Thursday, December 25, 2014

Salt Springs Area

December weather in North Central Florida means heaters on at night and shirt sleeve temps during the afternoon so by the time the morning news is over and the coffee pot is empty it’s either time to ride the little wheels up to the office for emails or climb in the big blue wheels and head off for a day of sightseeing (aka exploring!).   H was determined that we should head up thru Palatka and over to the coast in the St Augustine area.

Ravine Gardens
Those of you who have seen my “jacket of many patches”, know that I am missing at least 6 already visited Florida state park patches.  Ravine Gardens in Palatka is one of them.  On our third attempt for a patch, we finally were able to purchase one.  It was quite an ordeal for just a one inch by three-inch patch – at first the ladies in the office could not find them, then didn’t know the price and then were unable to break a $5.  H finally put the amount on his credit card – the entire $1.65.  The ladies were left with the dilemma of how to account for that enormous sale on their records!  

Ravine Gardens
We were finally able to meander down the asphalt drive and stop to gaze over the side of the deep grotto that was lined with mature oaks, magnolias and azaleas.  Down the middle was a small winding ribbon of water that extended from one end to the other.  High over the gorge were several  long narrow suspension bridges and steep wooden steps leading up out of the deep cut.   As we approached the backside of the main building we passed thru the formal garden areas that were outlined with low block walls that were build in the WPA era.   Pools, fountains, arches and brick paths completed the scene.   Then we climbed in the truck and drove the entire 1.8 mile drive around the ravine, past where we had just walked and saw even more of the park!
Fort Matansas

Fort Matansas
On the southern edge of St Augustine, the beach access was open and the truck steering wheel involuntarily made the left turn and we ended up out on the swishy sand once again.   The end of the beach trail puts you on A1A and the entrance to Fort Matansas.  With a 30 minute wait for the pontoon boat ride up the river to the 16th century, small stone structure, we watched the introductory movie and then walked the small beach and noted how far out the tide had gone, leaving smelly damp rocks and crustaceans behind.  Our boat captain was very knowledgeable and explained the French and Spanish interest in the fort and the river leading to St Augustine that it protected.   On our last visit, the day was gray, cold and windy but today the sun was shining and from up on the fort, still guarded by big black cannons, you could see St Augustine to the north and A1A and the ocean that lay beyond to the south.

Heading back home thru Palatka, our stomachs began to complain about being ignored for so long.  Someone had recommended Corky Bell’s Seafood Restaurant and so we put it in the GPS.  We found it right by the bridge on the wide lumbering St Johns River.  Our meal was good but the view from the sprawling outside terraced patio was the highlight.  The sun was setting and its golden light glowed on the wooden docks with their tall pylons and the over grown jungle that clung to the rivers edge.  The reflections on the calm still water made it hard to tell where the water ended and the real docks began.  
View from Corky Bell's
On Saturday Santa and Mrs. Claus came to visit all the little and big kids at the campground!  What a jolly couple they were as they rode thru the park, greeting everyone and inviting all to come and say Hello at the holiday setting the camp hosts had prepared.   Santa chatted with each small child for a few moments before letting them select a gift out of his big gift box.  Just like any old married couple – they bantered back and forth and the jovial old gentleman chortled and Ho-Ho Ho”d between each banter!   The office staff acted as his assistants in their green shirts and big green hats complete with large pointed elf ears!
Merry Christmas

On to Ocala we trudge!   By the looks of Dick and Sharon’s brightly lit tree, Santa has beaten us there!   

May your Christmas find you with family and friends, remembering that Jesus IS the reason for this season!