Woodpecker Trail

I can always count on John to find new trails to hike or ride. Last week he suggested we ride the Woodpecker Trail in White Springs. That meant setting the alarm clock for 6:00 (during the first week of school), but we had a two hour drive ahead of us and didn’t want to ride in the heat of the day.

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Since Woodpecker Trail is only seven miles round trip, we decided to not only ride, but to also hike to Big Shoals, Florida’s largest whitewater rapids.

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It’s an easy mile to the shoals, but since we were the first on the trail, we had the pleasure of breaking through all of the spider webs. I looked like a crazy Ninja chopping my way down the path trying to avoid having webs across my face. And after a short while, John took the lead and handled the webs and spiders blocking the way.

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The overlook provided a good view of the Class III whitewater. But of course, we had to climb down the rocks to get a closer view. image

The first time we were on this part of the Suwannee River was in the early 1980s…in a canoe. We watched two canoes attempt to manuever through the rapids unsuccessfully, but that didn’t prevent us from making our own attempt. I’m pleased to say we paddled through without any difficulty and plucked the items from the overturned canoes out of the river tossing them on the bank so they could be retrieved by their owners once they were back on the water.

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When we completed the hike and returned to our car, we unloaded the bikes and started down the paved trail.

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Within the first couple hundred feet, we found the trail blocked by a tree upended in a recent storm, but John wouldn’t let me use that as an excuse to call it a day.

 

The 3.4 mile Woodpecker Trail connects the Big Shoals and the Little Shoals through a mostly wooded path with bridges crossing tributaries of the Suwannee.

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Big Shoals State Park offers over 28 miles of wooded trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and birding, and for those interested in water, there’s a canoe launch and plenty of opportunities for fishing.

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However, be aware that those who own the property adjacent to the park don’t take lightly to trespassers.

Celebrating Sun & Wind

Days with both sun and wind have been few and far between this summer. We’ve had many windy days, in fact one day it was so windy the sailboat was picked up and tossed on its side. However, like the sailboat tossing afternoon, most often the wind has been accompanied by heavy rainfall and usually lightning as well.

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So when we awoke this morning to both sunny skies and steady winds we wasted no time in raising the sails to take advantage of a morning sail on the lake.

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A morning sail followed by a swim and then lunch on the porch…couldn’t do any better loading the car and heading to the beach.

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What a good reminder take advantage of our backyard! No need to always pack a suitcase or travel when we live in Florida.

Ready for National Seashell Day?

Are you ready for the first annual National Seashell Day on June 20th? If not, it’s not too late to make plans to hit the beach with bucket and shovel in hand for a little treasure hunting Florida style.

 

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This year’s inaugural seashell event is something created by The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel, a sheller’s paradise. I’m not sure why it’s scheduled for a Monday, but it seems like a good excuse for a long weekend.

The fifty miles of white sand beaches in Lee County are a perfect place to start or add to a shell collection, but they certainly don’t have a monopoly on this beachy pastime.

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It’s nearly impossible for me to walk on the beach without picking up at least a pocketful of shells. You’ll find shells in the cup holder in my car, on the dresser, in my purse and in the washing machine.

Bettie Lou, my mother-in-law, celebrated her own version of National Seashell Day starting forty years ago, scheduling annual trips to Sanibel or Captiva collecting bucketfuls of shells. In fact, we have some of her treasures displayed on the wall and others in a vase on the end table.

Her shelling addiction resulted in more than one parking ticket as she wasn’t one to let a little thing like a No Parking sign prevent a shelling expedition. And she didn’t complain about the $35 tickets…just the cost of having a little fun. GO TO SHELL could have been her personal motto.

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I’m not sure if I’ll be on the beach on the “official” National Seashell Day next week, but I’ll be in Sanibel in July doing the famous “Sanibel Stoop” lathered in sunscreen, wearing my hat and sunglasses, carrying a bucket and shovel looking for the elusive lion’s paw.

Where’s your favorite beach for shelling?

TBT: There’s No Place Like Home

What a wonderful time we had bicycling in the Netherlands and camping in Iceland, but this picture of Meghan wading in the lake is a great reminder of the piece of paradise waiting just outside our door.

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The best things about spending the day at the lake:

  • No need to get in the car to drive anywhere.
  • No need to tough out bad weather…instead wait for the sunshine to return while reading or napping on the porch
  • No need to pack a suitcase; just grab a towel, sunscreen, sunglasses and hat.
  • No tickets to purchase or reservations to make.

Making memories while traveling is wonderful but so are the memories made at home.

Sunrise Sunset 2016: 4 Down 12 To Go

For the fourth year, we’ve watched the sunrise on the east coast of Florida and then on the same day watched it set on the west coast.

The morning began with a short drive from our campground to a public park next to the Deering Estate, and as usual, we started the day with rain drops. What is it about our sunrise adventures that bring the rain?

Fortunately, the rain ended by the time we reached the park, but heavy clouds muted the colors of the sun as it peeked over Biscayne Bay.

After wandering south through the Florida Keys, we rode bikes the final five miles to Mallory Square to avoid the traffic and parking nightmares. As always, hundreds, maybe thousands, gathered in the square entertained by musicians and jugglers awaiting the sun’s farewell.

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We walked through the crowds and carnival atmosphere before settling at the Weston where we found a more comfortable viewing area, and then with drinks in hand, took some photos of a beautiful sunset.

That makes 4 down and 12 to go on our list of 16 in 16.

