Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Set Up at the SEA Rally

We got a slow start this morning.  Having only a 30 mile drive to the rally location, there was no need to get in a big hurry.  We finally left the campground about 11 AM.

The Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) Southeast Area (SEA) Rally is being held at the Hernando County Airport in Brooksville.  We are now parked on one of the runways.  I thought this was an old airport not in use any longer, but I can see the tower out my window and there are planes landing and taking off on other runways nearby.  It’s a little intimidating.  Surely, they know were here.  I take comfort in the fact that there are a couple hundred RVs on this runway with us.

We are in full boondocking mode and are enjoying that so far.  We can, if we want, run our generator 16 hours during the day.  It’s always nice to have that option.

I was impressed by the guys who volunteered to assist with parking.  They all have on plenty of orange--orange vests, orange hats, some even with orange shirts.  Reminded me of our orange hats we wear hiking during hunting season.  I’m sure there are no hunters around here, so I’m thinking all that orange is a commentary on RV drivers.

We hitched a ride on the shuttle over to the information tent to pick up our “welcome packet”.  It was full of paper and an unsharpened pencil.  I don’t know of a single RVer who carries a pencil sharpener.  The paper was advertisements and coupons.  The most exciting coupon was for $$ off on ice cream at Dairy Queen.  You better believe we’ll be using that.

Also included in the “welcome packet” was a list of seminars.  We’re a little disappointed.  Well, maybe a lot disappointed.  There was very little we are interested in.  Most are what we call infomercials.  They are there to sell you something and, for your convenience, they also have a booth in the vendor tent.

From the few people we’ve spoken with, the crowd is down.  That’s not surprising, I guess.  The RV industry has taken a hit during the economic downturn.

No matter; we’re here and we’re gonna have a good time.

So, I think that’s all for today.  Thanks for tagging along.

Farewell for a Time

Well, here we are at the end of January already.  It didn’t seem possible we’d been here a month then I remembered we didn’t actually get here until the middle of January.  Still, the time seems to have evaporated.  They say, “time flies when you’re having fun”.  I think, at my age, I better quit having so much fun.

Monday morning was spent in the kitchen.  We had invited Mike and Peggy and Tony and Diana for dinner.  We are leaving today and so are Mike and Peggy, so it was kind of a farewell dinner.  It was a pot luck, but I had a couple things to prepare so I got onto that right away.  We’re heading over to the FMCA rally and will be dry camping for several days, so I wanted to get a few things made up ahead of time for that.  Seemed like I cooked and washed dishes all morning.

For lunch, we drove over to Cracker Barrel to meet friends from Nashville. Jim and Janice are in our hiking club (Tennessee Trails) and we’ve known them for years.  They are spending a few weeks in their Airstream at a campground near Dade City.  After lunch we all came over to our place to give them a tour of an Escapee campground.  We enjoyed visiting with them for a few hours.

Our dinner guests came strolling in about 4 bringing food, lawn chairs, and gifts.  Mike presented Gene with his very own multimeter.  That’s so nice.  I lifted this photo from Mike’s blog.  Thanks a million, Mike.
Planning future adventures.
The couple weeks we’ve had to spend with Mike and Peggy have now come to an end.  It’s been great fun, but they are off to continue on their winter tour of the warm southern states before heading back to Maine in the spring.  We had a wonderful time together.  Safe travels to Mike and Peggy.
Our chef
We are moving today, as well.  But not far.  Just 30 miles or so over to Brooksville to the Family Motor Coach Assoc. (Southeastern region) rally.  This will be our first small regional rally and we’re looking forward to a new experience.  The only other rally we’ve attended was The Rally (Good Sam) in Albuquerque in 2009.  That was huge and we didn’t like it so much.  We’re anxious to try something smaller.  Details of the rally are forthcoming.

That’s it for this morning.  Thanks for tagging along.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Croom Tract, Loop B

Well, we did our 10-mile hike today.  I think we’re all pretty tired tonight.  The ice cream really helped get us home.  After Tony had had his blizzard at DQ, he allowed as how he could have done another quarter mile with no problem.
Redbud are starting to bloom

We got an early start.  There was a little nip in the air this morning with temperatures in the 40s.  We could see our breath.  We were not deterred, however.  Our trailhead was at the Tucker Hill parking lot; the same as the Loop C hike we did last week.  There were several cars there this morning and we saw several hikers on the trail including 8 backpackers.

We did our hike around the loop in the clockwise direction.  The trail wound its way through longleaf pine and live oak thickets.  Some areas had recently undergone controlled burns and were open, while other areas were covered in scrub oak.  We also passed areas of prairie and one dry swamp.  Looking out over the area from a distance it looks flat, but there is a gentle roll to the land and we hiked up and down short hills all day.

