Saturday, February 24, 2024

My Favorite Hike and the Steps Resolution

January 23, 2024                                                Most Recent Posts:
Silver Springs State Park              Jarring and Calming on the Silver River
Silver Springs, Florida                    Everything Was Going Fine and Then …

Silver Springs State Park is among my favorite parks in Florida and I have returned every year since we began coming to Florida in 2011.

I have a conflict between my desire to explore new territory and to return to the comfort of a familiar and well loved place such as this.  A question about that later.


The Swamp Trail is my favorite at Silver Springs even though I had a concerning near encounter with the monkeys here last year.  Here is a link to that post.

It’s not a long trail, about a 2 mile loop.  But if I do it and the River Trail, I can get 4 miles.  So if I go out to kayak in the morning and hike the Swamp Trail in the afternoon, it’s a lovely plan.



The swamp section has a boardwalk over it and that’s where I encountered the monkeys walking toward me.


Right about here actually.


I love swamps especially in winter when the mosquitos are absent.


I know that when the leaves come out this area will be dark and spooky.  I’d love to see it then but…..I wouldn’t like the heat or the mosquitoes.


One of my favorite books Where the Crawdad’s Sing takes place in a swamp.  I am reminded of it whenever I hike here.



There really is nothing else like Cypress Knees.


After the swamp, I arrive at the river.  The path on the left goes down to the boat access for the Ocala Schools educational boat which picks up students several times a week and takes them up to the spring head doing much needed environmental education along the way.   The right walk goes to an overlook.

The Silver River is fed by springs that discharge an AVERAGE of 516 MILLION GALLONS of water per day.    The water I see here flowing by was in the Florida Aquifer 2 or 3 days ago.


The dock gate is on the left.  This is the view from the right walk which has a bench where you can sit and watch what happens on the river.




Such a beautiful day, a beautiful place, but time to head back.  I have an appointment which is why I am not out on the water.



Those of you who follow along with my adventures and mishaps will know that I had one of those mishaps on my way into the park.   I still have no idea what caused my steps to fail but today was the day they were replaced and I could stop using the 2 step ladder to get into and out of Winnona.

Many thanks to Richard at The Trailer Doc and Fab Shop for getting the steps for me.   He got nothing out of it.  And thanks to Jim and Matt who got nothing but work out of removing the steps so I could take them to Richard.

And  thanks to Andy of Andy’s Mobile RV who picked them up on his way here and then installed them.

I’m so lucky!


Andy set to work trying to prop the VERY HEAVY steps up so that he could attach them to the underside of my RV which was leveled with jacks down and thus higher than if I had not been living in it.


I offered to store the jacks but he said he thought he could work it out.
He tried several different things and managed to make it happen.


Then the motor had to be connected.  That blew a fuse which had to be replaced and neither of us had the one we needed of course so I raced down to an auto parts store and got one.  SO glad to be near an urban area just now.


And then there they were.  It’s amazing how much I took for granted ease of getting into and out of the RV.   It was an expensive fix.  The total with the cost of the steps and Andy’s time and expertise was almost $1200.  BUT they are new,
“should” not fail and I’m back to ground zero as it were.


A parting thought, 
every year I struggle with whether to set up 11 month in advance reservations in Florida or spend the winter in Texas and/or Arizona.  Without reservations that far in advance, I will have to  give up Florida.  So I need to know when and where to make other Winter reservations.  Can any of you help with suggestions of spots where it will be warm and not Florida during the months of November through March?   I’m interested in towns and parks if you can recommended them.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Jarring and Calming on the Silver River

January 22, 2024                                              Most Recent Posts:
Silver Springs State Park Site 7         Everything was Going Fine and Then. . .
Silver Springs, Florida                         Ross Prairie and the Reservation Blues

There are many things to love about staying at Silver Springs State Park but the one I love the most is being able to take my kayak down to the boat launch and lock it up there.  That means I do not have to drive the kayak anywhere or take it on and off the car each day I go paddling.  I pull it down once on the wheels I have for it, find a place to lock it and come down every morning that I can to kayak the river.  Yes it’s perhaps a mile from the parking lot to the launch and yes it is a sandy trail and yes it is up hill all the way back when it’s time to leave, but it’s all so worth the effort to be able to kayak nearly every day.

How could I not love spending my mornings in this spectacular place?


It is simply amazing how much I see on a morning paddle of 2 or 3 hours or 4 if I get carried away.  These  photographs are all from one morning.  They are from Monday January 22nd.   This particular day had the shocking and the fantastic.  I will warn you, there is one picture showing nature “red in tooth and claw” as an alligator snatches a monkey.   I’ll let you know in advance and leave larger space before and after it so you can skip it if you like. 


