Saturday, May 14, 2016

2016-11 From Perry to Ocala and St Cloud Florida


Hickory Mound Preserve

Perry Florida

Ocala/Silver Springs Florida

St. Cloud Florida 

Econfina Rv Resort
Campground:  Econfina Rv Resort.  This is a small campground with RV lots available for sale.  It’s at the end of a road leading to the Gulf of Mexico, but no beaches here, just rivers, mangroves and swamps.  No Cell phone service.  Half a dozen Over-the-air TV stations.  I probably wouldn’t stay here again as it’s 25 miles into the nearest town.

Campground:  Silver River State Park (now Silver Springs SP…) $13 senior rate, water and 50 amp.  They are currently installing sewer hookups.  Nice large pull-thru sites available.  Wooded, shaded sites. Small museum on site, access to Silver River for canoeing and kayaking.

Campground:  Shelter Cove, St Cloud Florida.  A private condo for Rv’s and park model campers/trailers.  More info on this park in next report.

Black Water st pk to St Cloud Florida

Health issues, diabetes.

As you may know, over the past year I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes.  My A1C numbers were right on the edge of being diabetic.  After taking meds for a year and working on a very rigid diet to lower my carbs, I’m back in the normal range and am no longer in the pre-diabetes range.  While traveling on the road, I was able to have blood work done every three months, with results mailed to me and the doctor’s office.  So even while being on the road, one can monitor and work on health issues.

Was it easy cutting out most all pasta, bread, breakfast cereals, deserts, sugar, potatoes, even bananas and rice.  Of course it was, but it was that or go on medications to control it.  I have found a few low carb substitutes and occasionally when going out to eat I get flustered trying to figure out what is the best choice for ordering off the menu.  It took giving up all potato products to finally reach my A1C goal.  Yes, that means I have given up on baked potatoes, French fries and hash browns.  I consider them the three major food groups, but I did it.  I’ve lost a considerable amount of the weight which is a natural side benefit of following a low carbohydrate diet and my blood pressure has gone down considerably as well.  I’ve even reduced the amount of blood pressure medications I’ve been on.  Woo-hoo!

Econfina River

Central Florida Visit.

I’m heading towards central Florida for a quick visit with my sister Dorothy and to check out an Rv lot that’s for sale in her neighborhood.  If I decide to get it, I would probably only use it a couple months each year, or more likely every two years, as I enjoy going out west as well and have found it’s easier to stay out west for a year or two before coming back east.  This is a big country after all.  There are expenses of course with owning an rv lot, such as condo fees, taxes, possibly insurance, electric bills and who’s going to cut the three foot strip of grass?  Renting it while I’m not there is a possibility.

My first stop is about 25 miles north of the small town of Perry.  The campground, Econfina Rv Resort, is a secluded spot along the Gulf coast, though no views of the Gulf are visible from the campground area which is literally at the end of the road.  Actually Econfina River State Park is properly the end of the road.  It appears to be a tiny state park with a boat ramp and is only steps away from where I’m staying for two nights.  In actuality it's over 3,500 acres, but I doubt most people ever see more than the boat ramp and a few picnic tables.

Rv owned lots, like a small compound

in between two of the campers

An interesting note.  Recently I’ve seen a lot of helicopters.  Military copters from Whiting Field over the Black Water State Park and now here at Econfina Rv Resort.  A ambulance helicopter landed right out front of the park where they have a large circular parking lot area.  After landing, he went back up in the air and circled the park a number of times before landing a second time.  I thought he was just doing practice runs, but it appears that they needed to stabilize the patient before putting him on board the helicopter.  The helicopter then headed towards Tallahassee and a big medical center there.

medical helicopter

There are two things worth seeing in this area, one is the St Marks lighthouse and nature preserve.  But one could actually stay in the Newport Campground ($27 a night) since it’s directly opposite the Lighthouse entrance road.  I’ve visited the lighthouse in the past and it’s currently closed for renovations so I didn‘t attempt to go there a second time.

