Shelby is not quite sure about being in Florida. He watches us constantly to see if he is going to go with us. If we go out, he waits at the door for us to come home. His favorite thing to do (other than going for a hike) is to go to the dog park. Not that he is spoiled but it is a 15 minute drive to the dog park. He loves it when he gets there and is doing great playing with all the other dogs. Occasionally he has enough and starts to growl at the dogs and then we know it is time to go. A King Charles Spaniel took a real liking to him. The spaniel followed him around like a “puppy dog in love”. Shelby wasn’t quite sure what to make of it but there was definite love in the air.
Shelby has just discovered lizards in the yard. So far he hasn’t caught one but it isn’t from lack of trying. There are plenty of bushes for the lizards to hide but they do come out on the cement and Shelby is right there. We have to put the chairs around some of the bushes as he is making a mess of them.
After being on my bucket list for years, I finally was able to check off “Take a Zip Line Tour”. Sharon, John and I took the super zip tour in Ocala, FL which is promoted as “Fly like a super hero on Florida’s newest, highest, fastest, longest zip! You’ll lay face down and head first in our hang-glider style harness as you travel at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour down this beast of a zip line. You’ll zoom past lakes, cliffs, and over treetops, all while lying suspended in your harness, hands free.”
Unfortunately, I didn’t dare take my camera on the trip to prove we did it. As I was posting this blog, Sharon surprised us with actual video of John and me on the zip line. She met someone who had a video camera and they were able to video us. Click here to see us in action. John has his arms out, and I had my arms by my side. Another video which shows some of the scenery is posted to the Zip Line and Canopy Tours website at this YouTube video. Here is a picture before we started.
This picture shows someone going across the river, however, we actually went head first and had helmets on as well. Another tour consists of walking across rope bridges which you can see in the picture. We did not opt for that trip.
The Super Zip tour consisted of putting on what felt like a flak jacket, taking a ride up a hill, and climbing up about 6 flights of stairs with this jacket on. I think the worst part was trying to climb the stairs. This picture below is from the zipthecanyons.com website. We went two people at a time. When you get all hooked up, you then need to lie flat until the guide releases all the lines and you let go. It felt like you were actually going to hit the trees. I could even see the turtles in the water as we went across.
The total zip across probably took about 20 seconds but it was a great ride and accomplishing one of my bucket items was even more exciting. Thanks to Sharon and John for helping me cross off a bucket list item. After the ride was over, Sharon presented me with an ornament exclaiming “I Did It.”
Now that I crossed off one item on my bucket list, guess I need to add something new. Not sure yet what that will be.
This week brought us to Lake Louisa State Park for a short hike. This park has 4,500 acres with six lakes and two streams. We saw a couple fishing and there was an alligator close by. John asked if they had problems with the alligator taking their fish. They weren’t real talkative and just said, “no”. So that ended that conversation. We walked around the usual flat trails and got a chance to drive around the campground as well. It looked like a nice place to camp although nothing compared to the campgrounds in Maine.
The big event for Friday night was Cruise Night with the Corvettes. There were corvettes of all years. My favorite was the one with the tigers on the car. Every night at the three main villages is happy hour from 5-6. All drinks are 2 for 1 and there is a band playing as well. Tonight was a 70’s band playing while we strolled around looking at the corvettes. Of course instead of a drink, I opted for a Haagen-Dazs cookie dough ice cream Definitely a good choice.
We went down to see the boat races on a sunny morning. These are radio controlled boats and are fun to watch. There were boats of all sorts including tug boats, sailboats, racing boats and more. When one of the boats flips over, there is a spotter (boat retriever) in a small boat that goes out to flip them back upright or bring them in if they have run out of power. I tried using my sports mode on my camera for some of these pictures to see if I could capture them without too much blur. Some came out better than others.
Near where the boat races were going on there were a few white ibis. So here’s a question–what is the plural of ibis? Is it ibis or ibises? I had to look it up and it can be either. Anyway they are beautiful birds. As I was taking pictures of them on the ground, I turned around and John was pointing up in the tree right above me. There I saw many more just sitting in the tree. John was hoping I wouldn’t get “plopped” upon. Luckily they missed me as I took some pictures.
Out next trip was to Whispering Oaks winery. This winery made only blueberry wines. We sampled eight different kinds. Our favorite was the port which was $40 a bottle. We didn’t like it that much to buy a bottle. We did buy a couple bottles of a dry variety, but found that still we prefer the Maine blueberry wines. On the grounds of the winery they had goats that I needed to take pictures of.
The flowers in The Villages are just beautiful. Every place you go there are more flowers. The end of our street the flowers were great and I kept wanting to take pictures of them. Before I could get down to get a picture, the maintenance crew had dug up all the beautiful flowers and then planted different ones the next day. Which we could have had some of their throwaways.
Our next travels brought us to Wekiwa Springs State Park. This was about 1-1/2 hours away and not one of our favorite hikes. At the beginning there is a beautiful spring that looks much like a swimming pool. Although it was a cool day (only 55 degrees) there were many people enjoying swimming in the spring.
The first part of the hike was through a forest where they were doing a controlled burn. We walked through burned forests for about a 1/2 hour or more. Some places we could see smoke and small fires that were still burning. Not a fun or scenic walk.
We followed the trail to Sandy Lake. I should have taken a picture so you could see this “lake” that was really a swampy puddle.The second half of the trail was better because it wasn’t burned but there was really nothing to see. We ended up walking for 3 hours and not seeing much. But it is still nice getting out and walking.
