12/08/18 High Springs, FL

DAY #49

Woke up to a incessant banging sound, what the F*#! is that noise?  I took a moment to calm down so I didn’t make an ass out of myself by flying out of the trailer bellowing; what the hell’s going on!  Then, I nonchalantly (oh yeaI’m cool) opened the trailer door to see where the sound was coming from.  The people next to me had kids and they were banging a volleyball around, that’s what the noise was. 

OK, now that I was up (thanks kids) I thought,  might as well make the most of it.  It was another courageous day and with the campground full, I decided to head to the gulf,  Cedar Keys, FL to be specific. 

Cedar Keys is approx. 60 miles southwest of the park and to get there meant an 1 1/2 hour drive through a terrain of trees and fields.  This part of Florida remains very rural and undeveloped. 

Among all the trees, I didn’t see a lot of crops being grown (of course the growing season is over), but did see a number of fields and pastures with cattle (both dairy & beef).  I noticed driving along that quite a bit of land is up for sale around these parts.  A lot more than I’ve seen anywhere else so far on the trip.  I wonder, does it mean this is going to be the next big place to hang in Florida?

 I’m noticing the trees and undergrowth are changing.  There’s more native palms mixed in with the pines and other deciduous trees, and it looks like the palms people have planted have taken root quite well.  I’m starting to feel that I’m leaving the south and entering a new region.  The architecture of the houses are also beginning to change as well, and I’m noticing a whole lot more trailer houses.

After a mellow drive, made it to Cedar Keys and the Gulf…Ah, I really have a crush on the ocean.  Some history about the area.  Cedar Keys is the second oldest port in Florida, after St. Augustine.  The area for many decades supplied the cedar for those No 2 pencils we’ve all used.  It’s one of the largest providers of clams in the U.S. (or so I was told by the boat captain), and still produce’s a large number of oysters (now aqua-farmed).

Why are the photos always crooked?

Cedar Keys is an undiscovered gem.  It reminded me of a kinder, gentler Key West.  Other than the gas stations, there were no chain or corporate outlets.

A popular way of getting around town.

Some of the cool old buildings 

As I was walking around I noticed a number of stands on the pier that offered  tours of the keys, It was a quiet day and most of them were empty but I was fortunate enough to find a excursion.  It was a 1 1/2 hour cruise around the outer islands (keys) that cost $30.00 and afterwards thinking to myself, well worth it.

Look who’s back. 

The cruise left at 1:30 pm. According to the boat captain, the water in the bay is just a few feet deep (at high tide) and only drops one foot per mile. This makes staying in the channels imperative unless you have a boat with little draft.  Usually the water is quite clear but with the recent rains and lots of wind, the bottom which is mud/silt on top of limestone gets stirred up and hence, the water clarity decreases. Today though there was no wind when we first went out, it was so calm.

Looking at shore from the boat, it was so refreshing not to see high rise condos and resorts lined up and down the beachfront.

One of the keys (Island)

There’s six or seven islands during high tide, during low tide that number greatly increases as the water level recedes.

Got to see a dolphin which was super cool.  I think he/she was playing us. First it would come up on one side of the boat and you’d get ready with the camera, and as you’re waiting,  it would then come up on the other side.

Sighting confirmation. The best I can say about this photo.

There are a lot of birds around here.

Those are white pelicans.

One last look of the bay and then back to land.

After coming back in from the bay I walked around a little to see the houses in town.  I so like this style. Simple yet eloquent.

A bit more Florida than Southern style but the view.
The guys asked for one more photo.

A great day in the gem called Cedar Keys. Great weather, great time on the water, great time in town, hey, just a flat out great time.

Some views as I headed north away from the gulf, 

Continuing north, I came alongside the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge and decided to veer off route and take a loop through the refuge.  It took about an hour to complete the loop and it was so special, seeing Florida at its most natural.  Driving through the refuge was as exciting as it was scary.  It reminded me of the time spent in the refuge in Alabama.

The coolest thing happened driving through the refuge.  Running across the road was an armadillo, it ran into the underbrush before I could get a photo but man oh man, I got a good look at him, how cool was that!

Got back onto the main road and back to the campground.  Since it was after dark, I had to unlock and then re-lock the gate to the park, thankfully, they gave me the right combo.

It was a super solid day…

12/07/18 High Springs, FL

DAY #48

The weather was in the low 70s, sunny, and low humidity.  Just a flat out courageous day!

Decided to spend a laid back day around the park, with a leisurely drive into High Springs later in the afternoon. 

Did a quick walk around the park, including the spring.  There looks to be some interesting trails and the springs themselves, while not a “blow your mind” experience, is still a pretty cool phenomenon.  I think some of the trails go from the springs to the Santa Fe river, I’ll have to check that out (I’ll let you know what I find).

Notice the sandy soil.
Really like the Spanish moss hanging from the trees.

OK, where’s a photo of the springs? Isn’t that what the park is all about? Patience grasshopper, time will show you what you asked. (truth be told, I haven’t gotten around to taking any photos yet).

I decided to take a shower before heading into town.  The bathroom/showers were adequate, though they fell short of some of the other parks.  Reviews have said this place gets super crowded in hot weather and the bathrooms/showers are shared (compete) with the campers.  A park overrun with people resulting in having to wait to use the bathroom/showers is not what you look for when camping, definitely not cool.   Argh!  There’s no WiFi and my Verizon service is lousy at best, so that’s kind of a bummer (OK, hard core camper I’m not ),  OTA TV stations limited to four (out of Gaineville, FL).   You don’t miss it until you don’t have it (gee, that’s profound), really applies here, and it’s kind of a sad statement that it does.

Went into High Springs and after some trial and error, found the post office, needed to mail a couple of bills.  While driving around trying to find the post office, wow, the roads are so narrow and many in poor shape.  I felt like I was driving down an alley.

Stopped and had a late lunch at Bev’s Burger Cafe, and then off to Winn-Dixie for some grocery’s.  I did do a quick once over of the town, and put it on the list to check out again later in the week.

Headed back to the park and settled in for the night.  It was interesting to watch the caravan of weekend campers come into the park.  Many had big (30′-35′) trailers and what with the rutted sandy roads and cramped sites, it made getting around for them dicey.  The park really filled up by nightfall and with the sites so close together, well lets just say it wasn’t an ideal arrangement.  The campground went from quaint and quiet to congested and chaotic.  Not a good scenario for camping (at least not for me). I guess this is one of those times that you have to “roll with the flow.”

initial impressions of the park;  It’s has potential and a lot of positive things going for it.  It also has a lot of deficits that the State needs to address before it can become a first class park & campground.  Only time will tell of my experience here at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park.