Winter is so great…

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Today I found out who (not a bird) had discovered the bird feeder. He comes from somewhere via an under-the-snow tunnel to the area beneath the feeder where the birds have tossed out a lot of sunflower seeds. I think he got tired of hunting in the snow and decided to go for the source. It was fun to watch him hang upside down by his back feet while chewing. He looked skinny.

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Following the drifted trail, which at this point I can still see.

The snow is really deep out there in the untrodden places. I decided to take a snowshoe walk today because it was relatively warm, with a clear blue sky and sunshine. It was odd at five o’clock to still have plenty of daylight, thanks to Daylight Savings Time, and thanks to spring which is just around the corner, I’m sure.

I so, so, so wish I could have had a video of this excursion to cheer me someday when I’m living in the nursing home.

I set out following a drifted trail that had been packed down by several previous walks, but it disappeared rather quickly. The last snow and the accompanying wind had drifted it over and there was nothing except innocent looking whiteness to indicate where I should walk. The field was wide, the trail was narrow. I lost it completely.

At the point in my walk where I was as far from the house as I was going to go, it started getting frustrating. Every step was putting me in snow up to my knees, in spite of having snowshoes on. I had to pick my feet up high and with the weight of the shoes and the snow clinging to them – kind of like working out with weights on your ankles. I started looking for the beeline back to a plowed area, but it looked equally far in all directions.

Then I started experiencing unsteadiness. The snow was giving way unevenly and my shoe would tip to one side or the other, or go toe-down so steeply that it would throw me off balance. This is how I ended up in a rather deep, soft hole with my face in the snow and my feet up higher than my body. Pushing one’s self up does not work well when you can’t find a “bottom” to push against. My arms sank in even deeper than my legs. Did I mention that the snow is really deep now?

Luckily, there were no hungry carnivores chasing me. Actually, I saw no animal tracks at all today proving that the other animals were smarter than I was and either found a path or stayed put. If you’ve never had to get yourself up from this kind of position, you have no idea of how difficult the logistics are. I tried several different tactics before finding one that worked, and once up, I made sure not to fall again. I did a lot of stopping and measuring the distance with my eyes… closer that way? No? Maybe this way? Maybe it’s time to call my brother for that snowmobile ride he’s been promising me? No, too embarrassing.

It felt ridiculous to be talking myself down from pseudo-panic when I was within sight of a dozen houses. I knew it was just a matter of trudging on until I could climb the last snowbank and get on a road, which I finally did.

I would have paid someone to give me a workout like that, and it was free! This is me, convincing myself that winter is so great. Yeah, so great, I love winter. No more walks like that, just sayin’…

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Isn’t it pretty out here? And this is not even where the snow was REALLY deep.

Birkie Trail, Next 6 miles

This is the second weekend that we have put on our hiking shoes and taken to the trail. After a week’s work, we really enjoy a good long walk in the woods. We skipped a shorter section in favor of a longer hike than last week. We will go back and pick it up someday when we have less time.

The trees were still more green than colored. There were only a few brilliant ones, but that didn’t keep it from feeling like autumn.

I was a little obsessed with the fungi, but you’ll see why. Strange stuff.

Enough talk. I just want you to see what I saw.

Makwa Trail, here we come.
First spot of color.
The trail skirts this lake except for here, where it gets a little crazy. This is a single track bike trail.

Moss abounds. Lovely, right?
Time for some fungi.
More fungi.
And more…

And this one!

This little guy, about head high on the trunk of a tree, amazing!
Can you spot the camouflaged picnic table?
One more.
No, one more.
Some trail worker forgot their saw.
I spent a lot of time looking at the path because it was always so lovely.
About mile 6 we left the single track trail and did a mile on the larger ski trail. We (the girls) were getting tired and the ski trail was straighter and smoother.

