Venture Out - Cudjoe Key

Venture Out - Cudjoe Key
Fox at Quail Run

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Suwannee River SP

Another trip to the park for a 4 day, 3 night camping trip.
Arrived at park around noon. We had some trouble departing due to an electric step that would not retract. We sporadically have had problems with it since we bought the RV but haven’t known whether it’s operator error, low battery or a problem in the step. We had low house batteries but it still wouldn’t retract with the generator running.
It’s supposed to automatically retract when the motor is started…it didn’t.
Finally, I decided to move the key in the accessory location. There are several accessories locations for the RV and we have never figured out where to leave the key while we are camping or parked. As soon as I moved the key the step retracted. Unfortunately Al was under the RV trying to figure why it wouldn’t retract. He was jabbed in the chest but not too bad. Don’t know if the accessory key is the problem or not but we’ll try to remember next time and also plan to re-read the manuals. They were not clear.
We got site #20 this trip and Al thought he could get satellite here. He messed with it for a good while and still no signal. Frustrating. He had a football game he wanted to watch between FSU and USF. Missed that!
Before we left we got a new digital converter box, hooked it up to the TV at home and got a great picture on multiple channels. We thought we finally solved the no local TV issue. Got here, realized the satellite wasn’t going to work so we went to plan B. Guess what….the digital convertor box couldn’t pick up any signal here either!! Don’t know if it’s the area or we have another problem. Went to Walmart and bought an antenna you could mount outside. It looked like it had been used before as there was dirt inside the connections. Of course it didn’t work. Gotta take it back today, which is no problem since on our trip there yesterday, we ended up leaving a bag there. Left the BEER, COOKIES, and foil. A senior moment, I guess.
Today we got up at 5:30, waited for the sun to come up and went on a 2 mile hike/geo-cache hunt. We walked the beautiful lime sink trail and finally found a geo-cache that we had tried 3-4 times to find before. It was right where it was supposed to be!
Tried out out new Oxygenics shower head and it worked great! RV showers are notoriously bad. This one was recommended on RV-Net forum by a lot of members so I felt it would be worth the money. It was just under $50 but worth every penny. The pressure was much higher and it stayed the same. The temperature stayed constant instead of hot/cold like the old shower head. I took a LONG shower and loved it. Al just got out and liked it as well, although not as much as me.
We’re heading to Lee, Florida to Madison Blue Springs. I think we had been there before but can’t remember.
We went to Madison Blue Springs State Park. We had an old camping book that said they had campsites there. They don’t, but it is a beautiful spring. We’ve been to a lot of the Florida Springs but this was was unique and very pretty. It was right on the Suwanee River. There is a large hole in the limestone where the beautiful blue water flows down a rocky run and into the main part of the very dark brown/black river. There is a platform where the kids were jumping off into the spring. There is an underwater cavern there that they apparently allow cave diving. There was a sign saying not to disturb the ropes or trails. If you don’t have a rope to find your way back from a cave dive and your light fails, or you silt up the water while panicing, you won’t find your way out of the cave. A lot of divers have lost their lives in Florida caves. Al and I did a LOT of scuba diving and were very comfortable being underwater with sharks, barracudas, etc, but never had any desire to descend miles underwater into a dark narrow cave. They aren’t all that pretty to look at either. I’ve seen lots of photos and they al l basically look alike and no pretty fish, corals or sponges to look at. Only black except for what you see in front of your light. It’s worse than a night dive, at least there you see pretty colored fish when you shine your light on them. Anyway, no cave diving for us.
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The kids were having a ball jumping and diving into the cool 72 degree water.
There was a kayak launch ramp there but you had to tote your boat a long way down a very narrow and winding trail to get to the water. It would have been a great part of the river to paddle, but required way too much effort.
We were looking around for other launches around the area and came upon the Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park. We’ve heard a lot about this campground. They have a lot of concerts there and it’s a very popular place to camp in this area. Willie Nelson is going to be there next month and I’d love to go see him.
The park is huge and leads all the way down to the river where there is a Canoe Outpost where you can rent canoes, or kayaks and they also have a livery service where you can float down stream and they’ll pick you up. We met a lady who’s boyfriend worked there and she said he leads guided canoe/kayak trips that start in the Okafeenokee Swamp and go along downstream. They camp out for days and feed you gourmet meals at night. Sounds kind of fun!
They had a beautiful WHITE sandy natural beach there with the softest and prettiest white sand. I have seen whiter sand on occasion but it was pretty white for a river. This photo doesn’t do it justice.
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The park is nice with lots to do. They have a pool, camp store, golf cart rental, kayak and canoe rentals, ice cream shop, music hall for concerts, geo-caching sites with caches that you can find clues from a crossword puzzle and don’t need a GPS. They also have a lot of trails and horse camping sites and places to keep your horses. It’s a nice park, but a little more expensive than the State Parks we usually stay at. We might try it next time though. There was a lot to do right inside the park.
We headed back to town via Walmart. We exchanged the bad tv antennae we got yesterday for one that hopefully will work.
On the way back we spotted this Gopher Tortoise by the road having a snack. There are a lot of these endangered tortoises in this area and at this park. I thought he was kinda cute.
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Monday, September 14, 2009

