Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive

This wildlife drive meanders along the marshes of Lake Apopka near Orlando. It is a 11 mile one-way drive that gives one a unique opportunity to see and experience the wildlife in its natural habitat. It is managed by the St. Johns Water Management District. And it is free!

An Epic Bike Ride!

We wanted to take the drive, but discovered that it is only open on weekends. Disappointing at first until we found out that it is open to hikers and bikers thru the week. So we ventured out on our ebikes.

It was going to be a warm day so we got an early start. The ride was along gravel roads that make up the water management area.

Peaceful beauty

Alligators Galore

We couldn’t believe the number of alligators that we were seeing. When we first parked the car we talked to a couple of women who had been out riding their bikes. They said they saw a few gators but they were out in the lake. We must have timed it right because we saw 13 gators in the first two miles!

I’m watching you!

We saw so many alligators and most of them were in the water. Then we came upon this big one sunning right by the road.

Oh boy…how do we get around you?

Fortunately a water management truck passed us and we asked him to scare the gator away.

It was amazing how quickly the gator slid down the bank….of course we knew it could just as easily come up the bank too! We did get by without any incident.

We had to go by gators several times.

Stay!
Kathy riding past the gator!

Seeing the wild side of Florida

The trip was just beautiful. We saw lots of birds and water plants.

Lake Apopka

The trail has absolutely no shade and can get very hot. There was one rest area with picnic tables that we stopped at.

Welcome shade break

The gators seemed to enjoy the sun. The warmer it got, the more we saw.

Two gators sunning

We decided to turn back as it was getting pretty warm. Our final count of alligators seen was 24! Incredible!

Birds on the water

Seeing all sorts of birds, we wondered why the gators didn’t eat them. A bit later we stopped to watch a couple of gators swimming and we witnessed a gator going after a duck. The speed that the gator approached the duck with was unreal. It didn’t end well for the duck.

This was a great trip and was really nice. We highly recommend it if you are in the area.

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Wekiwa Springs State Park

We spent a lovely few days at Wekiwa Springs State Park. This Park is just 16 miles from downtown Orlando but it feels like 100 miles away…until you drive out of the gate and get into the traffic! It is … Continue reading

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Silver Springs State Park

We took a trip to Silver Springs State Park with Lois and our kayaks.

Out friends Lee and Gordon had suggested that we should be sure to take the kayak loop tour. The park was one of the original Florida roadside attractions. There was a jungle tour down the Fort King Waterway. This has now been transformed into a beautiful kayak loop tour that joins the Silver River.

Remnants of the old attraction

The paddle was very beautiful and so relaxing. We are enjoying using our Oru kayaks in Florida waters! We have seen an alligator on each of our paddling trips!

Kathy enjoying the scenery

The trail was about 1.5 miles long and it was well marked.

We were hoping to see some Rheus monkeys. Years ago the monkeys had been brought into an island for an attraction but the owner didn’t know the monkeys could swim! They have thrived in this area for years and span in an area of about 40 miles.

We didn’t see monkeys but we saw birds!

We enjoyed viewing the various flowers and trees.

View right through the trunk of this cypress
The waterside flowers were eye catching

We saw several turtles sunning on logs.

Turtles relaxing

Silver Springs is a first-magnitude spring and is the largest natural artesian spring in the world, producing 550 million gallons of water per day. These waters form the Silver River.

Beautiful springs

Silver Springs is also where glass bottom boats were invented. A cruise on the boat allows you to view the springs and learn the history of the park.

Glass bottom boat dock

We are really glad that Lee and Gordon recommended this trip to us. We think that the pictures show that!

Another great day making memories along the way!

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Ocala National Forest

The next stop on the caravan’s adventure was Ocala National Forest and we camped at Salt Springs Recreation Area. We think this park is a Florida gem. There are four crystal clear springs in the forest. They are Juniper Springs, Salt Springs, Silver Glen Springs and Alexander Springs. You can picnic or swim at the springs, and the water averages a cool 72 degrees year around.

Salt Springs Recreation Area

Camping with friends

The primary reason we came here was to see our long time friends, Carol and Ann. Because of the pandemic, it has been almost two years since we have seen them. It felt so good to see our friends again!

A Happy Reunion

Charlee found our conversation quite boring.

