Friday, January 27, 2012

Hiking, Biking, and Kayaking

We spent last weekend at Ross Prairie Campground. This campground is located near Dunnellon, FL and is part of the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenways.

The campground is small (14 or so sites) with two camp hosts and caters mainly to the equestrian camper. All of the sites are pull-thru and ours (12) needed no blocks for leveling!  It was a quiet campground and the view out our front door was pretty!

The skies at sunset were nice too!
I always called these "cotton candy" skies when my kids were little!

One of the campground hosts told us that the Cross Florida Greenway was originally intended as a canal that was supposed to run from the Gulf to somewhere near St. Augustine. The state started the work on the canal but, for some reason, it was never finished. He said that people were afraid that the bottom part of Florida would end up floating away! When the canal work ceased, all of the land was turned into greenways.

It’s definitely not a “destination” campground but it does have some nice trails and we took the opportunity to hike the Ross Prairie Loop. It was a 3.5 mile trail that was part wooded and part prairie.

Heading out on the trail....

Love those saw palmettos!

Looking out on the prairie 

Sun peeking thru the trees!

Ferns growing out of this bentover tree

Saturday we got on the Harley for a day trip to Cedar Key.

We wanted to do some exploring and it was a beautiful day for a ride. We stopped along the way to eat lunch at Cedar Key Museum State Park. 

Our view during our picnic lunch!
We didn’t explore the park too much as we decided to stay on Cedar Key for the month of March. This would give us plenty of time to explore without rushing. Cedar Key reminded me a little bit of Ocracoke, NC as it’s a small beach town.

On Sunday, we headed to Rainbow Springs State Park. Rainbow Springs is one of Florida’s largest springs and is a National Natural Landmark. It’s a very beautiful place to visit but beware of the directions should you decided to camp!  The campground is not very well marked and is in a different spot than the head spring as well as the tubing entrance.

We were meeting our friends Bill and Nancy there for a few days to hike and bike. We got set up quickly and headed over to see them. They were out paddling but, later that day, we met up with them. It was good to catch up and we enjoyed a campfire with them that night. Dan and Nancy kept on hearing an armadillo close by but he never made an appearance in front of us.

Monday we decided to head out on a bike ride. Nancy and Bill had told us about Rails to Trails which is where former railroad lines are turned into paved biking trails. There are trails all over the US so we are going to have to keep this in mind for future reference!!   We packed up the bikes, water bottles, and our picnic lunch and headed out to the Gulf Junction Trailhead of the Withlacoochee State Trail.

The crew before we headed out....

We started out on the trail not knowing exactly how far we were going to pedal! The weather was beautiful and the conversation great. We did have a bit of a headwind and the trail was mostly flat with a few up-hill grades.

Along the way, we saw orange trees….

Some “wildlife”….

And something very interesting that reminded us of our friends Laura and Gail!!

We pedaled pass the South Citrus Springs Trailhead and pedaled into a county park for a lookey-loo!  Back on the trail, we pedaled some more and eventually stopped for lunch. We were quite hungry after all of that pedaling!

Finally, we made it to the Inverness Trailhead. Who-hoo!

The area was gorgeous and we took the opportunity for some pictures (and it was a nice place to rest!).

Bill, Dan and their turtle friends!

We tried to get a group photo with Nancy’s camera but she could never make it back to us before the timer went off! We laughed so hard but she was such a good sport about it.

There was a also a very nice tribute to 9/11 at Inverness Park.…

After riding around the park for a bit, we started back. Along the way, Dan and Bill got into a pedaling competition and that gave Nancy and I a good chuckle. Dan also wanted to “feel” how fast 20mph was on a bike so off they went again.
Are they discussing the plan???
Pedal, pedal, pedal we go….for some reason, the wind changed and it was in our faces! Ugh! Dan says that the wind always changes direction whenever we paddle or hike so that it is always in our face! I think he is right.

We were counting down the miles back to where we started. By the time we were finished, we had pedaled 33.33 miles! Double who-hoo! We were tired but very invigorated. Dan and I then fessed up that typically don’t bike more than 10 miles a day. Haha - good thing we weren’t sore the day after our long ride!

On the way back to the campground, we decided to stop by the head springs of Rainbow River and walk around the grounds. The flowers were in bloom (not used to seeing Azaleas in January!) and it made for a very gorgeous walk.  The pictures just don't do it the justice it deserves!!


The Seminole Water Fall was nice too even though it was man-made….

But the Rainbow Water Fall (also man-made) was dry……

We said our “good-nights” at the headspring as we were all too pooped for a campfire!

