Saturday, March 25, 2023

Before and During my Visit to Rainbow Springs

February 27 – March 11, 2023                            Most Recent Posts:
Rainbow Springs State Park                                 Last Days at Silver Springs
Site 25                                                                         A Visit to Cross Creek
Dunnellon, Florida

Unplanned Overnight Stop Over on the Way

PXL_20230228_161326128I reluctantly pulled out of Silver Springs Campground on Monday and headed west on Route 40 through Ocala to PatRicks Auto and Truck Repair.  I have begun to use them as my 6 month oil change lube and inspection place.  They came highly recommended.  Also, they are just outside Ocala and near I 75 AND between Silver and Rainbow Springs.  Convenient.

My appointment was for 8:30am since I wanted them to do both the car and the RV.  So I was up and out early.

Without the car, I had to wait.  Maybe 3 or so hours I thought. 
But Ruby had problems. . . . lots of problems.  Some of which I knew about – new brake pads and 2 new tires but the calipers and rotors also had to be replaced.  I hadn’t had them looked at in the fall in Charlottesville.  My bad.

And so I waited.   And waited some more .  And when it turned out one of the needed parts wouldn’t arrive until tomorrow, I was an unhappy camper.

I wouldn’t be spending the night at Rainbow Springs and kayaking in the morning, I would be spending the night at PatRicks.  Boondocking.  But I have water in my tank and solar panels on my roof.
Such is life on the road.


Campground Site and Neighbors

I arrived a day late to my site #25, glad to have all that out of the way and two clean bills of health for driving on down the road. 


Over the course of the two weeks less one day I was at the park, I had some interesting neighbors.

Tow your houseboat anyone?   Pretty sure that was where they slept.  Most folks who tow boats back the tow vehicle in and leave the boat to the side so they can take it out.   But of course the van  could have sleeping also.



I just loved the name of this bus.


Very interesting truck camper.

Meet Kindred Spirit in the Waiting Room

PXL_20230302_130248455A couple days after arriving finally at Rainbow, I had to take Ruby over to Modern Muffler back in Ocala.    Luckily Dunnellon and Ocala are only just over 20 miles apart.  It turns out that in their VERY thorough inspection of both vehicles they found only minor things on Winnona (but a complete inspection at $140/hr labor is never minor) and the aforementioned things on Ruby plus the catalytic converter, which I had been ignoring, was at the point of possibly leaving me stranded.  PatRicks doesn’t do catalytic converters.  So……..

Heather at Modern Muffler Ocala

This waiting for work to be done was the most pleasant I’ve ever had.  If only she had been with me all day at PatRicks.

I met Heather, also having her car worked on.  We struck up a conversation and found that we had tons in common.   It made the time pass so much faster than my earlier waiting room experience.  Of course this one was much shorter.  I hope we will keep in contact as Heather is a traveler as well.

Other than Kayaking, What did I do?

Once all that vehicle stuff was taken care of I could finally get down to the business of playing and having a good time.

Of course I took my kayak down to the launch, locked it up and went out every morning it wasn’t raining.  But more on that in my next post.

There is only one trail at the campground though there are some vehicle service roads one can hike if one doesn’t mind deep sand with vehicle ruts.

I walked the “Nature Trail” numerous times to get in some “other than kayaking” exercise.  The habitat is slightly varied with some Live Oak and Palmetto understory.


I discovered a giant Red Oak  leaf on a tiny seedling.  I wasn’t surprised to see him here as they grow in dry sandy soils.  His leaves are huge comparatively in order to capture as much sun as possible.  Notice his red veins.   For obvious reasons his nickname is Turkey Oak.


At least these sandy paths are relatively  hard packed.


All over this trail and everywhere around here are these little sand mounds.  They are made by the native Scarab Beetle.  They are found only in the pine sandhills of Florida.  They are harmless and actually help in rotating and aerating the soil. 


Tall pines reaching for the sky don’t make much shade.


Friend Meet Ups

While at Rainbow Springs, I met up with several people I had actually met originally  at Silver Springs.  Two were nearby neighbors there and the other a couple I met at the boat dock several of the times I was kayaking.


