It was mid November, 2016. Four months before this Lynda had applied for the Deland Art Festival. At the same time we snapped up a camp site at Blue Springs State Park as places to stay get few and far between during November. The park is about 15 min. from Deland so it would make a good place to stay for the festival. Unfortunately we didn’t get into the fair. They can host about 150 artists and about 300 applied. Big time prizes, so big time artists apply.
In any case, we had this reservation at the park, so we decided to go anyway. We’ve never been there before, but many people told us it was beautiful . It was a very nice park with a spring that runs out into the St. John’s river. It’s a popular dive spot as the spring itself is very deep. Manatees come into the spring in the winter as the water is warmer than the river. During the months that there are no manatees, you can swim in the spring, its a constant 73 degrees, brrr.
Blue Springs was popular place even in the past. Steamboats used to come here and after that trains. The family that owned it built up quite a trade. The area has lots of animals; manatees, turtles, birds, etc. You can go out on a tour boat or rent kayaks and canoes to go out on the St. John. It is a pleasant place to roam around. And the campsite has brand new bathrooms. What luxury!
There is one down side, a train passes by right next to the campsites about every four hours and toots it’s horn as it goes thru the rail crossing, even at 4 AM.
It is roughly a half hour to the beach, which like Daytona they can drive cars on. You can see Daytona Light across the estuary. Not the soft white sands of the west coast, but it’s a beach.
This is our view, it’s a prairie. It was about the end of October, so we decided to go out to Kissimmee Prairie State Park for a look see. It’s way off in the middle of the state, down an eight mile shell road, about 2.5 hrs from Tampa. More like Okeechobee, not Kissimmee, the K river just runs thru it. Not the best choice as it has been raining a lot lately and it is the full moon. K state Park is noted for its great night sky and trails. The trails were flooded out and we didn’t even see the moon until the last night, let alone the stars, too cloudy. Better to come here in the winter when it is clear and a new moon. This is the first time we’ve been in a state park that was basically deserted. I think there were only four other campers in the whole place. Very quiet needless to say. So we went looking for wildlife.
We did see a deer, there’s no hunting here so they walk unafraid thru the campgrounds. We saw wild turkeys, giant spiders, gopher tortoise, an otter, and the white throated Caracara. I roamed all over the trails looking for the Caracara and it appeared on the picnic table in the camp next to ours. Definitely a strange looking bird. Lots of flies here, not biting but a nuisance (this is a popular horse camping place) bring lots of bug spray. More photos on my site http://www.fishbourne.shutterfly.com
We are definitely going to come back in the winter when there is no moon and the trails are dry. It’s a 7 mile hike to the river down the military trail, might be do-able on a bike and I think you’d see a lot of interesting stuff. They do run a swamp buggy tour on weekends in the winter and holidays. Next Trip Oscar Scherer SP Nov.
We wanted to spend a little longer time at Fort Desoto, so back in January I made a reservation for 10 days, including a weekend. By spring you can’t get a weekend here to save your life, but in January – No Problem. We got #209 again, right on the bay, there are no sites over on the beach. As usual you can blow up all of these pictures by double clicking on them.
We brought the cat and he did fine for the week, except for tearing up the upholstery in the settee area. He is settling down but we did take him home after a week as he seemed to be getting bored,
We basically loaded everything we owned, except for the kayaks so it would be a real test of how we would survive in a small space. After the first few nights it hardly rained at all. One of the things about florida is the evening thunderstorms. Not a big problem as it does cool everything off.But you do have to put everything away otherwise it gets soaking wet. One storm came up so fast that Lynda could just barely collect up all of her art pages she had laying out drying on the table before it hit.
We went back on Monday to pick up the printer’s proof on my cookbook. It’s my first so we really wanted to see what it looked like. If you’re interested its up on Amazon. Just look for “Small Foods” by Bill Fishbourne. Printed version only right now but I should have the Kindle one up later this week. Kindle’s kind of a pain to work with and I had to reformat the whole book.
