Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ocala area

Ocala area

Alexander Springs Campground is in the southern end of the Ocala National Forest and is one of H’s favorite campgrounds and springs. There is no electricity and no water hookups at any site. The 67 camping sites are all good for one kind of unit or other but finding the appropriate spot for a good sized trailer with a good sized slide is a bit more tricky than driving a Jeep and pulling an Aerolite! But we managed and parked in an ample-sized wooded spot with plenty of room for the slide AND the awning! In the high 80-degree weather – both the shade and the awning were much appreciated! The cacophony of birds woke us (ME!) each morning and the squirrels darted from tree to tree around us (ME again!) as “we” walked to the “facilities” via the leaf-laden path thru the woods behind our “condo”. As always in the “forest” we must go off road exploring - both the roads traveled with the Jeep and down other roads even less traveled by any vehicle. We revisited state forest roads 73 & 18, which led us back to the same river landing as last year. OK – here it is SPFB! Last years blog shows the Jeep with its nose and front wheels down in the river! Following yet another sandy forest road, the forest (jungle!) growth kept encroaching on the sandy track till it was barely big enough for the Jeep let alone the Big Blue Ox! And then, there it was in front of us - a huge, black, moss laden tree trunk crossing over the rutted sandy path like the slash mark in a percentage sign! Would we fit under it? Whew – JUST barely! As it happened when we ran out of road, we HAD to return and pass under it again! Back onto blacktop roads, we located the St Johns River and then drove back to camp thru the small town of Astor. Astor has a lovely new library with very friendly librarians and very good wifi, which we gratefully borrowed.

And then there is the spring itself! 70 MILLION gallons of sparkling water still gush from the wide, sapphire blue funnel each day! Our snorkel equipment was utilized more than once to view the deep crater and to watch the bunch of curious fish that called the underwater grasses their home. A well-weathered boardwalk winds thru the jungle, between towering palm trees and ends up at one scenic overlook where you can scan the swimming area and springs. Further up the walk you can look up and down the swift moving run that eventually ends up at the Ocalawaha River. One afternoon we wheeled the double stacked kayaks down to the canoe launch and drifted down that swift moving clear stream. Fish, turtles and even a squawking Limpkin were spotted along the waterway. Water lilies, Arrow plant and tall grasses lined the shoreline with various dead tree snags breaking into the water between them. A long skinny overgrown island was just a bit farther downstream and H led the way along the left side ahead of me. We were almost to the end of the island when it looked like he was entering into a section of white water rapids because the water surrounding his kayak was churning and foaming. Oh no - it was not a rapids - - it was H doing the back paddle like a Mixmaster on high speed! And why you ask was this sudden urgency to go in reverse? There was a VERY large dark alligator that wanted his turn at crossing the stream. He wanted it NOW and took it – right in front of H’s quickly back paddling orange bubble. Lucky for me, I can paddle faster than he can!

Out of the Ocala Forest and closer to Ocala for our good-bye visit with Dick and Sharon is always our semi official start to our push to head home. Ft Wilderness RV Resort on Rt 40 is the exact opposite of the wildernesses that we’ve been living in, and it was our next stopping spot on our journey! The first time we camped there it was a bit more of a campground than a “resort”. Not so now. There is a laundramat, a fitness building, a lodge, a restaurant with a general store and a delightful swimming pool! All sites have a black topped parking pad, full hookups, CABLE TV and we even had free wifi! Although the sites are now quite a bit more spacious than before, when you look out the back window or along side the trailer you don’t see the canopy of tall green palms, pines and live oaks of the forest or state parks - you see the alternating backyards in the zig zag line of parked RV rigs. Some yards were beautifully landscaped and manicured with equally beautiful rigs and occupied by some very nice folks. Maureen and Gary are from West Virginia and he and Harry swapped travel stories

Dinner with D&S on our return stop now seems to always end up at the Bob Evans in Silver Springs, probably because it’s a halfway spot for both of us. There are never enough hugs, never enough laughs and NEVER enough time to catch up on the last 3 months or to talk of hopes for the next 8 and half months till we can hug each other again. Time to go. In the morning we head north on 441. It’ll be a long day. It’s about 80 miles from Ocala to High Springs, just NW of Gainesville.