Magical Myakka


Hot, crowded and cramped were the adjectives that I used to describe our arrival on a Sunday afternoon.  Now, with the weekend sightseers gone, magical is a more appropriate description.  Myakka River State Park is located east of Sarasota, 8 miles west of I-75, and it is one of the oldest and largest state parks in Florida.  A nature lover’s dream park with biking, hiking, kayaking, birding and fishing. 

The Myakka River winds through the middle of the park for 17 miles.  The river (which looks like a creek to this southerner) is full of alligators and birds.  It’s surrounded by a prairie of grasses, ancient live oaks, palm trees and Spanish moss.  There are 3 small campgrounds and we landed in Big Flats, located in the middle of the park. 

A short path takes us from camp to the lake and the busy area of the Myakka Outpost which sports a gift shop, kayak rentals and a boat tour.

Myakka Outpost

Myakka Outpost

myakka river


Site 21 Big Flat cg

Time to paddle

The Myakka was calling us!  Excited, we got an early start and put on the river before 9 AM.  It was decided to paddle upstream as far as we could and relax on the return trip.  Neither of us knew what to expect…except alligators and birds.  The still water reflecting the blue sky and the old oaks astonished us at every turn.

Myakka River

Myakka River



As we traveled upstream the river would narrow, the banks closing in on us, and then it would stretch out widening like a small lake.  In one of the narrow channels, an alligator floated in the center with only his midsection above water.  Sending my brave husband to go first, I followed, paddling as hard as I could!  I expect alligators to sink down under the water when humans approach….this guy knew he was king of the river and we were trespassing.

Saw lots of birds….I was hoping for a roseate spoonbill as they inhabit the park but just the usual ospreys, herons and egrets were seen.

The lack of a reliable internet signal got me depressed yesterday.  Went into some kind of a funky mood, feeling lost and cut off from those I care about.  Woke in the middle of the night, turned on the cell and had a solid signal from 1 to 3 AM!  Got caught up on my favorite blogs, news, weather reports for the different cities I follow and Facebook.  Woke up happy this morning!

I wanted to see the ocean again so we took off this afternoon for Turtle Beach, a very small beach just south of Siesta Key.  It’s hot so I took my bathing suit.  After the first wave hit my ankles I realized why no one was in the water.   Still had a great time walking on the sand and looking at the waves.

Turtle Beach

Siesta Key intercostal water

Found a great kayak launch just across from Turtle Beach.  We could put in and travel up the intercostal waterway!

A cold front is coming tomorrow and the highs will be 15 degrees lower!  I am secretly looking forward to a little cooler weather…say around 70. 

We have just a few more days here…not sure where we are heading next.



Crystal River and more FL Fun

It’s 8 PM on Saturday night and I am 4 days behind on my self imposed posting schedule.  Wondering if I have it in me to write lucidly after another fun but tiring day?

This has been a full week!  We packed and left our favorite place, Salt Springs, last Sunday afternoon hoping to spend the night in the Crystal River area and get into the RV shop early on Monday.  Our converter’s fan had been running frequently and since I had never noticed it running before, I was worried.  The voltage monitor on the battery was also showing some weird readings….or so I thought!  And our old problem of the refrigerator not working on gas was disturbing my peace of mind.

The good news is that the refrigerator is now working on gas and I am very thankful for that.  The bad/good news is that they could not find anything wrong with the converter or the battery.  And the fan is still coming on regularly.  Someone suggested that I ask about it on the forum.  Maybe I will….soon, if I don’t chicken out.

Tonight we are camped at Tillis Hill Recreation Area, 226 feet above sea level, the highest point in Citrus County!  This camp is in the Withlacoochee State Forest and it’s primarily a horse camp with a barn  and 50 miles of trails for horse riders.  Our little Casita looks like an outcast among all the large 5th wheel horse trailers.

This past week was spent camping in a friend’s backyard in the Crystal River/Inverness area.  We had a sweet setup with an electric hookup and great company!


Also had a great view out of our back window!