Here’s the cover
This is one recipe. There are about 25 in the book.
Through judicious use of the grey water tank we did manage to spend the 10 days without dumping the tank until the very end. But we did notice some material going out that looked like slices of bread. I can only imagine that it was fungus growing in the tank. We’re using Odorloss in the tank but I think we’re going to have to take more severe steps in the future.
There was a lot of wildlife around and some brilliant sunsets. More on my photo site http://www.fishbourne.shutterfly.com
2014 Koreshan State Historic Site
We did about a 2.5 hour run down 75 south to the Koreshan camp grounds. I checked the tongue weight on Minnie and found it was about 850 lbs. more than enough so that it wasn’t the cause of any sway. So we loaded up the back end of Minnie to reduce some of the tongue weight and see how that worked out.
The run down was excellent. Our goal for this trip was to visit the Corkscrew Swamp, miles of wooden walks which run thru the Corkscrew Swamp just east of Naples. We expected to see lots of swamp but we were surprised to see all of the wildlife as well; gators, birds, raccoons, snakes, etc. It wasn’t really buggy yet but give it a month or so and it will be swarming with mosquitoes and biting flies. I was nabbed a couple of times by deer flies.
We are camping at the Koreshan site so we did drop over to see what it was about. The Koreshans were a religious sect that formed in the 1890’s. They believed that the earth was hollow, etc. and they practiced celibacy. At its best there were about 200 of them here in FL. Needless to say the last of them died in the sixties, leaving the 300 acres to the state. We shot a mess of pictures of the old buildings etc. and there are a ton of imported trees. Worth a visit if you were already here.
The camp ground is nice, fairly wide sites with foliage between each one. Lots of trees, we have an ear tree right over us and it drops these hard seed pods about three inches long and shaped like an ear. They weigh about 1/2 ounce, when they hit the top of the trailer from way up in the tree you can really hear it! We have the awning out not for the weather but to keep all of the tree flowers off the sitting area. Bath rooms are clean and serviceable but showing their age, showers definitely need floor re-grouting.
We took a run down to Lover’s Key a nice beach a little south of Fort Myers. It’s about 2 miles long. Typical south west Florida beach, hard white sand, lots of shells. I found a couple of shark’s teeth. We also went to Estero Bay Preserve. Not much there it’s really just a birding trail. There’s another one of these just a block or two north of Koreshan. It looks as though there was a good sized state park there once with a parking lot and entrance booth, but it’s all crumbled down now and just a birding trail. Guess the state needs to find some money to develop this park.
You can see more flics on my website http://www.fishbourne.shutterfly.com
We decided to expand our typical run so far by almost double. To date Gainesville had been the furthest we had traveled, so we decided 250 miles to Ft. Clinch would be do-able. We wanted to see how we would feel after 4-5 hours of towing. The drive did go very well although we did discover that we need to be more selective about gas stations we stop at. Many gas stations are designed for small cars and maneuvering 50 feet of truck and trailer thru one can be challenging. We were looking for a pull thru type pump and the Shell station we pulled into had one, it unfortunately was not working. We learned the hard way that the trailer just doesn’t follow the truck’s path but can pivot on it’s own axles. You do need to make very wide turns. We ran a foul of one of those protective pipes they put around the pumps and managed to scrape Minnie’s side.The white paint wiped off with a little solvent but I will have to bang out a small crease in the slide out’s bottom edge. Luckily we never bought the all aluminum Airstream we were lusting for. That would have wound up as about $8000 in damage probably. Next time we’ll just keep going till we find a bigger gas station or truck stop.
