Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Naples Highlights

The community of Bay Forest in Naples is the winter home of our dear friend John Miles.  We manage to get in a couple of weeks staying with him at his condo.   Our camper goes into storage and we enjoy the amenities available at the Bermuda Bay 1 section of the complex.

The community is surrounded by a 2 1/2 mile paved walking/biking path, right outside the door.  Lots of wildlife along these few miles.  That stick-looking object on the left is a snake.  I was trying to stop my bike and get out the camera fast enough to get a picture of  him.  He didn't waste any time crawling into the bushes.

Flowering shrubs in January, just to make northerners envious.

These endangered gopher tortoise dig burrows on either side of the bike path.  Some recent research has shown that more than 20 different species share the burrows for safe places to hide or to make their own home.

Marlin got a good close-up of this fellow.

One lucky shot.  We were riding our bikes on the path and stopped to talk to some friends when this eagle landed on a branch right in front of us.  He had caught this fish in the pond on the opposite side of the path.  Looks like it was too big to carry it very far.

He was enjoying the meal.

When the fish wiggled out of his grasp and fell to the ground.  He looks surprised!  We watched for awhile to see if he would try to pick the fish up from the ground.  He stayed for about five minutes, but when a large dog came along, the eagle flew off.

Boccie is very popular here.  John signed up as an alternate and got to play twice today.

He has pretty good form and great accuracy.

His team lost but no hard feelings.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Visiting Friends in Florida

Coming to Florida always allows us to visit the many people we know who have located here in the warm winter climate.  We usually plan our stopping points in order to see as many old friends as possible while we are in the State.

Our first Florida State Park visit was at Fort Clinch on Fernandina Island, just outside Jacksonville.  A great ocean-front park with miles of beaches, an old fort, and nice campground.  One quick walk on the beach was all we could fit in at this beautiful park, even though we were here for three days. Since we were so close to Palm Coast we choose to use the time to visit  Audrey McGregor, her daughter Cheri, and the sweetest little dog, Jenny B.

Our friendship with Audrey goes back to the 1980's when Marlin began working for Farm Family and Gerry McGregor was the head of the claims department.  Whenever we were in Florida we always stopped to touch bases with him and Audrey.  Gerry passed away several years ago but it is always a pleasure to visit Audrey and her daughter, Cheri.  Cheri has started an on-line business selling antiques, so she and Audrey spend many hours and miles checking out Estate Sales and finding places to store inventory.   Our visit included lunch at the Funky Pelican in Foley Beach, where I had (believe it or not) the best New England Clam chowder I have ever had.  Maybe I was just extra hungry!.

For the next couple of days, we camped at Withlacoochee State Forest near Brooksville.  One of our favorite Florida campgrounds, due to its adjacent 47 mile flat bicycle trail.

We got in a couple of days riding the trail, as well as a visit with Sheila Hartt in Zephyr Hills.  It was sad without Delmont there but Sheila seemed in fairly good spirits.  She is feeling good, after a change in medications and making headway on adjusting to Del's passing in November.

Our next stop was to spend a couple of days with Chuck and Julie Burwell.  They are staying in Avon Park for the month of January.  We were able to book three days at Highland Hammocks State Park, which is about 10 miles from the RV park they are staying at.

They arrived at our site, toting a complete chicken dinner to share with us.  First things first tho, Julie had to get a picture of the four of us. She is an expert using the self timer so she can also be in the picture.  I have got to learn how to do that with my camera.

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people sitting and outdoor

Here is Julie's picture she took with the timer.  Thanks Jul!

The next afternoon we all took the park tram tour.  This boardwalk was a shortcut to the CCC  Museum where the tour began.

 Back in the 1920's local citizens, especially a woman named Margret Shippen Roebling, began a citizens campaign to save this unique habitat from being turned into farmland.  Money donated by Ms Roebling, as well as matched donations from the public, was used to purchase the original 2,100 plus acres for a Park. The original idea was to turn it into a National Park.  However, the size was determined to be too small for that purpose.  It turned out to be the beginning of the Florida State Park system.

Highland Hammock State Park is one of the original eight Florida State Parks where the CCC established trails, cleared forests, built boardwalks and constructed buildings that are still used today.  Highland Hammock became a 1,280 acre park in 1931 and was the first Florida State Park project for the CCC.

 The museum, which opened in 1994, houses extensive artifacts and information about the CCC in Florida,  It is located in a building that was built by these men and used for housing while they worked there.

This building was the mess hall used by the crews who worked here and is located across the drive from the museum building and currently used as an Inn.

The museum building

After a visit inside the museum, our tram tour began at 1:00

Our tour guide has been volunteering here for 20 years.  His extensive knowledge of the park was evident.