Myakka, strange name, great place

Myakka State Park

Years ago when I was a teenager my family would take winter trips to Florida. All seven of us would travel in a pick-up camper which made it prime bonding time. I think we usually stayed about two weeks, about as long as we could stand to bond, and in that time, we would park in private and state parks along the way. Myakka was often one of the northern-most state parks we would visit in our search for sunshine and beaches. The Myakka River is one of the national wild, scenic rivers and a small weir widens the waterway out into Myakka Lake.

Two of the memorable things about Myakka that are still going on today are the tram ride to look for wildlife and the airboat ride, also to look for wildlife. I’ve done both. We were always successful seeing the “a” animals, armadillos and alligators, but there are also occasional deer and lots and lots of birds.

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Me and three old trees

This park is always pretty busy in the winter when the weather is cool and conducive to camping and hiking. There are over 39 miles of trail in this park. I’ve hiked there once and you also get a good idea what Florida’s pine flats are like. As the name suggests, very flat, lots of pines and palmetto. The park does a good job of controlled burns and maintenance of the trails.

I mentioned in another post that in the 30 years we’ve lived here, the husband had not been to this park at all. People would visit us and I would take them to Myakka but Dennis would be working. That has been remedied, and none too soon. On the Friday before Memorial Day we visited the park with our good friends who go there quite often. This weekday was a good time to beat the crowds, although there were quite a few there by noon when we left. This was also an unusual time since we had just started having seasonal rains and the river and lake were FULL. Some campsites were underwater and the water level was way above the tree line.

 

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Chef at work

My friends usually take breakfast or a snack to a picnic table close to the lake, but this table had been removed so we chose one of the pavilions for our breakfast spot. I had no idea this was going to be such a feast, but my friend is an excellent host and planner so all the bases were covered. Her husband was soon cooking bacon and eggs over a charcoal fire while the three of us sat watching him with our coffee and homemade biscuits. The picnic area is well appointed and close to parking and restrooms.

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Hostess and the husband, holding down the table

While there we watched people arriving for the airboat tour, the first one starting at 10 a.m. We could see the new gift shop and boat dock from our picnic table. I made a quick trip up there (it’s on stilts for obvious reasons) to look for a hiking medallion which I had never gotten before and they had them, along with tons of other interesting stuff. The airboats claim to be the largest of their kind in the world and they do hold a lot of people. The tours are guided by knowledgeable park staff – I have always come away knowing more about the lake and ecosystem.

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Great shop for souvenirs but you have to walk up the steps to get there. Tables beneath in the shade. (There may be wheelchair access but I didn’t see it.)
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The big fan in the back powers the boat so it can get in very shallow places (where the alligators are…)

This park has rustic, old log cabins for rent as well as various types of campsites. The cabins have been refurbished and are very comfortable. You have to rent them well ahead of time because they are very popular.

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part of the boardwalk into the marsh

This park is great for birdwatching and we saw a lot of high tech cameras and tripods being lugged around. There is a long boardwalk out into the marsh, and also a canopy walk high in the trees. We went to the end of the boardwalk, but the water was so high that there were few birds to be seen. It was getting hot and the husband was getting tired so we didn’t go up in the canopy this time.

We rode through the park from the south entrance to the north entrance on this visit. The north entrance is not always open – you can always drive out but can’t always come in – so visitors need to check the schedule. It’s safest to enter via the south. Lots of large oaks shading the road, lots of water views, opportunity for kayaking, canoeing, fishing – it’s a great place to get a feel for central Florida waterways. Pack some food. Go there. Enjoy.

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My hiking staff with medallions . The dark one with the alligator is from Myakka.

“Back in the Day”

Back in the day…

Something about those words makes me cringe with premonitions of stories about how high the snow banks were or how many miles it was to walk to school. Now I am guilty of using it all too frequently as I write. Guess what – EVERYTHING has a back story. EVERYBODY has a back story. That’s what we call it today, if we are kind.  I think the back story is often crucial to understanding things about the present story.

