Saturday, November 8, 2014

Hillsborough River State Park

Just in case there was any doubt whether there are alligators here.
I reserved a few days at Hillsborough State Park north of Tampa to coincide with a doctor's appointment in Tampa and for time to visit family.
Unfortunately, only my daughter, Heather, and son-in-law, John were able to come over on Saturday, so the grandkids missed out on the fun. First we hiked the Rapids Trail along the river.
 Big cypress trees grow beside the river, and lots of little knees.
 We saw some gators from the trail.
You can see from their T-shirts they are a house divided…John a FL State Seminole Fan, and Heather a different kind of Gator.
 The campground was full of kids today…mostly cub scouts, but these were older.
 The river rapids.
 Some birds…Little Blue Heron, Great Blue Heron, White Ibis, and a turtle on the log.
 Gnarly roots.
Since the weather was nice, we decided to paddle the river. John and Heather rented a canoe.
 And I used my kayoo.
 Did we see gators? You bet!
 This is a mama gator. How do I know?
'Cause she was guarding some babies nearby. Young alligators remain in the area where they are hatched and where they are protected by their mother for two to three years.
 Heather was the best wildlife spotter on this trip.
 I would have missed this Banded Water Snake if she hadn't pointed it out. They are harmless.
We passed outside the boundary of the state park.
 Entering a county park.
This baby turtle was only about 3 inches in diameter.
 The water is very calm with little current.
 One of God's flower arrangements in a tree.

 Some large turtles.
 Elephant Ears growing along the river bank.
 They had a two hour limit on their rental, so we turned around.

 Some fun facts about alligators: Alligators mate in early May, and the female lays 35 to 50 eggs in late June or early July.
 The babies hatch in late August or early September.
 Newly hatched alligators live in small groups called "pods."
 Heather found this pod on our return trip. 
At first they looked like roots on the bank. We estimate there were about 30 visible along the bank and at the edge of the grass.
 Newly hatched alligators have yellow bands and measure about 6 to 8 inches.  
These are probably about two months old. Eighty percent of these will fall victim to predators before they are four feet long. They grow about a foot a year.
American alligators may live to about 50 years in the wild. 
So that's my alligator tale/tail.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Silver Springs State Park

I spent two weeks at Silver River State Park in Ocala, FL…to be close to doctor appointments and to meet up with some RVing friends. When I arrived there was a mini-car, mini camper group camping there.
The park has several well-maintained trails. I hiked most of them while I was there. 
The River Trail
Friend Soos and her dogs at the end of the River Trail. There is a kayak launch there. 
A "Siamese" tree on the Old Field Loop.
 We walked through the Old Cracker Village.
 Swamp Trail
 This trail ends at another point on the river. A Great Blue Heron was fishing there.
 View from the end of the Swamp Trail.
Wildflowers on the Sandhill Trail.

 Banana Spider on the Sinkhole trail.
 Thistle loved the trails too.
 Especially when we met critters.
I met two new RVing friends, Dave and Vicki. 
 They demonstrated their enthusiasm for Dutch Oven cooking. This was breakfast….pumpkin pie bake.
 I may have to take up Dutch Oven cooking myself. Dave and Vicki will give lessons at an upcoming get-together in February.
 Vicki and I went over to the Springs side, recently taken over by the State Park.
 We took a ride on a glass-bottom boat.
 View of an old dugout canoe.
 Our mini RV women forum get-together: Soos, me, Vicki.
 I took Soos to the Ocala National Forest Ranger Station to get her America the Beautiful senior pass…good for free entry into National Parks and half-price on campgrounds.
 Soos and I kayaked the river one day.
Here's what we saw: White Ibises,
 Belted Kingfishers,
 Anhinga climbing a tree,
 The river,
 Crystal clear springs,
 Spider Lilies,
 This is an immature/juvenile Moorhen.
 Little Blue Heron with purple flowers behind it….don't remember the name.
 Lots of turtles.
 Yellow-crowned night heron,
 The main spring, source of the Silver River.
 Anhinga swimming…you can see why they also call it a "Snake bird".
 An overturned palm.
 I liked this turtle's feet...
 Immature Little Blue Herons are white.
 we shared the river with other craft….no-wake rules apply.
 Cardinal flowers,
 Tri-colored Heron
 The Fort-King Paddling trail follows the route of the former "Jungle Cruise."
 A replica of Fort King, used during the Seminole Wars.
 Asters and butterflies,
 Did I mention gators?
 Green herons,
 We had beautiful weather and I hated to leave.
But I am now parked beside water in McIntosh, and look forward to daily breath-taking sunrises outside my door.