Charlee

The campsites at Salt Springs are very nice with full hook ups. The landscape is a pine scrub forest with greenery between the rows so you never are back to back with other campers.

We camped next to Carol and Ann. Behind us across the greenery were Loretta, Traci and Lois. We could all see each other. It was a nice set up.

A full moon

The moon peeped through the trees during our first night.

Salt Springs picnic area

We had a picnic at the springs and watched people swim in the cool water. We plan on swimming in the springs, but it was on a weekend and quite crowded.

Wildlife Entertainment

The wildlife is abundant. The squirrels here are fiesty and fun to watch. They provide quite a bit of entertainment.

Have you ever seen a squirrel eat a pine cone? This little guy is really going at it!

Hey buddy…you can’t have my pine cone!

This is all that’s left of that pine cone!

These sand cranes seem quite comfortable moseying along the forest.

Flock of sand cranes
Leader of the flock

These beautiful birds are fun to watch. They are laid back, not so much in a hurry….maybe there is a lesson to be learned here. 🙂

Biking in the park

The campground is quite spread out so riding a bike is fun. You can ride to the springs and explore the park. There is also a large primitive camping area with a place to launch your kayaks.

Checking out the kayak launch

There are many service roads throughout the national forest where you can ride your bikes. We explored this dirt packed road that is next to the campground. We turned around before reaching the end. One of the park volunteers told us the road goes to Lake George.

Exploring the back roads

Kayaking at Salt Springs

We put in our kayaks at the campground boat launch. We enjoyed the quiet morning and the water was calm.

Kathy at Salt Springs

It was very relaxing paddling around the lake. There there were lots of mullets jumping in the air from one part of the water to another. It was amazing how high and far they could jump. We just sat still in our kayaks and watched them. After numerous shots of blank water we actually captured one fish in the air!

Flying Mullets!

Reflections on the water

Enjoy these reflections on the water. We sure did!

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Crooked River State Park

Continuing south on I-95 we made reservations to camp at Crooked River State Park near St. Mary’s, Georgia. This 500 acre park sits on a bluff overlooking the Crooked River. The river is a tidal river and offers both fresh and salt water fishing, shrimping, boating and kayaking.

There is a camp store, a very nice nature center, a bait and tackle store, docks and a boat ramp.

Lots of things to do

There are several miles of trails that meander through the tall pine forest. You can either hike or bike on these trails. We explored almost all of the trails in the park on our e-bikes. We really had a good time riding through the various ecosystems.

Linda and Lois at a wildlife viewing blind

The area was beautiful and there was lots of vegetation and plants.

Lois

Several areas of the trail had sections of boardwalk to go over marshy areas. Linda stopped abruptly when a big snake was lying across the trail. At first glance it looked like a coral snake but we identified it as a milk snake when we stopped by the office. Milk snakes are not poisonous. They eat a variety of prey such as rodents, fish, small birds and other snakes.

Milk snake from Wikipedia

We didn’t get a picture of the snake because we were afraid to get too close. It was taking its time meandering across the trail and it looked like it had eaten something!

We saw one other snake and a couple of turtles and a gohper tortoise.

Lichen on a down tree

The campground is awesome!

The campground has 2 loops and 63 sites the sites are extremely spacious and very large.

This picture shows the space between the campsites. Loretta and Traci are on the left and we are on the right. The campground was very well maintained.

The state park also had a large selection of cabins. There were 11 cabins that were nestled along the river. There were several wildlife blinds and birding is a very popular activity.

Good Eats

We spoke to Dan at the bait and tackle shop and asked him about good places to eat in Saint Mary’s. He told us that he really loved the place called Spouse’s Bakery. He said they had excellent bakery and a lunch special everyday.

Spouse’s Bakery

We ended up visiting Spouses Bakery a couple of times. The 1st time we got bakery and it was delicious. The next day we went back and had the lunch special on the homemade bread and of course we had to buy some additional bakery!

We visited another restaurant called the Riverside Cafe. We ended up having our own dining room with a waterfront view because we needed a larger table.

Riverside Cafe

What a charming town!

Saint Mary’s is a picturesque waterfront town overlooking overlooking the Crooked River. There is a waterfront park that is quite delightful. We spent some time walking around and enjoying the views.

The park has lots of wide sidewalks and beautiful green space.

