Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Florida SKP for the First time

January 13-19, 2023                                                          Most Recent Posts:
Florida SKP Resort                                     Highlands Hammock to Start 2023
Wauchula, Florida                                   Days Before and After at Alafia River



Woke up on moving day with a puddle of water on the dashboard on the driver’s side.  Obviously there is a leak.  I had already discovered what may well be a much more serious leak and arranged for Todd to come to SKP on Tuesday so I’ll just add this to his list.


20230113_163131I’ve been a member of Escapees RV Club (SKP) for years but this is the first time I’ve ever stayed In one of their parks.  Pretty sure they are the oldest RV Club in the country with an interesting history.  Link to them is above.  

When I was making my reservations for this winter ELEVEN MONTHS ago, I ended up with a gap of 6 days where I was unable to get a reservation in any state park even reasonably near to the one I would be leaving January 13.

This is a membership park meaning that members own their lots and rent them out when they are not using them.  Escapee members have first chance at buying and renting.

The park is mainly RVs but there are also a few park models.  My site G18, was right across from the pool and club house, laundry, and library.  Very Convenient.


The pool, on the right was closed for pump repair.  That’s the clubhouse beyond.


Like most private RV parks during Florida Winters, this one has “activities”.  A few were listed on this sign on the corner across from the clubhouse.


They gave me the January Events Calendar when I arrived and clearly they need new toner in their printer.  I’ve enhanced this quite a bit so that you can read it, maybe.  It appears the ukulele is big here with lessons and performances.  I’ve never seen that before in any of the private parks I’ve visited looking for somewhere to be for 1 or 2 months rather than moving every two weeks.


Too bad I didn’t arrive in time for the Baked Potato Lunch & Ukulele show at noon that day. What a hoot!   And I was too busy with Mike to do Breakfast or Happy Hour on Monday.  But I did make it to Bingo at 7pm on Wednesday though I did not take any pictures I realized as I was putting this post together.


Another wonderful thing about being here was that I had located Mike who said he would come by and take a  look at the RV and give me a price to wash and wax it.  He came the afternoon I arrived and said $300 and I said yes.


He came the day I got there and every single day I was at the park.  That’s Friday to Thursday.  He was even there the day I left. 

The first two days he brought a helper, in the picture, above but the 3rd day he said the guy wasn’t helpful enough.


On Tuesday morning at 9am I opened the door and said hello Todd and he said no I’m Tony, Todd sent me.  I had researched local RV Techs and found only two that were highly recommended and Todd was the less expensive of the two.  Tony had a website but not enough comments on line about his work.  Todd had sent Tony who did jobs for him.  Tony told me he had taken over Todd’s Florida number when Todd went to NY for the summer and then set up his own business.  Obviously he does not have enough customers so he needs to take Todd’s over flow.  I feel it was very unprofessional that Todd not to tell me he could not come since the reviews upon which I based choosing him were all about him not his business or anyone else who worked with him.  Word to the wise.  Make sure the person you think you’ve hired is actually coming.  I was not happy and won’t use Todd again.  In future,  I’ll pay more for RV Guru who I found had great recommendations from people in the park and make sure he’s the one who is coming.

20230125_114812This is why I called Todd and  my biggest problem which has been going on a while apparently.  I’m 5’ tall and don’t use my shower for anything but storage.  I shower in the campground showers.  So I never look up there but when the wetness got close to the medicine cabinet, I noticed it and I am very very worried.  I called immediately to set up a Tech to come when I was at SKP.  Pressing the wet areas the morning I moved here when the water was on the dashboard, they were wet and soft behind the ceiling carpeting.

20230117_094456Tony said all he could do was caulk around the skylight.  That’s probably true but I have the roof of this rig checked every single year by either a mobile tech or an RV service center.   SUPPOSEDLY it was just checked in May before I came when my slide topper was replaced.  How could they not see the sealing around the skylight was cracked, if they actually checked all the caulk on the roof which is what I asked them to do.   I have no idea how long this leak has been going on but it doesn’t look new.

He caulked the skylight and around all the running lights so now I’m waiting for another big rain.

But how can I get the damage to the inside repaired?  And will it get worse if I don’t?   I assume it might be rotten behind the carpeting.  Will that spread like mildew and rust??   I’d really appreciate your advice if you have any.