Suwannee River State Park (again)

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We had such a good time here last week-end that we decided to come back again.

We wanted to stay at another site that we thought maybe we could get satellite reception, but it was booked. Back to site 10 again.

When we made reservations, the weather forecast was good. By the time we got ready to go, the forecast had changed and rain was predicted all weekend.

We got an early start Saturday morning, cloudy skies but no rain. I was extremely tired by the time we got there due to lack of sleep the night before. A nap was sounding real good and Al didn't object. By the time we had lunch, got set up, it was raining. Kayaking was out, napping was in.

We woke up on Sunday morning to clouds but no rain. We didn’t get motivated too early, but finally decided to put they kayaks in. We no sooner got them into the water then it started to rain. We pulled them out, and went back to the campground for a while, read and tried to watch TV. Of course we had no satellite and our digital converter box and antenna was almost worthless. Nothing on TV but Tivo'd programs.

The rain quit and we finally got the boats in the water. The river is MUCH prettier from in the water than walking along the trails and looking down. What a gorgeous river!

This is a black water but the edges sometimes show up very red, but mostly it's pretty black at depth. Not murky but dark from the tannin from the trees.

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The black water makes for some beautiful reflections. The banks are high and have many sandy whhite beaches, and huge limestone rocks. Many of the trees have roots that are embedded right into the limestone. It’s amazing that these trees can still be alive and standing with the way they lean into the river. Some of the huge limestone rocks appear to be stacked like childrens building blocks. It's amazing that they don't fall right into the water. Of course a lot of them do and those are the things you have to watch out for when boating.

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This is called Balanced Rock

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Limstone rocks forming caverns

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The different layers in the rock are interesting

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We paddled until we came to the point where the black water of the Suwannee meets the brown murky water of the Withlacoochee. We paddled a little ways into the Withlacoochee and found a beautiful spring that was flowing from the limestone into the river. It appears to have been a swimming area at one time.

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As we were heading back out towards the Suwannee, Al saw a large 2-3 foot fish jump completely out of the water. A few minutes later we heard another louder splash. It was right where the 2 rivers meet before you get to the 2 bridges. We felt it was probably one of the “prehistoric” Sturgeon fish. The one that has frequently killed and injured boaters when it jumps out of the water and happens to land in their boat or hit someone. I wasn’t too excited about going any further down stream into the area they were jumping so we headed back.

This is a pretty spot by the area where the 2 rivers meet. Pretty red water again.

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The water actually is much redder then it shows in the photos.

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We have kayaked on many of Florida’s rivers but the Suwannee is one of our favorites. The high limestone banks and white sandy beaches are unique and make for a beautiful and interesting trip. We will definitely be back. It would be beautiful in the fall with the fall colors.

We are leaving today but decided to go on an early morning geo-cache hunt. There was a cache on the old bridge we had hiked over before, and we found it quite easily.

Before we crossed the bridge the man who lives in the house right by the bridge came out and told us some stories. He was quite a character, shirtless with a long full beard. He was full of interesting facts and stories. He has lived there by the river many years and has been there through many floods. He has marked the high water levels on a light pole. April on 2009 was the 2nd highest since 1973! He said the water from the springs we were at yesterday and the other ones in this area originate in Canada, and that this water was what started the Missouri River. It flows underground from somewhere up north until it comes out of the ground here. The water from Nestle and Deer Park comes from these springs and is so pure the only thing they have to remove is the calcium deposits. They did a chemical analysis on the water to confirm it originated in Canada! Interesting, but I don’t know for certain this information is true, but he seemed to know what he was talking about. I guess I’ll have to check this out on the internet.

