The dawn on my last day at Gamble Rogers State Park does not disappoint.
As sunrise nears and the colors bleed back, pelicans skim along the water.
And then here comes the sun!! I actually do sing Morning Is Broken at each sunrise substituting pelican or sandpiper for blackbird has spoken. I love sunrise. I’m at my best in the mornings.
But today is moving day and my joy is short lived when I find that my slides will not go in. How in the world do I move my rig with two slides out. I’m not going to go into all that I did and all the people I asked for help who knew less than I did. Finally, I had the ranger go inside and while I banged on the hydraulic motor with the hammer, he pushed the retract button and the motor worked long enough to get the big slide in. We did it again and the back slide came in so I was able to leave on time for my 90 mile drive to Alafia River State Park. The stress was nearly overwhelming.
I have a pull through site at Alafia and don’t dare open the slides until I can get someone to replace this motor that is only a year old. That’s a serious tale of buyer beware from last December, but too depressing to detail.
The view through my front window here is quite different than at Gamble Rogers.
The view out my side window is of an open field next to the lake. Very nice.
Alafia River State Park is a former phosphate mine. Mining altered the landscape and created huge holes and steep grades. Time and Mother Nature have also altered that landscape.
Alafia is known for its mountain biking. The 17 miles of bike trails were originally created and maintained by the SouthWest Association of Mountain Bike Pedalers, but are now maintained by the Friends of Alafia club. The mine was abandoned before remediation laws took effect, and the area where mountain biking exists is an erratic mixture of pond depressions and abrupt hills jutting from the surface. For those in the know, the trails are rated Epic by the International Mountain Bicycling Association. The trailhead parking lot consists of bathrooms, bicycle rinsing stations, shaded pavilions, a volleyball net and a playground. Every day I saw it, it was always nearly full.
There are a lot of bikers here. The trails are rated easiest/easy/ intermediate/advanced and expert. I have a wide tire bike but am not a mountain biker and did not try even the easiest trail. Too many bikers for me. I’m more of a hiker. The “connector” trail from the campground to the bike trailhead at the parking lot is shared by hikers and bikers. I hiked it nearly every day of my 10 day stay here.
Connector Trail from Campground to Bike Trailhead.
In addition to the biking trails, there are 20 miles of equestrian trails which weave around lakes, over hills and through wooded trails. Most of the trails are wide enough to accommodate buggies and carriages. There is also a 12 stall horse barn for campers to use. While I saw many many many many bikers while I was at the park, I saw only two carriages with burros, for whom I have a very soft spot in my heart, pulling them and two riders in my entire 10 days. I cannot even begin to imagine our Fred or Ginger pulling a cart. Can you Carrie??
Many equestrian trails are open to hikers as well although they were often too muddy or the streams too deep for me. There is only one hiker’s only trail and that is the Old Agrico Trail named for the abandoned mine on which the park was created. I walked this trail every day as well. I could leave the campground on the connector trail and follow it to the bike parking area. As I approached the parking area, I cut off at the trailhead for the Agrico Trail which goes by waterfilled pits surrounded by steep ridges of cast spoils overburden. The spoils have reforested naturally and the pits stocked with game fish though they are pretty green as my pictures will show.
The park opened in February of 1998 with 6000 acres and approximately 12 miles of river bank along the South Prong of the Alafia River. Strangely, there is no kayak put in to the river without leaving the park, driving around its perimeter and putting in on the other side. VERY INCONVENIENT.
The main reason for my choice of Alafia was not hiking, biking or kayaking but rather that it was close enough to the Tampa Airport for me to fly out to spend Christmas with Carrie and her family. Of course because of Covid, this year I could not do it. And even though I mailed their gifts on the 12th of December, they did not arrive in time for Christmas morning. I did get to do some face time and have some pictures of them opening their other gifts But I sure wish I could have been there or at least my gifts could have been there. Thanks to Carrie for the pictures.
Colin and Celia Posing by the tree
I know I’m biased but they are pretty darned cute.
No new babies for Carrie and Matthew. This is the latest of I think 10 Iwanowski grandchildren. Matthew’s brother Mark’s daughter Lennon. I really like the picture of Carrie and Matt.
Before facetime, I had an oatmeal pancake Christmas breakfast with my buddy Pooh. Maine blueberries and Maine Maple Syrup for toppings and hot chocolate to drink from my Nana cup.
After facetime, it was off for an afternoon hike.
First down the connector Trail where I couldn’t get my camera set fast enough to get this armadillo before he gave me his rear and scurried off into the brush. Sadly, I never saw him again. But I like knowing he’s here.
As you can see, it was a gray and cloudy day.
I reach what I call the hub which is a sandy area where trails go off in every direction as you can see from the sign post. They include Old Agrico which is what I’m looking for. The others are bike trails. If you are a mountain biker, this is the place for you.
There are a couple of bike jumps located near enough to this hub that a walker can slip down the bike trail and watch the bikers jump. My favorite is right at the head of the Agrico hiking trail. The mountain bike group that created this did a great job and the bikers love it.
Those who are not quite ready to jump can always stay to the right of the jump and continue on the dirt/sand trail.
There he goes.
Closer shot. No thanks says I. Not even were I younger.
The only trail in the park marked No horses, No bikes.
It winds all around, up and down reforested slag piles from the mine. Mother Nature is amazing in the ways she cleans up after us.
The trail goes by numerous abandoned mining holes which have filled with water.
These are two different pools though ferns seem to like to grow along the edges of them all.
I assume this beautiful oak was not cut down in the mining or perhaps it has grown this majestic in the years since.
After the Old Agrico Trail brings me full circle back to the Connector Trail, I head back toward the campground and as I get closer, take my favorite trail in the park. It is a short little trail called the Creekside Trail and has a tiny waterfall. Really tiny! For those who would like to hear the beautiful sounds of the water, click the words Creekside Trail above. And for those who listen, I did call Laurel right back but I did not do another video on another day.
A big salad and a bowl of Nancy’s homemade potato soup were my dinner on this solitary holiday.
Because of all the holidays and 3 day work weeks, I am having an incredible amount of trouble getting my slide problem looked at.
The next step in the saga of the slides is the arrival of Darrell Leece of Mobile RV Repair. He comes out on Christmas Eve and somehow gets the slides out again which I didn’t really want for fear of not being able to get them back in. He tells me not to worry. He is thinking he will just get the part number of the motor, order it, put it on and I’ll be set to go. But, not so easy.
Neither Winnebago nor HWH knows what part number the motor put on here was even with the VIN and serial numbers of the rig to help them. In trying to determine the part number from the old motor Darrell tries to take off the solinoid but it breaks and he has to replace it. He orders that part with no problem, comes out a second time to put it on and then a third time on New Year’s day with a couple of men to push my slides back in since the hammer trick has ceased to work and the correct part number has yet to be determined. 10 days and I have no idea how I’ll get this fixed.
Last look at Winnona with her slides out for quite a while. Happy New Year to me, SIGH!
My reservation at Alafia ends on January 2nd and I move on, thankfully with the slides in but not in “quite” all the way. I worry about them the entire 90 mile drive to Oscar Scherer where I will have to find yet another RV Technician to take on this problem. As you can imagine, the costs mount.
Luckily I can access everything in Winnona except half of the closet and 6 of the 9 drawers in the bedroom. But this time, I took out things I thought I might need in the mean time. Wish me luck with this amazingly difficult problem. I hope the start to your New Year was better than mine. As we all know at this point, January 6th was a day beyond all belief. But that and further Technician travails will have to wait until my next post as this one is already too long.