The day I arrived, I had been visited by Marianne who brought me a bag of goodies with information to welcome me to the park even for only 6 days.  She had come back this morning to invite me to a happy hour that one couple did in the driveway at their rig. 

So at 4:00 I took my water and walked up.   I put my chair down next to Marianne since she’s the only person I know.  That’s her sitting by me on the left.

There were quite a few people and inside the screened patio some folks had brought snacks.  I was glad to see people that seemed to be my age or younger.



Only the lack of hiking within walking distance of the park, or anywhere near the park actually, makes me hesitate to try to stay a month here.  Below is the map of the park’s “measured mile”.  I folded it up and put it in the pocket of my jeans which is why it looks so bad but  the first few times it was hard to remember which way to go and which roads to use twice.  Not sure you can see the arrows.  The white lines are the streets.  The park is not large, which I like.  There are 3 streets running N-S and 3 running E-W.  You start at the clubhouse, turn left, go to the end of the street, turn left and just keep making lefts until you are back on the original street when you turn right and then right and so on.  You travel the middle street twice.  It seems to take forever but I dutifully did it 3 or 4 times each of the first days.


After a couple a few days of doing the measured mile I was pretty sick of it and looked for other hiking opportunities the only one that wasn’t just a sports park was  Paynes Creek Historic State Park 13 miles from the park.  The day before I left SKP, I paid $3 to get in so I could do some “real” hiking.

I put Ruby where you see the P for parking below and hiked down to the boat ramp sign on the Peace River in the upper left


There is a small drop off spot but you have to drag your kayak through these posts and down to get to the put in which is along the Peace River.


This is the launch.


Looking down river.  Looks like a nice “Peace”ful  place to paddle as it appears you could paddle either direction and not need a shuttle.  The river supported a large population of Calusa Native Americans who occupied this area hundreds of years ago.


I walked a ways along the river which obviously has sandy banks including up to to where Paynes  Creek flows into the river and then headed back to the central area in the park.


Walking along the river I came to what was a dock I assume that must have been washed out in the recent floods.  Many state parks on rivers all over the state were closed for a long time because of the flooding caused by hurricane Nicole.  She’s the one that sent me from Fort Clinch when it closed in November.


This is the trail map they give you and shows the Kayak Launch and other trails in white dots.  As you can see, the trails are not named, color coded or are numbers used to enable you to know where you are at any given time.   I thought this was seriously ridiculous.  And it turned out to be a real problem.


Notice on the map above where the Suspension Bridge over Paynes Creek is located.  It takes you over to the monument.  I went to the bridge first.

Sorry for the white beam in the photo below.  I meant to take another one from the other side of the bridge at this same distance but with my back to the sun.  However,  when I came back there were several people on the bridge and I forgot to do it.



Paynes Creek which the bridge crosses


20230116_145820I’m not terribly keen on monuments to white settlers who moved into the Native Americans’ homeland and took over. 

In this case, in the spring of 1849, tension between settlers and Seminole Indians prompted the federal authorities to establish the Kennedy-Darling Trading Post on the northern end of the Seminole Reservation.  In July 1849, the post was destroyed by what the park calls “defector Seminoles”.  Probably meaning those who weren’t keen about having their land taken.

In response, in late 1849, Fort Chokonikla was built nearby as the first outpost in a chain of forts established to control the Seminoles.  And no doubt resulting in the Seminole Wars.

I’ve blown the picture  up so you can read the memorial to the two men who were killed.   Wonder where the memorial to the Seminoles trying to protect their homeland is.


After this I went to the site of the trading post and then thought I would round out my 10K steps for the day on the trails.  Mistake.  I got well and truly lost even with the trail map I showed above.  No trail names, numbers or anything to tell you where you are.  Eventually I found my way out by trying to retrace my steps but everywhere in the Florida Scrub looks the same.  I was too busy trying to figure out where I was to take any pictures, and too tired when I finished to stop at the Visitor Center on my way out.


