Thursday, January 30, 2014

Kissimmee Prairie State Preserve - Florida

January 30, 2014

Neat cloud formations

We try and spend some time in Kissimmee Prairie State Preserve each year.  It is a favorite.  Why?
Dry Prairie of Kissimme State Preserve

It is small. It is in the boondocks of interior Florida and we love the boonies.  It is a night sky park.  It has a nice selection of trails to walk or bike on.  It has cheap laundry facilities. And it is the cheapest park in the Florida State Park system (at last check).

This year we chose to camp in the Horse Campground...meaning you can camp with your horse!  There was only one horse there while we were there but lots of snowbirds.


The only negative for this campground is that it is far (about 43 miles from the nearest grocery store) so you are not running out to get anything.  I plan meals ahead and bring in all food.  On a side note, David was in the Park Office when someone came in to check in and asked where to get groceries.  They hadn't brought anything; I guess they didn't notice that there was NOTHING on the way in for quite a ways no matter which direction you came from.  The Park employees answer was, "we have ice".  They were going to have to drive 40+ miles to get their food....or stop at a little convenience store about 10 miles away.

Horse Campground of Kissimmee and "the box"
The park offers prairie buggy rides that we have gone on in the past to get information about the park.  It was very informative and highly recommend.  We had to make an advance reservation to ensure we got a spot.  There were a few times that the buggy was "down" for repairs also.

Our Verizon cell phones worked here; internet was slow but usable for getting emails.

We had intended to spend 11 days here this time but got called up to do an art show a the wait list so we will only have 3 nights here (it rained for 1.5 days of the three).  The bike ride from hell was our activity. (see separate post on that ride)
View from our campsite

This has been coldest and rainiest year in Florida.  We usually expect only maybe 5 days of rain (and not full ones...feels like I am in NY).

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Bike Ride from Hell

Kissimmee Prairie State Preserve

Jan 29, 2014

Today, we decided to grab our mountain bikes and head off via military road to meet the Kissimmee River.  Now we have been on Military “road” before so we knew it had some rough spots.  It is a sand base with some growth on it; Preserve trucks drive on it infrequently.  It is definitely not paved.  Neither of us had ever been out to the far reaches of the Preserve on this path…approximately 6.2 miles out from the campsite. David’s speedometer said it was a bit more than the map notes.  So off we go.  The last time either of us got on a bike was about 9 months ago.  David had done more hiking out west than I did as I’ve had some gastrointestinal issues that I’ve been dealing with since July 2013.  So I am the worst state of physical fitness since I gave birth to twins….27 years ago.

Off we go on our bike trip that was estimated to take maybe two hours and be maybe 12.4 miles by the Preserve map (although a bit longer by David's speedometer).  I promise I will never joke about anyone with a big pack on a day hike again!  We had one bottle of water, my banana (half of which fell off into the sand while I was eating it) and that is it.  It was very foggy when we left with absolutely no sun in sight.  Maybe 1/3 of the way down Military road, David said, let’s turn around (usually that would be me and not him but parts of it were kind of taxing to bike).  I said, “nah, this is just a rough spot, not yet”.  We continued on despite the fact that some of the riding was like dragging a cinder block behind you.  We made it to the river but you couldn’t see the river because there was HIGH grasses pretty thick to it.   Since this is gator country we elected to not plow through that grassWe rested in the shade.

