February Catch-up – Saturday, Feb 1 to Friday, Feb 28, 2014

I know it has been a while since our last post from E.G. Simmons in Ruskin, Florida.  While I know I will not be able to stay current, I wanted to at least make note of where we were during the month of February before I forget ;o((
Saturday, February 1 – E.G. Simmons County Park
Our last day at E. G. Simmons, the sun finally decided to appeared.
We got the window of opportunity to paddle with Howard and Linda.
03 - Great Paddle  02 - Dueling Cameras
They led us around the canals and into some narrow mangrove tunnels :o)01d - exploring a narrow mangrove trail
This is my favorite photo of the day…
An abrupt about face and scurry out of the Mangroves to avoid the Tree Crabs !!
01e - hasty retreat from the mangrove tree crabs
Apparently, Tree Crabs freak Linda out ;o((
All the birds were out enjoying the sunshine and I had a ball taking their photos…
00a - Animals - Great Blue Heron  00f2 - Animals - Osprey  00d - Animals - Reddish Egret  00e - Animals - Little Blue Egret  00g2 - Animals - Tri-Color Heron  00g3 - Animals - Snowy Egret 00h2 - Animals - Yellow Crown Night Heron  00h3 - Animals - Juvenile Yellow Crown Night Heron  00i - Animals - Kingfisher female  00c - Animals - Roseate Spoonbills
(Click On Any Photo To Enlarge)
Where we have been since then….
(Click On Any Photo To Enlarge)

A – E. G. Simmons County Park, Ruskin, Florida
B – Fort Wilderness Campground, Disney World, Florida
C – Lake Louisa State Park, Clermont, Florida
D – Boondocking Rally, Fort Ogden, Florida
E – Monument Lake Campground, Ochopee, Florida
F – Rainbow Springs State Park, Dunnellon, Florida
G – St. George Island State Park, Eastpoint, Florida
H - Grayton Beach State Park, Sana Rosa Beach, Florida

Sunday, Feb 2  to  Wed, Feb, 5 – Ft. Wilderness CG, Disney World

We had not planned on going to Disney World this winter.  However, when the window of opportunity (Sunshine) appeared and we were able to get last minute reservations for a few days at Fort Wilderness….WHY NOT:o)) 

01 - Karen and AlOn Sunday,
it was only an hour drive to Disney World. 
Our site was not available when we arrived, so we parked in the holding area and walked up to see RV-Dream friends, Karen and Al. We got a chance to see their new 5th wheel… it’s a beauty!!

We weren’t there long when we received a text
telling us our site, 102, was available.
We got set up on our site… one of the best we have ever had!!!00 - Site 102 Fort Wilderness Campground 
Since we are only here for 3 nights, our set-up was minimal. 

Having been to Disney World  MANY  times,
I decided to enjoy this short visit  WITHOUT a camera!!!
YES, I had a few withdrawal symptoms;o)
We had a great time visiting Magic Kingdom on day 1 and EPCOT on day 2.
If you  need to see some Disney photos,
check out the posts from last years trip  Jan 23-26 :o))
Wed, Feb, 5  to Sunday, Feb 9 – Lake Louisa SP, Dunnellon, FL

On Wednesday, we had a very short trip (20 miles) to Lake Louisa State Park.  We chose this site for several reasons.  First, we would be close to shopping so we could stock up for our first boondocking rally which begins on Sunday, Feb 9th.  Second, it will be an easy drive south to Fort Ogden for the rally.  However, our third and most important reason was we wanted to go to Citrus World and pick citrus to take for all to enjoy at the rally!!!
Well, the day we arrived, the rain started and the day we left, the rain stopped:o((  The weather was not an issue with shopping and traveling, but we had to make a decision whether to pick citrus or not!!  Oh, a little water would not stop us…just didn’t take the camera.  Since I do not have any photos of our rainy stay, you can check out last years post to see a little about the state park and the citrus picking!!
Sunday, Feb 9 to Wed, Feb 12 – Boondocking Rally, Ft Ogden, FL
Finally, the sun came out and we drove south a couple hours to Ft. Ogden where we joined about 25 other rigs for the RV-Dreams Boondocking Rally. 
Now, you probably remember, we have been having major battery issues for the past 2 years.  However, we believe those issues have been resolved?!?!  So what better way to give them a real test than to go boondocking.  Bill and I have NEVER boondocked before…not even for one night!!  So this experience will test the batteries and us;o)) 
We arrived fairly early to find out we were not the first!!  Howard led each one of us to our spot in the circle;o))  We got set up and everyone met later for a Hot Dog and Chips dinner followed by a big campfire in the middle of the circle!!
Baby is the third rig from the right…you can see our screen room next to us!!01 - Our Spot in the Circle
YEP… we are in a cow field and here is our backyard neighbor:o))02 - Backyard neighbors
Monday, the first full rally day, we met under the trees about 10am to learn how to manage our holding tanks and how to maintain our batteries.  Howard and Linda made it so simple to understand.  So now we just needed to put what we learned into practice!!

