Monday, February 13, 2012

More kayaking, biking, and hiking!!

I sure have gotten used to the warm weather in Florida.  Highs in the high 70s/low 80s with lows in the 60s is my kind of weather.  Now why do we have this cold spell now?  Brrrrrrrrr.......well at least it gives me time to work on some crafts for birthdays and Christmas!!

Superbowl Sunday, we went back over to hang out with Gin and Syl and Sherry and David.  The intent was to ride bikes since we had paddled the day before.  When we got to Gin and Syl's site, they were already out riding.  We hopped on our bikes and pedaled over to Sherry and David's site.  They were gone, we set out to find them.  We had pedaled a bit when we saw Gin flying thru the campground saying "get the kayaks, we've found manatees"!!  We quickly headed back to the truck and loaded three kayaks in the bed of Dan's truck.  Gin, Syl, Dan and I were going to kayak with the manatees...Sherry and David were headed back to their rig.

We drove to a point that looked liked it had pretty good "impromptu" kayak launching and parked the vehicles.....

We got in the water quickly and paddled just a few minutes before we saw them. The wind was not in our favor and kept on turning us around.  We finally hunkered down at a "Idle Speed" sign and locked paddles. 
Gin and Syl on "manatee watch"

It was hard to get good pictures of the manatees so after a few minutes, I decided to put the camera down and just enjoy watching the manatees play and swim.  I was in awe of their size and their beauty.   They made such cool sounds when they came up to breathe.  We all continued to paddle and we communicated with each other with hand gestures.  With the exception of some rambunctious kids at a picnic shelter on one of the banks, (who at that point were unaware of the manatees in the water) at  it was very, very peaceful.

Dan was paddling very carefully as the manatees were getting closer and closer to us and he didn't want to hurt them with the paddle.    Well, one of the manatees wanted to get an even closer look at the kayak and started nudging the back right pontoon!! 

This little guy was so curious!  We wondered if he thought that the tip of the pontoon favored his mother (if you know what I mean!!).  He kept on nudging us and poking his head out of the water right at the edge of our kayak.....

He snorted so close to Dan once that he got to smell his breath!  Ewwww! 
It was one of the coolest afternoons!  We must have stayed in the water for 3 or 4 hours watching the manatees.  Afterwards, we paddled to a little cover and chatted for a bit.  It was a great time on the water.

We headed back to Gin and Syl's and Sherry and David joined us for some munchies and a bit of Superbowl watching.  I think that there was more chatting done than watching the game!  Right before halftime, we bid everyone "safe travels" and "see you down the road".

The next day we left to go to Highlands Hammock State Park.  The ride over was a bit uneventful until we got to the dirt county road that had wooden, one lane bridges!  We were okay weight wise but boy oh boy did we get dusty!  We got settled into our site (101) after a few tricky maneuvers.  The roads in the campground are a bit narrow, traffic can go both ways (even though they are only one lane!), and the dump station is not in the best place!  Dan also had to stop on the way in and get on top of the rig to pull down a dead tree limb that was hanging in our way.  Didn't want it to scratch the roof!!

This was, by far, the largest campground of any of the state parks that we have stayed in.  The sites were a bit close together and there was a Scamp Camp going on!  There must have been about 50-75 of these scampers!   Although as crowded as it was and as large as it is, it was a quiet campground.  They also have lots of ranger-led activities like soup night, covered dish dinners, camper coffee, etc etc.

Over the next few days, we explored the park on foot and by bicycle (and by tram, too!).  Highlands Hammock is one of the first state parks in Florida and opened to the public in 1931.  During the Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) developed some of the park facilities.  There is a really nice interpretive museum educating people on the CCC.   There are also a number of hiking trails as well as a bike trail and a loop (which is also the hammock).  We wanted to do all of the trails but ended up missing two of them.  Everytime that we went out to hike, we would check on the alligator that had taken up residence in a culvert near the entrance of the hammock.  She had a number of babies with her too.
I think we counted 12!
The hammocks were gorgeous but pictures just don't do it justice....

My favorite trail was the Cypress Swamp Trail. 

It  had a really neat catwalk over what was supposed to be a swamp with more water than there actually was....

