Fantastic Forms Down by the Water

 

Huge tree kept from toppling into the lake by rocky supports.

Precarious twins

Precarious twins

It’s still sweltering here.  Far too hot to do anything energetic.  So I’ve meandered around amusing myself by searching out intriguing and unusual natural formations.

Many of the trees at waters’ edge just about have the supporting earth washed away.  It looks like the Army Corps of Engineers has put rocks around some of the more precarious ones to help support them.  But every time a jet ski flies by, strong waves crash relentlessly against them, taking a bit more of the red clay support.  And leaving even more fantastic forms behind.

This one can't last long.  It looks like grandaddy long-legs spider legs are holding it up.

This one can’t last long. It looks like grandaddy long-legs spider legs are holding it up.

We have had nice, strong breezes today as the ever-threatened, seldom-materialized thunderstorms pass us by.

One thing this trip has taught us is not to ever camp in South Carolina in the summertime again!

Ron brought home superb Mexican take-out for dinner this evening.

I’m still drawing plans for a camper van.  I am so itching to tackle that project!  Hopefully next year!

Clutching at the disappearing earth

Clutching at the disappearing earth

Interlocking roots

Interlocking roots

Odd trees on the swamp side

Odd trees on the swamp side

Trumpet flower vine hidden in underbrush

Trumpet flower vine hidden in underbrush

Growing at water's edge.  I used to know their name, but have forgotten and am too lazy to look them up.  :)

Growing at water’s edge. I used to know their name, but have forgotten and am too lazy to look them up. 🙂

Sunlight  glinting on water

Sunlight glinting on water

Thunderclouds passing over

Thunderclouds passing over

 

 

 

Still Beautiful; Still Hot

Our sunset last night.  The color was not enhanced -- it really was this gorgeous.

Our sunset last night. The color was not enhanced — it really was this gorgeous.

Although it’s 8 degrees hotter here than it is at home, we are managing to enjoy it.  There’s usually a nice breeze off the lake.

There is water across the street behind us, too.  We are surrounded on three sides by water.

There is water across the street behind us, too. We are surrounded on three sides by water.

Yesterday I sat outside under the awning doing crosswords and admiring the million scintillating sun sparkles on the blue water.  Waves gurgled onto shore and slapped up against the rocks.  A few brave birds, ignoring the heat of the day, sang in the deep woods around me.

Although this is a man made lake, I dreamed of Indians centuries ago paddling their canoes around the point.  The deep woods on the far shore beckoned mysteriously.

As evening fell, a lone, far-away whipporwill called.

Sheba.  The sun is giving her black fur red highlights.

Sheba. The sun is giving her black fur red highlights.

We spend a couple of hours in the hottest part of the day inside in the air conditioning doing crosswords, surfing, reading or napping.  We can’t do anything too energetic or we will overheat, so we mosey around — and when we get too hot, we head inside and cool off for a while.

In case any of you northerners ever wondered why southerners move and talk more slowly  sometimes that’s why.  It’s an adaptation to the extreme heat and humidity.  It was a lot more pronounced before everyone got air conditioning.

My precious little aging Sunny.  He is having enough trouble going on walks that I will have to get him a doggie stroller soon.

My precious little aging Sunny. He is having enough trouble going on walks that I will have to get him a doggie stroller soon.

So I can’t say that our trip is exciting.  It’s not.  But it’s beautiful and we are glad we are here.

Crazy Campground Weekend

Sheba is fascinated at all the weekend campground activity

Sheba is fascinated at all the weekend campground activity

I suppose that because this campground is so close to Atlanta, it gets really crazy on the weekends!

Crazy crowded

Crazy crowded

Most of the families mind their own business and enjoy themselves without bothering anyone.  But there are the others.  Like the guy staggering around his campsite with an open beer in his hand — and 3 more cans in his pockets.  Or the group that tied their two pontoon boats together in the water a few yards out from our site, and used them for a party platform.

More boats

More boats

Or the jet ski with an oil burning problem that smoked us out with a huge blue cloud of burnt oil — then had the gall to park it so it blocked our lake access.  Or the boats with screaming country music blasting — which the ranger finally put a stop to!

Party platform

Party platform

Actually, I think it’s funny what a fuddy duddy I have become.  I have the privilege of going camping anytime I want to.  Most of these people have a short weekend to unwind from the stress of their work week and cram all the fun they can into two short days. So while they irritate me, I do try to remember that, although I am old now, I was young — and stupid — a long time ago.  Well, I was young a long time ago.  I really HOPE I was only stupid a long time ago!  😀

A family peacefully enjoying their weekend

A family peacefully enjoying their weekend

The storm that came through day before yesterday took the heavy humidity with it when it passed. So the temperatures yesterday and earlier today were just perfect, accompanied by a nice breeze.  It did get more humid this afternoon and was uncomfortable for a while.  But it cooled off nicely when the sun went down.