Fort Clinch State Park sits on the Florida/Georgia border about as far North as you can go in the state of Florida. Getting here involves some tight turns on back streets in Fernandina and it’s easy to miss the entrance. In general it’s a nice park with huge over hanging oaks on the roads (really tall RVs might have to watch those branches or good bye A/C! We decided to stay in the river campground vs the beach. There are no shade trees on the beach one and it looks more like a parking lot than an RV site. The sites there are very close with no vegetation and in the full sun. In the summer it has to get very hot there. There is some standing water back in the river sites so I imagine it is crawling with mosquitoes in the warm months. You need to watch the length of your site as some are short. Ours was 35 feet but we wound up with the bike rack right up against the fence. One thing about this camp ground that is really great, it gets the award for best bathrooms! They are brand new, extremely clean, heated and A/C’d! Closed doored so no mosquitoes or tons of hanging spider webs.
Thursday night, the high winds and rain had finally ended but I kept waking up to what sounded like highway sounds, that low roar you hear when you are too close to a highway. And I thought I heard train whistles and the clickity clack of train wheels. We finally figured out the next day that the noises were coming from the wood processing plant (paper?) up the river in Fernandina. If we were in a tent I’d have never gotten to sleep. Below are some more photos of Fort Clinch, lots more on my website http://www.fishbourne.shutterfly.com
We’d been horribly sick for the previous five weeks with a severe chest cold. It was similar in many ways to Pneumonia but without the fever. We decided we needed a trip to the beach and I’d been planning to reshoot the forts on Egmont key. So we went back to Ft. DeSoto. Click on any photo to see it full size. Many more on our website http://www.fishbourne.shutterfly.com
I brought Minnie from the trailer lot on Friday as we had to install an awning over the bump out. We’d had a leak during a rainstorm at Payne’s, seems that a stick the size of a pencil got stuck between the two wiper seals on top despite my being very careful to clean off the slideout before pulling it back in everytime. I also added another seal inside, hopefully this cures the problem. I inflated the tires, cleaned the roof and replaced most of the incandescent bulbs with LEDs. Sunday we headed off to Ft. DeSoto and we had a site on the water for a change.
I’d shot pictures of the forts on Egmont about eight years ago. using film, so I wanted to go back and do it digitally. You take a ferry over from Mullet Key (Ft. DeSoto) to Egmont Key (Ft. Dade). The two forts sit on either side of the main ship channel into Tampa. In 1898 when war with Spain broke out, the forts were built to protect Tampa. There are dozens of these forts across Florida, some dating back to the Spanish. Supposedly Spain had a huge modern navy and army to attack the US with, but they never came. So when the war with Spain seemed a possibility, we built huge forts to protect the country. Ft. DeSoto had eight 12″ mortars (four are still there, four were shipped to San Diego in 1917) they could fire an exploding shell out to 6 miles. Ft. Dade had five batteries, one with two 6″ guns (shipped to France in 1917 for WWI) another with two 8″ guns and the rest with rapid firing high calibre cannons (most melted down for scrap). Two of these guns are over at Ft. DeSoto now. Additionally, Ft. Dade controlled a mine field that stretched across the channel to Ft. DeSoto. At one time there were 300 people living on Ft. Dade. A formidable defense that never fired a shot in anger. Ft. DeSoto has been kept in good repair, but Ft. Dade is crumbling into infinity. Egmont had a dark side, in the late 1850’s, captured Seminoles were held there until they could be shipped off to Oklahoma.
The island is washing away, it’s only half as wide as it was in 1900. The indians and others have petitioned the state to save it but it would take millions to correct the damage. In another hundred years the island will be gone. One park ranger lives there, everyone else must be off by nightfall.
So there are lots of crumbling concrete buildings to shoot. It took me about four trips the last time to get everything, but I knew where it all was now, so I figured a day or two. We packed up a lunch and a beach chair for Lynda and headed out. She would enjoy the unspoiled beach and I would roam the island. The ferry arrives at 11 AM and leaves at 2:30 PM so I had to work fast. Luckily it was a pleasant winter day, not too hot or too cold, just right for a long hike. I shot a bunch of panoramas with my Nikon P510 and tons of shots with my D5100. There were also lots of tortoises and Osprey. You can see them on my website http://www.fishbourne.shutterfly.com Enjoy.