I met them for lunch, Kathleen and Bill, on the first Friday I was at Rainbow Springs.  They had planned to return to Dunnellon to eat at Sweeties and were kind enough to ask me to join them.  They are from Buffalo NY and were familiar with Chautauqua, a life time favorite place of mine.

sweeties menu

Sweeties is aptly named.  It is a sweet place adjacent to a plant nursery. 

Only open from 10 to 3, after which they serve a full afternoon tea with all the trimmings and dress up hats and clothes if you want.  The link above is to their facebook page.  Great pictures.   No website.

Here’s a sample menu.


This is the side porch eating area where no reservations are taken and only paper or plastic plates and cutlery are used.    We ate inside.  They had made reservations knowing we would need them as this is a very small and popular place. 


And after lunch you can easily stroll around the nursery and through the greenhouse.


The inside was charming, the food delicious and the company wonderful.
Thanks Bill and Kathleen for introducing me to Sweeties.


20230221_091811cI met Debra when she was my neighbor for a too few short days at Silver Springs.  She was in her darling vintage trailer, a 1969 12’ Shasta with the Blue Wings.

Is it darling or what.  She refurbished it herself.  She’s from Michigan.  I hope we’ll keep in touch and perhaps next summer I can go to Michigan if I get my research and reservations made in time.  I was shut out this summer trying in January.  This reservation thing has gotten to feel like a job.  What happened to the earlier footloose and fancy free?  But I digress….

20230307_081238Debra and I met at the Rainbow Springs Head Springs park where I could get us in free because I was still staying in the campground.  Although I think the entry fee is only $2 and you can swim in the spring, launch your kayak here, walk the paths and trails, have lunch or bring a picnic.  A seriously amazing bargain.

Unlike Silver Springs, there is not even a long hike to go between campground and head spring.  There are private neighborhoods in between.  There are many more houses on the Rainbow River than the Silver River.  So we drove.

It was fun seeing the spots from above that I had seen from the water most mornings.  You’ll have to remember these shots when you see them from the river.  In the far distance there is the roped off swimming area.  You cannot swim in the head springs area of Silver Springs.


Originally Rainbow Springs was fabulous gardens.   It is maintained, more or less, by the state now that they own it. 


Love their purple tips.


The azaleas were at the end of their bloom.  We’d missed the profusion by a week or so I’d say.


Many of the pools were empty but these waterfalls were still working.  Of course these are garden waterfalls not natural ones.  Still they are lovely and add to the atmosphere.

Small falls tucked away.


Tall falls.




After we had walked all the paved paths, we checked the map and decided to “hike” the yellow nature trail.


On the left is Deb on the trail.  On the right is me at the top of one of Florida’s rare hills.  These are the discarded soil from the phosphate mines of the 1890’s.



Deb took this selfie of us at the park before we headed out for lunch

Debra Townsend

We went to The Front Porch for lunch.  It’s a down home local favorite.  The sign over the door reads Put A Little South in your Mouth.



Unfortunately I didn’t think to get a picture of us with our food or even of the food itself.  But as you can see there were leftovers.  I hope to meet up with Deb on down the road.


Her name is RachelIn writing this I realize this is the most number of restaurants I have eaten in during a 10 day period in I cannot remember how long.  

I ended my socializing streak back at Sweeties where I met my Silver Springs neighbor Rachel who also travels solo but carries a Scooter rather than a car.  Check her out.

She gets around all over on that thing - to the library where, because she was at Rainbow springs before Silver Springs she bought a temporary library card,  to flea markets, to all sorts of music venues.

We sat outside with plastic and had a fine time.  She’d been here before, brought her own hat and looked quite colorful.   Here we are having desert, coconut pie for dessert, Rachel had a scone and tea.

Rachel at Sweeties

Lunch was quiche and salad.



mapAfter lunch Rachel headed north.  On my way back to the campground, I stopped  at Dunnellon park near the mouth of the Rainbow Springs Run where it empties into the Withlacoochee River.  There are a boat launch and trails at the park so I took a new to me hike. 

On the map, the top arrow indicates the boat launch where it says you can put in to tube or boat the Withlacoochee.  You could also kayak up the spring run if you like but it would be quite a paddle.   I’m content with my nearly daily kayak from the campground launch up to the spring head and back or perhaps a bit south toward this spot.

I parked in the lot beside all the other arrows and took the pond trail past the “you are here” arrow, around and up to what they are calling the Blue Run Trail.  At that point I turned left and followed the trail out of the park and across a lovely Withlacoochee River walking bridge.