We have not used our air conditioner for two days!  Since we are in deep shade, the fan has been all we have needed.

Ron ignores the circus

Ron ignores the circus

We left our bait worms out when the storm hit, and they drowned.  We both tried on and off to fish from the bank with artificial lures, but haven’t had any luck.  I haven’t seen anyone fishing from the bank catch anything.  I did see one guy in a boat pull in a small fish earlier today.  Maybe there’s just too much motorized activity on the water.

Anyway, the weekenders should start leaving tomorrow morning, and serenity should return by tomorrow night!

Lovely visitors.  This looks like a watercolor, doesn't it?

Lovely visitors. This looks like a watercolor, doesn’t it?

Gulf of Mexico at Ft. Pickens

Osprey on nest

Osprey on nest

This place is indescribably beautiful.  I took 229 photos today and will do my best to share only the ones I think you would most enjoy.

Turquoise water, white waves, white sand

Turquoise water, white waves, white sand

I grew up on the Atlantic coast and am used to beige sand and murky greenish ocean water.  I am always enthralled by the difference on the Gulf side of Florida.  The sand is pure white, and the water a beautiful, clear turquoise.

It’s been hot, but with the constant ocean breezes, it is chilly in the shade.  We’ve worn windbreakers with our shorts several times today.  We haven’t run the air conditioner at all.  We just open all the windows and bask in perfect temperatures.  It gets chilly at night, so we do close them at night.  Except mine stays cracked open.  I like to sleep cooler than Ron.  🙂

More of that incredibly turquoise water

More of that incredibly turquoise water

The beach goes on forever.

The beach goes on forever.

In addition to the glorious beach, I’ve found beautiful flowers blooming here in the most inhospitable places.  I’ve also found lots of wild edible plants, but since they are everywhere, I’ll skip them today.

We did have a scare this morning.  Sunny woke up sick, in pain and lethargtic.  So we spent the morning at the Gulf Island Animal Hospital.  They aren’t sure what’s wrong with him, but gave him a shot for pain and inflammation, more meds to help settle his stomach and relax him, and special food to eat for a week.  He is doing a lot better this afternoon, so I think he will be okay until we can get to our vet at home.

Wild lantana at our campground

Wild lantana at our campground

Spiderwort flowers on the edge of the woods in our loop

Spiderwort flowers on the edge of the woods in our loop.

More beautiful wildflowers

More beautiful wildflowers

These exquisite beauties were growing in the dunes.

These exquisite beauties were growing in the dunes.

Rugged dune life

Rugged dune life

This tree on the dunes looks like it barely survived the last hurricane.

This tree on the dunes looks like it barely survived the last hurricane.

There are many birds here.  Sitting outside listening to them is a pleasure.  This photo shows two of them in one tree.

There are many birds here. Sitting outside listening to them is a pleasure. This photo shows two of them in one tree.

We got such a kick out of watching the birds trying to get Sheba's food.  Every time they would get brave enough to try, Sheba would move and they would take off.  I don't know if they ever succeeded in snitching a bite!

We got such a kick out of watching the birds trying to get Sheba’s food. Every time they would get brave enough to try, Sheba would move and they would take off. I don’t know if they ever succeeded in snitching a bite!

Since Sunny wasn't feeling well, we left him in the trailer when we took our walk.  Here he is welcoming us back home.

Since Sunny wasn’t feeling well, we left him in the trailer when we took our walk. Here he is welcoming us back home.

Site on the Water & Wild Muscadines

Our new campsite

Yesterday we extended our stay until Sunday.  Since our site was reserved by someone else for the weekend, we had to move.  It really worked out well for us, because one waterfront site happened to be available and we got it!

Storm moving in

The weather yesterday ran the gamut from drizzly in the morning, bright sunshine early in the afternoon, then a ferocious, short lived storm late in the afternoon.

I was out walking the dogs while Ron did laundry when the sky darkened and a very frightening wind started tearing through the campground.  I was so afraid that our awning would be destroyed.  I raced back to the campsite on foot, and Ron left the laundromat when he saw the wind.  We got to the trailer about the same time.  By then the worst of the wind was past, and the deluge hit.

Fortunately the awning wasn’t damaged and we were able to get it in without incident.

Sunny and Sheba

Today is the most beautiful day you could ask for.  Balmy, sunshiny, a delicious breeze, and all the joys of camping on the water.  I have loved watching the boats, jet skis, and even a giant houseboat go by.

Mostly, I’ve just basked in the peace of the panorama of blue skies and blue water while I worked on a cross stitch project for the trailer.   It’s a bicycle in grass with its basket brimming with flowers.  The caption reads, “It’s all about the JOURNEY.”  Isn’t that perfect for a Casita?  I plan to put it on the divider wall.

