Saturday, January 12, 2019

Kayaking Among the Manatees on Silver Springs

Our first stop in Florida was at Santos Trailhead State Park outside of Ocala. The Jordan’s turned us onto this spot while they were researching places to stay and this was one of few areas that had a site with multiple days together so we took advantage of it!

The highlight of this area for us was Silver Springs where we did some kayaking. This was the first test of the repair job I did since the mice got into our Sea Eagle and I am happy to report the patch held and we did not sink!
You can launch right in Silver Springs State Park. The river meanders through some very picturesque landscapes. In fact, this is where they filmed several of the Tarzan movies and many of the movie structures are still there. 

As cool as those were, we were not there to see the structures. We were hoping to get a glimpse of the ever elusive Florida Manatee that are said to reside in the larger Silver River! As we wound our way through Silver Springs we saw quite a bit of wildlife including turtles, various birds and gators. We were hoping that the gators did not know the difference between an inflatable and hard sided kayak! We were told that decedents of the monkeys used during filming are still swinging from the trees but we did not see any. 

We eventually made our way to the Silver River and were paddling along when Barb saw the hump of a manatee surface in front of her. We quietly made our way over to where we last saw them. They must have been as curious as we were as they surfaced within inches of our kayak! My camera somehow got on B&W for a few pictures......
Manatee fin ahead!

Peeking up to see what we are up to

They were right underneath us!

Hope the other one does not surface under us!
After 3 hours of paddling we went back to our campsite. We spent 3 days in site #20 at Santos Trailhead SP ($22/night W/E) which for us was probably the best site in the park. It was long enough that we were able to fit the entire rig into, it was one of the few sites that we could get satellite reception from and it had a large grassy area across the street for the dogs to run and play. 
Site #20 Santos Trailhead SP
We would take the dogs over to the grassy area and throw the frisbee and Dakota would go get it, on and on. One time Barb comes back and says "I got the frisbee stuck in a tree and need the broom". The thought crossed my mind to say something smart like "What are you going to do, fly up and get it?" Well, apparently as I was thinking it those words came out of my mouth and I got wacked with said broom!
When she could not reach it with the broom, she actually climbed the tree and eventually got it down. 
Maybe she is going to fly up there!

Up she goes!

If you look closely you can see Barb poking at the frisbee with a broom
She eventually got it down and life was good again. After spending 3 nights there it was time to move over to B's Marina and Campground in Yankeetown. It was only an hours drive down a 2 lane country road so we took our time. At one point there was a truck and 5th wheel approaching us from the other way and I commented to Barb that it looked like Jim and Brenda Jordan's rig (our neighbors from South Dakota). Sure enough as we passed they were waving at us. What are the odds of that?!?! Later that day they sent us this picture from their dash cam.

We arrived at B's and found out the site we reserved was not going to be available for a few days so we pulled into one of the other two open spots. Things are pretty tight here and we have to park our truck away from the rig but overall it is a quiet campground.

Two days later we moved to our reserved spot. 
We now have enough room to put our awnings out!

You can see our truck and rig on the right center

Again, our rig is on the right side in the center
Really nice catamaran 
This will be our home for the next month. Good friends Dan and Jeanie have a house in nearby Dunnellon so we have plans to get together with them often and do some sightseeing and fishing. In addition, we hope to get back over to Ocala and see Jim and Brenda as well as a few other friends who will be in the area in the next few weeks!

