Thursday, March 19, 2015

Beverly Hills–Not California, Florida!

While planning my time in Florida I read about the Crystal River area and decided that I wanted to visit.  I ended up staying at Sandy Oaks RV resort in Beverly Hills from Feb 5 – Feb 14, it was mostly Snow Birds but was ok.  The spots in the back were best, but of course I was in the front!

While there I wanted to ride the Withlacoochee State Trail.  The trail was only about 1/2 mile from where I was staying, but I didn’t want to ride to it as it was on a busy road.  I ended up riding it twice, once from the Inverness Trailhead and once from the trailhead just down from my RV park. It was a nice trail.

While there I learned about another trail, the Withlacoochee Bay Trail.  While this trail was fairly short (5 – 6 miles one way – depending on if you took the new 1 mile stretch), I really enjoyed it.  I went twice and rode it twice each time, so I got a good 20 – 24 mile ride in each time.  This trail runs along the side of the old Cross Florida Barge Canal.  For a while it is right beside the canal, then switches with a dirt road and goes thru the “scenic maritime hammock and salt marsh habitats”.  (I took this from a website about the trail).  One of the trips I wanted to stay beside the canal so I rode the dirt road and it was great.  Below is my bike on the dirt road beside the canal. And then scenery from the trail.




Below is the pavilion at the end of the trail. It ends at the Gulf of Mexico, so was a great place to relax.


On one of my visits, I watched some dolphins swim in and briefly up the canal.



In December, I got a new camera – a Lumix FZ-1000.  While it doesn’t quite have the zoom of my other camera it has some features I wanted  and is extremely fast.  One of the features is the panoramic shot. Below is the first time I had played with that setting.  This was taken from the pavilion at the end of the trail, with the canal on the right side and the Gulf of Mexico on left and center of the photo. 


Another panoramic shot, this one of the newer part of the trail. 


While in Beverly Hills, I took a boat ride on the Crystal River. It started by going by one of the mounds in the Crystal River Archaeological State Park.

bev_hills_crystal_river_archaeological state park

A small island --


We watched a couple of dolphins feeding --



One day, I was driving around just checking out the area and came across this --


It is a bit hard to read but the sign is another of those signs that I wonder about.  It says “Road Ends Here”, with an arrow pointing at where the water starts.  I would hope that any driver could see the road ends, but maybe some people need the sign!!

From here, I headed back to Fort Desoto in St. Petersburg. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Silver Springs State Park–Ocala, FL -

It’s still rainy in Summerdale, AL so I am working on catching up with my blog.  I stayed at Silver Springs State Park in late January and early February. 

The campground part of this state park used to be called Silver River State park, then in 1993 the state acquired Silver Springs (the touristy part), but it was operated privately until 2013 when the concessionaire gave it up.  Apparently the old Silver Springs had some zoo animals, a reptile farm, rides , vendors and anything to draw in tourist.  Also, the river now has a lot of algae on the bottom where it used to be white sand on the bottom.  Different groups (we saw some from a university) are working on the issue.  The state is working on cleaning everything up, bringing it back to a natural state.  I saw some reviews where people don’t like the new plan, but most appreciate what the state is doing. 

While here, I took the Glass bottom boat tour twice.  I took the longer tour that is only offered 3 times a week.  For me, the beauty was not thru the glass bottom of the boat, but the scenery and the wildlife.  

Many of the old Tarzan movies, the old TV show Sea Hunt, a Bond movie and many more TV shows and movies were filmed here.  We learned how Sea Hunt (with Lloyd Bridges and sons) was filmed on the river and made to look like the sea. 

silver_springs_boatWe saw many turtles -- silver_springs_turtlesThe Boat captain decided that I was a Bird expert (because I identified a few birds before he did) and I pointed out the Black Crowned Night Heron to him. (pictured below).  Unfortunately he tried to get a bit closer and he hit a Cypress knee which damaged the boat motor.  Luckily it was just some type of pin that he had spares for and had us back underway in about 10 minutes.  silver_springs_black_crown_night_heronsilver_springs_boat_problems

