Whoa, that’s not a manatee!

We traveled down to Blue Spring State Park today, because we heard it hosts quite a manatee population this time of year.

Yep, and nope. The ranger at the gate confirmed they had about 300 of the big palookas visiting just a few weeks ago. But not right now…it’s too warm!

Still, figured we’d look around. Really nice place with boardwalks from parking lot across the grounds over to the boil and its run. Massive live oaks with all the Spanish moss.

They even have steps down into the water…how convenient. Look, some large turtles sunning on a log across the run from the steps. What’s that big lump behind the turtles?

DSC_4499_aCan you say alligator?

Turns out there’s one itty bitty sign at water’s edge that says “alligators, no swimming”.

I guess maybe not!

DSC_4513_aSo we stuck to the boardwalk, and hiked up toward the boil called Blue Spring. This park is such a destination for manatees this time of year that there are signs and roped-off areas in the run (not a river, remember?) that serve as “manatee refuges”.

DSC_4521_aNever made it to the boil. Spent too much time along the way! The boardwalk is within arms’ reach of the run, and every 100 feet or so there is a deck out over the water!

And all that Spanish moss….

On our way back to the car, we stopped to verify our toothy friend was still on the log…yep. Then one last look at water’s edge, from the steps that lead right into the water….

A blue lagoon

Near our park is another recreation area called Silver Glen Springs.

I hope you can see in the photo below the large, blue bowl that is formed in the center of its lagoon by the boil of water. The small bowls in the foreground are formed by fish who fan the spot and thereby blow out the sand and vegetation. You might just barely see two of the bowls occupied by their fish.
I’m told the blue color is simply the water color, that it has no remarkable minerals for color, that its temperature is about 72 degrees, and the flow is simply an outpouring of the aquafer.

Apparently the Florida aquafer is warmer than what I’m used to in Ohio, gee, maybe because it’s closer to the surface and it’s always warmer here? Whatever may be true of the generalized aquafer, these boils contain enough salinity that their outflows are suitable for a number of salt water animals. Some manatees, for example, will come up the rivers toward these boils in the wintertime, because their usual habitats get a little cooler and these boils stay just a bit warmer. The runoff from boils may look like rivers, but they are called “runs”, probably to distinguish their temperatures and chemical/mineral content from the common rivers that form from runoff.

Practically her back yard

The park where we’re staying is about 70 miles from Robyn’s sister’s home.

Given the many, many miles we’ve traveled since we last visited Marion, it feels like this is practically her back yard!

Actually, this park has turned out to be a simply wonderful place for us to be right now. Nice site in a quiet camp, very serene surroundings for the coach and for our daily walks, great central spot to explore the upper part of Florida’s peninsula, convenient shopping (even a nearby Trader Joe’s that just opened weeks ago!), AND close enough for Marion to run up and spend time with us!

Oh, and we can stay longer than 14 days here if we like. Very unusual federal park.

These arrangements are just about perfect for us….

Hangin and boilin

We moved to a new park farther down in Florida, near the middle of the peninsula between the Gulf and the Atlantic.

It’s at a place called Salt Springs. But no, the springs don’t pump out salt water.

Some of the springs put out chemicals that leave deposits that look like salt, ergo the name.

DSC_4264_aBut there’s more to these springs. They put out water that is warmer than typical groundwater, so they’re called boils. But no, the water isn’t that hot: about 72 degrees.

A lagoon at our park has three boils near land and several more farther out. They can be seen by the smooth circle of water from each outflow, although they are difficult to photograph! This photo looks down into one of them.

Cool park, well, as cool as Florida can be…. Naw, it really has been a nice temp, but it also has just been a cool place. The huge live oak trees and all the greenery they support. The palm trees everywhere. Lovely shaded walkways everywhere, especially down to the lagoon and lake.

And all that Spanish moss hangin everywhere. I’m such a sucker for it…..

Way down upon

de Swanee ribber, far, far away….

That’s where we’re hangin for a few days. East of Tallahassee a bit, inland from the Gulf a bit. Right on the banks of the Suwannee River.

DSC_4249_aThis is the actual river in Stephen Foster’s song. Did you know he wrote the song just after moving from Cincinnati? Did you know his brother picked the name of the river from an atlas as he helped Stephen find a river name that rhymed for the song?

DSC_4252_aNevermind that he never saw the river, nevermind his artistic license with the name causes us to mispronounce it….nevermind, because it’s lovely and quiet and we enjoy the swings that overlook the peaceful river.

Rainy day now, so we’re doing catch-up work inside…nice to have full hookups again.

Stats from our journey in 2012: 9600 miles driven in the coach, which is 2600 less than in 2011 (and we didn’t start driving in 2011 until April 12!).

Got better fuel mileage last year, probably because we did more big trips instead of daily short ones and because we ran the diesel generator less due to using power in campgrounds. Total fuel savings paid for the campgrounds….

Stopped longer, and added the Lil Taxi, which allowed for more exploration….much more, like 14,000 miles on the Lil Taxi in six months!

Added four new states visited, all on this current trip: Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. REALLY enjoyed the new geography and civilization!

There is potential for some big changes in our arrangements, because the Ohio program that pays for Ross and Ryan’s care is moving from state supervision to the home county. We might see more freedom, or we might see even less. Trying to learn about it this week.

“Dere’s wha my heart is turning ebber,
Dere’s wha de old folks stay.”

Houses built upon sand

At the entrance to our new campground home sits this cool pile of sand:

Turns out one of the men who volunteers here is a retired architect, and he has learned to have some REAL fun with his talents…without worrying over the ultimate longevity of the work!

Still, this piece has lasted since October.

Friendship is everything

Rich and Laura, the friends who have been with us at this campground and the previous one for the past three weeks, bring to mind that line from Romeo and Juliet: “parting is such sweet sorrow.”

During just the past 12 months, they have become our dear friends partly through coincidence and mostly because of who they are.

The coincidence is that we met at all. We bumped into them a year ago at Christmas in a South Carolina campground and again a week later in a Georgia campground. They invited us up to their farm in Michigan, and this past May we spent 5 days there with them.

We think the photo below gives a good indication of who they are:

We leave tomorrow, heading east toward Orlando. They leave the next day, heading west for New Orleans and Texas. We hope to connect again at their farm in May….to share the experiences of our winter travels, and maybe plan another Christmas meeting somewhere warm!