On Wednesday we found Flying Eagle Preserve in Inverness. This was 2 miles down a dirt road. We have seen many signs throughout the country warning there may be bears, mountain lions, and other animals on the hike. This was the first time we saw signs warning against Wild Hogs. I am happy to announce we did not see any hogs on this trip.
This hike was another walk in the woods with an occasional swamp thrown in. On our way back, Shelby started pulling John towards the water. We heard all kinds of splashing and then I saw a baby alligator. I think you can pick him out in this picture.
Other than a couple hawks and one egret, the wildlife was a little scarce on the hike. We thought we might see some turtles in the swamp, but it wasn’t until we were leaving when John spotted a turtle out in the open field. I got one picture before went it behind a little sand hill and disappeared.
The good thing about these hikes is that Shelby is totally exhausted by the time he gets home.
Upon arriving at home, we saw just as much wildlife as on our hikes. The first was a beautiful heron on the rooftop next door to us. He stayed for quite a while allowing me to get out my larger camera lens for a close up picture.
More pictures of the heron. I loved the one where he stuck out his tongue and also in the next picture turned his neck.
A little while later while sitting on the lanai, we spotted a beautiful cardinal. We have a male and female cardinal that come into the yard on occasion.
Later on in the day, Sharon got out her golf cart and Shelby jumped right in and was ready for a ride.
Sharon and John were going to go golfing but it was too late in the day when they goy there as they didn’t have reservations. But don’t they look happy riding in the cart?
There are three town squares in The Villages. Each night there is different outdoor entertainment. Saturday night we went to Spanish Springs to view the Cruisin’ In night. This consisted of cars from 1980 and older.
There were tons of people so it was difficult to get the pictures of the cars without a lot of distraction. The front grills of the cars all have their own unique styling.
We found one car that described our motto in traveling.
Sharon found her favorite car and John found the 6.0 hemi intriquing.
Here’s just a sampling of a few more of the cars we viewed. Notice the crowds in all the pictures.
It is good to be Irish down here in The Villages. And even if you’re not Irish, you can pretend to be. We went over to Spanish Springs entertainment center to see what was happening on St. Patrick’s Day. The decorations, costumes, music and all the people made for quite a celebration. Everywhere you look around here there are golf carts. Some pretty classic ones such as 55 Chevy, Mercedes and other designer carts are great to view.
Polo matches are just beginning now in The Villages. Sharon, Mary and I went to a polo demonstration to learn more about the sport. It was interesting to note that the polo field is 300×160 yards. That means it is slightly larger than nine football fields and almost 10 acres in size. I’ve never been a fan of polo but it did help when I heard that they are very protective and will put the horses first over the riders for safety. I enjoyed learning about the sport and seeing the practice although it is not something I would continue to follow.
The evening brought us to the dog park for a quick playtime for Shelby. There is a nice wooden walkway called the Sharon Rose Preserve. Dogs aren’t allowed on the walkway but we took a quick walk and saw a pretty sunset to top off the day.
It was getting dark when I was taking pictures and I tried a creative setting on the camera for this picture. Not sure where the moon at the top came from.
Our latest walk (I have a hard time calling it a hike because it is so flat here in Florida.) took us to Half Moon Wildlife Management Area. This is a 9,500 area of hammocks, flatwoods, swamps and marshes. I never heard of the term “hammock” so had to look it up. It is defined as “stands of hardwood trees growing on slopes between wetlands and drier uplands supporting a mixed or coniferous forest.” Some of the trees are quite large. I have also enjoyed the large pinecones down here. So much bigger than we have in Maine.
We walked about 5 miles total. The first section we went by was a swamp. We saw a dark log on the side of the swamp. By the time I got my camera out the “dark log” had gone into the water. Of course it was an alligator. We encountered the same one on the way back and again he went into the water before I could snap a picture.
The walk was easy although the temps have been in the 80s and it is quite humid. Shelby had a good time on our walk in the woods except for the fact he had to be on a leash. He was on the scent of a turkey and John had all he could do to hold him back. We take plenty of water on our walks most of which Shelby consumes. He had at least 36 ounces of water during this trip.
After our alligator sighting, we tried to be cognizant of other wildlife that could be in our path such as snakes. Luckily the snake we came across was black so we spotted him easily as he was right in the middle of our path. We tried to get him to move but no such luck. We weren’t sure if he was even alive, what kind of snake he was, or if he was poisonous. (I did find there are only 4 poisonous snakes in Central Florida.) But not knowing this, we gave the snake a wide berth. After going around him, we looked back and eventually he moved on.
Continuing on, we saw a flock of herons, egrets and other birds. This was a nice walk in the woods for a Tuesday morning.
We took a little day trip today. Our intention was to get a little hiking in but that didn’t exactly work out the way we planned. The first stop was Rainbow Springs State Park. This had a beautiful headspring and a few waterfalls. The color of the water was a bluish-green and very clear. There was a nature trail that we walked around and then we were going to hike a few other trails. Unfortunately all 3 trails were closed for maintenance so that hike was out. It was still a worthwhile place to stop just for the waterfalls alone. We loved the “Alligators Swim with caution” sign. It said to swim only in designated areas. We wanted to know if the alligators knew they couldn’t go inside the roped off area?!? It was nice to see some flowers already in bloom–especially since it is only March.
Our next stop was to the coast to Cedar Key Museum State Wildlife Preserve. It was another hour of driving and we weren’t sure if dogs were allowed or not. Luckily dogs were allowed and there was a path to the water. The water was tidal so not too much to see. But at least we made it to the coast. We’ll still take the Maine coast any day just for the beauty of it.