A long time ago, in a land far away (Bradenton, Fl) the husband decided to buy a man toy called an E-Bike. He has always found gadgets intriguing, especially if they were energy saving and had some practical use. This bike was an early exploration into transporting oneself using electricity, much like electric cars are today. It was only available through car dealerships and was the social experiment of the day. It was pretty, shiny blue, feeling of quality and fully decked out with lights, various indicators on the handlebars, locking mechanism, gears, horn, and all kinds of gear bags made to fit. Sweet.

The plan was to ride it the seven miles to work, along a busy highway. I guess there was a bike lane in some places but it was often hazardous with broken glass and other tire-puncturing trash. The traffic went by, close and fast. It was often raining, or hot. The plan didn’t last long. But being the oddity that it was, the bike was pulled out pretty often and demonstrated to curious friends and family. It rarely left the driveway.

My own most vivid memory of using it was when I visited frequently with an elderly lady who lived five or six miles away, mostly through residential areas. I got some exercise, because I could pedal it like a normal bike. But, its real advantage was in the take off moment at intersections. Instead of having to go from my resting/waiting pose to that awkward effort of quickly powering through the crosswalk with dozens of eyes watching, I could just touch the little lever and smoothly zoom away with no effort at all.

The real reason I remember this time had nothing to do with the bike however. It marked the first time I lost a cell phone out of my back pocket and spent hours retracing the the route looking for it.

Years later, the husband gave the bike another chance. The office had moved and was not even two miles away so once again he was riding it to work. One day, there might have been a light rain making things slippery, he rode across a railroad track which crossed the road at an angle. The front tire got caught and he crashed and tumbled. It was a trauma for the husband and for the bike. Neither has ever been the same, although the husband has recovered acceptably.

For the past year or so, I have enjoyed biking frequently for fun and exercise. I would be doing so now except I have lent my $60 pawn shop bike to a friend who had no transportation. Not knowing when I would ever see my bike again, I turned my attention to the E-Bike, sitting forlorn and flat-tired in storage. With the heavy battery removed, and the broken parts held in place with a bungee, it actually rides pretty well. I was pleasantly surprised this week on my first outing with it. The seat had shock absorbers, the handlebars straightened up nicely, it went quietly, and unlike my pawn shop bike, the brakes worked. It’s a go.

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It’s still a pretty color due to hardly ever leaving the garage for years.
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A few covers missing, a couple bungees holding the empty battery compartment shut. It works.
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Some of the clip on instruments are missing but it still has a strangely “techy” look, I think. Looks are so important.

There is a satisfaction in bringing an unused thing back into use.  I also appreciate the back story of the E-Bike and the chance to think about other back stories, and the whole concept of histories and how they might inform the present. Just sayin’, “back in the day” might become a frequent theme.

A New Thing to Do

I think it is good to do something new, every once in a while, if you can find something. Finding something new to do is not always easy, but it really helps to  hang out with someone younger. Someone who does things that you didn’t know about.

Now this could be an introduction to several things, but what I’m actually referring to is geo-caching.

It’s an odd sport, but I saw it in action the last couple of days and I think it has a certain charm. For me, at least, it attracts me in the same way as doing jig saw puzzles, playing Microsoft solitaire challenges, or hunting down sea shells at the beach. It calls for a focus, a dedication to the hunt, and possible putting up with some inconvenience.

We were walking in the forest, on a treacherous unpaved path with tree roots and rocks grabbing at our shoes as we climbed steep embankments. Julia, as usual, was paying no attention to the path but was fixated on her phone. She said we were near a geo-cache and she was going into the woods to find it. She handed me the dog’s leash, and the dog and went off the path and disappeared into the brush. The wait was rather long. I was developing a story plot in my mind about a girl finding a cache (whatever that was) and falling into an alternate universe as she grabbed it, never to be seen again. A man and woman came by on the path and as I felt awkward standing there doing nothing, I explained what I was waiting for – a person who had gone looking for a metal box hidden out there somewhere.

