Woke up to a cloudy day. The temperature was nice though, and there was little wind (notabigfanofthewind).
Didn’t think I could get any decent pictures, but went down to the spring anyway. With the water darkened by the recent influx of rain and no sun, even seeing the manatees, much less taking any photos was a challenge. Plus because of the rising water, the trail to the other side of the springs where you could best see them was now under water and impassable.
Went into Chiefland and had lunch. The staff wasn’t the friendliest but the food was good and the place was authentic (nocorporate brandingfoundhere). I’m noticing that iced tea is a big drink around here.
From the restaurant, hit the road for about an hour and made the trek to Rosewood, Florida.
About all that remains of the town today is this sign.
After Rosewood, I headed up to Bronson, Florida, which is the county seat of Levy County. It’s a cool little town with a southern feel to its architecture. The homes and buildings take you back into a southern state of mind. I thought I had left that, nice to see it back.
This caught my eye. Its located at the County Courthouse.
Headed back to Chiefland, and on the way saw another example of one of these.
I took the long way which brought me down a road with big old oaks lining the road and covering it like an umbrella, it was such a satisfying ride. Made it back to camp, and another day in the book. It was a good day.
Another beautiful day in Florida, I’m a lucky guy. Started out the day by taking a walk to the river. Strolling out along the boardwalk I didn’t see anything (critterwise), but coming back, a different story. There were two couple’s looking out over the inlet (betweenspring&river), and I asked if they had seen anything? They said yea, we’re looking at these big fish. I went and looked and they were right, you could see Aligator Gar near the surface and man, they were big! Then looking across the water you could see the turtles sunning on a log.
As we’re looking at the turtles, one of the guys says, hey it’s an alligator. We all go to look and sure enough, there it was.
It was so cool to see all these fascinating creatures in one spot. This was a major fun moment.
Then it was off to check on the manatees. They were there, just hanging out. The sun was in front of me so I couldn’t get any decent photo’s. It would be nice if I could get closer, but just seeing them is pretty cool.
After conferring with my navigator (google maps), headed out to the destinations for the day, first, Suwannee and then on to Horseshoe Bay.
Suwannee is about an hour to an hour and a half from the park (depending on which route you take), and the ride along the way is typical of this area. Trees, trees and more trees (heardthatbefore?). One change, you’re beginning to see are more palms mixed in with the cedars. Along with the trees, are pastures and cattle, and occasionally you’ll see a field where something is being grown, but not sure what (dormant time of year).
This part of Florida is really nice. It’s rural, relatively undeveloped, and still has a hint of southern charm to it. The climate is more like a temperate one with a splash of tropics. I’m thinking maybe this is Florida’s last frontier.
You take the road as far as it goes and when it ends you’re in Suwannee, Fl.
The town lies at the mouth of the Suwannee river as it flows into the Gulf. It’s a quiet, hidden away place tucked into the salt marsh.
From the laid back fishing & retirement hamlet, I headed to Horseshoe Bay which according to google, was an hours drive away. I mapped it out to take the ride through the Lower Suwannee wildlife refuge. You want to see Florida as it is in all its nakedness? Take a drive through a wildlife refuge. Wow, every time I do, it’s with a mixture of excitement and fear and this trip was no different. It was a great drive.
So cool to get this photo.
With the heavy rains come high water and I was getting concerned when I started to run in (orthrough) it on the road.
The further I went the more frequent the water appeared, and the more my concern rose. When a couple of vehicles pass me from the other way, I felt way better and ta da…I made it back to paved road.
On to Horseshoe Bay. It’s another small town tucked away along the Gulf. To me it gave off a different vibe from other places on the Gulf. No sand beaches to speak of, it seemed almost rocky.
Time to head pack to camp, and this time, taking pavement all the way. You find timber harvesting around these parts as well. I understand these trees are being grown as any crop (certainlynotvirgintimber), but still, I hate to see the clear cutting.
I went through Cross City and what I saw gave me an answer to the question; what do they do with the timber? A couple of plants were making mulch. Those bags of mulch you put around your trees, edging, etc. I also saw another smaller operation producing lumber (2×4?)
Hit the Wal-Mart lot to record the events of today, and then back to the park for the night.
