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!



Sherry said...

That Nancy and Bill sure do keep you going don't they?? But 33 miles........WOW! Not sure I'd try to keep up with ya'll on that one. Glad to see you are having a great time.

We loved a mere 20 miles of the Withlacoochee and kayaking Rainbow Springs when we were there last fall.

If you keep moving south we may just run into each other after all.

Gail and Rick (Gypsy Turtles) said...

Woohoo! Love it! Just what I need...a wine tree! I wonder how I could plant one of those :)

33 miles! Just the thought of it is exhausting. You deserve several days of R&R :)

Gin and Syl said...

Our e-bikes handle those headwinds pretty good but 33 miles is a long way to go. The water looks beautiful. Hope we can get together next week! Safe travels.

Michael and Dee said...

We are seeing similar orange trees here in SoCal. Takes me all my will power not to go to the homes and ask if we can pick some. Seems a pity that they are going to fall on the ground and rot.

Mike and Dee

Anonymous said...

Love the wine tree! LOL! The perfect day - bike riding. You guys are sure finding some great places!

Bruce and Laura

Ceal said...

The scenery alone deserves a big WOW!
Glad Dan & Bill made friends with "The Terps". I'll have to show the pictures to Dad.

Enjoy your adventure.

Barbara said...

33 miles! Guess you are one of Lance Armstrong's Live Strong crew now! Awesome!...but weren't your butts sore?!! What beautiful water..guess I should have explored Florida more when I lived there!

Al and Karen said...

Happy to see you folks in our neck of the woods...winter-time neck :-). I love Rainbow Springs, is one of my top campgrounds to this point. Enjoy the rest of your stay in Florida, its been a marvelous winter.