Our first stop was at a cleared area where several orange trees were growing.  Oranges are not native to Florida and usually non-native species are removed.  The grove with the orange trees remain as a historical and culturally significant part of the park because one of the original settlers here cleared the land by hand, planted and tended this grove many years before it became a Park.  The tour guide pointed out the difference between clearing this size plot with today's equipment in a day, as compared to hand cutting the thick vegetation, digging out roots, planting trees, and keeping out other vegetation.  Probably an entire season of work.

This live oak is reported to be over 900 years old.  Much of the tree is dead, however, there is one large branch, jutting out of the old broken top that is alive and thriving.  They are hoping to get another couple of hundred years out of the tree!

This section is called the  Pine Flatwoods.  Apparently much of Florida was covered with this type of habitat.  The sandy soil supported a couple of dozen pine per acre, and frequent lightning started fires kept other vegetation from becoming established.  Today prescribed burns help to maintain this natural ecosystem.

There were multiple live bird and reptile exhibits as we traveled along Charlie Bowlegs Creek

Black Crowned Night Heron

Many Red Bellied Slider Turtles

An American Bittern gave us a great view of his beautifully striped chest.

Mamma alligator catching some sun

This old alligator nest was active last season.  You can see by the isle chain on the tram how close to the road she built her nest.

Another day we biked the three mile paved loop road, which has nine, 30 minute walking trails scattered at different points along the road.  We took the time to hike two of these trails.  This Young Hammock trail allowed a look at how the habitat changes when the normal cycles of fire are prevented.

Pine is being overgrown by palm and other scrub species.

Another beautiful cypress swamp boardwalk.  I never get tired of seeing these trees.

Cypress throughout the swamp have the classic "knees" which lend support to the giant trees.  I have never seen a "knee" incorporating the boardwalk into its habitat.

This central Florida park should be on everyone's must see list.

The next day we visited Chuck and Julie at their RV site.

Marlin and Julie relaxing (and later napping) in the lounge chairs.

Another great dinner served by Julie.  We will stop to see them again after we visit Naples.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Edisto Beach State Park, SC

Before heading toward Charleston we noticed a South Carolina State Park just south of the City and decided to give it a try.  Turned out to be a great idea. We arrived at Edisto Beach State Park around 3:00 to sun and temperatures in the 70's.  Just what we needed. 

All the sites were clean, spacious, and private.  Wide roads wound through stands of thick live oak and palmetto palm, with glimpses of an extensive salt marsh just beyond each numbered spot.

Lots of available places during the week.

A small glimpse of the marsh from the back on our spot. The Live Oak campground where we are, is adjacent to an extensive salt marsh.  A second campground, called the Beach campground, is on the Atlantic Ocean.  However it is closed at this time due to substantial damage from Hurricane Matthew last October.

Unfortunately, the only bird sighting we had that afternoon was a decaying wing from a great blue heron

The next morning we unloaded our bicycles and rode about a half mile to the rental cottages.  These seven cabins were built by the CCC in the 1930's and have been well maintained.

Five of the cabins are 1 bedroom, sleeping up to 4; and two cabins have three bedrooms and sleep 6.

Each of the seven rentals has a screened-in porch looking out on the marsh side, with a picnic table and fire pit just outside the door.

Behind the buildings there is a fishing dock reaching out into Scott Creek that runs through the marsh

Posted on each of the rental cabins

After lunch we drove down to the beach area for a look at the beach campsites and to have our first beach walk of the season.  We love to walk on the southern beaches in the winter.  They seem to run for miles and we usually are all by ourselves.

The beach was covered with millions of oyster shells.  Made me understand why one of the local attractions is a huge 2000 year old shell midden created by the Edisto Native Americans.  It also made me wonder if this collection of shells was a part of the damage done by hurricane Matthew. There must be some amazing oyster beds along this coast.

The road to the beach camping area was closed, but as we walked down the beach this was our first look at the sites.  Looked like most of the beach sand dunes ended up covering where RV's once parked

Predicted reopening is for September 2017.

This is the rear of the bathhouse.  I suspect there was substantial damage at this building

Roadside view.  of the bathhouse.

An interesting historical note about Edisto Beach State Park occurred in 1956 during the beginnings of  the Civil Rights struggle.  At that time, South Carolina State Parks excluded admission to blacks. When a black family requested, and was denied, entry to the park, the Charlotte chapter of the NAACP filed a suite against the State Park system.  The State's response was to close ALL the State Parks for the next 7 years making the law suit useless.    South Carolina Parks were legally integrated in 1966.

 Our visit here ended earlier than we planned.  The weather report was for the temperatures to drop into the mid to low 20's, with freezing rain possible, Our better judgement encouraged us to move much further south and to do it before we had to take out our long underwear!. That includes skipping all the Wild Life Refuges along the Georgia coast we planned to investigate.