Side dinette window shows the privacy of our little nook.


The week was spent doing tourist stuff and kayaking the surrounding springs.

One memory, the pink flamingos at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, is permanently imprinted on my brain.  These birds acted like they were in a chorus line running back and forth in sync with each other.  I was tearing up with laughter.



A hippo was also posing for the camera….. a hippo with very bad teeth!


River otters also gave us a great show.


And, of course, there were the manatees.  One of them kept coming up to a park volunteer, who was sitting in a kayak, and she would pet it.  Amazing!

The manatees travel hundreds of miles inland to the warm 72 degree water of the springs in order to survive the cold of the winter.  Almost every spring we visited had manatees.



The week ended with a kayak trip up the Rainbow River to Rainbow Springs State Park.  No manatees were seen but we did find clear deep water that made me wish for my bathing suit.

DSC_4717 Homosassa Springs


Snook in the springs

Tomorrow will bring brand new adventures as we are traveling 150 miles south to Myakka River State Park where we plan to spend 6 nights.  Looking forward to seeing a different part of Florida!


Kumquats, Sandhills and Wooden Bowls

We’re still at Salt Springs; can’t seem to leave this place!  The campground is like a small city….something I usually dislike in camping but the feeling of community is strong and we have been just too comfortable to leave.
I love getting up and sipping that first cup of coffee while watching the Spanish moss wave from the live oaks.  In the distance I hear sandhill cranes with their unmistakable call. 
Our neighbors have been very good to us.  Maybe we look poor (and hungry) because our 16' Casita is dwarfed next to other trailers but we have been receiving an abundance of fruit and food.  Neighbors on the left have given us 3 pints of fresh strawberries and leftover chili, neighbors behind us have donated a couple of pounds of kumquats!
They are quite tasty…you eat the peeling and all!   Within a few minutes we each had scarfed down five.
The hubby has always been the artistic one and yesterday he got the opportunity to make a wooden bowl as the recreation barn has woodworking tools and a helper.  I thought he did a great job!DSC_4590

While he was playing with wood, I was playing with the Casita.  Got the water tank sanitized and, with help, opened up the area above the refrigerator controls.  The insulation had fallen; it was secured and the rivets were replaced with stainless steels screws.
We have been having some electrical problems as the converter fan has been running way too much.  Thought that a new converter was needed but it may be the battery so an appointment has been scheduled for a professional to look at it.  A downside of too much community closeness is that everybody wanted to help us.  We got too much help and lot of the advice was not valid for the Casita.
This week has flown!  One day we paddled 10.4 miles down the Ocklawaha River with a group of total strangers from the campground.  This river did not have as many birds as the Silver River but way more alligators.  Wonder if there’s a connection?  There were 9 boats in our party..8 kayaks and one canoe. Picture is from our lunch stop.
This is our last full day here as we are moving on tomorrow.  We’re already talking about coming back in February, maybe camping in the non-electric sites?
Hope to paddle again today with the manatees…supposed to be 75 degrees this afternoon.
I am missing my friends who are at Quartzsite!  Hope the weather has improved for those attending the big tent show.  Oh well, can’t be in two places at the same time!  And we are having a great trip…..love to my desert loving friends!



The Ocala National Forest and paddling with monkeys


The Ocala National Forest, located north of Orlando, is the oldest national forest east of the Mississippi and the second largest national forest in Florida with 672 square miles.  Salt Springs campground, with full hookups, has been our home for the past 7 days. 

The forest has 4 major springs: Salt Springs-named for it’s composition of magnesium, potassium and sodium, Alexander Springs, Juniper Springs with a daily flow rate of 13 million gallons and Silver Glen Springs, flow rate of 65 million gallons. The first three springs have campgrounds and Silver Glen has picnic and swimming area.

Paddling our kayaks has been top priority.  A recent trip took us outside of the forest to the Silver River which flows out of Silver Springs.  This paddle has been on my bucket list for years as I wanted to see the Rhesus monkeys that were, reportedly, often spotted  on the river.  The monkeys are descendants from those turned loose during the 30’s.  It seems that local promoters thought they would make the river trip a more tropical adventure!

