Dry Falls, Highlands, NC

Dry Falls, Highlands, NC

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Corkscrew Swamp–Naples, Florida

We’re currently in  Fort Myers, Florida

There is a lot to do in this area, and one thing we wanted to be sure to do was go back to the  Corkscrew Swamp.  It’s in Naples, which is about a 50 mile drive. The  cost is  $10 each, but it was well worth the drive and the money.  We’ll do it again.  No discounts.

Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a 14,000 acre preserve located near Naples, Florida in the heart of the Western Everglades. It is home to the largest remaining stand of old growth Bald Cypress forest in North America. A 2.25 mile boardwalk trail, which winds its way through 4 native habitats, is open to the public 365 days a year.

Corkscrew Swamp

The boardwalk is wheelchair accessible, and there were several wheel chairs available.  I assume they were free.  It’s a 2 .25 mile nature trail, but there is a shortcut for people unable to make the entire trip.

There is a gift shop and snack bar in the main building.  Here is a picture of a baby alligator in a little fish tank. 

alligator at Corkscrew Swamp

The Audubon Society became involved in this property over 100 years ago to protect wading birds.

Back in those days, women wore hats with feathers for decoration.  The feathers of many birds were  sought for decorating their hats. Many birds nearly became extinct to decorate womens hats.  A group of smart men camped out here to protect the birds during nesting season, and that is how this the nature preserve came to be.

Corkscrew Swamp

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It was one of those perfect fall days in Florida, with the temperature in the low 70’s and low humidity.  There were enough clouds in the sky to make for some pretty pictures.

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Corkscrew Swamp is a “wet prairie”.  Some times of the year, its wet and sometimes it’s mostly dry.  The summer rainy season has just ended, so yesterday, it was very wet.  They have a wonderful boardwalk trail that is 2.25 miles long!

At the start of the boardwalk trail is a sign that lists some of the things you might see and wildlife that has been seen on that particular day.

Corkscrew Swamp

I was surprised to learn that a Painted Bunting had been spotted.  It’s a beautiful red, green and purple bird that I have only seen one time….at Corkscrew Swamp!

This is what they look like.  It is not my picture.  I never got close enough.

Image Detail for   http   hagsrags.files.wordpress.com 2011 05 painted bunting no 1.jpg

There is a birdfeeder hanging that attracts them to a particular spot. When we got there there, we met a guy named Eric.  He had one of those gigantic lenses on his camera and was obviously a bit more of a photographer than me!  He let me hold his camera to see how heavy it was.  Wow…it would have been tough to hike with that thing!  He has an interesting website where he shows his wonderful photographs.   You can visit it here.  You can purchase pictures and he also has some free training videos!  So if you’re like me and could use some help getting those perfect shots, this might be of some help.

While we were there waiting for the Bunting, Eric had some bird calls on his Droid phone.  Sure enough, in just a few minutes this Painted Bunting appeared.  This is my picture. 

Painted Bunting at Corkscrew Swamp

You can barely tell what kind of a bird it is, but Eric confirmed it was a bunting!  It’s the best picture of one I’ve ever gotten (okay, the only one.)

 

There are volunteers that walk the trail all day to help visitors locate the wildlife and learn about the swamp.  They are a wealth of knowledge and if you hang around  one of them, you will learn a lot.

We spent most of the day walking with ranger Keith.  We learned so much more that if we had just walked by ourselves.

One thing he pointed out was a tree called a Strangler Fig.  You can see I the picture below the viney looking thing that appears to be strangling the tree.

strangler fig

We assumed that the vine was growing up the tree, but in fact the opposite is true.  The Strangler Fig Tree has some tasty berries that the birds love. They eat the berries the seeds are excreted and sometimes they will end up in the tops of a tree.  If the conditions are just right, the berries will grow into a new tree.  The roots go down, eventually ending up in the soil.  The actual tree is high up in a host tree, with the roots reaching down towards the soil.

The following picture shows the actual tree that is way up high in another tree.  It does not harm the host tree, at least here.  In it’s native habitat in the rain forest, it can sometimes shade the host tree too much and cause a problem there, but here in Florida the conditions are not quite right for that to happen.  It does not actually strangle the host tree.

Strangler Fig

The board walk trail was beautiful and you never knew what you were going to see next.