Wild muscadine grapes

On one of our walks today we found wild muscadine grapes!  A few were ripe enough to pick and eat.  What a fun surprise.

Ripe wild muscadines

 

 

Salt Springs Recreation Area, Ocala National Forest, FL

Salt Springs

Salt Springs. You can see the deeper source of the springs in the foreground.

We left Mom’s house and headed for Salt Springs.  There were no reservations available online, but they hold several sites for first-come, first-served.  Since we were arriving on Wednesday before the Labor Day weekend, we thought we stood a good chance of getting one.

There was a whole section available, so we were fortunate.  The campground has been redone, and all the sites are grassy with shade trees, with a huge common area in the center between

Walkway to the swimming area

Walkway to the swimming area

the streets.  And all sites have full hookups.

With our senior discount, we got 5 nights for $80.00.  I am so grateful for that discount.  It is the only reason we can enjoy camping so often.

Even after the campground filled up, it still seemed spacious due to the open common areas.  However, after all the weekend arrivals put up screen houses, tents for the kids, and filled their sites with bicycles, toys, firewood, etc., it started to feel pretty crowded.

Banana Island

Banana Island in the corner of the swimming area

We were fortunate to have wonderful neighbors.  A family — grandpa (Robert), his daughter (Vianna), her husband (Don), and their son (Joey) who will be going into the Air Force in November camped next to us.  They were so friendly and we had so much in common that we felt as though we were camping with family.

Vianna is a crafter and was working on an afghan for Joey’s girlfriend.

Another view of the springs

Another view of the springs

That inspired me to unpack my neglected afghan and work on it with her.  Among her crafts, she also tats.  I mentioned that I had my grandmother’s tatting shuttle, so she proceeded to try to teach me to tat.  I simply could not get “flipping the knot” even after trying late into the evening and the next morning.

Not to be discouraged, Vianna came over to our trailer right before we were leaving on Monday and showed me how to do needle tatting.  That’s a version that I can do!  I promised to send her a picture of the tatting supplies that I buy, and also a picture of my first tatting project.

Wild turkeys

Wild turkeys in spring area

Unfortunately, we did not pass a craft store that carried tatting supplies on our way back, so I will have to order them online when I get home!

Also while we were down there, my sister Ann’s friends, Linda and Marty came by and went swimming in the springs with us.  The water was COLD.  The daytime temperatures were running in the mid-nineties, so the 72 degree water felt icy at first.  But once we were in the water, it was heavenly!

interesting old tree

The inside and half of the exterior of this amazing old tree have rotted away, but it is still alive with healthy branches.

The water is so clear that you can stand in neck deep water and look down at the bottom and see the individual grains of sand.  Gorgeous!  And little bream swim around the edges, and schools of large mullet (vegetarian fish) frequent the seaweed patches.  Past the roped off swimming area, boats anchor and fish.  And we saw a man fishing for mullet with a bow and arrow.  Apparently they don’t bite on hooks well, so that’s a more efficient way to fish for them.

After we swam in the springs, Linda and Marty invited us over to their home for a wonderful vegetarian dinner.  They took us on a walk around their neighborhood pointing out the various mushrooms that grow in their area, and introduced us to a couple of their neighbors.

Marty built a houseboat that doubles as a camper when it’s on the boat trailer.  So they can camp in the national forest campgrounds, then pull their “camper” into the water and it is a houseboat.  He also showed us photos of the sailboat he built several years ago.  What an amazing couple!

Ron and Robert

Ron and Robert

Viana, Joey and Don

Vianna, Joey and Don

Viana and her dad

Vianna and her dad

Sunny

Sunny

Unfortunately, I did not think to bring my camera with me when we visited with Linda and Marty, so I don’t have any photos of them and their lovely home.   Maybe after enough such disappointments, I will get better at remembering to keep the camera with me at all times when we are out.

R. Shaefer Heard COE Campground

Aliner high on a steep bluff

Aliner high on a steep bank

It is 99 degrees at 5:50 p.m. in town.  I think it must be cooler where we are.  We are in the shade and there is a nice breeze off the lake.

It is scary backing just the truck down the steep driveway to our site.  It was hair-raising backing the Aliner in.  But I got it done, even managing to miss the tree at edge of the drive after several — no, make that MANY– tries!

Aliner at R. Shaefer Heard Army Corps of Engineers campground

Our site

The campground is gorgeous.  There are all kinds of sites.  There are some that have smooth, grassy lawns gently sloping right down to the lake.  We drove by that section earlier and there were kids splashing in the water.

My only complaint about the campground is that something died in the nearby woods, and we get a whiff of it now and then.

We haven’t done any hiking since we got here.  When we are active, the heat really gets to us.  If we take it easy, it’s not bad.  It helps being a Florida native and adapted to hot weather.  But we do take a nice air conditioned siesta in the afternoons.

