Monday, February 6, 2017

Lithia Springs

When we pulled out of Trimble Park we had no definitive place to call home but we still headed south, aiming for either Hillsborough County Park – EG Simmons in Ruskin or Lithia Springs in Brandon.   Lithia Springs Park and Campground, just SE of Brandon Florida had only 3 sites open when we arrived so we selected the biggest and easiest for H to back the train into.  Thanks to H for sharing information about these parks, our new Lansing Michigan friends were here ahead of us!

It’s been a busy week!  We found probably the biggest Florida flea market – the Wagon Wheel Flea Market in Pinellas Park and managed to walk thru most of it but the day was cold, and the wind howled thru the long, open aisles.  On the map, New Port Richey looked like it was just north a bit so rather than make another trip 60 miles from the campground we decided to see if we could find our dear friend Jake and her little cottage style winter home.  With no address and no phone number with us, we took the chance and H drove right up to the front of her house.  Well, we knew it was one of two neighboring homes and the 2nd door I knocked on was answered by our dear friend and her daughter!  After a nice visit, we checked out the large tree trunk in her side yard that had some Muscovy ducks nesting in the mostly rotted cavity.  As we approached the down padded interior, the female moved and allowed us to view her batch of 30 plus eggs.  I thought there were too many eggs and not enough duck to cover so I touched several and some were cold.  I wondered for how long!

On our way to Ruskin to have lunch with Swanton friends, B&N, we stopped at the Apollo Beach Manatee Observation Park at the steam spewing power plant.  The tide was out and the manatees were all huddled together in the deeper water right in front of the discharge pipes – mothers, babies and manatees of all sizes sliding up and down thru the water to gasp for a gulp of fresh air before slowly sinking back into the life saving WARM water.  New additions to the park include a stingray pool and a 3/ 4 mile long nature trail that ends at a 50 ft tall observation tower.  From the top we had a great view of Tampa Bay, the busy power plant and the manatee filled warm water run, lined by the mangrove jungle along the edge.

Our little fold-up bikes got un-folded and our leg muscles got a workout more than once as we rode along the wide cement bikeways in the adjoining neighborhoods.  Of course the water in the springs had to be inspected up close, too!  The water is still clear but the winter’s coating of green algae still lay calmly at the bottom.   The only disturbance was caused by nesting fish making large bowl shaped depressions in the bottom.  Schools of small fish still darted around the shallow areas.

 One day I got to have a “girls day out” with shopping and lunch with N.   Female conversation with no husbands around!   One day the 4 of us climbed in the bright blue truck and drove to St
Petersburg, across the 6-mile long Skyway Bridge that spans the watery entrance to Tampa Bay.  We had been told about a seafood restaurant  - the 4th Street Shrimp Store and HAD to go see for ourselves if the food really was good AND reasonably priced. YES to both!!   From there we strolled along the beautifully groomed bay front park and checked out the marina and pier before driving thru downtown and back to the high arch of the Skyway.  To complete the journey we stopped at B&N’s favorite strawberry shortcake store on our way back home.  Like our favorite Brandon Farms, this farm and store is lined with rows and rows of lush green plants that were still dotted with red and ripening fruit.  To extend our enjoyment, we even purchased a quart of big red berries to take home with us.

The beginning of the week started cold and windy but by the end, the weather grew warmer and sunny once again.  We’re heading south while the heading south is good!  WP Franklin – here we come!