Yellow Bellied SliderIMG_0940

Double Crested Cormorant
Check the blue eyeIMG_0944

Male AnhingaIMG_0948

Ibis often travel in groups and these were feeding on a mat along the shore.  This short short video shows the use one makes of his long curved bill.

On cloudy days or very cool mornings the turtles and gators may not be sunning until things warm up and/or the sun comes out. 

This gator looks  totally relaxed so casually draped over the log with a turtle lunch in reach.


Ain’t life grand he seems to be saying.

Green Heron

Tri-Colored HeronIMG_0970

Great Blue HeronIMG_0973

Black Crowned Night HeronIMG_0980

Male Anhinga drying his wingsIMG_0987

When I took this picture I did not realize the hawk had just had a hunting success. 

One of the reasons I believe that I see the diversity on this river is that is so well cared for.  The state owns both sides of it nearly its entire length and as you can see allows no fishing, no swimming, no scuba, no snorkeling and idle speed for motors though this is often disregarded.  


I have many pictures of manatee from this paddle.  I saw them several times when I was paddling up the river and when I was coming back.


I have restrained myself from posting too many of this marvelous mammal.


Wood ducks and turtles.


This young alligator still has his juvenile markings which I think are wonderful.


I saw many of each bird and of alligators and turtles and manatee during my morning.   I’ve tried not to duplicate tooo many.   The Black Crowned and the Green are my favorite herons.


I have left enough space before the next picture that if you wish to skip it, you can zoom on by.  I have really pondered whether to include this or not.   But it is a part of the natural world.

While paddling into a small cove, I was amazed to see an alligator on the bank snatch what I thought was an Anhinga or perhaps a Cormorant.  But later my close up shots of him eating his prey showed it to be a monkey.  I have several much more graphic pictures which I am not posting.  It is the only time in all my years on rivers in Florida that I have seen a gator grab something and eat it.


I felt as though I had moved from one extreme river experience to another when as I floated on down the river I was picked up by first one manatee and then by two.  The first experience was jarring and this was so very calming.


It was fantastic to have these escorts as I mostly floated  down the river and  one of the most delightful river experiences I’ve ever had.

You can see from my paddle in the pictures how close they were.


Because Manatee are so wonderful and so few people actually get to see them in the wild, I have included three short videos of them as they traveled with  me down the river.   Use these links to view them.  

The first is 10 seconds.

The second is 23 seconds.

And the third is 20 seconds.


At times they would put their noses up for air and then disappear from view.  I would be sad that they had left and then thrilled to see them reappear.

They were always close by when they reappeared and some times, as  in the picture below, going under my kayak.


The manatee escorted me down the river for nearly a mile and a half before it was time for me to leave and pull onto the campground ramp up head in the picture below.  You can see one moving on before me on my left.  They went on their way down the river.   I was SOOO  tempted to just keep by their sides.   I wonder where I would have ended up.


This really was an extraordinary day on the Silver River.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Everything was Going Fine and Then. . . .

January 17 – 21, 2024                                                  Most Recent Posts:
Silver Springs State Park                     Ross Prairie and the Reservation Blues
Silver Springs, Florida                                      Last Days at Myakka River

PXL_20240117_204618561.MPAs the title says, everything was going fine.  I had two days at Ross Prairie and stopped on the very short drive of 25 miles to Silver Springs State Park to get Winnona’s Lube and Oil change done.  

As I approached the right hand turn into the park, there was a car parked right on the side of the entry way.  I have no idea if that had anything to do with what happened but I swung wide to avoid him and as I pulled through the gate I heard a LOUD BANG.   What did I hit was my first thought.  I looked in both mirrors and saw nothing.  There was no where to pull over so I drove on to the ranger check in station with banging going on constantly.  Now I’m REALLY WORRIED.

I check in, pull over, get out and see this.   I have no idea how those steps got out since they were in when I left the Service place.  Later speculation by those who helped me with the problem was that either the bolt on the arm broke and dragged on the ground or somehow they came out when I swung wide.  Like everything else, they are 20 years old this year too.

Whatever it was, it is now a big problem.  Although I remind myself that I can spend a LOT of money on Winnona before I could possibly buy something else newer and less well built.

PXL_20240118_145826873.MPI arrived at my site which was a pull though and thus did not add to my stress.  My neighbor, Matt Silver, across the way asked me how my day was going and I said not so hot.  He came over to see why and said he knew a guy a couple of sites down that was a welder and he’d get him to come take a look.  

