Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Winter in Florida - Headed North

Dorothy in the mangrove tunnel going from Coot Pond to Coot Lake


OK, finally I see that at least one mangrove resembles a man




On the way north from the lower keys we “discovered” Curry Hammock CG. It is one of the best CG in the nation. We may try to get a spot there next year.

We decided to hole up in Flamingo for the weekend. In addition to it being a nice CG for $8 a night, we wanted to be warm for a few more days. Our camping chums have been here for a few days and are headed north in tomorrow. However, there are two other Lazy Daze here.

As we headed out for a hike Friday, a third Lazy Daze appeared at the entrance. We saw SC1 on the front and knew it was George and Betty from Texas that we met on the Baja trip last year. So for the next two nights we had the Everglades GTG with them and Howard and Carol from Maryland.

Sunday we left Flamingo for a LONG five-hour drive north to Lake Kissimmee. About 2, we passed Fisheating Creek, which had been recommended to us, but we pressed on. After stopping to grocery shop we finally arrived at the CG, really drained.

We took the inland route, US27, from south Florida. The first hours are through some of the most boring landscape invented by man. It’s totally altered from the way it was created. From Florida City north it’s all row crops. Then you enter an area where all the trees are dead from too much salt. As you near the south end of Lake Okeechobee, dead trees are replaced by sugar cane. The lake has a tall berm so it can hold more water than Nature intended. The berm was added to ensure there will be adequate water for sugar cane cultivation. This means that water intended for the Everglades is diverted to crops. When you consider that sugar in the US is three times the world price thanks to tariffs to keep foreign sugar out, you might wonder why. Well it’s to support a handful of families who make substantial donations to both political parties.

Around Frostproof, FL you exit sugar cane and enter a much more interesting landscape; orange groves mixed with massive pastures full of cattle.

The beaches around Ft. Myers and Naples are stunning. The color of the water in the Keys is incredible. The large wading birds are a delight to see. The winter climate is kind to not getting any younger people. But, otherwise south Florida is a bore.

Tuesday - Back on the road. We turned a 3.5 hour drive in a six hour trip by stopping to shop every few miles. The treasure I wanted, Ardbeg whisky, was not found.

We landed in O’Leno SP and plan on putting the yaks in the river tomorrow.

The 5PM temperature is 62.

We paddled the Ichetucknee River. These Indian names gets a bit tedious don’t they? Anywho, the source of the Ichetucknee is a first-magnitude “Blue Spring”. Within a mile of the origin, two more springs contribute water. This whole area of Florida has dozens of “Blue Springs”. The water is crystal clear. The bottom is white quartz. It’s a delightful area and I am glad to be back where some things are green, even in Winter.

The Ichetucknee River

Thursday, we headed west to Camel Lake, a Forest Service CG near the Apalachicola River. It is one of the best FS facilities we have seen. It’s on a small lake way back in the pines. The grounds are immaculate. There is water at the campsite, plus hot showers for $5. We opted for electric for an additional $5. We even have analog TV and Verizon service. Life is good. And we are in easy driving of Panama City where we will jump to next.

The 5PM temperature is 69.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Winter in Florida - Everglades & The Keys

The ranger-guided tour of the Turner River was OK. It was a little too long for us. Dorothy wanted to go through the mangrove tunnel, we did and she liked it. She did manage to complain that she had trouble paddling the yak after she had to break the paddle in half to negotiate the narrow channel.

On the Turner River




The Everglades

Thursday, we drove 90 minutes south to Long Pine Key in the Everglades. Long Pines are the skinny slash pines that are semi-resistant to high winds.

Our camping chums the Dan & Rene and Terry and Betty were already there, just back from the Keys and ready to hike every trail and photograph every bird and alligator. More alligators and wading birds! Big whoop. I need a mountain! The highest point here is five feet.

Blue Eyed Bird

Blue Heron







Barred Owl





It warmed up. Now it hot and sticky, like home in July.
We drove down to Flamingo and enjoyed lunch on the beach under a tree. It was cooler than the CG and we had a fine shore breeze.

When traveling, we find it important to understand the local culture. South Florida is not Iowa. Two examples.

A Latino family was parked a few spaces down from us and had the requisite number of latinoettes playing with the family dog. Grandmother supervised the mama, poppa and the little ones. When the dog did #2, grandmother walked over and bent down - not to scoop up, but to wipe the dog’s ass.

In sunny south Florida a lot of what we eat is grown. This means there is a large population of farm workers, whose skin is brown. So it makes sense that there is a park named Benito Juarez complete with a bust of him. Senor Juarez was the first Mexican to serve as President and is regarded as Mexico’s most illustrious leader. So it is logical to honor him with a park in Florida. I’ll bet Mexico has parks honoring George Washington and George Bush.

Sunbathing on TOP of the RV????





The Keys

Monday we drove down the Overseas Highway to Mile Marker 27, Ramrod Key, to see Ralph and Mary Ann. They have an exceptionally delightful and comfortable home on the water. The weather is perfect for doing not much of anything, one of our fav activities. The temp is in the low 80’s and with brisk breeze. I have discovered that watching the wind blow palm fronds produces considerable quantities of exceptionally pure tranquility. The Keys are better than I recalled. So many properties are for sale. Buy a piece of heaven with the little you have left.

We drove south Tuesday looking for a put-in site on the lee side of the road. Did not find one. Wound up in KW. Cruise ship at dock. Very crowded. Escaped.

We went to a local Tiki bar, The Boondocks, last night to see a local band Mile Marker 24, which is the next key down. They have a devoted following, young and old. The lead singer dresses in island garb, a la Buffett. http://www.milemarker24.com/

Today, the wind laid down in the afternoon and I took one of the hosts yak’s out for a short paddle. Upwind was slow, but I just let her drift back and she found her own patch on the beach.

We will head back to the Everglades and overnight there, before continuing north. We are expected in Panama City March 1.

A delightful place to be

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Winter turns warm

Sunday, we drove back towards Ft. Myers and paddled the Orange River. Nothing really spectacular, except for the manatees that love the warm water from the power plant. It was good exercise in a pleasant setting.

On Monday, our camping chums bailed from Ortuna to go to the Everglades. They have the hiking addiction. We decided to stay out our nine day reservation at Ortuna. The wind never abated so we never got to paddle the coastal islands. But we stayed warm with electric heat and watched four movies. One, Appaloosa was actually first-class. Anywho we spent a lazy week doing almost nothing.

Sunday we drove two hours southeast to Big Cypress Preserve. Finally, the Florida landscape changed from orange groves and cattle to the more appealing “swamp”.

Monday morning we went Shark Valley and got on the tram with all of the other cheesy tourists for a 17 mile trip through the Everglades. First, there are no sharks. They do have boo-coo alligators and wading birds. The alligators lay on the road the tram and bikers take. A good feeding place I suppose. I was disappointed not to see a gator gulp down a French biker. And so it goes.

Ranger showing you cannot sink into the marsh because of the limestone base

Blue Heron seeking lunch

Gators sunning

What the Everglades look like in the Winter

Mommy gator with kiddies

Tuesday we drove to Everglades City. What a bust. Dorothy wanted a seafood lunch. I balked at $30 plus for a sandwich and drink. Dorothy sulked. She wants to run over Nancy Pelosi. Who wouldn’t?

Wednesday we take the ranger guided yak trip. We are looking forward to that.