PXL_20230118_230921185 Over the course of my 6 days at SKP,  in addition to washing and waxing Winnona, Mike was detailing the rig, washing and waxing Ruby, I didn’t ask him to he just said that such a great looking rig had to have a shiny red car to pull and he was right Ruby needs washing and waxing.  He sealed the roof, treated the rust on my steps and bins and painted them, washed the windows inside and out.  He really likes my rig and wanted to do whatever he could for me.  A nicer guy you could never find.

I ended up giving him $300 in cash and a $200 check.   He obviously wasn’t paid by the hour.  And I felt like I had gotten a lot for my money.   He also checked and assured me that Tony had in fact sealed all the running lights and the skylight.   He wasn’t there all day always but part of every one of the 6 days I was at the park

And now I’m moving along to Lake Kissimmee State Park where I also have never been before.  This next post should have me caught up to real time finally.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Highlands Hammock to Start 2023

December 30, 2022 to January 12, 2023                   Most Recent Posts:
Highlands Hammock State Park           Days Before and After at Alafia River
Site 45                                                               Winding Up at Wekiwa Springs
Sebring, Florida

Somehow, sick as I was, I managed to drive to Highlands and get set up.  The pictures below are my site and my surroundings before the crowds showed up.



20230102_123739As soon as I could on Monday, I went to Urgent Care in Sebring.  The place was packed.  I didn’t think to take this picture when I first came in.  This is after about an hour.  I was told it would be a two hour wait and it was more than that. 

And another 45 minutes once I got into the room to see the doctor.  During that time they did a covid test which they said was negative.  He came in said they were out of flu tests but I looked healthy enough and my chest sounded fine  He prescribed an antibiotic which made my diarrhea worse and a cough medicine which the pharmacy told me hasn’t been available for several years.  Because it was January 2nd, it cost me $113 since I had not met my medicare deductible.

This is exactly why I hate going to Urgent Care.  I took the amoxicillin for TEN DAYS and it did nothing but give me diarrhea which quit the day after I stopped taking it.  Clearly this is not a bacteria.

20230103_143626I was SO TIRED of being sick that on sickness day 13 I took myself to Ihop and had breakfast just to give myself a treat.   They cannot begin to compare with David’s “Farm Breakfast” but it’s all I have.

I always drink hot water and really wish restaurants had cups that didn’t make the water taste like coffee which I don’t like.  I need to remember to bring a hot thermos of water for myself.

When I returned, the crowds had shown up.   Winnona is there on the left.  Highlands Hammock is the oldest of the Florida State Parks and  opened for tenters in 1931 four years before the park system started.   Its sites are a serious jumble probably because the campground was originally created for tents.


This was on  Winnona’s left side complete with multiple tents on two sites.


No idea what the two tall green things were.  If you know, tell us.


And here’s the view out the front window.  Thankfully I was on a circle and the middle of it was open and grassy.   This is a really busy park with 143 campsites with water and electric and one dump station that all 143 campers have to use.


For more than a week this was my view from my antigravity chair.  But it’s WARM.


20230107_120314My brother and sister in law had tried to send me my absolute favorite chocolates for Christmas to Carrie’s house but they did not have her current address even though she’s been there 2 or 3 years now.  So, luckily for me, the people at her old address refused delivery or sent the candy back to Esther Price.   Probably a very good thing since I seriously doubt the airline would have allowed me to bring back potentially dangerous chocolates on the plane.    SIGH!   

Though they had wanted to surprise me, ultimately they called let me know this sad story and get my current address.   It was a giant pick me up when the chocolates arrived although they made me cough more but  if I’m going to cough a lot it should be for a good reason.   Many thanks to Dave and  Cindy for this sweet treat.

This is THE BEST candy in the world so treat yourself and have them send you a box.  They have lots of other possibilities than coconut creams.  They have every kind of chocolate you can imagine.  If you like chocolate covered cherries or a selection of dark or light chocolates, go for it!   They even have chocolate covered potato chips.  Or stop by the Esther Price Candy Store if you are ever in Dayton Ohio.


Finally on my last 4 days of my two week stay I felt well enough to go on short hikes.   The first one I did was my favorite just in case I didn’t feel as well tomorrow.   I hiked the Cypress Swamp Trail which is a boardwalk through a glorious swamp.  I don’t look better than I feel here but I wanted to remember.