03 - morning instructions
This is a very casual, unstructured rally.  Really felt more like a gathering of friends sharing help and hints.  There was always someone to answer a question or show you how to do something.  Later in the afternoon, a small group headed out with Howard to bike around the neighborhood!!

01 - bike ride 01b - bike ride - Sand Hill Cranes 01c - bike ride - taking a break

On Tuesday, we had a wonderful boat ride to Cayo Costa State Park, a barrier island off the coast.  It did take about 2-3 hours to ride out and another 2-3 hours to come back.  That’s a lot of boat time for just 2 hours on the island.  But the day was spectacular and I really enjoyed the experience!!
01 - Leaving the marina toward Cay Costa  01c - Pelican overhead01b - Dolphin  01c - Dolphin
I spent the two hours on the island,
walking the beach and photographing the birds… imagine that ;o))
(Click On Any Photo To Enlarge)
02a - Sea Gull 02b - Shore Birds 02c - Shore Birds
02h - Blue Heron White Version
02d - Reddish Egret and Gull02e - Reddish Egret02g - Reddish Egret02f - Reddish Egret THE END
On Wednesday, we had some new arrivals so Linda and Howard re-taught the tank and battery management lectures.  Never hurts to hear that stuff more than once!! So far, so good for our batteries.  We have really gained a lot of confidence on managing our coach without hookups.  As the day unfolds, that turned out to be a very good thing;o))
I could never tell the story as well as Howard, so here is the link to his accounts of the day.
Basically, we wound up moving for fear of getting stuck in the mud when we had to move tomorrow in the rain.  Of course, we now know that we never would have had to move, but we made the call we thought was safest for us at the time!! 
Wed, Feb 12 to Sunday, Feb 16 – Monument Lake CG, Ochopee, FL
Being winter in South Florida, the only campsite we could find was a boondocking site at Monument Lake farther south in the Big Cypress Preserve.  With newly gained confidence, thanks to Howard and Linda, we continued our own little boondocking rally for 4 more days!! We arrived 2 hours after we left Ft. Ogden at about 5:30pm and got set up on a very nice “pull along the lake” site before it got dark :o))'
00 - Monument Lake Campground - Site 8  01 - Monument Lake Campground - Site 8
We took our days here to do the things we missed when we cancelled our reservations a week ago to Midway because of rain.  Turns out, we had beautiful weather and took full advantage of it. 
On Thursday, we drove west to our first stop at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve Boardwalk.
01 - Fakahatchee Strand Boardwalk01b - Fakahatchee Strand Boardwalk - Zebra Butterfly
01c - Fakahatchee Strand Boardwalk - Little Blue Heron 

Once we finished the boardwalk, we started the drive east, back toward the campground.  Our first stop was for gas at the intersection of Hwy 41 (The Tamiami Trail) and Hwy 29 which goes into Everglades City. 
Continuing east on Hwy 41, we made a quick stop at the Big Cypress Visitor Center.
04 - Big Cypress Visitor Center
We have been here many times so we did not take time for the movie and exhibits.  We really just wanted to walk the short boardwalk out back to see if the Manatee might be there.  Unfortunately, not this time;o(

Our next stop was the Kirby Storter Boardwalk.
02 - Kirby Storter Boardwalk  02a - Kirby Storter Boardwalk 02b - Kirby Storter Boardwalk - Cypress Swamp  02c - Kirby Storter Boardwalk - Red Shoulder Hawk
I’m always amazed that we are usually the only people on these trails!!
Before we knew it, we had used up most of the day;o(
Back at the campground, I fixed dinner and we got to watch a beautiful sunset!
05 - Sunset
Since the weather has been cool, meaning we don’t need to run the air conditioner, we have been able to manage living by running the generator 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening.  That allows us to recharge the batteries, heat our water for showers and do any cooking necessary first thing in the morning.  Then in the evening, we can prepare dinner, top off the batteries again and recharge all that needs recharging:o))  We are 5 days without hookups and so far so good!!!
On Friday, we woke to a heavy fog and waited until after lunch to head out. 
Our hope was that the weather would get warmer and more animals would be out and about.
First stop, the Oasis Visitor Center where there are always plenty of gators to see:o)
 01 - Oasis Visitor Center  01b - Oasis Visitor Center - boardwalk 
However, it was still in the low 60’s
so there were not many gators out enjoying the warm sunshine. 
Just because you can’t see them, doesn’t mean they aren’t there!!
01d - Oasis Visitor Center -  gator under the water
We were there for over 30 minutes and he never came up for air;o((
This fellow decided it was warmer in the water and headed back in!!01e - Oasis Visitor Center -  heading back into the water
The colder than normal weather even has an impact in the Everglades!!
Our next stop is Shark Valley, one of our favorite places to ride bikes.
If you are not familiar, Shark Valley is part of Everglades National Park and has a tram road which forms a 15 mile loop road through the Everglades.  This year was very different from our other visits at this time of the year.  Usually this is the dry season, but it has been a cool and wet winter in the South Florida.  There is a canal that runs along the tram road that is usually the only water available to the animals.
However, the wet weather has create water sources elsewhere.
 02i - Shark Valley - Prarries are wet
As a result, the wildlife is dispersed to other areas and not concentrated along the trail. 
Regardless, it is still a wonderful ride through an amazing area of the Everglades!! 
We still saw our share of fantastic wildlife:o))
02a - Shark Valley - Momma and Baby Gators  02c - Shark Valley - Baby Gators not as big as a leaf
02f - Shark Valley - Ahinga Rookery  02g - Shark Valley - Ahinga Mom and 4 chicks
02h - Shark Valley - A Trio  02j - Shark Valley - Prarries are wet
Sunday, Feb 16 to Wed, Feb 19 – Rainbow Springs SP, Dunnellon, FL
On Sunday, we began to head toward the Pan Handle of Florida.  Our plan is to spend the next 5 weeks exploring this area of Florida.  But first, we are making a stop at one of our favorite places to paddle the river and spend time with some of our favorite friends!!
We had a long drive Sunday, but arrived and got set up on site 23.
00 - Rainbow Spring SP, CG site 23, our yard
Monday morning started out very cool so we decided to paddle after lunch.  Gin, Syl, Dan and Tricia have purchased winter RV sites at Cedar Key RV Resort about an hour away.  They drove over with another couple, Charlie and Dot!! Gail and Rick are staying at an RV park about 20 minutes from here until the end of February. Everyone arrived about 11am, we got the Sea Eagles inflated, ate our packed lunches and then headed down to the Rainbow River:o)