Now we had the choice to go back via Military road or via River Trail and Grasshopper Sparrow Trail. The River Trail and Grasshopper Sparrow Trail combo were a little longer but it had to be better. We already knew what to expect from Military and we wanted to avoid that terrain.  I suggested River Trail and Grasshopper Sparrow Trail and off we went.  We did the River Trail with no problems and then got on Grasshopper Sparrow Trail. WELLLLLLLLLLL, the state of that path for biking was pretty bad.  The very large aggressive tired prairie buggy had been on this path AND the wild pigs had been on it (they are mammalian rototillers…need I say more!) so it was pretty rough but we were not interested in turning around and we were picking our way back home.  It was grueling and not fun.  By now the sun was out and although I had put sunscreen on my face, neither of us had slathered ourselves with sunscreen anywhere else.  We saw one of the only shady spots up ahead and agreed to stop for a break as I was pretty much fried at this point.  Our water bottle was down to several SIPS each…..  There was a nice breeze but that was the only NICE about it at this point.  David biked up ahead just to see what was around the corner.  I know he was feeling fried also.  He swiftly came back and told me that the path is blocked with lots of water.  My heart sank as I took a quick walk to look…UGH!  I was devastated, deflated, and totally bummed.  I immediately knew I am going to have to buck up and turn around on that horrible trail that we just rode 3 slow miles on…OH, #*(%Y&#*%.  This is gator country; everywhere else in the park water was very low so there could definitely be gators hanging out in this water.  Continuing was not a possibility and we couldn’t tell how deep the water was.  I must also comment that the women in the park office told David that the trails are dry (there are some with seasonal wetness) so we had no clue that there could be water on any of them.

We turned our bikes around and walked for maybe ½ mile to give our bodies a bit of a rest (because that was as good as it was going to get). We slowly biked our way back to the trail junction of Cow Camp Trail and Military trail about 4.7 miles in all.  I had decided that when we reached the junction I was not going anywhere and that I was going to send David ahead to have the camp host come pick me up in his all terrain golf cart (yes, I was that bad…worst I’ve ever been friedwise).  My back was screaming, I needed water, my thighs were aching like I’ve never experienced, and I was developing saddle sores, and my shoulders were crying for a break from the bouncing.  I told David of my plans to give him the last of the water and send him off to get a rescue vehicle to come get me; he turned me down and said he wasn’t leaving without me!!!!!!  ARGH!  I didn’t know what to do with that.  So we rested for maybe ten minutes and I said, I would see what I could do.

Back on the bikes and now on Military "road"…going was very, very slow.  If it was sometimes difficult on the way in; on the way out it was much worse.  I told David I wanted him to call out my progress each time I did a mile; we had about four to five grueling miles to go at this point.  I waited for him to call out the miles…nothing.  Those miles just weren’t happening fast enough.  “Okay, call out ½ miles; I need some sort of feedback to let me know that I am making progress or I am just going to sit here until the gators, coyotes, wild hogs, and vultures get me!”  He began to call out ½ miles; they were not adding up very fast either.  “Okay, call out tenths of miles”.  Now something was happening…although slowly and not fast enough for me but still I felt like I was getting somewhere, however slow!  We stopped every mile to rest.  The water was gone.  I was hungry; Lunch had come and gone.


Finally we could see the campground way off in the distance (about 1 mile away).  That was a FAR one mile but I knew water awaited, a bed, and a bag of Terra sweet potato chips was going to be my lunch!  Damn, he tricked me into finishing it.  In the end the first bike ride of the season which was only going to be about 12 miles turned into 23 miles of HELL.

I took a bufferin to head off the screaming my body was doing….  David fell asleep admitting that he also was fried.  We were out there for about four hours. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Blue Springs State Park, Florida

January 23, 2014

Blue Springs State Park is a park we return to every year.  Why?  For many reasons and here are a few....

Since we live in NY we never get to see manatees and Blue Springs has them in spades.  This is the wintering ground for the West Indian Manatee; they come to the springs to keep warm and feed out in the St. John river.  One morning there were well over 200 manatees counted in the spring!

This is just a small sampling of the many manatees visiting the spring.
The park may be crowded during the day but after hours it is quiet (with an occasional train going by) so we can take a quick walk or bike down the spring early morning or after park closes and have it mostly to ourselves.  Lots of opportunities to photograph them but I do wish we could get a bit closer on some parts of the spring.