(Update...we saw the DeerPark bottling plant while on a trip to Madison Blue Springs), so I guess he was right. This is the water they use!

We also asked him about the jumping Sturgeon. He said this was the first year in many that they hadn’t killed anyone. They are either territorial or they like to mess with you but they seem to jump around boats frequently. He told a story about canoeing and one hitting his aluminum paddle. The guy in the front of the boat was knocked unconscious and had a big gash on his head from the fish jumping out of the water and hitting him. They lost one paddle but the other popped up after the fish had taken it down underwater. That’s the story he told. We stood on the bridge a while looking for the geo-cache and heard a very loud splash from a jumping fish. Didn’t have time to wait too long but were hoping to see one jump. He said there was a deep hole somewhere between the 2 bridges and they like to hang out there. He said if we kayaked closer to shore we should be ok. I’m a little freaked out about kayaking there with “attacking killer sturgeon.”

Giant jumping Sturgeon

He also told us where to find the old mansion that is on the 12 mile Big Oak trail. We didn’t have time today, but it is across the RR tracks by the power transformer. There is a little trail there we found with blue trail marks. He said you go down that trail to an old picnic table and go 250 feet to the mansion ruins. He said you head 2 o'clock to find the mansion. We’ll have to try it next time.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Suwannee River State Park

Live Oak, Florida

Labor Day week-end 2009.

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We got a last minute reservation at site #10. We didn’t get around to, or want to make reservations too early due to weather concerns. After all September is prime hurricane season in Florida, and we had been having days & days of stormy weather.

We had been by this park to check it out for possible camping sites and had noted site #10 was a good site. I pulled up Reserve America on Thursday night and was surprised to find this site available. I went to reserve it and noted a warning on the website stating this site was not for motorhome’s or 5th wheels as it was too small…Hummm…we had marked it as a nice site. Did we mess up??

We decided not to make the reservation at this time. Al called the park first thing Friday morning to check the site out with the ranger. He was told they had re-vamped the park but the website hadn’t reflected the change. Site 10 was fine so we made the reservation for Sunday and Monday night. No way would we have gotten reservations so late for a holiday week-end if this site hadn’t been marked incorrectly.

We left home about 9:30 for the 78 mile trip. It was an easy trip and the only traffic was through Thomasville. The rest of the way was a breeze. We arrived to a pretty full park but got right into our very nice, large, wide site #10.

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We have had problems setting the satellite dish up. This is a pretty heavily wooded site and we can’t seem to get a signal. We are Fox News junkies and feel the need to stay informed! We had no luck with the satellite Sunday night.

Monday morning we got up early, opened the windows and had a nice cool breeze. No air conditioning!

We went for a “short hike” with no water or GPS. Our short hike ended up on the 12 mile Live Oak Trail. Al is the kind of person that just wants to go…his instinct tells him that the spring, road, river, whatever, is just around the next bend. My instinct tells me I want to look at a map and know exactly where I am, at least when I’m hiking. I like to just follow the road when I am in the car with a full tank of gas. On foot, knowing I’m not getting any younger, and you always have to get back…I want to know where I am. Needless to say our different hiking styles made for an interesting morning. Our short hike was 2 hours and several miles. With no GPS, I can’t say exactly how many.

We started by the Suwannee River which was important during the Civil War.

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There is an old Cemetery which as usual for those days, has a lot of young women and babies buried there. It’s always sad.

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remnants from an old steamboat

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We followed the trail along and ended up going past the remnants of an old vehicle bridge and a railroad bridge that is still used.

This wheel was from an old manufacturing plant in Madison, Florida that processed peanuts and cotton in 1874. It was the largest sea island cotton processing plant in the world and continued until 1919.

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This is a lumbar car that was used in the sawmills.

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It was a pretty trail with bridges, river’s, and boardwalks.

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We kept running into this young woman that was running along the trail. At one point when we were nearing a scenic overlook on the river, we heard the faint sounds of a woman singing. As we got closer to the overlook it got louder. When we got there our runner was there doing some stretches and the singing had stopped. Al complemented her on her singing and she just ran off. We never heard the singing again but knew it had been her. She had the most beautiful voice and the deep limestone banks of the Suwannee River seemed to be a perfect place to carry that beautiful voice. When we got back to the campsite and were having breakfast, we noticed the same girl in the campsite next to us and was just leaving. We never got a chance to talk to her again. She had some voice. We wished she hadn’t stopped singing.