Matt and Jim Griffith came down the next day.  Jim thought it could probably be bent back into shape by a welding shop.  The problem was I really could not drive the RV with them hanging down like that.  They must have been banging against the frame but the racket was unnerving.

Jim crawled under the rig and with Matt’s help they worked for well over an hour to get the steps off the rig so I could take them to the welding shop.  I am so lucky to have such wonderful people come to my rescue.

I was also so grateful that Jim was knowledgeable in removing them since they are automatic, have a motor and a gear box  and had many more connections than just nuts and bolts.


Turns out that Jim’s tools were not heavy duty enough but David’s were which totally reinforced my feeling that I should not remove his tools from the bins.


Matt pulled the steps out and boy are they HEAVY.  I couldn’t pick them up so they put them in the trunk of my car for me to take to the welding shop I’d found just a few miles away in Ocala.


So here I am with no steps, a leveled up rig which was of course lower on the passenger side and a short stool to help me get in.   It was a REALLY BIG step up.  


The green stool  lasted about a day and I replaced it with my two step stool   I had to use that for for about 5 days.  When I went to the welder, he said yes they could bend it back and make it work again but he wasn’t sure the motor or thee gear box were not damaged.  Given his dollar per hour charge to fix it and the age of the steps, it wasn’t much more expensive for him to just order me a whole new set up,   But adding the installation charge it’s going to be a huge dent in my finances.


I was so sorry that Matt and his wife Paige had to leave a couple of days later.  They had reservations in the Keys and given how cold and rainy it was here, I know they were happy to be going.  They were the ones who first reached out to me and I will always be grateful to them.


The star of the steps removal was Jim Griffith.  He and his wife Judy were at the park a few days longer but not long enough.  Right before they pulled out I went down to get a picture of them and forgot my camera and phone DUH….so I took this one with Judy’s phone and she sent it to me.  I was so sorry to see them leave.  They aren’t going far, just to Rainbow Springs and then I think they will be back in Silver Springs but I will be gone by then.   Don’t know how they manage to get Silver Springs reservations nearly back to back but I’m glad for them.   I’m also glad that I’ve been able to keep in touch with both couples since they left.  So many RVers are such nice people.

Jim & Judy Griffiths

I wasn’t lonely for long.  Two days later  my friend Sharon from Tennessee came to spend a few days with me.   She rented an air B&B not 2 miles from the park and we were able to spend a cold and rainy week-end together.   Wish it could have been longer.

I’m hoping she will come and visit again when I’m here at Silver Springs campground next time.  Possibly she could rent one of their cabins.  There is a loop of 8 or 9 of them and they are darling.


She arrived on Friday and on Saturday we went to the Ocala Market which is not strictly a Farmer’s Market.  In fact, there were only two vegetable stands.



The market was near the historic district of Ocala so we put some miles on our feet walking through it.   I took pictures of some of the homes but sadly none of them were very good.


Many of the towns in Florida have painted animal statues around their downtowns or historic districts.  In Ocala they have horses as this area was the horse breeding capital of Florida and may still be though I’m afraid housing developments are moving in.


We decided to have lunch at an all day breakfast spot appropriately named Scrambles.


I’d forgotten to take any pictures of us and our plates were empty by the time I remembered.  Sharon agreed to this picture but unfortunately you cannot see her smiling friendly face.


We were back to her place by 2pm so she could watch her Tennessee Basketball team.   She was happy they whipped the Alabama Crimson Tide 91 to 71.

PXL_20240121_113823206.MPThat night was a cold one and the next day only marginally better.   As you can see it is 10:26am when the temperature climbed from 29 to 32 degrees.  Remember this is FLORIDA.  It is NOT supposed to FREEZE.

We’d thought we might go for a hike ,on Sunday, but when the wind picked up it was SERIOUSLY cold. 

Instead, 2e gathered up snack food and headed back to Sharon’s where we watched her Tennessee Women’s Basketball Team play.  They won too 73 to 64.   And then I got to watch my favorite women, the South Carolina Gamecocks coached by former UVA all star standout, Olympian and Pro Player,  Dawn Staley.  They are #1 in the country and as I type this in mid February are still undefeated.  

It was a great afternoon for me since I still have not figured out how to be able to watch ACC basketball for less than $80 a month to stream it.   And it was really  wonderful to be able to watch basketball with another fan.   Thank you so much Sharon for coming to visit and for loving basketball too.