The sites are well spaced and private in this small park; there are a few that are not but they are not on our hot list.

A nice paved bike bath runs north out of the park. Access easy as it is just across the road from the entrance. It is 3.3 miles one way with an add on loop at the end that extends the ride a bit through a park.  Some little hills...unusual for Florida. There are also a few sites that require more than average leveling.

Many, many fish inhabit the spring as well as the manatees.
Reservations are easier to get than parks in southern Florida.

There is a nice quiet hiking trail that we explored this time that is about 8 miles round trip.  Odd that although we have been here about 5 or 6 times, it is the first time we hiked the trail.  Manatee viewing and biking usually kept us busy.

This reminded me of a Monet' painting...for some weird reason.
There is a Walmart within 5 miles and  Moe's Southwest grill even closer!

The bad?  Well...leaving the park during the hours of 10 - 3 daily will get you a wait in line to get back in.  I am not talking about a 10 minute wait either.  One thing I am not sure about is whether being a camper gets you pushed ahead or not.  Having a camping reservation when you first get there DOES get you pushed ahead of most day visitors.  There is only one entry and you have to wait for any cars lining up to get into the park (and there are lines!).  So if you must leave the park either do it before opening or do it 4pm or later.  It is especially easy when the park
is closed!

We will be back!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fort Clinch State Park, Florida

Our visits to Fort Clinch State Park have always been in the late part of our season in Florida...usually early May to coincide with the Shrimp Festival.  This year we decided to stop on the way down because we had to rearrange our departure due to some "winter mix" weather coming at us.

Fort Clinch welcomed us with...heavy rain and thunderstorms.  Not what we were hoping for but at least it was a warm 79 degrees.  The next few days will be cooler.  We scored a beachfront campsite for the three extra days just a few days before departure....nice! 

Fort Clinch has two camping areas...a riverside one and beachside one.  The riverside is nestled in the trees and the beachside one is mostly treeless and smaller with a short walk to the beach.  We have stayed in both.

Activities within this park include biking, walking the beach, visiting the fort (everyone should do that once), and the Shrimp Festival in the beginning of May.  We have never swam here even in May...some strong currents in parts of the beach.

Our Mifi and cell phone worked here so that is always nice to be able to keep in touch with family and friends.  We even managed to get some tv stations in English which is sometimes rare in Florida without any dish.  There is a Walmart on the way in which we used to stock up.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Winter in Florida 2014

This is the sixth season that we have travelled to Florida and it is especially nice to be going there this year as NY has been TOO cold.  We even had a few nights of minus numbers...which I've never seen.

Most years when we travel down we stop at Santee State Park in South Carolina to add water to our tanks and to resanitize our fresh water tank.  When we leave NY it is usually too cold to carry water, lest it freeze.

Santee is a park of convenience and at $21.17 it is an inexpensive stop.  Since our departure date is never set in stone because of weather issues, Santee has thus far been able to accommodate us without a reservation even on weekends.  If they happened to be full, we could always pay the day use fee, tank up with some water and continue on to a rest area, Walmart, or welcome center.

This year we arrived in rain and scored a nice "waterfront" site that overlooked the Santee River.  With the clouds hanging over the water this year and the ducks taking flight, that made for a scenic view.  Our cell phone service seemed to be in and out but for one night it is not a big issue.  It is about 5ish miles from route 95 into the campground.  It is also very quiet but sometimes the duck hunters are out pretty early....

Monday, January 6, 2014

Ready, Set Go...South that is!

After 20 something days of really cold weather, 3 snowfalls, David is ready to go south.  He "raked" the roof twice, plowed driveways, etc.  So he was really ready to not have to deal with snow!   We have had some record cold weather that I've never seen here...minus 6 degrees.  We have not seen minus anything in the Hudson Valley.   Of course, I am always ready for fun in the sun.  We have some shows lined up as well.  The weather looks like it will comply on our way down.  We really just have to get beyond Washington DC.