... I think I spot dinner!

Hmmmmm….. I think I spot dinner!

In any case, I do so appreciate the readers who enjoy my low-key pursuits.  Thanks so much for visiting and re-visiting!

Tomorrow I’ll post more of the spring wonders that I found in the woods.  At least wonders, as I perceive them.  🙂

Got it!

Got it!

This was a long zoom shot.

This was a long zoom shot.

Luna moth

Huge luna moth

This beautiful moth looked like she was dressed up in her bridal finery to me.

This beautiful moth looked like she was dressed up in her bridal finery to me.

Ron and Sheba on the trail headed toward the bridge.

Ron and Sheba on the trail headed toward the bridge.

 

 

Old Stumps on the Trail

Bend in the trail

 

Warning!  This post will be incredibly boring unless you are a hard core nature lover.  And maybe even if you are!

We went for another LONG walk today.  Aside from being a little achy, I feel more relaxed and stress-free than I have in a long time.

Rather than try to say something fascinating about a walk in brown Georgia woods in the winter, I’ll just post photos of things that intrigued me.

Fern

Ferns on fallen log

Half-eaten wild ginger leaves

Wild ginger leaf

This old stump looked like some kind of mythical sea creature to me

Convoluted tree base

Odd stump

Graceful old stump

Twin trees

Two more twin trees. They were everywhere. I've never seen so many anyplace else.

See-through tree. It had an eerie look to it.

Winged branches

 

 

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.

pipsissewa

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.

Juniper Springs, Florida

Juniper Springs Pool

Juniper Springs Pool

Juniper Springs seaweed

Juniper Springs seaweed

We arrived at beautiful Juniper Springs in the Ocala National Forest on March 18th.

When I first saw the spring’s swimming pool, I thought that it needed to be cleaned because there was a lot of “seaweed” on the bottom.  Then, as Ron and I walked toward the concession area we passed a sign that explained the “weeds.” (See below.)  And after I took these photos, several whooping teenagers cannonballed into the water.  (By the way, the “stuff” on the surface that looks like flotsam is actually rippled reflections.  The water is pristine.)

Juniper Springs Information

Juniper Springs Information

Old mill by spring

Old mill by spring

When we arrived at the campground, I had expected to have electric and water hookups — but I hadn’t read the description closely enough.  There were no hookups, and we were booked for 4 days.

It wasn’t a big deal.  We needed some practice camping without hookups since I dream of doing extensive boondocking someday. We had replaced the lights with superbright LED’s, so they used only a miniscule amount of power.  There was plenty of battery power for lights, the water pump, fan, and most of the essentials.  We could charge the laptop and cell phones from the house batteries. If I had thought there was a chance we would be without hookups, I would have brought the solar panel along, though.

The only things we couldn’t use were the air conditioner, microwave and electric heater.  The air conditioner was no problem.  The weather was chilly!  No microwave was a minor inconvenience.  But no electric heat was a problem, because Ron had forgotten to bring our catalytic heater!  So we made a run into Silver Springs to look for another one.

Juniper Springs concession area

Juniper Springs concession area

Since winter was past we doubted that we would be able to find one anywhere in stock.  But Walmart had one lone Coleman Blackcat heater left.  It had obviously been returned and was missing some of the packing.  But when we took it back to the camper and fired it up, the gentle heat it produced was heavenly!

We were originally assigned a campsite in the oldest section of the campground.  Our site was spacious and I was happy with it.  But there were a couple of big rigs in that loop that ran their generators nonstop.  It really detracted from the ambiance of quiet camping in the woods!

On our second day a ranger came by and said we would have to move.  A tree in front of our site was leaning and was subject to fall at any moment.

I wasn’t thrilled about having to move.  But it worked out well, because the second site was much larger, more private, and there were no generators back there!

My blog header photo of Ron was taken in the second site.

New catalytic heater

New catalytic heater

We spent our days walking the trails, picnicking at the concession area, and visiting with other campers.  One of the guys had a 1969 Corvair motor home and gave us a tour.  He said their national rallies draw around 15 units.  We also met another Aliner owner–a very nice couple from New Jersey.  And we met a former Aliner owner at the dump station!  They had moved up to a motor home.

We also chatted with another couple in a tent that we thought might have been homeless.  But we didn’t want to pry.

And we endured a couple more days of cold and rain that made us feel like we were back home again!

We saw several canoers.  We were tempted to rent a canoe, but were on a fairly tight budget.  With Ron’s Senior Pass, we were only paying $10.00 a night to camp.  It cost $33 to rent a canoe.  So we stuck to walking and taking photos!

One of the most interesting features in the little creeks around the spring are numerous “boils.”  The sand roils, scouring out white circular clearings on the bottom.  It’s caused by water erupting through cracks in the underlying limestone.  Somewhere we read a sign saying that acid rain is causing the limestone to break down at an increased rate.  I imagine that would mean that the number of sinkholes in Florida will increase, too.

Juniper Springs canoers

Juniper Springs canoers

Juniper Springs boil

Juniper Springs boil

This old stone bridge was built by the CCC back in the 30’s.  A nearby sign states that the bridge itself is still structurally sound.

Since this post is getting way too long, I’ll post the rest of my photos without comment.

I apologize for the photo layout.  I’m just learning how to use the software and the photos don’t appear where I think they will.

Trail entrance

Trail entrance

Blue skies!

Blue skies!

Juniper Springs Trail

Much of the trail around the camp is boardwalk

Intriguing old stump

Intriguing old stump

Pantry overflow

Pantry overflow!

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