2013: South Beach and Naples Pier

2014: Canaveral National Seashore and Clearwater Beach

2015: St. Augustine Beach and Cedar Key

2016: Miami’s Biscayne and Key West

Where will 2017 take us? We’re open for suggestions!

Best Way to End a Monday

We started Monday morning in the car at 7:30 (a half hour later than planned) for a full day of adventures. First stop West Orange Trail for a twenty mile bike ride followed by a stop at Leu Gardens to walk off a big lunch at The Coop. Then a final errand picking up some items from Emily in preparation for her move before the day’s grand finale.

Instead of returning home, we took a detour to the coast and somehow managed to avoid the rain that hammered much of Central Florida as we walked out on the beach at Canaveral National Seashore.

Then on to the main attraction of the afternoon, the Black Point Drive in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in hopes of spotting birds or other critters. No more than we passed the Black Point sign, a large black snake slithered across the road in front of our car. As has been the custom of late, John located a carcass. This time of an animal with an impressive smile.

The rosette spoonbills by far stole the show. Their bright pink feathers creating impressive reflections in the shallow water.

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We couldn’t resist waiting a little longer for the sunset, and it was well worth the wait.

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As the sun slipped away, we started our journey home, pulling in the drive a little after 10:30. Quite a day.

Bike Art

Parked in front of the Tax Collector’s Office in Palatka, I noticed a painted bike with flowers in the basket across the street so I jumped out of the car to get a better look.

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As I turned to go back to the car I saw another bike down the street so of course I decided to investigate further.

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Across the street, a blue bike with a basket full of flowers. And further down, more bikes.

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I had gone down a rabbit hole looking for the brightly painted bicycle planters adding a little fun to downtown Palatka.

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Several children’s bikes and tricycles were included in the bike art.

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There were even a few that looked like they were still works in progress, either lacking plants or paint.

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Finally I came across an interesting bike rack with a boldly painted message:

Bike Palatka

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This is a city ready to embrace the Palatka-Lake Butler Trail under development as well as the Palatka-St. Augustine Trail. Or maybe they’re just preparing for the upcoming Palatka Bicycle Festival on April 9-10. In any case, the bikes got my attention.

Santos Trail: Marion County

I’ve always thought of Santos as a place with trails for bicycling and horseback riding, but last month when I received my weekly email from All Trails, it suggested the Santos Trail in Belleview as one to hike. Sure enough, when we pulled in to the parking lot of the Santos Trailhead, it was clearly marked for hiking.

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Restrooms, a water fountain and picnic tables are available at the trailhead. The well maintained trails begin near the campground and cross paths with those designated for bikes and horses, but never share the same route. The out and back trail covers a distance of 3.4 miles round trip making it a nice way to get out for a short walk while experiencing part of the Florida Trail.

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We enjoyed our first hike at Santos so much we decided to take Luna with us a couple of weeks later. A true, blue, city dog who spends most of her time inside, Luna had quite a day on the trail briskly walking all the way out, but then slowing considerably on the way back, and did she ever sleep when we returned home.

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Less than twenty minutes from our house, the Santos Trail will be one we walk regularly, and it may be time to try the bike trail as well.

Happy Birthday to my Water State Guy

Florida is known as the water state: swamps, streams, rivers, bays, oceans, beaches…it’s an endless interconnection of water of all types. ~Clyde Butcher

As a girl from Indiana transplanted in the Sunshine State, I married a born and raised Floridian who introduced me to the wonders of the water state. So today on John’s birthday, I’d like to wish him a year full of more adventures on the water.

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St. Petersburg

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Florida City

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Crystal River

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Sanibel Island

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Lake Weir

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Wakulla Springs

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Ocala

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Stump Pass

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Ichetucknee Springs

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Lake Weir

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St. Johns River

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Stump Pass

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Hutchinson Island

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Caspersen Beach

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Big Cypress Swamp

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Fernandina Beach

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Miami Beach

Happy birthday John, my water guy!

 

3 Down; 13 To Go

In 2013, John and I developed a list of 13 things we wanted to do that year. One of the main reasons we developed this list was to make sure we got out and did things instead of wasting away free time just sitting around the house. As a result, we spent Thanksgiving in NYC where we watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, we watched the sunrise over the Atlantic and the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico in the same day, I caught an 8lb. bass and my first snook and we saw sea turtles hatch on Fernandina Beach.

We enjoyed making and completing a yearly bucket list so much that it’s become a tradition. We checked off the items on our 14 in 14 and 15 in 15 lists the past two years so of course, this year, we’re working on our 16 in 16 list. So far, we attended a Jackson Browne concert and a took a daycation in St. Petersburg.

Last weekend, we completed the third item on this year’s list when we spent the weekend in Miami watching Hurricane baseball. Devoting three days to college baseball between two top ten teams is really just too good to pass up. And of course, since Miami is one of our favorite places, it was really a no brainer to add the Gator v Hurricane baseball series to the list for 2016.

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College baseball and world famous milkshakes.

As Hurricane fans, we would have preferred a different outcome on the Friday and Sunday games when the home team’s bats were cold, but Saturday’s game reminded the Gators not to take the team to the south for granted.

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This year we not only watched baseball, but since the Hurricanes were hosting the University of Louisville basketball team, we saw two top ACC teams battle in front of the sold out Bank United Center crowd. Our first UM basketball game resulted in a win for the Hurricanes, and it definitely won’t be the last. What a great bonus to our college sports weekend!

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Dee