Another dry swamp.
At about the 3-mile point we came to an area which at first appeared to be a sinkhole.  As we got closer, we realized it was a ravine which appeared to have been dug out and the soil piled at the edge.  The map shows an old rock mine near this area.  Perhaps these ravines were somehow connected to the mine operation.
One of the ravines we passed.
Near the halfway point we came upon a backcountry camp site.  The site was huge, with room for many, many tents.  Sand pits had been dug for fire rings.  Because of the drought conditions, there is currently a fire ban in Florida.  There was a picnic table which became our lunch spot.  A great campsite if it only had water.  There are many forest roads which crisscross the entire Croom tract, so it would be possible to cache a water supply at road junctions if you wanted to backpack in the area.
White banded trees identify the camping areas.

Lunch spot for today
There are trails for hikers, mountain bikers, and horses within the Croom tract.  Each group has their own trails so there’s no sharing.  The trails are clearly marked and well maintained.  Every forest road we crossed (and there were several) was identified.  With the free map available at the trailhead, it is easy to plot and follow a route for any of the loops in the Croom Tract.

I can't find this yellow flower in my book,
 so I don't know what it is.
We kicked in the afterburners for the second half of our hike.  Could we smell the ice cream?  The last couple miles were along trail we had hiked when we did Loop C.  We zoomed right along not taking much time to look around.  I think we were all pretty glad to see the car.

That’s it for today.  This tired puppy is going to bed.  Thanks for tagging along.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

RV Live is Good, but Busy

Some may wonder how they’ll fill their time once retired.  We have no problem with that.  Instead, we wonder where we’re going to find the time to get it all done.  Tony asked us yesterday if we get everything done we intend to do each day.  The answer is “no”.  So what have we been doing for the past two days?  Well, let’s see.
Shadows on the trail.
From our hike on Thursday
I started Friday morning off with the laundry.  Frequent hiking tends to fill up the laundry basket in a hurry.  I used to say the thing I missed most from my stick house was the frost free freezer.  I think I need to revise that, because what I really miss most is the washer and dryer.  Both our 5th wheels were plumbed for washer/dryer, but we never had them because we didn’t want to carry the extra weight.  Now, there’s hardly room for the laundry basket in the Four Winds much less a washer/dryer.  Most campgrounds have a laundry facility and that’s where I was at 8 AM Friday morning.  I was lucky; there was no one else there.  Friday mornings can be a busy time at the laundry, but I guess the rain kept most away.  I was able to get two loads done with no waiting.
Resurrection Fern came back to life.
This shot was before the rain.

After the rain.

While I was at the laundry, Gene was taking care of financial matters--balancing the checkbook, reviewing the credit card statement, etc.

Tony and Diana stopped by before the laundry got put away and before the financing was done, so we put all that stuff aside and got out the Tennessee and Great Smoky Mountain National Park maps.  They’re going to be in Ashville, North Carolina for most of the summer and we’re planning to be in the vicinity of the Smokies, upper East Tennessee, and western North Carolina.  We were looking at possible places to met up and planning a few things to do together.

After they left we finished up with the laundry and finances and grabbed a quick lunch.  Gene had several errands to run so he scooted off to CVS, Walmart, Ace Hardware, and the Post Office.  That all took a couple hours. While he was gone I got a few household cleaning chores done, not the least of which was to clean out the litter box.  That’s a chore that I hate, but needs to be done frequently to keep the odor at bay.  While I had the hose and soft scrub out, I decided to clean the kitchen trash can.

To rest from the chores, I worked on my knitting project.  I’m pretty focused on this project.  It’s a blanket for my next grand niece due in April.  The goal is to get it finished to deliver to her excited parents when we stop by their home on our way back to Nashville in March.  That’s a priority, so I carve out some time to work on it every day.

Before Gene got back from his errands, that Maineiac, Mike stopped by.  We chatted for a little while.  After Gene got home, Mike came back, bringing Peggy with him this time.  We had a good visit and got to hear the story first hand of their soaking at Busch Gardens.  We grabbed a quick dinner between their visit and an evening of entertainment at the jam session.

Although the activities have been different, today has been much the same.  Various chores (including defrosting the freezer, my least favorite job) with friends drifting in and out.  The highlight of today, however, was the multimeter class taught by Mike for his students, Tony and Gene.  It was something to do with wires, switches, gauges, and electricity.  I’ll defer to Mike for the telling of the details.  Perhaps I should have attended the class.  While the class was going on, us girls (Diana, Peggy, and myself) each did our own thing as well as visited each other at various times and various places.  The class lasted a couple hours.
Class is in session.  You can tell which student is not working up to potential.

Another highlight of our day was the Skype call with Ansley and Kayley.  Kayley is old enough now that she understands better about the Skype call and will sit and talk for a while.  It’s a short while though, then she’s off and running again.  Still, we enjoyed talking with Ansley and seeing big girl, Kayley.