Al on boardwalk at Corkscrew Swamp

There were lots of flowers.IMG_7548

 

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A Swamp Lily

Swamp Lili

Lots of butterflies

butterfly at Corkscrew Swamp

butterfly at Corkscrew Swamp

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a black racer snake

Black Racer snake at Corkscrew Swamp

It’s a beautiful boardwalk.

Corkscrew Swamp

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boardwalk at Corkscrew Swamp

There were quite a few places to sit and rest and just enjoy the view.

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The scenery changes often

Corkscrew Swamp

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Here is an interesting little spider.  It’s called an Okeefenokee Spider.  It was on a tree, right at the water level.  It feeds on small minnows and doesn’t spin a web.

Okenofokee Spider

The next picture is the eggs of an Apple snail. 

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Along the boardwalk you’ll find hand written signs pointing out different things.  The volunteers spot things and then help you to see them.

The following picture is the nest of a Brazilian Skipper (type of butterfly/moth). It cuts the leaf, and folds it on top of itself.

Brazillian Skipper nest

Towards the end there were two spotting scopes set up for you to look through…and no, you didn’t have to deposit a quarter.

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Here is what we saw through the scopes.  Notice the two small gators?  Those are some of her babies.  They take care of them for over a year.

mama gator and two babies

Corkscrew swamp is a major nesting area for Wood Storks.  We didn’t see any there yesterday.

Corkscrew Swamp

They did not nest last year because there last year because it was too wet.  If it’s too wet,  the food sources are spread out too far for them to raise their families.  I guess they figure, if they can’t afford to take care of their children, they won’t have them. Smile

We had a wonderful day at Corkscrew Swamp and ended up being there 4 hours.  We went back to the Painted Bunting area a few times, but never did see another bunting.

Corkscrew Swamp

 

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Have you ever bathed in used water?  They pointed out that all the water on earth is constantly being recycled.  Interesting though, isn’t it?

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We sure enjoyed our time at Corkscrew Swamp and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in nature.  If you hook up with a volunteer, you’ll get so much more out of it.

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Today, is errand day, but we have visitors coming.  More on that later!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

We Arrived

Fort Myers, Florida

We had a windy and somewhat rainy trip down from Tampa yesterday, but we arrived in Fort Myers safely.  Our campground is not far off of interstate 75, so it was easy to get to, and our new gps got us right here.

Map picture

You can see we’re quite a bit further south than we were, and it’s a good thing as a cold front arrived overnight.  It was 65 degrees this morning when we got up.  Just perfect, in our opinion.

They gave us a choice of campsites so we chose one on the outskirts of the park instead of by the clubhouse and pool.  We prefer a private site rather than one close to all the activities.  We were a little concerned the satellite would be a problem since there are some large trees, but it locked right on within just minutes.  Love that automatic satellite!

We haven’t decided exactly what to do today, but we’re getting ready to head out and do some exploring!  The sun is shining and it looks like it’s going to be a nice day in south Florida.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Rain

We are heading south towards Fort Myers and we hit some rain.

I expect it will rain off and on for most of our trip.

I hate traveling in rain,  but at least it waited until we got on the road and fueled up at Flying J.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

I Must Be Getting Old

Zephyrhills, Florida

We discovered a big screw in the front tire of the truck.  We went to Tire Plus to have it repaired.  We didn’t think to get a quote for the service since it  just for a tire repair.  The last tire we had repaired was in Georgia at the place we bought the tires from.  It was $10.  That was last month. 

They fixed it and I went inside to pay.   Al said it was going to cost about $12. 

$12 for fix a flat I asked?  When did tires get so expensive to fix?

I went inside to pay, and the guy told me the bill was $24.60.  I thought he got our bill mixed up with someone else.  Or maybe he fixed two or three tires?   I was shocked!  When we questioned the bill, he said $10 of the bill was to re-balance the tire, and the rest was because they repaired it from the inside, and didn’t just plug it.   He said every time you remove a tire, you should re-balance it.  First time we’d heard that!

So $24.60 later we had a repaired tire and we were on our way.  I guess I am dating myself, but I remember when it used to be $5 to fix a flat!

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We had planned on leaving for Fort Myers today, but Al got sick Thanksgiving day.  He has had had a couple bouts of diverticulitis and it flared up Thursday.  He was one miserable guy.  We decided to postpone our trip and leave tomorrow.   He seems to  be feeling better today after doctoring him with some aloe vera, papaya and oregano oil.

