The past few days we had the opportunity to visit friends who have recently moved to Florida.
It hasn’t rained much during our stay in Florida. When it has rained, it has been a few drops here or there. So in making plans for dinner we opted for a restaurant in The Villages called Lighthouse Point. It is right on the water and you can sit outside and have a nice dinner. Naturally the night we picked to have dinner with Steven and Patti McNally it poured more than we have seen in two months. So we ended up eating inside but it was a nice dinner and we enjoyed spending time with friends. A few days later we also went to see their new home and had a tour of the SummerGlen Retirement Community. After seeing their beautiful home, we’re ready to move right in!
Our next visit was with Gail and Frank Catani. They also have a very elegant home with a beautiful lanai and pool. We had a nice lunch while enjoying the view and the company. Shelby enjoyed chasing a thermometer that had an alligator at the top. Luckily he didn’t jump in as he doesn’t like to swim. Again after this visit, we were ready to move right in. I’m guessing they weren’t looking for boarders in their home, however.
The GPS is a great tool and helps to get you where you are going–most of the time. When we bought our new Subaru, we wanted a built-in GPS. It works but has some issues. For example, sometimes when I try to enter in an address it can’t find it. So luckily we brought the old faithful GPS from Maine. On our day trip to St. Augustine, we had to use the old GPS with the new GPS as a backup. Of course they both failed us. Our plan was to visit four different places in St. Augustine. 1) Anastasia State Park, 2) St. Augustine Lighthouse, 3) Fountain of Youth and 4) El Galeon Tall Ship. It was best in that order because we had Shelby and as we know it is “all about him.” If we got him to the park and tired out, it was better for us when we visited the next three locations.
When the GPS said, “You have arrived at your destination” we looked around and knew we weren’t in the right place. So we went back over the Bridge of Lions and saw the El Galeon Tall Ship in the water. It was crowded and we were not able to stop and view this beautiful ship. Our #4 choice was then done. We set the second GPS to try to find the park and it brought us down what is St. Augustine’s narrowest street in the United States. Sure glad we didn’t have the truck camper! After almost an hour we finally found Anastasia State Park no thanks to the GPS’s.
We took a walk through the nature trail and then went to the beach. Since dogs aren’t allowed on the beach, John and I took turns walking down to the beach to take a look. It was a beautiful beach with white, sandy dunes.
We had a picnic lunch before heading off to #2 destination – St. Augustine Lighthouse. As we were leaving, I took a picture of a turtle. I had to take it quick as he was charging right at me. Guess he was looking for his own lunch.
The St. Augustine Light Station is an active lighthouse in St. Augustine, Florida. The current lighthouse stands at the north end of Anastasia Island and was built in 1874. There is a tour you can take to climb up the lighthouse. It has 218 stairs and has an expansive view from the top. Unfortunately, we didn’t want to leave Shelby in the car since it was so hot so we opted out of this tour. But I can cross another lighthouse visited and photographed off my list. (To see other lighthouses I have photographed visit this page on my website.)
Stop #3 was the Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, the original site of the Nation’s oldest city. Located in the area first explored by Juan Ponce de Leon in 1513 and settled by Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1565, historic St. Augustine is the oldest successful European settlement in the United States. The good news for us was this site was pet friendly and you can take your dog everywhere. The good news for Shelby was as soon as he walked in he got his first look at peacocks and his favorite–squirrels.
We had never seen peacocks and they didn’t disappoint us. We got the full show from them. They have quite a cry you can hear from all areas of the Park, and their colorful displays are unforgettable. The cries sound like little kids screaming, “Help”.
We went to the Fountain of Youth fully expecting we would leave there looking younger once we sipped the water from the spring. The spring comes directly from the Floridan aquifer, which lies below ground under much of North Florida. After one sip, we tossed the rest of the water. The taste was just terrible. So I guess we won’t be looking younger any time soon.
This concluded our tour for the day. We did use the GPS for the ride home and we arrived safe and sound.
We found another wildlife location called Sunnyhill Restoration Area. We have visited it twice. The first time we walked along a stretch of the Ocklawaha River and even saw a few motorboats going through. It wasn’t very wide so we were surprised to see the boats coming through. It was open so was quite warm walking.
The second time we visited this area, we took another trail and saw alligators, birds, turtles and deer. The alligators blend in so well it was difficult to spot them at first. Compare the next two pictures and you can see what I mean. Looking at the second picture you can see some of the tree stumps to the right of the alligator and then view the first picture to see where it is.
This gator was a lot bigger than some of the others and was a little scary as he kept staring at us as we walked by.
We came across these cranes on the side of the road. The camera was in the back of the car so I had to jump out, grab the camera and get these pictures. The cranes were quite willing to let me take their picture.
There is a small pond down the street from our house and a pod of pelicans has been hanging around. (Had to do a Google search to find out what a group of pelicans is called.)
This little guy landed on the wall in our backyard. Thought he was really cute.
We took a trip to the east coast and visited the Cape Canaveral Seashore. We walked along a beautiful beach picking up some shells and watching the birds run in and out of the water. This was a nice stroll until we started walking by “big fat ugly naked guy.” After seeing two or three of these, we decided it was time to turn around. You can only handle so much scenery walking on the beach. And for those of you wondering, no I didn’t take any pictures of them!
We took a trail called Turtle Mound trail. Part of the trail included a wooden boardwalk to an oyster midden. There was some nice wildlife as well as some pretty flowers along the this trail and others in the area.
After a nice day at the seashore, we stopped for lunch at Norwood’s Eatery & Bar Treehouse. We climbed the stairs into the treehouse which was quite interesting. Reminded us of the TV show “Treehouse Masters”.
John and I celebrated our 40th Anniversary on April 10th. We had a wonderful day starting with a hike at Fort Cooper State Park. Not much to take pictures of but here is the best of the lot. Most of the trail consisted of trees. No wildlife but a good day to get out for a hike.
Sharon brought us some beautiful tulips for our anniversary and John made a spectacular dinner of shrimp for appetizers and scallops for dinner. (You notice I did nothing but enjoy the day.) We also celebrated with our traditional bottle of champagne. I have saved the champagne cork every year from each bottle. We’re getting quite a collection.
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?