adventure to Hickory Mound Preserve

However, the other attraction is the Hickory Mound Wildlife Management Preserve.  This is where you can see a piece of the “Real Florida”.  It’s a wetland area along the Gulf of Mexico and because it doesn’t have any beaches, it has remained a pristine area.  I was thrilled to drive down the 7 mile white sand packed road that leads to the estuary with glimpses of the Gulf of Mexico beyond.  Duck hunting and fishing are popular here as well as birding.  I love seeing the native palm hammocks, oaks and pines all along the mashes and wetland areas.  On my way into Hickory Mound I came across a group of teenagers who were just coming out of a natural pond after a swim, perhaps it was a quarry at one time.  But it’s sandy bottom and warm fresh waters sure looked inviting.  The narrow raised roadway that creates a dam effect for what they call an “impoundment area” of brackish water and is where all those birds like to congregate was my final destination.  What awesome views of the wetlands, I hope some of my pictures do it justice.  One section is made of concrete and is a spillway for letting high tide waters flow in and out of the area.  A really nice observation deck, a few picnic tables as well as a few short docks for fishing off of are the only improvements to the area.  I hope I’m not gushing too much, but this area is just stunning. And driving along that narrow elevated strip of land with water on both sides was super exciting.

Hickory Mound, a wetland preserve

the road across the raised mote

a few areas to picnic

great viewing platform

the impoundment area with the Gulf of Mexico in the distance

what an exciting road to travel on

bird population soars during the winter months

a Palm Hammock

me driving across the spillway

the natural pond where kids were swimming earlier

Distance Traveled:  150 miles  (my perfect distance to travel)
Ocala Florida

Although many people think of Florida as being very crowded, if you drive along the panhandle of Florida and then south along the Gulf Coast, you won’t hardly see anything but small towns and lots and lots of trees.  (see map at top of blog) This particular journey has taken me inland just a bit so I didn’t have the wonderful Gulf water views (hwy 98/319 from Panama through Apalachicola is a stunning alternative) , but today’s drive was truly stress free.  Hwy 20 through the panhandle (can we say long leaf Pine forests), then dropping down onto hwy 267 (mixed forests along with cabbage palms), south on hwy 19 (small towns like Perry, Cross City and Chiefland) and then towards the Ocala area on alt hwy 27 with all of it’s tone racing horse ranches surrounded by miles of beautiful fences, oak trees and pastures.

Ocala and Silver Springs is a gentrified horse community.  A really nice urban setting, many of the major roads leading into and around the city are really wide boulevards with heavily landscaped medians that look more like long extended parks with large manicured trees and green grass.  I’m staying at Silver Springs State Park (formerly Silver River), which is considered a part of Silver Springs St Park where the glass bottom boats and historical natural springs attraction is.

Speaking of state parks, the Florida’s state park system has expanded to 174 parks.  I’m not sure, but I’d say that’s pretty high up there with being the most parks compared to any other state in the U.S.  And that doesn’t count the wildlife preserves and state forests.  Years ago Florida created a land trust and occasionally (if the state does sneak money out of the trust for other purposes) it is able to purchase sensitive or exceptional land for public use.  Let me know if your state has as many or more.

One other note, I occasionally will use the phrase “The Real Florida”.  This is a slogan that the Florida State Parks likes to use to describe areas that relate to the real “original” Florida.  Not the commercialized attractions, high rise condos, beaches, cities and highways.  Many of the state parks were created to protect and conserve historical sites as well as natural sites like the many natural spring throughout Florida.

On an early morning walk around the park, I went over to the historic “cracker” houses and buildings.  Some were reproductions others were the real deal.  At the Iron Smith’s shop, a re-enactor was setting up for a demonstration later on for grade school kids.  He mentioned that I would have to leave the area when the kids arrived.  A new rule requires all visitors leave an area where school aged kids have come for these outdoor lessons.  That was a new one on me.  I’ve gone to many museums where school children are touring the same time that I am.  What a crazy world we live in.

Silver Springs, ranger housing

original glass bottom boat

1930 school house, would not have had any a/c

the recreated historical buildings

Well, onto my story.  Or I should say the Black Smith’s story.  He told about an incident not too long ago when he was giving a demonstration to a group of school kids, making iron gates and such, when a teacher asked him if a young girl could come over and feel some of his tools.  As the blind girl came over to the black smith, he showed her the vice grip and let her tighten it around a piece of metal.  Letting her touch and feel the tools he used, explaining how each one worked.  letting her feel the heat from the coals in the fire pit.  Explaining how the heat made the metal soft and workable.  Near the end of the tutorial,  she unwound the vice grip and the metal piece he was working on dropped out.  She was able to catch it in mid-air.  Hearing the slight clink of metal as it dropped.  The Black Smith said that was perhaps the most satisfying experience of his life.  And I can imagine that the other students watching also will remember that moment and every detail of a black smiths work.

the black smith, telling his story

I’ll arrive in St Cloud on Sunday with the rest of the story “to be continued”….

Econfina and Hickory Mound, pictures

Silver River State Park, pictures

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