I finally heard a shout, which sounded excited, and I attributed it to a successful find. But there was still a long wait before she was seen or heard returning. It is customary to open the box when it is found and leave a record on a small notebook, or leave an object as proof of your presence. As with much of today’s fun, an app on a mobile phone is responsible for announcing the nearness of a geo-cache and guiding the way to it, within a small margin of error.

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Yes, we are never free from our phones, even out in the forest it seems.

Today we went hiking again. Wanting to see how easily this sport could be called up, I asked if there were any geo-caches in the area and Julie turned on her app to find out. There were several, and they were not too far away. The hunt was on.

It took us 30 minutes to find the first one after we reached the area. We are in a forest downed trees, brambles, ravines and all sorts of natural obstacles strewn about. The forest floor is covered with leaves and debris. The clue given to us, as I remember it, was to look on the downhill side of the path for a fallen log, with some parallel sticks on its uphill side. We also had a picture of a little boy holding the box by the log. It’s a forest. There are fallen logs everywhere, parallel sticks are not scarce either. As I said, it took us 30 minutes. Julie found it. She was quite pleased because this improved her record, having now found more caches than the ones she had tried to find and missed.

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Find a log with some sticks by it. Sure, no problem.

A mile or so later we were following another clue – find the cache not more than 50 feet from the path, on a fence line between a pine and a hardwood. I saw the fence line first. That was my only contribution. Julie found this one too and our only disappointment was not finding a pen in the box so we could record our presence. We took a picture instead – at least we know we were there.

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One of Julie’s finds – the one by the log obviously.

We finished the hike discussing where we could hide our own geo-caches, and how we would carry pens with us next time – enough of them so we could leave one in the box if necessary. I would dearly love to get rid of some of the many pens I have accumulated and this would be a fun way to do it. My only problem is that my phone’s storage space is full of apps I don’t use and can’t get rid of (thank you Verizon) so I have no room for the geo-caching app. I may have to get a new phone, just sayin’…

Great Smoky Mountain Adventure

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The sun rising in the east over our deluxe accomodations on the day of our hike… (I’ve stayed in worse, for sure.)

Time has gone by minute by minute, and our vacation is almost over – something to be looked back upon. As usual, it never seems right to be leaving part of my family anywhere, anytime. Julie and the dog had not yet left when we drove away from the motel.

Yesterday was by far the highlight day of our trip. Julie had to leave Tess the dog at the motel with Dennis the husband while we did our day hikes. Dogs are not allowed on most of the trails in the park. Husbands are allowed, but only if they want to go. Dennis is still not up to hiking and has had an uncertain time with his blood pressure and medicine side effects.

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This hike out and back was only about 2.5 miles but the falls was definitely at a higher elevation, lots of climbing. We didn’t see any llama pack strings.

We chose to go to Grotto Falls first, knowing that it would only get busier as the day progressed. It is a shorter hike and close to Gatlinburg so many people are taking it.  We did the 1.3 mile uphill climb, taking pictures along the way. The woods was beautiful, as was the river. The falls itself is known for the path that goes under the waterfall.  Being there, with that wall of rushing water between me and the world was quite cool, literally. Natural air conditioning courtesy of the turbulence of air and water and shade. It’s a unique and beautiful experience.  People of all ages were standing around on the rocks, nervously watching their children trying to get close to the water, taking pictures, drinking in the aura of the place.

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Does not make for a smooth trail, but very pretty to look at.

We took our own pictures, went a short way up the trail on the other side of the river and then headed back the way we had come. Mount LeConte was more than six miles away up the trail and not on our list for the day.

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The Roaring Fork Nature Trail is a one way motor loop up to Grotto Falls and was a great way to see the forest and several more creeks.  Going back down through the woods was fun but the best part was at the end, nearly into Gatlinsburg, when the line of cars we were in slowed and stopped.  People were out on the road taking pictures of something, which turned out to be a bear. A few seconds later another bear, on the other side of the road, came nearly up to our car. I think it was a mama and cub that got separated.  The mama looked a bit confused and didn’t want to cross with all of us in the way. I hope they got reunited.  WE SAW A BEAR! Unexpected bonus. I’m glad we were in the car.