Monday, January 7, 2019

New Year’s Resolutions

We rang in the New Year Aussie style in Brunswick Georgia. What does that mean? We were a little apprehensive making it until the clock struck the New Year. In the past few years we have celebrated Eastern Time New Years. This was the easiest for us as we have been in the Pacific or Mountain time zone while doing it. This meant we only had to stay up until 10:00 at the latest. This year however we were in the Eastern Time Zone and for those of you who know us, this was going to be a problem. We go to bed well before midnight. How were we ever going to make it!?!? We found our answer the morning of December 31st when we turned on the national news. What was on T.V.? Fireworks in Australia celebrating New Years! Although it was 16 hours early, we rang in the New Year Aussie style!
Speaking of New Years, I am a little nervous, for the first time in a long time Barb has made a  resolution. We usually don’t bother with resolutions, instead we set goals for the year. I am not sure what made her change her mind this year, maybe she wants 2019 to be a year of great change!
While in Brunswick we stayed at Golden Isles RV Park. With a Passport America rate of $22/night with full hook up and free Wi-Fi, it was hard to beat and suited our purposes just fine. We were not there for the amenities, we were there to visit Jekyll and St. Simon’s Islands.
These two barrier islands are famous for their incredible scenery and they certainly did not disappoint. This was another area that we were glad we visited during the off season. What we liked about this area is that it had a nice mix of touristy stuff and natural areas. Although it was tourist trap in some areas, they were quaint and if you got tired of that, you could find yourself in a natural area within minutes.
St. Simons Island is probably best known for its golf courses but since we don't golf we went to tour the lighthouse. We have seen several lighthouses on our east coast tour but this is the first one that was open for tours so we paid our $12 each and walked up the 129 stairs to the top. Well not actually the top, the last 10 or so stairs to the actual light are blocked off. We did however get to walk around the catwalk near the top. 

Headed up!

Selfie from the top!
 This is actually the second lighthouse constructed in this location. The first was destroyed in 1861 during the Civil War. The current lighthouse was built in 1872 and features a Fresnel lens.

A peek at the lens
While on Jekyll Island we walked the beaches where Barb found several intact Sand Dollars. They weren't very big but will make a nice addition to our collection. 
Barb and her sand dollars!
Once again we had the beach to ourselves

This gull found a treasure too!
We then headed back to the inland to see some of the historic sights on the island.  Back in the 1730’s when the first buildings were constructed they used what material they had on hand. In this case it mean using oyster and seashells as mortar. Very interesting to see walls made of these materials. 
The Horton House built in 1736

You can see the oyster and seashells in the walls

A closer look
Random squirrel picture...
In the late 1880’s the entire island was purchased to become an exclusive winter retreat. The “Club” was opened in 1888 while the “Annex” was opened in 1901. Beautiful buildings.
The Club

The Annex
The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is located in the same area. Tours are $12/person, there is really not too much to see on the inside. They had one small live turtle in an aquarium and you can see them working on rescue turtles behind the glass. Worth $12 each? Well, it went to a good cause.

One of their patients, it had a split shell
After visiting the islands it was time to pack up and move a couple hours south to the Okefenokee Swamp. We spent 2 nights at Griffis Fish Camp just up the road from the refuge and Stephen Foster State Park.  Griffis does not have a lot going for it, well, the price. The $20/night rate (full hookups) is about 1/2 the price of the State Park just down the road and for our purposes it was just okay.

We were the only ones in the entire campground!
Having never spent any time in the swamp we were interested in what it looked like and what type of wildlife we would see in the area. Right within the campground we saw deer, turkeys, owls, coyote and a variety of waterfowl.

There is water everywhere! The campground is on high ground surrounded on 3 sides by water. There were mosquitoes during this cooler weather, I would not want to be here during peak mosquito season!

We spent most of our time at the State Park walking the trails and boardwalks.... trying to dodge the rain. But we did manage to see some wildlife between the raindrops.
They had a really nice boardwalk over the water

This is the largest gator we have ever seen

Can you identify this snake?

White Ibis

I cannot imagine what it would be like to build those boardwalks. The snakes, spiders and other creepy crawly thanks!

That wraps up our time in Georgia, an interesting and diverse state. Next up is Florida! 

Oh wait! So what was Barb's New years resolution and why am I nervous? Her resolution is to "eliminate" the frustration in her life. The look she gave me while saying it gave me an uneasy feeling and am now sleeping with one eye open!