Wednesday, December 17, 2014

North central florida

We made it - - - NO PROBLEM!    Down I 95 to Jacksonville, around the west side and on down to Salt Springs in the Ocala National Forest. See Previous Florida Blogs for our pictures of our past stays here. Management here was so strict last year that most of the campers who stayed here all winter moved on and never came back.  Our favorite camp hosts are gone and there are even fewer campers.  Now under new managers – some of the stupid rules have eased – support jacks can now be off the pavement for one. 

We enjoyed B&C’s company for another day and took them around our favorite local sites including the beautiful crystal clear springs with its swarms of massive Mullet fish swimming in slow motion.  While enjoying the view a Bald Eagle flew over!  Out to dinner at the Bass Champions Restaurant was the great end to a fun day.  On Tuesdays thru Thursdays they feature a “Beat the Clock” pricing system.  The time the waitress takes your order is the price of your meal!  Ours was $4.20!  Our friends have left now to finish their journey south to Lake Placid.  Later this winter we’ll meet up with them when our journey leads us closer to their neighborhood.  

Things are calm now – we’ve settled in to a routine – riding our bikes each day, meeting new folks from a lot of different states, enjoying the freshly prepared chicken livers from the local grocery, adding up all the sightings of the variety of birds, always “hunting” for deer or bears and always out exploring!  HAD to head to Daytona Beach and drive on the beach and see how things have changed.  On and off the beach and then to the boardwalk and watch the screaming teens swing up and down in the double bungee ride that towered way above even the tall round ferris wheel.  The fishing pier stretched out into the ocean and gave an even better view of the rolling waves, the wide sandy beach, the forever line of towering condos and the ribbon of boardwalk that lay between the sand and the towers. 

As long as we were on the coast we wandered farther south and ended back out on the beach.  We drove on the hard packed sand till it ended at a fishing jetty lined with some serious looking fishermen.  From out on the jetty we turned and saw the tall stately red light house standing watch over the beach and dividing inlet.  Upon closer inspection we found the 175 ft tall Ponce      Inlet Lighthouse. It is the highest lighthouse in Florida!  H also drove by a 1942 Willys Jeep but didn’t think to get a picture of the bright red vehicle!

Back closer to home we finally yanked the kayaks out of the back of the truck and plopped them into the water of the Salt Spring Run – just outside of the walled in spring itself.  Several years ago we had been greeted by several manatees when we were out in our fat orange bubble kayaks and H even got some great pictures.  This time we paddled around and around, past the Anhinga lined buoys that kept the boats out of the spring before we spotted a big lump just floating in the deeper water.  The water was cloudy in that area due to its depth and vegetation.  H stuck his camera under the water and started clicking away.  I sat very still and the “lump” moved ever so slowly towards me but did not dive down.  I was able to see the two scars on his forehead, possibly caused by a boat propeller.  I reached out and touched his thick leathery skin and scratched his neck and back.  Very slowly he slithered down and slid calmly under my vessel.  Our boat ride was complete after we paddled into the mirrored waters of a narrow creek that lead off the run and H scared TWO gators and a multitude of fat turtles!!  
Yesterdays exploration venture started out to be snorkeling at Alexander Springs but it was a tad too chilly and we chickened out.   Sighting a pair of Pileated woodpeckers squawking at each other up in the trees made up for our disappointment tho.  As long as we were that far south we kept going and ended up finding Lake Eustis and the pedestrian dock and adjoining clump of Cypress Trees still dressed in their fall colors.  The patch of sea grasses was home to a neat brown snake, curled up on a stump and a wet Anhinga drying her feathers after fishing for her lunch.  If you double click on the picture to make it larger – you can see her!
We’ll be here in Salt Springs for a few more days and then it’s on to Ocala for Christmas.