In 1938 6 Rhesus monkeys were released for tourist reasons and have gone wild.  There are estimates of 500 – 2000 (depending on who you listen to) of these monkeys now in Florida.  A couple of different times they started capturing these monkeys due to concerns over diseases that they carry and the fact they are not native, but due to many complaints they quit doing that.  In 2013 there was an article in the New York Post with a heading “ Herpes infected monkies terrorize Florida”!   While I understand both sides of the controversy, it was fun seeing a few on one of my boat rides.  silver_springs_reese_monkey1silver_springs_reese_monkey2Scenery from the boat --silver_springs_scenery_2

Below are 3 statues that were left from the filming of a James Bond movie.  These are very near the main spring in Silver Springs.Silver_springs_bond_statues

I also hiked most of the trails in the State Park.  One of my favorite was Swamp Trail.  The first part of it was thru typical Florida foliage but near the end is a boardwalk over a swampy area and then a dock at the Silver River. 



The view from the end of the trail --


On my first visit, I saw a snake in the swampy area and after watching him several minutes a ranger came up.  He was there snake expert and had heard a large snake was hanging out in the area.   The lighting wasn’t very good and at first the ranger was very excited because he thought it was some type of Indigo snake that was rare for this area.  But after looking at my pictures he realized it was a Water Moccasin – a large one! I ended up seeing him each of the 3 times I hiked this trail, he liked wrapping around a tree. 


Yes, I was on the boardwalk when I took these photos.  He was probably 15 – 25 feet away from me.

I enjoyed this park as it had major shopping nearby in Ocala, places to bike and hike in the park, a paved bike trail about 15 minutes away and a nice quiet campground. 

Next I headed to Beverly Hills!!  That’s Beverly Hills, Florida not California!!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Lake Louisa State Park–Clermont ,FL

Just a note, I mentioned on my last blog that I would attempt to catch up on my blog during the rain.  Well that was supposed to be while I was at Grayton Beach, but it ended up not raining as much as they predicted.  So I ended up spending more time at the beach that at  my computer.  But I am currently at the Escapees Park in Summerdale, AL and it is raining!

In Late January, I spent a week at Lake Louisa State Park.   Most days I walked 4 miles and biked.  There were hills in the park, a rare thing in Florida.  They were not huge, but enough that I could tell when biking.   I am not good at hills and felt it was good for me!

Below is one of the lakes I passed on my morning walks (not Lake Louisa).


One day, I went to the Crooked River Preserve which is on the North side of Lake Louisa.  It had rained a good bit and part of the trail was under water so I had to backtrack a little bit, but I enjoyed it anyway.

Trail shot--


Sink hole – -- lake_louisa_sp_crooked_river_3I think this is a Ring-necked Duck --lake_louisa_sp_crooked_river_4

I have always liked looking at water leaves.  I want to call them lily pads, but I know not all “water leaves” are lily pads.  Anyway, the day I was there it was very windy and the leaves on the water would flip up almost like a stadium doing the wave! Below is one leaf waving!lake_louisa_sp_crooked_river_5


A couple of days, I drove to the Van Fleet trail to ride my bike.  This trail is known for being extremely straight, on the entire 29 mile trail there are no hills and only 1 or 2 curves.  I biked about 30 miles (15 miles and turned around to ride back to the car) and never had to turn my bike except to turn around and turn to get to the car.  Part of the trail went through the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve.  I didn’t take too many pictures, but below is the straight trail with 2 deer crossing in front of me.  If interested in the trail, look at Top 10 bike trails in Florida, Van Fleet trail


The trail is quite remote and some people may not like it, but I really loved it!!  I have now ridden 6 of the 10 trails listed in the website above.  Florida is a great place for biking.

From here, I headed to Silver Springs State Park in Ocala, FL.  I will blog about that shortly as they are calling for more rain.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Bonita Springs, FL -

I ended up with reservations in Bonita Springs, FL at Bonita Lake RV Resort. Probably 90% of the people there were snowbirds and the sites were small.  I typically don’t mind this, but I didn’t really like this park.  Nothing bad, just nothing great. 