Five miles paddling upstream against a 2 to 3 mile per hour current seemed a bit too strenuous for our abilities, so I was hoping we could fight the current for two hours and then float back.  And we did! 


Think blue skies, smooth water,  palm trees and banks full of water lilies with an occasional alligator lying half hidden in the foliage.



IMG_1079         IMG_1080

Almost every log was full of turtles.



Lots of birds!  Ibis, cormorants, egrets, great and little blue herons and moorhens.  I missed seeing the river otter that came up alongside of hubby’s boat.  And the monkeys were spotted!  A large family, 9 or 10, were in the top of a tree hanging over the river.  I steered to the opposite side having been warned of the possibility of one landing in the boat with us!


Little Blue Heron




IMG_1113      Egret


Water HyacinthsIMG_1081

IMG_1092 IMG_1094

I always hesitate to id unfamiliar plants but I believe that the water lily or hyacinth is an invasive plant from South America…..and saw that Florida spends 15 million a year trying to control it.  The other flower maybe pickerel weed.

We stopped at the two hour mark, got out our lunch and ate while drifting back down the river.


Two tired senior paddlers went to bed very early that night!


Warm at Salt Springs


What a difference 24 hours makes!  We left Ocean Pond campground on Monday morning arriving at Salt Springs CG in the Ocala National Forest by noon.  Check-in was a breeze as there were no one in front of us waiting for a site.  We had our choice of 3 long term campsites and I blindly picked site 46.  Luckily it has a nice big area just in front of the trailer that’s full of live oaks, palm trees and mischievous  squirrels.

Our bodies went through a shock with the temperature shift as it had been in the 50’s for most of our trip.  Now we were looking at 80’s for highs for the next 10 days.  I swore to myself that I would not complain about being hot!  Not after freezing for so much of the time at Fort Pickens.

February of 2010 was the last time we were here and I was anxious to see if anything had changed.  As soon as we got set up we walked to the canal, boat launch and spring.  David grabbed his camera and we were fortunate to see, not one,  but four different alligators soaking up the sun.



The next day we finally got to use the kayaks that we had been toting around for  two weeks.  The launch is just down from the spring and frequently, during winter months, manatees are in the spring run.  We weren’t disappointed as several of these gentle giants were playing in the water.  At one point as I was paddling around looking for the giants, two huge nostrils appeared right in front of my boat.  Quickly back paddling, I eased out of it’s way as I did not want it to come up under me!

Last night we went to the  recreation barn and played board games with friendly folks.  The barn was full of snowbirds woodworking, quilting and playing cards. I’m not much for games but the nights are very long and it was a pleasant way to spend part of the evening.

On Thursday the bikes got unloaded and we toured the campground, road through town and went down a sandy forest service road.  Purchased a bag of honey belles (oranges) from a roadside stand and started devouring them as soon as we got back to camp.  After lunch, knowing that the 80 plus weather was not going to last, I unpacked the bathing suit and headed to the spring.  Only a handful of swimmers were there so the solitude of the spring was not interrupted.

The water was wonderful, a cool 72 degrees, and I tried to work off the fried catfish, the previous night’s dinner, by swimming, or rather dog paddling, around the spring.



Salt Spring

Today was supposed to be another paddling day, instead we drove around the forest getting acquainted with other campgrounds.  Visited Eaton Lake’s campground…with the Senior Pass we could stay there for $4 a night!  It had 13 sites and only one camper who warned us that the ticks and chiggers were real bad. (No hookups, pit toilet) We drove on to Juniper Springs where there is also no hookups but a nice bathhouse and pretty campsites.  Probably will be our destination when we leave Salt Spring.


Eaton Lake

 Extremely tired tonight so just quitting the thinking part and posting more pictures.


Home at Salt Springs


Entrance to the spring


Salt Spring with the run, where the manatees play, in the background


Eaton Lake