Fountain at the center of the park

We watched some people fishing and crabbing from the pier. One gentleman was having quite a bit of luck crabbing.

Crooked River
Large pavilion

Saint Mary’s is also where you take the National Park Service ferry over to Cumberland Island National Seashore to see the wild horses and the ruins of the Carnegie family homestead. We did not go over to the island this time but definitely put that on our bucket list for a future trip!

Traci and Charlee enjoying the park
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Wild Horses of Corolla

One of the highlights of our trip to the Outer Banks was a 2 hour tour to see the Spanish mustangs with Wild Horse Adventure Tour company. The tour was on a 13 passenger open air 4 wheel drive 1996 Hummer with individual bucket seats that faced forward.

Wild Horse Adventure Tours

Our driver was Bill. He was very knowledgeable and kept us entertained with his commentary during our ride. We traveled about 20 miles across the beach and some fairly rough territory.

Bill

Loretta and Traci joined us on this adventure tour. We were lucky and got to sit in the front row. That gave us an opportunity to talk to Bill and ask lots of questions.

The Banker Horses

These Spanish Mustangs known as the Banker horses are truly wild. Bill said they have not been inoculated, vaccinated, rounded up, sold or bred like many of the feral horses on government land. The Banker horses DNA has not changed the last 400 years. They only have 6 vertebrae in their backs instead of 7 like the typical horse. Their average lifespan is 20 to 25 years.

We were really lucky to get to see 3 horses on the beach. Typically they don’t come out to the beach during this time of year. The horses do not swim or drink the ocean water. There is plenty of water on the 375 acre preserve for them to use.

Horses at the Atlantic Ocean Shore

Bill said there are about 125 wild horses in Corolla. He has seen about 60 of them in the 3 years that he has been a guide. The horses take advantage of the houses in the 4 wheel drive access town of Carova to find shade.

Bill told us that they count the number of horses in the herd each spring with a helicopter. This year there were 4 foals born. This mother and her foal are taking refuge in the shade of one of the houses. Look closely. The foal is lying down.

Mother and Foal

The horses eat about 40 pounds of grass, sea oats and persimmons per day.

Wild Horse grazing

Persimmon trees are the only fruit that the horses have access to. The horses know exactly when they are ripe and ready to eat.

Persimmon tree

The horses will often graze on the lawns of people’s homes. It is against the law to feed the horses because of their delicate digestive system.

Stallion and a mare grazing

The Spanish Mustangs live at Curituck Banks Reserve. They are monitored by a non profit group. If it looks like a horse needs veterinary care there are several veterinarians on call. If a horse is sick they are removed from the island and are not allowed to return. They are fearful that if a horse has been at a regular veterinarian location they may pickup a domestic horse disease and pass it on to the herd.

If you go to the Outer Banks we highly recommend going on a horse tour with Wild Horse Adventure Tours. It was a wonderful experience!

What a great way to spend our last night at the Cape Hatteras KOA.

Taking a walk on the beach by the light of the full moon

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Outer Banks Fun

There are 5 lighthouses in the Outer Banks. We were lucky enough to visit 3 of them. Here are some views of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse:

We stopped by Bodie Lighthouse around sunset one night.

On our trip to Corolla, we visited the Currituck Lighthouse. You could climb to the top, 222 steps for $10. With our collection of bad knees, hips and backs, we enjoyed the view from the ground!

Currituck Lighthouse

Okacroke Island – Strike Two

We really wanted to see Okacroke Island. We drove down to the ferry which is part of North Carolina Highway 12 two times. It was about a 50 minute ride from our campground. There is no cost to ride on the ferry. Both times we ended up turning around and going back to camp due to the extended wait time.

The 2nd time it was going to be over 5 hours before we could even board the ferry for the 60 minute crossing. One of the ferries was being worked on and the other was being inspected. There are typically 5 ferries available for transport.

Typically October is the off season. We had several people tell us that it’s been more busy than usual the last couple of years.

Charlee, Traci, Loretta, Kathy, Linda and Lois Waiting and Waiting!

E-Bikes and Hang Gliding

We got our e-bikes out of our toy hauler and went for a nice bike ride. Lois has an e-bike as well and joined us.

Linda, Kathy and Lois

We rode our e-bikes to Salvo Day Use Area. It is a hidden gem. We had the place to ourselves for quite a while and then the kite borders joined us. Loretta and Traci brought lunch and we had a nice picnic on the beach. That is until a snake showed up!