No water here!

Water here but very low!

Saw this beautiful cardinal

Dan spotted this alligator peering at us. 

Air plants were all over the trees!
The trees on some of the trails were HUGE!

On the tram ride that we took, Ranger Brenda told us that in the past, when the big trees would start showing signs of decay, they insides would be filled with concrete and rebar.  It was thought that this would help prevent further damage.
Look high up in the tree...
and even closer!
We saw dozens of alligators on the tram ride...
including this big guy!!
and this one swimming in the green stuff...
Jolly Geen Giant
and these hanging out with the turtles.....

and some other wildlife...
Blue heron on the left; deer on the right
and another first for me.......
an armadillo!
We went on the tram ride with another camper we had met back at Silver River.  Marcia has been camping by herself for 38 years!  We enjoyed chatting with her and even got to celebrate her birthday with her!  We also ran into another couple we had met at Little Manatee River.  Tony and Cathy are going to be at Hillsborough River (where we are now) and am sure that we will hang out with them some more as well.

Today Gin and Syl are coming over for a paddle.  Should be fun!  We get to try out the kayak carts....stay tuned for pictures.

I'd like to wish my parents an early "happy anniversary".....54 years!!  Congratulations Mom and Dad and best wishes for many, many more years together.
I'd also like to give congratulations to my daughter, Ashleigh.  She is a freshman at UNC-W and was recently selected to be a student ambassador.  A student ambassador serves as an official host of the university during special events. They promotes the "UNCW" way to students past, present, and future. The UNCW website says that they are an elite group of students representing the best of the very best. Their primary duties and services include working with the chancellor, the Alumni Association, UNCW Admissions, the community, and prospective and current students; ultimately, volunteering their time and energy to promoting and serving the University. 

Can you tell this Mom is proud?
And one more son Brandon and DIL Amanda are purchasing their first home! Congratulations to them!!

They close in a few weeks and move in shortly there after.  I keep asking if the RV hook-ups have been installed yet!!!  We are looking forward to seeing their new place when we return to the Wake Forest area later this Spring.  Life is good indeed!



Brandon and Amanda said...

Love the wildlife pictures! I wish some of that 70/80 degree weather would come up here to the Carolinas! Glad you guys are having so much fun!

Elaine said...

Wow, what a spectacle seeing manatees, alligators and armadillos all in one week - I think that you & Dan should host your own road show on PBS because your pics are just as good if not better than what they show on air!

Nancy and Bill said...

Great time in all your places. So wish we could have been around for the Manatee paddle!! That must have been so awesome:o))

There is just so much to see and do in Florida...don't think we will ever get to it all;o)) Thanks for taking us along!!

Gail and Rick (Gypsy Turtles) said...

Great post! Loved the manatee paddle. I felt like I was along for the ride. It does seem like there's a lot to do in Florida. We might have to check it out ourselves one winter :)

Congrats to all the kids too. That's a great accomplishment on both fronts. I know you're very proud...and rightly so! :)

Catherine, Jo Beth and Grace said...

Cool- we always wanted to stay at highlands hammock but never got it done when we lived there.

Ceal said...

Where did you get that picture of the "youngsters". Thanks for the Anniversary wishes. Can't believe 54 yrs.
Love your travelogue pics & comments. Enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Congrats to Ashleigh,Brandon & Amanda! You should be proud!

So glad you got to see the manatees. They are so neat!

Bruce and Laura

Gin and Syl said...

Ahh!! Life is good indeed!! The weather has been wonderful the past several weeks and it has been great to meet up with rving friends.
It's great to see that your two kids are doing good. You should be proud.

Sherry said...

What a successful family all around. Great pictures of them!

Highland Hammock is a park that wasn't on my radar. Thanks for the great pictures. I'm going to definitely check it out.

Cathy said...

I love keeping up with you two nature lovers. We miss seeing you guys in person. :)

Barbara said...

I know seeing the manatees was on your "bucket list" so I am thrilled for you that you got to see them so up-close! Love the pic of Brandon and Amanda at their new house and I am so proud of Ashleigh as I am sure you are. Glad Daniel is keeping you safe from all those wild animals!