So tomorrow bright and early, we’re heading south.  Just in time too, because I hear there is a cold front coming!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wekiva Springs State Park

While we were camping at Blue Springs State Park while back, we made a day trip over to Wekiva Springs State Park.   It’s only about 35 miles from Blue Springs.  We hadn’t been there for many years and didn’t really remember much about it.   I wanted to make sure to post some pictures to my blog for others, and also so that we can remember it for the future.

I wasn’t expecting it to be a great park, but boy was I wrong.  We decided right there and then to plan a trip there as soon as we can.

We didn’t bring our kayaks so we didn’t get to do  any kayaking.  It looked like a great place to kayak.

Wekiva springs State Park

 

Wekiva springs State Park

or paddleboard

Wekiva springs State Park   paddleboarding

Our Sea Eagle Fast Track kayaks have a sturdy floor and can be used as paddleboards.  I’ve never stood up in mine, but Al tried his out last winter…on a gator infested river!   Not the smartest thing to do, was it?  Not only were there lots of gators, but it was late in the day (feeding time), and the gators were cruising.  Fortunately he didn’t fall into the water.

The Wekiva, is another of Florida’s many spring fed rivers, which means 72 degree year round water temp and clear, pretty water.

There is even a pay station right on the water.  I’d  never seen this before!  I guess if you’re paddling the river and want to come into the park to swim, you can pay.

Wekiva springs State Park

There is a nice kayak and canoe launch and you can rent from them if you don’t have your own.

A nice swimming area.

Wekiva springs State Park

Another first is this chair that will help handicapped people in and out of the water.  How nice was that?

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There are nice trails along the river.

Wekiva springs State Park

There were some beautiful Live Oak trees draped in Spanish Moss.  I wish I could capture how beautiful these trees are, but my pictures never seem to show their true beauty. 

Wekiva springs State Park  live oak

There are 9 miles of bicycle trails, but cyclists can also ride the 8 miles of horse trails.

There is an equestrian horse campground along one of the horse trails.  We didn’t go there, but did see the horse corral area.  I think that would be very nice to bring your horses on a camping trip and ride the trails all day.

Wekiva springs State Park horse corral

 

Wekiva springs State Park horse

The campground was  really, really nice.  There were actually two separate campgrounds. 

****caution…there are no 50 amp sites***

We thought that was odd.  Most state parks change out the old 30 amp breakers with 50 amp as they go bad.  For some reason, they only have 30 amp sites at all the sites.  We verified it with the camp hosts.

If you need 50 amp for you’re a/c, you’d better go here in the cooler months.

The sites were large and private.   Most of them were easy to get into and could accommodate the largest rigs.

Here are a few of our favorite sites.  You can see the sites are angled for easy backing

Site 1

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site 3

Wekiva springs State Park

site 4

Wekiva springs State Park

site 8

Wekiva springs State Park

site 11

Wekiva springs State Park

There were two campground loops.  We liked the first one (with the lower site numbers).  The sites were more open and we thought we’d see more wildlife there.  Of course it would depend what time of year you went.  In the summer heat the other loop may be better because it was shadier. 

**Remember, there are no 50 amp sites**

site 33

Wekiva springs State Park

site 44

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This looks like a great park.  We felt sure we would see lots of wildlife if we camped there.

The roads were paved, and wide enough with no problem with low hanging branches.

Wekiva springs State Park

 

Wekiva springs State Park deer

It’s definitely one of the nicest campgrounds and we will get back there soon.

It’s located in central Florida a little closer to the Atlantic coast, and not far from Orlando.

Map picture

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Baxter came home yesterday afternoon after getting neutered.  He’s doing fine, but is still a bit subdued (thank goodness).  A calm Baxter is a good Baxter. His appetite is back and he was ravenous this morning.  I’m glad to have him home!

Al went to Georgia yesterday to bring another load from the storage shed, and he spent the night there.  Baxter called him on his cell phone this morning.  

Yes, he actually called his Dad!

I had just gotten off the phone from talking to Al and I left the phone on the bed. The phone dial screen was up with Al’s number on it. Baxter was playing with the phone and evidently called Al. Of course he didn’t say anything, so Al called me right back to see what I wanted. I don’t know if he believed me that Bax called!

Here he is batting at my camera…..the little stinker.

Baxter 4 months

and being good

Baxter 4 months

 

It looks like another pretty day, warm and sunny.  I think a cold front is pushing through though and we might get a little rain, and maybe a little cooler the rest of the week….70’s probably.  Can’t complain about that.