At this scenic overlook you could see the water merging from the Suwannee and the Withlacoochee River. The Suwannee was black and the Withlacoochee was brownish.

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The old railroad bridge

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Al just came back from Wal-Mart and said the singing runner was still here. They were tenters and had moved to another site with a concrete floor and near the bathrooms. Maybe we’ll be able to hear her sing again tomorrow.

The Suwannee River is a wide dark river with high banks with limestone and white sand. We dove this river in about 1985 looking for artifacts. It was November and extremely cold. We had to get our weight belts out of our boat and the boat was icy that morning. The day never warmed up. It was in the 50’s for the high and we were cold all day. Anyway, we just dove right off the bank, with no boat. The water was dark and cold with visibility around 3-4 feet. On the surface the river looks like is just meanders along, but when you get in, you find the current is ripping! We had on swim fins and still could not fight the current. We swam upriver, or I guess swim is the wrong word. The current was too strong for swimming even with fins. You had to sink to the bottom and claw your way along by holding on to rocks. The bottom was full of tree branches, rocks and big holes. On his first attempt at artifact diving, Al found a Mastodon tooth. It was very old but in excellent condition. Some of the others found broken arrowheads, sharks teeth, camel bones, (yes in Florida back in those days), and manatee bones. Al had the treasure find. He was very excited. We went back and dove it again another time but never hit the jackpot again. After that I retired at cold, dark water river diving.

Anyway, back to now and our river hike. These pictures are current and show the beautiful river that we saw today.

limestone rocks on river

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The hike led us onto an old vehicle bridge that is no longer used except by hikers.

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We walked along this trail a while until we got to Desoto park. Al thought there was a spring there, but he didn’t know where..he just wanted to keep walking. That is where the trouble began. He led me down this trail.

P1010129It was very narrow, grown up, dark, damp and creepy. I could just feel the poison ivy, chiggers and ticks waiting for me. Plus it was getting later in the day and it still gets into the 90’s here. We had no water and I didn’t want to end up doing the 12 mile trail today. After we walked this part of the trail a while and had a few words we turned around and went back, never to have found the spring. As I said, Al doesn’t like to read the map, he just likes to go. After we got home, cooled down and rested a while we started speaking again :)

We rested up this afternoon. Al fooled around for over an hour trying to get our Directv dish set up. No go. We finally walked over to a camp host who had a dish satellite set up. He said nobody has had much luck with satellite here, direct or dish. We checked out a few sites and Al felt we might have a chance at site #20. It’s a pretty site, large, wide, private and easy to get into.

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We decided to take a late afternoon walk along the Lime Sink Trail.

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This turned out to be one of the most interesting trails we have done in a long time.

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There were some trees that made you wonder how they stood upright.

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There were a lot of large old and beautiful Cypress trees.

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Limestone makes up the Florida Aquifer and there is a lot of it on this trail.

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Persimmon Tree

We have many of these at home and they do produce fruit but the bark doesn’t look like this. Beautiful.

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It was a beautiful hike. The pictures didn’t really do it justice. We did around 2 miles. Enough for the day.

Florida’s fall flowers

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Monday’s weather was partly cloudy all day which kept the temperature down. We only had to use the a/c for a little while in the afternoon. We were able to sleep with no a/c and the windows open all night! When we woke up it was chilly. This is unusual for North Florida in early September.

We went for a morning hike on the Balanced Rock Trail. It was a very nice hike mostly along the river.

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Balanced Rock

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a spring

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We hiked about 1 3/4 miles, came back to the RV, ate breakfast and started getting ready to go home.

We really liked this park and may come back next week. The trails are some of the best that we’ve been to in Florida. The river would be great for kayaking with lots of high banks, limestone rock and white sandy banks. We like rivers that give you a place to get out and stretch your legs. Most of them don’t. The one issue here is Sturgeon. They are large fish that migrate up the river to spawn. A few years ago there was a big problem with them because they leap out of the water and were landing in people’s. A few people were severely injured. They can get huge! We sure don’t want to be in a kayak and have one of them land on top of you.

Jumping Sturgeon

Our favorite campsites

Getting our satellite connection is going to be next to impossible here.

We may have some luck in site #20, but we will have to try it to know for sure.

Favorites

20, 15,9.10.

30 directv possible?

others we like:

4 is on inside loop but pretty, nice view, easy and private

7,8, 21 (inside loop, but possible directv?)

ok and do-able

22,23,24, easy in, private, satellite

doubtful

2,3 if necessary..handicapped, by bathroom