Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mockingbird Hill Campground-our house

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Our new “campground” at home.  It’s a little ways from the house up on a hill.  We’ve named it Mockingbird Hill Campground.  Al has permanently mounted a satellite dish, we have fresh water, 50 amp service, and a dump station.  It is relatively private and there is a beautiful view of the green lawn and pasture.  Of course in the winter the view will be brown. The dump station is an old septic tank and is a few feet in front of where the motor home is parked. We either need a longer hose or we have to move the motorhome up to dump.  It’s not a big problem because normally we dump when we go camping.  We did take advantage of the home dump site to rinse out the blackwater tank.  We never seem to be able to have time at the dump station.

We actually camped 2 nights in the site.  It happened that we got a rare July cold front, and about 7pm I realized it was going to be a cool night and a good one for camping.  We would never have been able to get to a campsite if we had to drive to one, but this was perfect.  We were able to open the bedroom window, turn on the fantastic fan and suck the air out, bringing the very cool air into the bedroom window right by our bed!  It was wonderful sleeping and we actually woke up the next morning and had to scrounge up some sweats.

Our favorite kitty “Squeaky” got to go camping too.  She loves to camp.


We are having another cool front this weekend and if we don’t go back to Tampa, we may spend tomorrow night there.

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, St. Marks Florida

We took our little boat over to St Marks last week-end. We packed our lunch, loaded the boat and were ready to go by about 8:30am. We always intend to start real early but it never seems to happen.


We just got this little boat last summer and only have used it 3 times. We sold our big boat and Al whined and complained until he found a small boat. :) We are supposed to be downsizing in preparation to going fulltime in our motorhome!

I am not real comfortable in the Gulf in such a small boat and I don’t intend to go far offshore. Our many years of scuba diving in the Gulf of Mexico taught me that things happen. Things happened to us when we first started diving and before we learned some valuable lessons (the hard way).

Weather changes quickly, seas pick up and boats don’t always run as they should. We used to take our 25 foot boat 30 miles offshore and not think anything of it. Of course, we had “Sea Tow”, 2 radios, 2 bilge pumps, and kept it in good running condition. We also watched the weather carefully. It was also very seaworthy.

Our little 16 foot boat is not a gulf boat but it’s ok close in, on calm days. There were a lot of other smaller boats out heading offshore, but not me.

Anyway, we took it out, put it in at the boat ramp at St Marks and almost immediately started seeing dolphins. We have seen a lot of dolphins over the years, but these were very aggressive. They were hot on the trail of some poor fish. They put on quite a show and it was very enjoyable.

The boat motor wasn’t idling well so of course that made me nervous. At first it ran well when we were going but after a little while it started running rough. I wasn’t going any farther than we could walk it back in or use our little electric motor. We just anchored right by the jetty in 3 feet of water and watched the dolphin show and read our books. With the new bimini top we had nice shade and a good breeze. It was a nice day. It felt good to be back on the gulf.



The above picture shows a dolphin fin.


Here is St Marks lighthouse.

St Marks is a real nice park, right on the Gulf of Mexico on the panhandle of Florida in the big bend area of Apalachee Bay. It’s pretty much straight south of Tallahassee Florida, and 65+ miles from our house. There is no campground for some reason. It is a large park with plenty of room for a nice campground. There is a nice boat ramp, picnic area, trails, gift shop/nature center. They see the occasional black bear there and of course there are a lot of gators.

In October there is a Monarch Butterfly festival. There are thousands of Monarch Butterfly’s there getting ready to migrate over the Gulf of Mexico to Mexico. Who would of thought a butterfly could make it that far. It’s quite a nice time to visit the park and do a little hiking.

We got home and worked on the boat motor. We found a clogged fuel filter. We adjusted the idle a little and are hoping we have fixed the problems with the motor.

Silver River State Park

PA220053 This is one of our favorite parks. It’s in Ocala, Florida. John Travolta has a large estate near there where he stays a lot and flies his 727’s in and out. It must be quite a spread.
Several years ago, we were lucky enough to be camping at the SP during the annual “bird misting”. We had never heard of this before.
Bird banding is a way to study birds. They catch the birds in a mist net, weigh and measure them, check their overall health, band their tiny little legs and let them go. They don’t seemed to be harmed by the process. It’s quite interesting and you get to see these birds up very close.
The net is a very fine net that the birds fly into and get caught. They quickly catch them do their thing.
The people who band them are obviously well trained as the birds are not harmed. It would be real easy to hurt those spindly little legs.
One little bird was laying flat on his back in the banders’ hand. He explained that when you put them on their back they go into a kind of a trance. This little bird looked dead but once he shook his hand a little bit, he flew off. I promise!
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They caught and banded quite a few birds that day. We have always wanted to go back and see it again the banding kept getting canceled for various reasons…like the horrible hurricane season of 2004 and 2005!
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This one of our very favorite parks in

all of Florida. Once we discovered it, we had a hard time going anywhere else for a while.
The fall wildflowers were always beautiful. We had the most beautiful wild yellow flowers by our campsite. One day we came back to our site and found they had all been cut down. They were not “native” to the area and the park was getting rid of them all. I was not happy.














Kayaking on the Silver River was wonderful. The park has a kayak launch that unfortunately is 1/2 mile down a trail to the river. You cannot drive so you carry your kayak. They have promised for years that they were going to put in a kayak livery and rental service in the park, but it hasn’t been done yet. With the budget cuts I don’t look forward to seeing it anytime soon. It probably is just as well as there are less boaters on the upper part of the river. The river is deep and there are motorboats on it.
We prefer to launch at the park because the prettiest part of the river is from the park up to the head springs. If you put in at the launch outside the park there is a lot longer paddle and we’re too lazy!
We have 2 little kayak carts that we put our kayaks on. We then roll them down to the river. It works out well, as long as you balance the kayak properly so that you just have to guide it along.

There aren’t too many places to get out and stretch your legs on this river but we found one nice little cove where you can get out. If you go on a weekend it will be occupied.



 Image012 It’s one of the prettiest rivers in the state of Florida, and Florida has some gorgeous rivers!

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 Kayaking on Silver River 


Many movies have been filmed at Silver River, including old Tarzan movies.  Monkeys were used in some of these films. They were released to and have survived and reproduced.  There has been talk over the years of getting rid of the monkeys as they can be kind of aggressive.  I hope they leave them alone, they are doing fine and are fun to watch.  Just don’t kayak too close to them, especially the dominant males. They are definitely protective of their family.  Do not feed them!

Family of Monkeys on the Silver River



Our campsite is very relaxing after a hard day kayaking.




Tuesday, August 04, 2009

St Andrews State Park

P7030047 We have never actually camped at St. Andrews State Park, but checked out the campground while on a camping trip to St George Island State Park.

We were not impressed with St George Island SP, but we loved St. Andrews. It is a large campground, with waterfront, shady sites. Some sites have kayak/canoe access right from your site.

We also saw several of the rare Red Headed Woodpeckers.

Red Headed WP at St Andrews SP

Some of our favorite sites:
# 04, 06,12, 15, 42,67,136.

We had taken a little drive to check out several parks and we didn't really have time to review all the sites but these were some of our favorites.

I checked Reserve America yesterday and found they are almost completely booked! I read something recently that this is one of the most popular parks in Florida. We're going to try to stay there sometime in the next few weeks if we can find a nice site.