00 - heading to the river
The afternoon warmed up and it turned out to be a wonderful paddle!!
02 - Gail and Rick 03 - Gin and Syl01 - Dan and Tricia, Dot and Charlie
It was a great day, but the fun wasn’t over yet;o))
On Tuesday,
we headed over to Cedar Key RV Park to see the new RV lots
admire all the work they have put into the landscaping this winter. 
They have created a nice place to call their “winter” home!!
00a - Dan and Tricia's site  00b - Gin and Syl's site
00e - Pelican Place Sign  00c - Entering Pelican Place  00d - Pelican Place Sign
After our tour of Pelican Place, we ate our packed lunches and then headed into Cedar Key to get a bike tour of Cedar Key!!  It is a really cute beach town and riding bikes is the way to experience it:o))
01 - Getting ready to ride02 - Off we go06 - biker gang heading into town07 - from one pelican to another pelican08 - Downtown Cedar Key
We made two special wildlife stops along our tour!
04a - Daddy Great Horned Owl04b - Mommy Great Horned Owl
First to see the Great Horned Owls
next to see the Bald Eagle Family:o))
05a - Bald Eagle Chicks05b - Bald Eagle Parent
It was another Great Day with Special Friends!!


Wed, Feb 19 to Mon, Feb 24 – St. George Island SP, Eastpoint, FL
Our next stop is St. George Island State Park in Eastpoint, Florida.  It is the first state park on the Pan Handle along the Ocean.  St. George Island is a barrier island.  You get to Eastpoint hang a left and go 5.6 miles to the Island.  Hang another left and go 4 miles to the state park entrance.
When we arrived at the entrance, we were greeted by THIS... a prescribed burn!! 
We checked in at the entrance station and were assured everything was under control:o)
From the entrance station,
you drive four more miles through beautiful sand dunes to the campground!!

You definitely are away from it all at the campground!!!
It was late afternoon by the time we got set up on Site 34.
I fixed a quick dinner so we still had time to checkout the beach and see the sunset :o)
As has been the case this winter, 
we get a couple nice days and a couple cool/rainy days each place we go. 
We were at St. George Island SP for 4 days. 
We had 2 nice days and 2 cool/rainy days;o))
  The first nice day was a beach and fishing day!!
Bill enjoyed a lot of fishing and just a bit of catching;o)
He managed to snag 2 small hammerhead sharks!!
I spent the time enjoying miles of beautiful beaches:o))
On our second nice day,
we combined hiking, biking and geocaching to explore the rest of the park.
We really enjoyed our time here and would put this park on our "return to" list!!
Mon, Feb 24 to Fri, Feb 28 – Grayton Beach State Park, Sana Rosa, FL
On Friday, we moved further west along the Pan Handle coast to Grayton Beach State Park.
Unlike our last park, Grayton Beach is located in an area that is more developed.  However, the park itself is still natural and beautiful!!!

There are two sections to the campground, the Old and the New.  We got a great site in the New section which is full hook-up!  Still it felt like like we were in a great state park:o))


We've moved into Central Time Zone, so it gets dark an hour earlier.
We barely got set up, ate dinner and had a short time to take a quick look around.

                                  Western Lake
Sand Dunes
The Sunset                                          

 On Tuesday, we woke to a spectacular day!!!

This would be the ONLY nice day, so we made the most of it:o))
We spent until mid-afternoon enjoying a beautiful beach!!


We ended this great day with a bike ride on the trail just outside the park!!
Unfortunately, the last two days of our stay call for lousy weather;o((
Oh well, this park is definitely on our "Return To" list !!