It feels good to be on the road again after four months of sitting still. I was rarely still mind you, but “The Beast” was… sitting in the shade of a big oak tree that dropped things on her constantly, (acorns, tufts of spanish moss, twigs and even limbs at times, not to mention the dust and pollen) and was home to a lot of birds who dropped things on her too! And although I walked Jazzy and Sadie several times a day, they spent a fair bit of time waiting patiently for me to return from a water excursion that did not include them. They clearly share my joy to be on the road again, not to mention the new trails and scents to be found along the way. As the miles disappear beneath me though, my melancholy mind draws me back to my memories of Florida.
Of all the states I’ve been through on my journey, Florida has seen the most of me. One month last spring, and four months this winter and early spring add up to a little more than a quarter of my time out here. I’ve already written about Florida nine times. (see My Favorite Places Revisited for quick links to all of them) You would think I’d run out of things to share, but the experiences just kept coming.
My new friends Glen and Gwen, and their “Gulf to Lake Paddlers” group, got me out on Rainbow River a second time. It was interesting to see how springtime had changed the landscape in the two weeks since we had been there. Many of the birds even acted differently. I’d never tire of the unique and diverse variety of birds in Florida, especially along the waterways.
I was fortunate to get my daughter, Elissa, out to visit me twice while camped in Florida. We enjoyed some day trips, including Tarpon Springs and Cedar Key. And although she was a little reluctant at first, I got her out kayaking along Halls and Homosassa Rivers, and ultimately out on the Weeki Wachee. There’s no doubt she enjoyed both adventures immensely!
We were also treated to a private stroll along the Three Sisters Springs boardwalk with my friend Kathy. This was shortly before the warmer weather took most of the manatee back out into the Gulf.
One thing about staying camped in one place for awhile, it’s easier to build friendships with the people I meet. That was the case with Trish and RD Daniels, and their friend Jim. Trish and RD (neighbors in the campground) invited me to join them for a day trip to the Clearwater Beach area to visit their friend Jim. We had a marvelous time taking a ferry out to Caladesi Island where we strolled the beach for quite some time, talking and plucking seashells from the sand, followed by a sunset dinner on Clearwater Beach.
Another outing, this time to Crystal River and Three Sisters Springs, with my “Gulf to Lake Paddlers” friends. I’m really going to miss this gang!
And days before I rolled out of Homosassa/Crystal River area my wonderful friends Gwen and Glen took me out for a fishing excursion on the Gulf. I managed to catch a two Spotted Sea Trout and two Mackerel. I gave the Mackerel to friends, but made a couple of yummy meals out of the Trout. We spotted a few bald eagle on the way back up Crystal River. Such magnificent birds!
Four months after my arrival in Homosassa, it was finally time to go. I found myself having to go through a mental checklist before hitting the road. The important things that had become so routine felt oddly new to me again, for a few minutes anyway… secure everything that can slide or fall while mobile, awning in, patio chairs and grill stowed, slides in, jacks up, unhook utilities, clean and stow same, program GPS, dogs in, steps up, break off, take a good look in every direction and take a big WIDE turn out of campsite, find a spacious place to pull over and park, run back for the car, hook up, run through all the gears and let it idle in neutral for 3 minutes, put her in AUX mode, hop behind the wheel of The Beast, buckle up and hit the road with plenty of water, good tunes and a smile!!!
At the recommendation of my friend Jim at Nature’s I made one last stop before leaving the state… Ochlockonee River State Park. This is a small but beautiful park just south of Sopchoppy Florida, home of the Worm Gruntin’ Festival. I got such a kick out of this (and the fact that I’d missed it by a couple days) that I had to stop and ask a local to clue me in. Worm grunting is a technique used for bringing earthworms (bait) to the surface. The “grunters” pound a wooden rod into the ground and rub a metal flatiron back and forth across the top of it. The vibration either gets them excited or drives the worms crazy, but it brings them to the surface.
This park is well known for their unusual White Squirrels which weren’t running around in abundance like the others, but I did manage to find a few.
While camped here I dropped my kayak in the water for a 7.5 mile solo adventure on a loop up the Ochlockonee River, down the twists and turns of Bear Creek, and back up the river to the campground. It was a hot, muggy afternoon, but the exercise felt good and I enjoyed the peacefulness and critters along the way.
This Osprey, carrying a rather sizable branch, reminded me of the endless walks I took with the dogs while camped in Homosassa. I was amazed to watch Osprey flying above the treetops and snapping off brittle branches to use in their nests.
At the recommendation of the park ranger I took a side trip to Wakulla Springs State Park and did their boat ride. It’s the only way to see most of this beautiful bit of waterway since they don’t allow any other boats on the water within the park, and there are no trails along the water. Because of this there’s an abundance of wildlife. Lots of alligator, turtles and of course all the birds I’ve grown to love. I also visited St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, a vast haven for Florida’s critters.
Florida was a special place for me in many ways. The waterways, especially those that can’t be accessed by motorboat, were absolutely stunning. And as I’ve mentioned, I’m a big fan of the birds found throughout the state. What I’ll remember most about Florida though is the wonderful new friends I met there. There are far too many of you to name here, but I know you know who you are. I want YOU to know that you will all be a part of my treasured memories as I travel down the road.
***Note, for those of you who are unaware, I’ve finally created a Journey In Focus Facebook page where you will find more frequent tidbits as I travel. Feel free to go there, and if you’d like, you can “like” it. https://www.facebook.com/JourneyInFocus Remember also that you can sign up for email notifications when I post here by clicking on the mail icon at the top of my home page. And feel free to leave your comments here! I always enjoy hearing from y’all!