Laid down and fell asleep last night around 7:00 pm and woke up at 2:00 am. No TV or Verizon will do that to you. I thought hey, why not take a shower, I’m wide awake, I need one, and it’s a good bet they’ll be open. Took a shower (surprise, nowaiting) and after a few games of solitaire on the laptop, thought I’d doze for a couple of hours, then get up and have the whole day to check out the area. Next thing I knew it was 1:00 pm, and I was just waking up, so much for the day…Damn.
OK, all is not lost. I could do some things that needed to get done. I could still make this into a productive day. I walked over to the area around the spring and checked with the concessions about renting a boat or taking a tour on a pontoon. Found out this is their slow season and as such, the boats weren’t available and with the river rising due to recent heavy rains, the pontoon tour was also a no go…bummer! Did check out the WiFi and it works, putting out an OK signal.
After checking on the boats, spent some time around the spring. Manatee Springs is considered a magnitude one spring. It releases between 50 and 150 million gallons of water per day. It’s bigger than Gilchrist Blue Springs but because of the high water, it’s not as clear and at this time, not as impressive.
People were saying they had seen a number of manatees on the other side of the spring. It’s hard to get close enough to see them with the high water levels and diminished clarity. I high tailed it over and there they were, big ones, small ones, plus it looked like a couple of babes. I couldn’t get very good photos of them (today), I was just too far away, and the sun was in front of me. I got to see them, I’m so excited!!!
They also have a boardwalk you can take down to the Suwannee river. It’s got to be at least 1000 feet long.
I came across a banded brown water snake just hanging out.
I really like the boardwalk. It brings you to areas otherwise unreachable.
Enough of this nature stuff, it was time to head for civilization. The trucks wheel wells had become caked with sand (actuallyIthink it’s limestone) from the roads at Gilchrist. I washed the truck, headed to McDonalds, and then off to the Wal-Mart parking lot. Why the Wal-Mart lot? Since I can’t reach the site to download the blog from the campsite, I need to go where I get a signal, and Wal-Mart with its spacious parking lot seemed a good place to go.
After finishing up it was time to head back to camp. No TV or Verizon, this is going to take some getting used to.
Got up this morning to another beautiful day in the wilds of Northern Florida. The sky’s had cleared and the sun was shinning. Closed the trailer and hooked it up to the truck (no problems). One last look around and we were as the song goes; on the road again.
The next stop on the itinerary; Manatee Springs State Park. The park is located six miles west of the city of Chiefland, FL. The plan is to stay at the park for the next ten days (leaving on December 26). The park is only 54 miles from Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park, so I made it there in little over an hour. Now that’s the way to travel.
Checked into the park, and off to my assigned spot (#59) I went. The main road through the park is paved and nice. The final stretch to the campsites (1/4 mile) however are not. They’re sand (dirt) and with all the leaves, kind of hard to tell where the road actually was. Having said that, these sand roads were still an improvement over the ones at Gilchrist Blue Springs.
As I was maneuvering to back into the campsite, here comes not one, but two cars wanting to get through. To make matters worse, I had gone around the circle the wrong way and backing in was now even more difficult. Where do these freaking people come from…Give me a break. I gotta tell you, I do struggle with people. I struggle in seeing the value in many of them. Something I really need to work on!
The situation cleared up and I was able to get turned around and backed in to the campsite. Mission accomplished.
It’s a nice site. Level and quite spacious with growth on three sides. This really helps it feel secluded from the other sites. At first, I didn’t see the power and water hookups, that gave me a momentary….oh man. Hooked the power up and the water, well, lets just say that’s in the plan (canyousayprocrastinator). The bathrooms are fairly close and look to be in decent condition.
The worst thing is NO Verizon service or TV signals. That’s going cold turkey, oh my god, what am I going to do? Did find out there’s WiFi at the concession area by the spring, maybe a five minute walk.
The last full day at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park, Florida. The rain has stopped and the clouds have begun to break up. Temperature in the mid 60s (which is nice), but a lot of humidity.
Time to reflect on the time spent here. Overall, it’s been a really nice place to stay. The park is natural and somewhat primitive (maybe a little too much, e.g. the road), the spring is simply amazing, and it provided (for me) a package of tranquility wrapped in a blanket of wilderness, I like this park. I should make clear, I like the park on the weekdays, but not so much on the weekend when it fills with campers. The camping area for trailers/coaches is small both in the number of sites and the sites themselves (as pointed out earlier). This can make for a very congested, noisy, and not at all, mellow experience. For me it’s the antithesis to what camping should be. I’m not sure if TV and Cell Service are considered a standard in camping, but both were poor in the park, which resulted in a bit of a inconvenience. Bathroom and showers were acceptable.