Somehow I messed up in my planning.  I had thought I was going to be at Fort DeSoto during the huge RV show in Tampa, but it was not until the following week.  So I drove up to the show from Bonita Springs.  I wanted to talk to the folks at Nexxus RV again and visit the vendors.  I did go in a few other RVs, more out of curiosity than thinking I might purchase them at some point. 


The first picture is of the vendor area.  I am glad I got there early as the crowds were already starting to build.  The second picture is – I don’t know what to call her- I suppose street entertainment.  I don’t go to these type of things for entertainment but they have several people walking around entertaining folks and a few bands.  I guess for those that stay all day they need a break.  For me, I was in and out in a couple of hours.  

One of the reason that I choose Bonita Springs was it was in between Sanibel Island and the Everglades.  I had to visit some of my favorite spots.  A couple of days, I went to Sanibel and biked (one day 32 miles), bird watched and sat by the beach.

Below is a Hooded Merganser.  I had seen one before, but never as close as on this trip.


Reddish Egretbonito_spring_san_reddish_egret

Tri-Color Heronbonito_springs_san_tri_color

Below is a juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron.  I finally learned the difference between this and a Yellow Crowned Night Heron.  This bird has a yellowish lower mandible (lower part of his bill).  A Yellow Crowned Night Heron has a black lower mandible.  So it is the opposite of what their name is! bonito_springs_san_juv_black_crwn


I don’t just bird watch, I like looking at most wildlife.  The photo above is a Black Mangrove Crab taken while at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

Another day I went to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.  I love not only the wildlife but the scenery as well.


Swamp Lily – -

bonito_springs_corkscrew_flowerRed Shouldered Hawk above his nest - bonito_springs_corkscrew_hawk (2)

Rainbow Bunting--bonito_springs_corkscrew_indigo (2)

Of course I had to visit Shark Valley at the Everglades while I was in South Florida.  I went twice, one day riding the pathway twice (30 miles).  The picture below was taken about 10 feet from where I parked my bicycle to visit the lookout tower.  This is a spot where I have seen alligators every time I am there.


Purple Gallinule -


Spoonbill -


From Bonita Springs, I headed north to Lake Louisa State Park.   I’ll try to blog about that in a couple of days.  I am currently in Grayton Beach State Park and they are calling for rain the next few days.  I will try to catch up during that time!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Fort DeSoto Park, St Petersburg - 74

Before I blog about my time at Fort DeSoto, I wanted to comment on a question that “Pleinguy” asked on my last blog.  He asked why I didn't camp at Paynes Prairie.  Since Florida campgrounds fill up during the winter, I have learned to make reservations both at private and public campgrounds. For state and county parks, I typically make reservations as soon as they open them up.  Some places open up reservations 6 months beforehand, some 11 months…   This year, my first reservation was Fort DeSoto.  I wasn’t sure exactly when I would leave Georgia so I didn’t have a reservation for the first few days of 2015 so that’s why I ended up at Ocala RV North in Reddick 

Now to Fort DeSoto --  As many of you know I really like Fort DeSoto, so I made 2 reservations for this winter!  My first visit was Jan 4 – 11. 

One day I woke up and heard a lot of birds.  Below is a picture of my site, with some of the birds behind it.  And then a closer shot. 


On that same day,  I went to Celery Fields in Sarasota to do some bird watching. 

Spoonbill -

ft_desoto_celery_fields_spoonbillSora – This is a bird I have never seen and most people at Celery Fields were excited to see it.  ft_desoto_celery_fields_soraGreen Heron --ft_desoto_celery_fields_green_heron

I don’t have many pictures of what I did most while at Fort DeSoto.  That was biking and walking.  I biked from 10 – 28 miles and walked 3 – 5 miles most days. 

There is a lagoon that I went to several times as it is known as a good bird watching spot.  Many birdwatchers go there, some amateurs like me and others with more professional looking equipment. (and willing to do more to get better pictures than me – see below)



This trip, the birds stayed as far away from me as they could get, but it was still fun.  Above is a Great Blue Heron, Spoonbill and a Reddish Egret.

One day while sitting outside reading I happened to look up and saw some dolphins.  What fun, to be sitting beside your home (in my case, my RV) and having such great wildlife visit.


From Fort DeSoto, I headed south to Bonita Springs.