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Our bear, on her way to check us out.

Our second hike was a loop starting with the Little River Trail, to the Cucumber Gap Trail and ending with the Jakes Creek Trail. We parked and headed upward along one of the most beautiful rivers I’ve had the privilege to see. It was full of rocks, some as big as a small house, and the rapids and pools were everywhere a wonder. This trail was a road in an earlier age when wealthy families from the cities came up to cool off in their summer lodges. The Park Service has since bought the properties and is taking the old buildings down, leaving only the chimneys and fireplaces that look like monuments along the road.

The Cucumber Gap Trail was smaller and more typical of Smoky Mountain hiking trails. It was on this stretch that we noticed the weather was changing. It was getting darker. Then it was thundering and lightning. And then, of course, it was raining.  At first the canopy kept us from getting too wet, but the trail was heading upward still. The canopy was thinning out and providing less shelter. I thought of all the places I wouldn’t want to be in a lightning storm. Sure enough, on top of a mountain with my feet in a puddle was one of them.

These trails are for people when they’re dry, and for water when it’s raining. They become little rivers with slick, muddy bottoms. At times we could walk on the bank above or below the trail (in the poison ivy) and other times there was no option but to get our boots soaked. I was so thankful for my new trekking pole. It was a lifesaver. We stopped taking pictures and wrapped our phones in plastic. You are being spared seeing us looking like drowned rats.

This was a near six mile hike and we decided to say that at least three of those miles were in the rain. We actually enjoyed it, realizing that it was an experience we might easily have missed, since we never would have started out in the rain. The wetness, the uncertainty of the storm, the added difficulty of the trail was just enough of a “rush” to make it memorable. I loved it. Towards the end, as we were searching for the parking lot and our car, we were getting a bit hypothermic. The temperature was down to 67 degrees and we had been wet for quite a while. Now I have a “hiking in the rain story” with each of my daughters. Thankfully this time it wasn’t 32 degrees, and we weren’t camping.

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They actually grind grain and make bread for the restaurant here. Very interesting historical place and the food (and service) was GREAT.

The day ended well with hot showers, dry clothes, and a top notch dining experience at the Old Mill Restaurant in Pigeon Forge.  What can I say? It has been a great trip, hotel expense courtesy of BlueGreen vacations.  I’m writing in the Knoxville Airport, where our flight on Allegiant has been delayed 3 hours. That’s about the only inconvenience we’ve had to endure. And no, we didn’t buy a timeshare, just sayin’…

Getting Away in Gatlinburg!

Tomorrow the husband and I are getting on an early flight to Knoxville for a short vacation. Never mind that we have never taken vacations before – we’ll learn how to do it. Never mind that we’re only doing this because it’s a time share sales pitch and we have to resist listen to a two hour hard sell.  We get three nights, four days in the Smoky Mountains! Sweet.

Our time away from home has always consisted of trips to see family, business trips, and solo trips where one of us stayed home. We have gone out to dinner a number of times, does that count? Part of our problem has been that it is hard work to plan and take a vacation. It is harder work than just staying home and going to work as usual. And it is costlier than staying home, for the most part. Watching TV away from home can easily costs $100 a night whereas at home, the same amount pays for a whole month! Enough of that, we’re going.

Our destination is close to Gatlinburg, the “gateway to the Smokies”, which sounds lovely to me. I want to wander the quaint streets with occasional glances at the nearby views of mountains and streams. I want to ride the cable tram over the valley.  I want to be a tourist!

One of the days I am promising myself a hike to a waterfall. I have looked at the maps and there are so many trails to choose from I’m going to have a hard time picking just one. Daughter Julia hopes to truck over from North Carolina to hike with me. My new trekking pole doesn’t quite fit in the suitcase we’re taking but the husband is going to find it “necessary” for his stability in the airport, so it’s going.