I’ve enjoyed exploring the area around the park. It’s a rural area and as such, it’s quiet. Getting a vibe like I’m entering an area of transition. It feels like Leaving the South and entering into Florida (state of mind). Some of the changes I’m seeing include, the style of homes, and the number of churches (still there but not in the numbers like in Mississippi & Alabama). I still see displays for boiled peanuts in the convenience stores, so the transition isn’t yet complete.
Didn’t do much today. When you don’t get up until 2:00 pm and the sun sets at 5:30 pm, that doesn’t give you time to do much of anything. Couldn’t get to sleep until 5:00 this morning and then woke up at 8:00 am. In my sleep induced haze, I set the alarm for 10:00 am, and well, we know how that goes (not so great). Seems like bad habits die hard. damn it, I have to do better.
It’s been a solid ten days, and I’m thankful for having had them. Now it’s on to the next stop in the journey, I’m looking forward to it.
I did go to Wal-Mart in Gainesville (yesintherain & dark), and going out as well as coming back, the road into the park was bad, like get stuck bad. A couple of spots I thought I might have to use 4×4, but made it through, just took it slow.
Amazed at the number of week-enders setting up camp. The temperature is decent but that’s it…Go figure.
Lots of rain today.
It’s days like this that really make the nice ones shine.
Another late start to the day. Decided to do some meandering around the immediate area and stay close to home, and what a day to do it. Just another beautiful day. Blue sky’s, high in the mid 60s, and a calm wind, I think today was just about perfect.
I like the area, I like the quiet pace and the feeling of space around you.
Let’s take a ride;
I went as far as the next town of Alachua, FL, which is only eight miles down the road, and it felt like I had crossed some imaginary line. Say goodbye to the South, and hello to, not sure what to call it, Florida? While Alachua does have a revitalized downtown, along with a history to go with it, It also has a feeling of a 3rd ring suburb with its fast foods, corporate chain stores, all running down one size fits all corridors. The houses are now cinder block ramblers or mobile homes. Gone is the aura of simple eloquence, replaced by the sterile hand of practicality. Gaineville is only 15 miles away, and what with Florida being so popular, and more and more people moving here. Well, it looks like development has come to Alachua.
Now I’m not against development, and I understand and accept that it’s just the way it is, but I still feel sad and I guess even mourn that it has to come at such a cost (as I see it).
Stopped to eat (Mexican), and headed back to the park in time to get there before they lock the gate. I’m lazy, I don’t want to (in the dark) try and put in the combo to the lock.
Remember when I commented about not seeing any birds, guess I spoke too soon.
It felt good getting back to the park, don’t know if I’m ready for the hustle and bustle of the big cities.
Spent time today walking around the park. Even after talking with the ranger, I was confused about the trail system (likewheredoyoustart), and after I started walking, I became even more confused.
On the way to the trails, I checked out the spring. I’ve noticed there are a lot of springs in the area, in fact there are three springs within the park itself, with Blue Springs being by far the largest. It’s considered a magnitude 2 spring and releases 40 million gallons of water per day. I’ve only seen springs where the flow of water is a trickle compared to these, so this is impressive.
The water is so clear, and I’m told a constant 72 degrees.
It was off to the trails. Let’s just say that the Florida Parks Service doesn’t seem to believe in using signage in their parks (noticed this before). After aimlessly wandering down what I saw as cleared paths and hopefully trails for a couple of hours, I finally made it back to the edge of the primitive campground and someplace I was familiar with. It’s such a relief when you realize where you are, and no longer have to worry about being/getting lost. Aside from the anxiety of not knowing where I was, it was a satisfying walk around such an interesting area, just me and nature. Saw a number of squirrels, but didn’t see anything else. I thought there would be a lot more birds, not just here, but in the area in general.
OMG, as I’m writing this I have the TV on and the show CHiPs is running. I’m finding myself moving to the disco infused sound of the background music, what’s happening to me? Seriously, It’s got to be one of the worst shows ever (sorry if you were a fan). What makes it watchable for me is that it’s so bad a drama, it becomes a humorous parody (Comedy).
Today was another good day. The weather was beautiful, the springs impressive, and the woods intriguing. Another day on the road…Thank you God for allowing me to take this journey and see a slice of the world you’ve created, I’m in awe.