Saturday, February 6, 2016

Highlands Hammock & Lithia Springs

Timing is everything.  And OBVIOUSLY we are/were lacking!!   It has been almost 4 weeks since we left Mt Dora and Trimble Park and the blog that I had written was never posted until just the other day.  What was the problem?  Husband’s selective hearing?  Wife’s choice not to “nag”?  OR were we just havin’ too much fun???    No matter – it’s time to catch up!

Highlands Hammock State Park is another favorite and is down in Sebring, which is near Lake Placid and another GREAT reason to get to visit with B&C!  Which we did! They have purchased their winter parking spot and are in the process of improving it and making it “home” – and doing a  great job of it!

The park is a “hammock” so is FULL of mature oaks and palm trees.  We rode our trusty little bikes on the circular trail that led thru the dense woods and with all the rain that has been falling this winter we had to go see how much water was in the swamp.  We followed the wide, safe, boardwalk over the dark water with Cypress trees and their multiple roots and “knees” protruding up thru the dark water, until we reached the still narrow, still rickety looking, crooked bridge/board walk that zig zagged out over the deeper area of water.  Yes – I still got that funny feeling in the pit of my stomach as I inched out on that narrow ledge – but I made it across and then obediently followed H back to the bikes!

That Pileated Woodpecker that had been throwing chips of wood at our trailer must have followed us from Trimble Park to Highland Hammock because one was there - along with his mate – pecking and pounding at all the nearby trees in the campground!

We could only get 4 days at Highlands Hammock so too soon it was time to move on – up and over to the Tampa Bay area.  EG Simmons in Ruskin was full which was okay with H because he really wanted to spend time at Lithia Springs again.   Lithia Springs is between Brandon and Plant City so was way closer to Brandon Farms and the strawberry shortcake that we each love so much!!

Lithia Springs is a county park and is finally getting some improvements. The trailer/truck jarring speed bumps are being removed and the electrical and water hookups are now all in the correct spots for much easier hooking up!  AND - the rutted unimproved sites on the 2nd loop are now graveled (crushed shells) and outlined with split rail fences.  We were assigned one of the new improved sites and so had woods on one side and more behind us.  Behind the wooded area was a pasture with grazing cattle!  On the other side of us was a lovely couple from New Brunswick!  Jean (John) and Francine spoke fluent English and French!  We soon found out that NB is the only Province in Canada that is officially bi-lingual!

Apollo Beach was a bit farther away but we met Bud and Nancy F for breakfast one morning and then made plans to go to the Big Red Barn Flea Market and then out to lunch at Anna Maria’s Oyster Bar.  There is a new one out on Anna Marie Island that had just opened so we chose to go give it a try.  The restaurant is smaller with an even smaller menu selection but if the weather had been warmer it would have been great to eat our fish and chips out in their patio area on the pier.  Nancy and I even got to spend a day shopping when H took the truck to the local Ford dealer for an oil change.  Female conversation for a whole day - for the first time in two months!!

The weather was warm in December but January has brought cold fronts and storms  - one right after the other.  One tornado caused damage in Siesta Key, a community just south of Tampa and west of Sarasota.  It jumped over and destroyed a mobile home in the small town of Duette, which is south of Brandon.  Those cold fronts kept the air cool and the winds strong so we knew there would be plenty of manatees if we went to the Apollo Power Plant Viewing area.  Everyone else knew that also.  The viewing platforms were full of tourists taking pictures of the big sea creatures below in the warm water of the power plant.  No matter which way you looked you could see a half dozen dark wet noses sticking up from the murky water.

Too cold to go walking on the beaches, we still could go exploring in the big blue truck – especially since gas prices are now way below the $2 mark - downtown Tampa with all its tall shiny buildings stretching towards the blue sky and along the Bayside Boulevard, lined with beautiful big Florida mansions and across a couple of the many bridges that cross from Tampa to St Petersburg. On one of our first visits to the area, years ago, we ended up out on the St Pete’s Pier and it’s upside down pyramid.  On the next visit the pier was open but the pyramid was closed.  Now the pyramid is totally gone and what is left of the pier is empty.

Well, that’s caught us up for a couple of weeks – we’re now in WP Franklin Lock and Dam Corp of Engr Campground.  Our campsite is great but the weather is not!  On our next chat, I’ll tell you all about the water situation!