Tonight’s entertainment at the clubhouse promises to be better than the jam session, but we may pass on that.  We’re planning a 10-mile hike for tomorrow and will need to get our packs ready tonight and hit the bed early.  Diana wants to go and she’s already planning for ice cream afterwards.

RV life is so good, but busy, and it’s all fun.  Thanks for tagging along.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Withlacoochee River Park Hike

When planning for our hike today, we looked at the map for a trail near water thinking that would give us a change in scenery from our other hikes.  We were also hoping for the possibility of seeing some birds like egrets or herons.  We found a 5.2 mile loop trail at Withlacoochee River Park, a county park near Dade City.  We were not disappointed.  Tony and Diana went along to keep us company.
Canoe Launch
Our trailhead was located just after the park entrance at the canoe launch.  There is a large parking lot and picnic shelter, but no restrooms.  The restrooms are a half mile or so on down the main park road at the next picnic shelter and play ground.  There is a $2 per car day use fee for this park.

After pulling on boots and packs we walked over to the canoe launch for our first good look at the Withlacoochee River.  The entire trail was relatively close to the river even though it was out of sight most of the time.  We saw more hardwoods today than on previous hikes and there was plenty of saw palmettos.  We saw a few egrets, but they were far, far down river from our vantage point.
Hiking around the prairie.

The hike started at the canoe launch and followed close to the river for about a half mile before veering around a large area of prairie.  As we turned back toward the river, we passed through an area of live oak.  After 1.5 miles we came to the beginning of the loop.  We hiked in a counter clockwise direction today because our trail description was written for that direction.  Since the trail is basically flat, direction shouldn’t make a difference in difficulty, but it was nice to be back at the river for the second half of the loop.  It offered nice spots for breaks.
The hawk was very far away.
About halfway around the loop we came to a backcountry camp site.  The site was large and mostly level with a fire ring and a picnic table.  I didn’t see a privy.  It was a good place to camp except for the fact that there was no water other than the river which was more than a half mile away for the camp. Of course, the camp is only about 3 miles from the car, not so far that you couldn’t bring your water with you.

The second half of the loop is through the Green Swamp.  With the drought conditions in Florida right now, the swamp is completely dry.  Because it is so dry, we weren’t plagued by mosquitoes like the trail description said we would be.  Thank goodness for that.

We saw some wildlife today.  In the bird category there were egrets, a hawk, and a vulture, plus many, many small songbirds.  We saw three deer and a tiny frog.

It was a good hike and a fine day was had by all.  We worked up an appetite, though.  Diana was the first one to say, “ice cream”.  In Dade City we found this fantastic little ice cream place.  They served both hard and soft ice cream.  We’ve now decided that we’ll plan all our hikes based on the nearest ice cream stand.
Gene and Diana placing their orders at Twistee Treats
That’s it for today.  Thanks for tagging along.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Another Hike Along the Florida Trail

We’ve been busy around here.  There’s just so much going on with friends in the neighborhood.

Monday was Webster flea market day.  Diana and I went primarily for fresh vegetables, but we also strolled through several of the antique booths.  I found a new martini glass, but mostly we loaded up on fresh fruits and vegetables.

While we were in Webster, Gene was here with Vern.  Much caulking has gone onto our roof.  Now, I’m anxious for some rain just to see what happens or, perhaps I should say, doesn’t happen.  I don’t expect it to leak any more.

We had originally planned to hike on Tuesday, but there were several things that needed attention around the motorhome, so we attended to those things.

Tuesday evening Tony, Diana, and Gene and I were invited to Mike and Peggy’s for grilled hamburgers.  Stories were told, howls of laughter erupted, souls were laid bare, and tummies were filled.  We had a great time.  Thanks Mike and Peggy for a wonderful evening of fun, friends, and fellowship.

To work off those delicious hamburgers, Gene and I were up early heading for the trail.  We went back to the Citrus track where we had hiked on Saturday.  We even parked in the same spot and headed down the blue blazed connector trail to the junction with the Florida Trail.  Instead of turning to do the loop trail like we did Saturday, we continued on the Florida Trail until it intersected with the B Loop Trail, about 3 miles.
Drive to the trailhead passes through a tunnel of live oaks in Floral City.

For 2.5 miles the trail was very similar to what we had done on Saturday with the sandy foot path covered with longleaf pine needles and dotted with ant hills.  After a couple miles on the trail, we dropped down a few feet in elevation into what seemed like a large bowl.  Perhaps it was a large sink hole.  There are numerous sink holes in Central Florida.  In this area we saw lots of saw palmettos and a few wildflowers.  There was even a cave.