Sunset over West Point Lake

Sunset over West Point Lake

Last night’s sunset over the lake was gorgeous.  A breathtaking palette of mauves and oranges.

I brought my new mushroom book by Michael Kuo and have been studying it.   It is an excellent guide — a great addition to my library.  I am praying for rain so that mushrooms will sprout up while we are here.  It’s never too hot for me to hunt them!

We may get thunderstorms tomorrow.  In fact, it sprinkled lightly

Another sunset shot

Another shot of that gorgeous sunset!

earlier, and we are getting occasional flashes of lightning and distant thunder now.

It’s a pretty steep path to get from our site down to the water.  But there are trees to hold onto.  It has been too hot for us to want to fish, then deal with cleaning them, but we will probably do that before we leave — especially if it cools down a bit.

We are loving being here.  It is so peaceful, so beautiful, and it feels so safe.  We normally don’t like to return to the same campground as there are so many others to explore.  But this one is special to us.

Rocks at the edge of West Point Lake

Rocks at the edge of the lake in front of our site

And the fact that Ron’s senior pass makes the sites 50% off makes it irresistible!

The Aliner at sunset

Ron relaxing by the Aliner at sunset

Foolproof Way to Extinguish Campfires

Campfire

Campfire photo courtesy of public-domain-photos.com

It seems that everyone recommends putting out campfires by drenching the hot coals with water, then covering them with dirt.

The problem with drenching coals with water is that the coals boil the water, and very often coals will remain live despite the drenching.  And the dirt simply banks the coals, keeping them alive, so that any exposure to air will re-ignite them.

I’ve been using a foolproof method for years that leaves the coals cool to the touch in 15 minutes.  No water needed.

All I do, after the  firewood has burned down into coals, is take a long stick and separate the coals so that no two are touching.  It only takes a few minutes.  When the coals are not touching each other, they die.  They will all be comfortable to handle within 15 minutes.

It seems to me that the danger of forest fires started by abandoned campfires could be eliminated if people used this method.  No need to carry buckets of water.  No need for shovels.  All you need is a long stick and a little patience.

The West Point Lake Area

Ron checks out West Point Lake

Ron checks out West Point Lake

We picked the wrong campground!  I had originally planned to book a site at R. Schaefer Heard campground, but a friend of Ron’s had highly recommended Whitetail Ridge.

I can’t imagine why!  There is a reason R. Schaefer Heard is so popular.  It has some gorgeous water vistas… and the water is clean!

Roadside fishing area

Roadside area set aside for fishing

Maybe we can switch campgrounds after the weekend campers leave.

We drove across the dam today and discovered some beautiful recreation sites.   One is simply a place to park and fish.  Another is the trailhead area.  And we didn’t even make it to the large day use area.  We’ll check it out tomorrow.

Another view of the roadside fishing area

Another view of the roadside fishing area

We watched several people fishing from the bank.  No one appeared to be catching anything.  Maybe it is because the wind was brisk and the water was choppy again today?  Wish I knew more about those things!  Surely fish have to eat on windy days!  This area has a reputation for excellent bass fishing.

We took a short walk down the Lakeside Trail, but my energy isn’t back to normal yet, so we didn’t go far.  Maybe we can tackle it again in a couple of days.

Lakeside Trail

Lakeside Trail

We were pretty tired when we got back to our campsite.  But my immediate impression when I saw the little Aliner was, “That is the cutest little camper in the world!”  Glad I still feel that way about it.

 

Fern Hammock Springs, FL

This idyllic, ecologically sensitive and protected treasure is located within the Juniper Springs campground boundaries. The tropical appearance belies the chilly temperature of the water. I decided to do a separate post describing it instead of lumping it in with the Juniper Springs post.

Fern Hammock Springs

Fern Hammock Springs -- it's blue!

How do you describe Eden? Blue. The crystal water is blue. Numerous clear white sand areas pinpoint the location of “boils” — places where cold water erupts through cracks in the underground limestone, roiling the sand bottom and scouring it white.

Fish abound, free and unafraid. We saw two adult turtles, one with an orange neck and one without the coloration. Maybe they were male and female? A baby turtle swam through the transparent water, then ducked down to the darker colored bottom.

Looking toward the observation bridge

Looking toward the observation bridge

Most of the fish were relatively small, but we did see a few large ones.

No fishing, swimming, dogs, or anything that might endanger the tranquility of the spring is permitted here.

Since I don’t have words to describe the beauty without sounding gushy, I will just post photos for you to enjoy.

Large boil below the observation bridge

Lots of fish!

Baby turtle and fish

Baby turtle and fish

A small school of fish

A small school of fish over a large boil

Fish and turtle

Fish and turtle

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