I came back the Blue Run Trail and to my car.  Unfortunately the Rainbow Spring run is not visible from the Blue Run Trail.  Still, it was a very nice hike.

The pond had many different looks depending on what section you were on.



I believe this is a part of the Withlacoochee Bike Trail.  It’s certainly a lovely bridge.  I learned that Withlacoochee is a Creek word meaning “little big water”. 


There are cut out spots on the bridge to stop and see the river with seats behind the pillars.


It’s a beautiful river at this spot.


On my way back the blue run trail I heard the unmistakable rat a tat tat and finally spotted a pileated woodpecker.  I watched him move around the tree for a while but my phone camera just isn’t good enough to get a decent picture at a distance.


So there you have it, what I did when I was not kayaking on the spring fed river.  Those delights will be the next post.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Last Days at Silver Springs

February 24-27, 2023                                            Most Recent Posts:
Silver Springs State Park                                       A Visit to Cross Creek
Site 48                                                                       A Knap In
Silver Springs, Florida

As you can see from all the posts I’ve done on Silver Springs, it is one of my favorite parks. This post is a conglomeration of the things I saw and did in these last 4 days.   I continued to go out on the river nearly every morning. 

But I did do a few other things.

Like Hiking
As you can see from the map, Silver Springs has a number of trails to keep the hiker busy.  I hiked pretty much everything on the campground side of the river except for the Ross Allen Loop on the far right.  That is mostly a sandy bike trail though you can hike it.

Almost every morning, to go kayaking,  I hiked a half mile on the river trail to the boat launch and of course another half mile back.  It’s a really nice walk.  It’s in blue on the right hand middle of the map.


20230221_101640By combining the old field trail-green, the Sandhill Trail-yellow and the Spring Trail-dark blue,  I was able to walk over to the spring head and back.  That’s the former “attraction” side of the park that has the Glass Bottom Boats.  I think it is 6 or 7 miles round trip.  It’s a lovely flat and easy hike.

There is actually an interesting variety of habitat in the park.


And of course you can hike the interior park vehicles only roads.  I never saw a vehicle.



Once at the head spring I walked the Ross Allen Boardwalk.  He was a very favorite herpetologist at the original Silver Springs attraction.


The trail crosses a bridge of which I have shown pictures from my kayak.  Here’s how the water looks from above at a couple of points along the way.


This is known as the Fort King loop and has the old fake fort and outpost buildings on its banks.  Only seen from a kayak or canoe.


I walked through the covered viewing area which I have also shown from the water.


The most exciting hike happened one evening a day or two before I left.   I’m now calling it the Monkey Hike.

IMG_6628In the evening I often hike the swamp trail (orange on the map) to the boat landing gate used by the museum for its educational water tours.  The county school children are taught by naturalists about their local waters and the flora and fauna.   I’ve shown a picture from the water of the pick up ramp in previous posts but here’s another one as a memory refresher.   I have seen the monkeys here this past week when I was on the water.  They like to walk on the railings and boardwalk and play in the trees.. 


I’ve hiked this trail often in the evenings while I’ve been here.   But this particular evening when I got near the museum launch gate and onto the boardwalk  this monkey came running up on the railing toward me with this look on her face.

I don’t remember if she was making any sound because she was running toward me and I stopped dead amazed and a bit worried.  She stopped too, so I took her picture.

I walked slowly forward thinking she will retreat.

But no, she looked back for reinforcements and here it comes.  Running toward me on the boardwalk.   Luckily he stops right by her.


Notice that they are in or near the curve in the railing.  She stopped first at the curve.  I thought if I walked toward her she would run back but no,  she came toward me.  I stopped.  We did that once more and then I got the message.  The “might” not continue forward if I didn’t.  So I start walking backwards never taking my eyes off of them.    And that continued until I actually walked backwards out of their sight.

These guys are wild and they can bite.  


Less exciting were Chores

When  you are pretty much a full time RVer there are always chores to be done.    Unlike others who have a home base and have things taken care of there at least once a year,  my home base is not RV friendly meaning there are almost no RVs anywhere other than in the yards of folks in the country who need less expensive housing.  It also means there are no RV services within an hour of the farm.  Thus I have to do nearly all my service needs on the road.