We were so excited to see the flowers.  On all our hikes since arriving here, we’ve seen a few tiny white flowers growing very close to the ground.  None of the photos I’ve taken have turned out well.  We saw many more of these flowers today, plus yellow Jessamine vine, a white flower which we think may be a dewberry variety, and another yellow flower which I could never photographed clearly.  One of the things we really enjoy about hiking, particularly in the spring, is the wildflowers.  They made our hike for today.
This small cave entrance had evidence of people crawling in there.
Won't catch me going in there.

When we reached the junction with the B Loop Trail, we stopped for a short break, then retraced our steps to the car for a total of just over 6 miles for the hike.  We had taken our lunch in the cooler and found a picnic table in the Holder Mine Campground for a relaxing lunch after our hike.
We think this may be a dewberry variety; not sure about that.

Saw palmettos

Since we left early and the hike was short, we got home in the early afternoon.  After showers and a little more visiting with friends, we’re settled in for a quiet evening at home.  Life is so good.
Yellow Jessamine

We want to welcome two more followers--Ms. Fiddlesticks and Carole.  We’re so glad to have y’all tagging along.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for tagging along.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pancakes and Photos

We had a special breakfast this morning.  We were treated to Tony’s old family recipe of buttermilk cornmeal pancakes.  Tony did the cooking and we, along with Mike and Peggy, were served bacon, pancakes with fresh blueberries, and fresh squeezed Florida orange juice from oranges bought yesterday at Ferris Groves.  That’s about the best breakfast a fella can have and it was delicious.  Thank you, Tony and Diana.

After breakfast, we drug out maps and planned our next hiking adventure for later in the week.  With our hiking plans all worked out, Mike and Gene got together to discuss a little project they’ve got going.  I’m not exactly sure what all is involved, but it has to do with wires and switches and the car.  Something about towing.  Maybe I’ll figure it out by the time it’s done.  While they went off to Walmart to purchase supplies, Peggy and I had a few minutes to visit.

In between breakfast, friends, laundry, dinner preparations, and the regular Sunday afternoon ice cream social, I had a few minutes to continue working on my photo project.  I’m moving all my old photos which are stored on CDs to thumb drives.  The primary reason for doing this is that the thumb drives hold more data and take up less space.  Every square inch is precious in a Class C.  Also, it is my understanding that CDs have about a 10 year lifespan.  If that is correct, many of these are reaching their limit.  I’m also saving them to an external hard drive so the thumb drive is probably over kill, but I’d sure hate to loose these old photographs.   The photos posted today were taken in the Okefenokee Swamp in the early 1990s.

Vern will be back tomorrow to finish his work on the leak and install a vent cover.  While Gene spends the morning with Vern, I’m gonna see what kind of treasures I can find at the Webster flee market.

That’s been our day.  Thanks for tagging along.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Another Hike in Withlacoochee State Forest

Today our hike was again in the Withlacoochee State Forest, but farther north in the Citrus Tract.  We did Loop A which, along with the connector trail to get to the loop, was a total of about 8.5 miles.  Tony and Diana went with us and we had a grand time.
It was a beautiful day for a hike.

Our trailhead was at the Holder Mine Campground about 3 miles south of Inverness.  It is a small parking lot with an information kiosk, but no restroom facilities.  However, across the road is the campground with restrooms and showers.
At the junction with Loop A trail.  Notice the official
Florida National Scenic Trail plaque on the post.

Our hike started on the blue connector trail which connected with the Loop trail after eight tenths of a mile.  We did our hike in the clockwise direction today.

This is small game season and we saw one hunter with his dogs today.  We, of course, were sporting our blaze orange hats.  Tony didn’t want to be mistaken for a quail or a squirrel, so he tied a red bandana around the brim of his hat.

Five Mile Pond is located about midway in our hike, making it a perfect spot for lunch.  We were disappointed, but not surprised to find the pond dry.  Florida needs rain in the worst sort of way.  We took a nice, long break here spreading our ponchos on the ground for a clean place to sit and eat.

Five Mile Pond was dry as a bone.
We followed the Florida National Scenic Trail for a portion of our loop.  That was kind of exciting to actually be hiking on a long distance trail and one of the eight National Scenic Trails.

Compared to our hike on Thursday at the Croom Track, today’s hike was more diverse.  We had a couple short hills to climb and then descend, we passed through areas of long-leaf pine and through other areas of live oak.  Again, the trail surface was primarily sand and in some areas so soft it was like walking on the beach.

Naturally, the best part was hiking with friends and we were happy to have Tony and Diana along to share the trail.  We were all pretty tired though by the time we got back to the car.  Lucky for us, we had to drive right past Ferris Grove citrus market on the way home.  We got some Honey Bell oranges, but our real reason for stopping was the strawberry milkshake.

That’s all for today.  Thanks for tagging along.