A late breakfast tomorrow in Gatlinburg. It will be wonderful! The only thing that could ruin it would be if we came back owning a time-share. Just sayin’ … (and prayin’…).

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Encouraged by the message on a flyer in the mail, she set off on a vacation.

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things R

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The Namekagon, although in a different season than my story.

Rivers

I’m not sure where rivers come from, someplace hidden, but I know that if it were not for them, there would be no lakes and maybe even no oceans.  I hold them to be a little less scary, most of them having at least two shores visible, sometimes more if there is an island in the middle. They seem to be self-cleaning if left alone. Sometimes they become shallow enough that the bottom can be seen and there is no fearsome, endless descent as in the sea. Another wonderful thing about them is their motion, always on their way to something and wanting to take you along, which is mostly a good thing. Sometimes not.

We were visiting our hometown for a family reunion and one of our bonding activities was a river trip. The Namekagon runs past our town in its own valley, one of the nation’s Wild River Refuges, and we have often gone down sections of it in boats, canoes, kayaks and inner tubes. This time I was in a short, one person kayak, which because of its lack of length and directionality, was more like a teacup floating along on the current.

I don’t remember how I got close enough to the willows on the bank to get caught in them, but it was a place where the current quickened and was strong as it bent around a corner. Leaning a bit to avoid getting hit in the face, I lowered the edge of the teacup enough on the upriver side to allow the flow into the boat – the death knell of staying upright on the water.  We, the teacup and I, flipped.

There are only split seconds in which to discover whether you will stand or swim, hang onto the boat or onto the paddle. It is exciting, so much so that you may not even notice injuries incurred on the rocky river bottom. I stood, a little more than waist high, in the cold, swift and amazingly strong stream, choosing to hold onto my boat. Like a sail catching the wind, the kayak caught the water and only the overhanging branches kept us from going quickly downstream. It took an adrenalin rush for me to wrestle the boat upright and walk it to more shallow water where I could empty it.

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Whoa, turn around. I think Mom’s in trouble …
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Oh never mind, she’s wet but she’s alive.

By this time, others were aware of my predicament and were watching for my paddle to float past. We regrouped and continued our trip.

I remember this incident because it is the only time I have capsized (unless there is another that I have truly forgotten). I remember it because of the large bruise, scrape and painful lump on my shin that took a couple months to heal. I remember it because of the miracle of going back and finding my camera, catching the sun and glinting among the rocks on the bottom. I dried it out and it still worked, sort of. I remember it because of all the gorgeous pictures on the digital card that I still have and enjoy.

The river meant no harm. We just had an experience together.

When has nature given you an adrenalin rush experience?

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things K

My Kayak

The first reason for having this fine thing for a favorite is that its word is a fun palindrome. Kayak is kayak no matter which way you look at it.  I love words that look quirky too and having those k’s at the beginning and end give it a nice balanced look. Balance is a very good thing for a kayak to have, believe me.

I had a birthday recently and one of my hopes for every birthday is to do something mildly scary (or new) that makes me know I am still alive and meeting challenges. I also love to share my birthday experience with someone, but this year there was no one free to help me out. I had to do something alone, and that was probably the needed scary factor – doing it alone.

I decided that I would go out in my kayak to a new place, Lake Manatee, which is a reservoir on the Manatee River east of the town where I live. I have done a birthday kayak outing once before but at that time I rented a kayak. Having my own now, the first challenge was to get it on top of my car and fastened in place, by myself. Doing something a bit difficult and awkward with someone watching on makes me feel a little like a two-year-old screaming “I do it myself!” but that’s the way it had to be since I had to know if I could do it.

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Yeah, just try to figure one of these out….

The most difficult thing was figuring out how to work the ratchet straps. I’ve never studied them long enough to really “get it” but now I do. They are very handy things but you have to know how they work.