When I’m in Ocala that means having my Blue Ox Tow Hitch  checked at The Hitching Post.  I have it checked every 12,000 to 15,000 miles.

  Unfortunately this time they told me would be the last time they could recondition it.  Next time it will have to be replaced.  Uggg. $$$$  If you have a Blue Ox, how many years have you gotten out of it?

In order to get it checked, I can take Winnona in to them and they will take the hitch off which I did the last time or I can take the hitch off myself and take it in alone.  Taking Winnona there is a lot of trouble so despite the fact that the hitch is seriously HEAVY, I took it in and left it.  This picture is after I got it back and am cleaning up some rust and lubing it before putting it back onto Winnona.


Of Course Great Times on the River

PXL_20230222_165729925One thing I don’t really want to advertise but makes my stays here at Silver Springs so nice, is the fact that if I’m willing to pull my kayak a half mile down the sandy trail, I can leave it on the former kayak rental rack.  Before the two parks became one, the campground rented boats and kept them here.  Now boats are rented at the headspring by a concessionaire and the rack is empty.   In this first day picture I had the rack to myself but that didn’t last and soon there were a lot of kayaks on the rack and other places.  The problem will come when there are too many boats left down here and the park changes their rules about leaving them.  Or when one is stolen because the owner stupidly didn’t lock it up and we all have to pay.

But for now I only have to bring it down and take it back once in my two week stay.

It’s often very foggy in the mornings which is lovely.


Sometimes I see the Monkeys

Am I getting a look from this guy?


One day I spotted the monkey band on the opposite side of the river from where I later saw them on the boardwalk.  There are several bands living in the park so I doubt this is the same one that stopped me in my tracks.  But it’s possible since they do swim across the river.

If you’d like to see these guys playing in a video, use this link and/or this one.  I just couldn’t decide.  I sat beneath them and watched for more than half an hour.  What fun they were having.

How about that face?

And those ears.

What else did I see on the river? 

The Little Blue Heron and Common Moorhen hunting together.


Here’s a video of a day on the river for these two.  

In the background you’ll see a little Pied Billed Grebe. 

Can’t remember what spooked them but I got this shot of the ruffled feathers.


There were wood ducks seemingly everywhere. 

Can you spot him in the tree?



On the water by the numbers.   This is always so thrilling to me because they have rebounded from the danger zone.


If you’d like to see them swimming around together, use this link.


They are beautiful!  Both of them.


And of course manatee.  





Three manatee


Nose up




Gators anyone?




Little Blue Heron doesn’t seem worried.  The Alligator does look well fed and asleep.



And of course, the water itself.

Such a lovely river.  Life is everywhere.


The cypress which line the banks are like a painting.


Talk about roots.  Aren’t they just amazing!


Water’s kind of low as you can clearly see.


The most thrilling thing
is always something that is very rare and the river otter is it.  I saw them at least three times while on the river and these were the best pictures I could get.  They are SO fast and so wary.

They are SO hard to photograph.  This is the best picture of the head I’ve ever been able to get.  There were two of them swimming together but my picture of them both side by side was too blurry unfortunately.

Can’t believe he didn’t dive down as he left me in the dust.  If you’ve never seen the back of a river otter’s head, this is it!


And a relatively Rare sight

For me, the tri-colored heron is a seldom seen bird but on the Silver River he seems to have staked out a spot and I see him there almost every day.  No others, just this one.


I took this pretty decent video of him.  I think he’s just beautiful. 


There are other birds

Besides the wood ducks, the Little Blue Heron, Grebe, Common Moorhen and Tri Colored heron,  there were others on the water as well.

The Great Blue Heron is perhaps the most patient bird I have ever seen.  Though he’s actually in motion in this picture.   I believe those wispy feathers are known as breeding feathers.  


Male Anhinga drying his wet feathers and wet ruffled head.  The design on those  feathers is really amazing. 


Double Breasted Cormorant gets his fish.


And lastly, the people….

Because I prefer fewer people, I try to be off the water by ten or a little after.  I run into flotillas and interesting paddlers around that time.  

Is it a kayak party?


Just in case it rains?   Or better than sunscreen?  And the hat!!

Boy am I sorry to be wheeling this kayak back up the trail.


But I take some consolation that Rainbow Springs is up next. 
It’s an even busier river but a closer kayak launch.