Tuesday we headed out to kayak the Rainbow River. After a smooth launch, we paddled up the river to the head springs. No trolling motor this time!  The scenery was beautiful and we kept saying how serene and tranquil it was.  "Serene" and "tranquil" seem to becoming my favorite words lately.  I am just in awe of nature!

On one side of the river, there were houses….

And on the other side, it was wooded. We saw some birds along the way……


Beautiful Green Heron

and some river otters too! Even though we attempted to get closer to them for a picture, they were very elusive!  But, alas! Nancy made this fine discovery for us.....

Take me there, Captain!
Look at the beautiful Wood Duck on the left!
I think that Nancy said she took 100 pictures of him....I took about 20!  In some of the ones I took, it looks like his head is separated from his body!!

The bird that is on the right looked like he was giving us the cold shoulder in this picture below!!

We had spent quite a bit of time at the head spring trying to figure out exactly WHERE all that water was coming from. Dan was very curious….

We think he got it figured out!!
It is said that 600,000,000 gallons of water come up from the headspring each day!!  It is so hard to fathom that as there is not too much of a current!

We finished our paddle on the Rainbow River and enjoyed a few more conversations with Bill and  Nancy later that day.  It sure was good seeing them!  We wished them safe travels and bid them a "see you down the road".  I'm sure that our paths will cross again!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Monkey see; monkey do!

Silver River was one of the Florida state parks that I had on my "wish list".  Since I'm the one in charge of picking campgrounds, I made sure that we got the chance to visit this one!!

We were in site 25; nice large site; no trees hanging in our way and level!  What more could you ask for?  And, it looked like we had some really cool neighbors.

Scooby mobile
This reminded me of the van that was in all of the Scooby Doo cartoons!  We ended up chatting with the couple and they are from Canada.  They spend a few months every winter in Florida to escape the cold.  It may be small but it's home to them!!

We knew that the walk to the boat landing was a bit far to carry the kayak so Dan went to work building a set of wheels....
How does he come up with all these ideas?!!

A slight modification to the trolling motor was also in order....

Ta-dah!  The finished products.
After using the wheels twice, McGyver decided that he is going to be making another set of wheels that will be multi-functional!  Our "basement" is getting a bit crowded as we currently have three wheel carts!!  (This one, a cart to haul wood and a cart to haul my laundry basket.)  Lowe's is really liking us lately!

Time to launch the boat....I admit that I was more than just a itsy bit nervous about paddling with the gators.  Our friend Nancy calmed my nerves via email but I was still a scaredy cat!!
Boat launch at Silver River State Park
We decided to head downstream as word was that the monkeys were not too far away.

Our view as we head downstream... 

Beautiful scenery!

Mother Nature at her finest

Crystal clear water
This was our first time paddling in a spring and were in awe of the clarity of the water.  You could see fish and turtles swimming right beside the kayak.  We meandered down the river taking in all of the scenery.  Birds were everywhere!  I'm still learning the names of many of them and am sure it will take some tine to master this! eyes were scanning left to right in search of alligators and monkeys.  Finally.....they were heard before they were seen...
From what I understand, the monkeys were brought to the area by an individual (Colonel Tooey) who was offering "jungle cruises".  Apparently he thought it would be more jungle-y if there were monkeys along the river.    So....bring in a few rhesus monkeys and 70-80 years later, you can see their descendents along the Silver River.  There have actually been attempts to remove the monkeys from the area but they keep on returning.  Their average life span is only four years.

We were fascinated with the monkeys but also did not want to get too close.  There was another boat near us that had people on it that were tossing cut-up oranges to the monkeys. 
I'm so cute but where are the oranges?
Any oranges in here?

Ah-ha!   Here are the oranges!
Yeah - I know I'm cute!!
Why does everyone keep taking my picture??

These next few pictures seem to tell a story....the Dad is on the left; the Mom in the middle and the baby on the right....

The Dad wants to take a nap.....
The Dad is down for the count!  Mom seems to be consoling the baby! 


Nope- he was just playing 'possum!!

Nice silhouette of a monkey

We had a good time watching the monkeys and right before we left Dan said "Looks - there's a gator".....I quickly did my back paddling....

He was an itty bitty thing but that did not matter to me!  Further down the river, we saw two more....

That was enough paddling for me for the day!  The next day it rained most of the day so we didn't venture outside too much.  Thursday we paddled the river again but went up to the headsprings.  Unfortunately, I have no pictures to share as, although I charged my battery, I forgot to put it back in my camera.  Duh! 

We thoroughly enjoyed Silver River State Park and would like to come back as we just didn't have enough time to do everything we wanted to!