Since I’m always a nervous driver when something is strapped on to the outside of my car, this process of loading up was very important to me. Can you imagine my kayak laying out in the middle of I-75? That’s not just mildly scary, it’s nightmare material.

I’m happy to say I did it, I enjoyed it and I lived to write about it. In the interest of keeping posts short, I’ll post my picture story and be done.

 

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Here’s how I travel. Safely in the parking lot at the lake.
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Looking a bit wild. It was windy. But, I am all color coordinated which is the important thing.
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I saw an alligator in one of the backwaters I investigated. I left rather quickly.
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It’s even more windy in the middle of a lake, and of course, that’s where I went. I don’t know why.
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It was beautiful along the shore, sun made the water sparkle.
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An outing is no good without food. I found this sheltered shore with a “hitching post” and had my snack.
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I rescued this balloon out of the water. Things like this can pose danger for water birds and other wildlife.

What do you like to do on your birthday that makes it memorable. Don’t say “eat cake” please…

Ordinary Times and Travels: Florida Off Road

I am blessed with an eclectic family, people that are willing to share their lives and experiences with each other. As a result, I have had an entertaining afternoon at River Ranch, Florida. It’s not really a town. It’s a community of people bonded by their attraction to off road vehicles and the camping lifestyle. Think classy redneck, lots of flags, dust, dirt, mud, throw in a few guns and lots of food, trailers and serious off road vehicles. That’s River Ranch.

In my family are men who do work with machines – clearing land, building structures, hauling stuff – and that is how they came upon River Ranch. Having done a lot of work there for others, my nephew now has his own campsite and comes up from the city to relax and have fun with his family. Early in the development of River Ranch people picked their campsites and claimed them much like the old-fashioned land rushes. My cousin had his site fenced off and outfitted with a well, outdoor showers and an upscale outhouse.  The camp section is crisscrossed with sandy lanes and trails and covers a lot of territory. There are a few permanent residents but many are weekend regulars in RV’s and trailers that they park under shelters they have built.

For this outing our families had a sandwich making assembly line, packed a cooler of drinks and loaded up our vehicles. A few weeks ago a wildfire went through much of the camp area and destroyed a lot of property. We started our trek through this burn area. All the roads and paths are dirt and sand, and since there has not been much rain it is very dusty. That is why many of us had dust masks and  head coverings. Our next stop was the “play pen” where our twelve year old guide showed us how to get down and dirty. We toured my nephew’s campsite and then headed out into 8 square miles of Florida wilderness.  We had our picnic in an area called “the oaks” for a very obvious reason. We traveled on to the water hole and then back to our starting point. Come with me on a picture rendition of our 5 hour journey!

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These were the multi-person vehicles that we used, along with several single person ATV’s. The small blue one was built by my nephew’s son – it didn’t go with us.
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Our caravan starts out through the pine burn area.
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Trey, our very own “Evil Kneival”, led the way all afternoon. They call this “sugar sand”. It is possible to get stuck in it, yes.
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Sadly, fire travels swiftly through dry palmetto and underbrush. Many buildings and vehicles were destroyed but since it was during the week, few people were present.
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We enter the “play pen” with Trey demonstrating how to play. Mud reigns. Some of these puddles are deeper than others.
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He’s often on two wheels. His dad says he has never gone over, amazing. Funny thing, none of the rest of us did this.
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The stunt man parks his four wheeler on a tree at “the oaks”. Picnic time.
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A tasty lunch, a little tree climbing and swinging from ropes while we rested up for the rest of the trip. There were lots of families with kids out here and they all looked to be having fun. A little dirt doesn’t hurt anyone.
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Trey, not quite sure of what to do with this bump in the road???
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Actually, now we’re sure. We are going around this part of the trail.
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Our guide opens the gate at the campsite. Shower stalls and the outhouse are prime features, along with a nice fire pit.

Many thanks to our host and hostess for an interesting afternoon “off the road” in Florida!