The snake was swimming right towards us!
Kite Boarders Setting Up

Jockey Ridge State Park

We took a drive up to Jockey Ridge State Park to view the hang gliding students. The wind at this park is usually 12 – 15 mph which is perfect for gliding. It’s also the reason the Wright Brothers perfected flight here.

Kathy at Flight School

There were about 15 people taking lessons. There were 2 hang gliders and each one was led by 2 young men. The gliders had tethers on them. The employees and student would run to launch. They really didn’t get far off the ground.

Flying!

Beautiful Landscapes

The Outer Bank’s landscape is constantly changing due to the winds, surf and erosion. The roads are constantly being covered with sand that has to be plowed out of the way. In Pennsylvania we plow snow. In North Carolina they plow sand! The sand was beautiful.

We never tired of looking at the grassy dunes.

Pretty driftwood along the beach.

When we were visiting the Outer Banks in 2016 we stayed at the Oregon Inlet Campground. The bridge was being built and we could hear the construction sounds. The bridge is complete and is beautiful. There is even a nice fishing pier.

Remember the movie Nights of Rodanthe? It starred Richard Gere and Diane Lane. This is the house that the movie was filmed at in Rodanthe, North Carolina.

Inn at Rodanthe
The end of another beautiful day
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A Week in the Outer Banks

Our 1st destination on our trip south was the Outer Banks. We met at a rest stop on I 79 to start our caravan.

Our Rigs – Wagons Ho!!!!

The plan was to drive under 300 miles a day so it took 3 days to get to the Outer Banks. There was heavy traffic due to the Columbus Day holiday. The 3rd day the traffic eased off but there was rain. We got a weather alert that there could be coastal flooding on the Outer Banks. Numerous stops were made at rest areas to give the dogs and the humans a break. Some of us even goofed off!

Taking a Break
Linda being silly!

Cape Hatteras KOA in Rodanthe

By the time we arrived at the KOA it had stopped raining and the sun was out. The campground is right on the Atlantic Ocean.

The campground had lots of amenities including a pool that is open year-round.

There was also a restaurant on-site and the food was very good.

Sheila’s Carolina Kitchen

We were close enough to the ocean that we could hear the sound of the waves crashing at night. How peaceful.

Campground at Sunset. Our motorhome is on the left.

We enjoyed spending time on the beach. We were able to see sunrises over the Atlantic and walking across the street we could see sunsets over the sound. Often we saw numerous kite boarders out having fun.

We enjoyed a good seafood meal at Waterman’s Grill. We watched the kite boarders as we dined.

Yummy Mahi Mahi and Shrimp
Our View While Dining

The weather was absolutely perfect the week we were there. Here’s another beautiful sunset!

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Can’t wait to get back on the road again.

It has been one year, nine months since we have traveled anywhere, but who’s counting. In that time we have lost Kathy’s brother and said our goodbyes to Heidi, our beloved pet and wonderful travel companion. We have been homebound weathering this crazy never-ending pandemic. Now we have itchy feet and are ready to resume our travels and hit the road! We want to make memories, embark on our own adventures! We want to live life to the fullest. If we have learned anything from all of this craziness, is how precious every day is.

Linda is troubleshooting the RV rear camera. She fixed it!

We plan on spending the winter in Florida this year. We will be caravanning with friends and traveling about a month before arriving at our final destination.

The car is packed to the brim.

Since we are spending several months in Florida, it’s important to have all the amenities: Toys!

Our Toy Hauler

This lttle gem of a car carries our kayaks, ebikes, paddles and kayak gear, bike gear, kites, snorkels, pickle ball and other sporting goods…Aka our toys!

All hitched up and ready to go.

WHEW….The time has come!

Oh boy….We are so excited. We have been preparing for this trip for weeks. It’s taken a long time, but it is here already!

In memory of Heidi

Oh Heidi, how much we miss you. You were a good traveler. We remember how you loved all the rest stops along the way. You will be with us in spirit.

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Beaches & Bikes – Holiday FL

We stayed at a campground in Holiday, FL for a couple of weeks. Holiday is between St. Petersburg and Tampa and less than 10 miles from the Gulf coast. Every morning we took Heidi for a stroll to the small … Continue reading

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