Ibis were feeding but they weren’t looking at me.



Not sure how I spotted this Anhinga in the veritable jungle that is this hike.  I love his webbed feet.  This is the kind of bird I’d like to be – able to swims and fly.

But the most numerous birds were the Ibis who came as a flock for lunch.



On David’s birthday, he should be alive and celebrating 76,  I did something I know he loved to do every time we visited this park.   I went to the CCC Museum.

There are 21 CCC Museums around the country and in our travels we visited all the ones we could.  This is the only one in Florida where the CCC created 8 parks in the 1930’s.

Both David and I think this program was brilliant and that it should be recreated.  There are so many things young women and men could do including help with the upkeep and restoration of the parks they created. 

There were 194 CCC Work Camps in 94 national parks and 697 camps in 881 state and local parks across the Country

The exhibits are very interesting and informative.  If you’ve never been to an exhibit or a full museum, I encourage you to see if there is one in your state or the states you visit and visit it.

Light was not my friend when I turned back to take this picture of the entry door and exhibits.

Each of the Florida State Parks that the CCC created is shown.  There are 8 in total which was the start of what became the Florida State Park Service.  Florida Caverns, Fort Clinch, Gold Head Branch, Highlands Hammock, Hillsborough River, Myakka River, O'Leno, and Torreya.  Beginning in 1931, by 1941 the CCC had created 99 buildings and other infrastructure in those 8 parks.


Here are the locations of those parks within the state.

The exhibits show things like the accommodations and the schedule they lived under.

You can click on this picture to make it easier to read.  Up at 6am, lights out at 10pm.  They were paid $30 a month and $25 of that was sent home to their families as this was a program designed to help during the depression.

I wish I could show all the exhibits.  They were so creative and the space used so cleverly.  This information was on clouds  hanging from the Ceiling.  Even blown up, it’s too hard to read but it says:

23,000 businesses failed in 1929.  32,000 more failed in 1932.
By 1933 one out of every 4 people in the United States was out of work.
Average family income dropped from $2300 to $1500.

The next day I hiked another short trail through the big Live Oaks some of which are hundreds of years old.

Most of you know how much David and I both love big trees.  There was no way to get my arms around many of these to give them a hug and no one to take my picture if I could.


A comparison of feet.

Hidden away in the woods, if you can recognize them, are wild orange trees.  Most of the low hanging fruit has been taken. David was a master at getting oranges and eating them as we hiked but they were way too bitter for me. 

This trail too had a boardwalk and on the other side down just a short way on the trail. . . .

I was lucky enough to spot this barred owl in the later afternoon.  I wonder why he wasn’t sleeping for his night time hunting.  His eyes definitely look sleepy.

He’s just fantastically gorgeous.  What patterns.  Nature is so amazing!

On my final hike I put 3 of their short trails together for a total of 3.2 miles.  It turned out to be a little much but I’m clearly feeling better.

I started out on the short Alexander Blair Big Oak Trail. 


Until its death a few years ago this tree was said to be 1000 years old, the oldest tree in the park.


Toppled by a major storm at least 10 years ago, the broken branches have revealed remnants of “repairs” done in the mid 1930’s.  The oak, with a girth of over 36 inches, was one of three trees in the park filled with concrete, reinforcement rods and brace cables by tree surgeons in an effort to preserve them.  This of course did not help it at all and added extra weight that destabilized the tree.  The picture below right shows cross crosses in concrete poured in the base.  A closer shot follows.   Also in the photo on the right is the shelf mushroom that has grown here since David and I visited. 



They are lovely aren’t they?


From there I went on to the Hickory Trail.


And across another one handed boardwalk where the vegetation is close on all sides.


And where I found another gnarly  elderly oak that they had not tried to fill with concrete.
It’s amazing that it is still alive given the bottom of the trunk.



Here is a picture from 2013 of David standing in front of this tree.  It’s difficult to tell from my recent picture just how big the tree is.  One of the many problems of not someone to hike with.

Last day at Highlands Hammock 004

If you’d like to see more of our 2013 visit to Highland’s Hammock including the still living Alexander Blair Big Oak and some of the huge limbs which fell off due to their weight,  use this link.

Next up are two parks I haver never visited before.