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.
The house we are staying at is very nice. It is a 2 bedroom, 2 bath and a den. The kitchen and living room are all open and there is a great lanai we love to sit on in the afternoon. It is all fenced in which is nice for letting Shelby out.
Shelby is finally getting more comfortable here. He was a little out of sorts for a few days but seems to be happy now. We took him to a dog park where he met 2 dogs, Cooper and Ellie. We will take him again tomorrow as the dogs go there every day at 10 a.m.
Our temps have averaged about 80-85 all week which is certainly welcome after the cooler temps in Maine. The nice thing is there are no bugs here (at least not yet.) I did have a tick on me, however, so we haven’t escaped them.
It was time to get Shelby out for a hike today. I use the word “hike” loosely because the highest elevation for hikes around here is 125 feet. We found Silver Springs State Park about 30 minutes from The Villages. There were two entrances and the first one we found had the hiking trails we wanted. We hiked on the River Trail which has a loop by the river. We came upon a boat landing where some women were resting after kayaking down the river. As we left this spot, we kept hearing what sounded like a motor starting. It continued a few times and got louder and louder. We finally realized the motor sound was an alligator. He was making these noises and another alligator was answering him. We finally saw the 6-foot gator swimming off. Thank goodness we weren’t any closer to the river. As we walked on, we heard a snake in the bushes (and so did Shelby). We kept him away from the bushes so we didn’t have a snake encounter.
The next trail we took was Sinkhole Trail. We saw the sinkhole which was a ways away from the trail. It was the most elevation we saw on the entire hike.
The second entrance to the park had glass bottom boat tours and a beautiful crystal clear river where you could see the turtles and fish swimming. We saw a brave woman on a paddle board in the river and down just past where she was was a sign saying “No Swimming Alligators in river.” She was mighty brave to be paddling in that river.
Shelby had a great day out in spite of the fact that he had to be on the leash the whole time.
This wildlife state park was a pleasant surprise to us. We don’t particularly like zoos where they have animals caged but this was a great place to see the animals in their natural habitat. This park is a rehabilitation center for injured and orphaned manatees plus other birds and animals that cannot survive in the wild. The day we walked through the park many of the animals were either sleeping or had their backs to us. I’m sure they get tired of looking at humans so they just look the other way. The hippopotamus weighs about 6,000 pounds and is 56 years old. He was also on the show Daktari for those of you old enough to remember that show.
We took a tram over to see the animals and a pontoon boat on the return. It was an interesting day all around. Two things I wanted to see while in Florida were alligators and flamingos. We saw those and much more at this wonderful park.
Our March-April 2016 trip is taking us from Maine to The Villages in Florida. It is a different trip for us as we are taking the car instead of the usual truck camper. We are also taking Shelby our 7 year old Springer Spaniel. Our first day took us from Washington, Maine to Elkton, Maryland. We stayed at La Quinta Inn and Suites because they are one of the few hotels that accept dogs and do not charge extra. Shelby was a great rider during the trip and managed to sleep the entire time.
Our second 8-hour day brought us to Florence, South Carolina. Traveling I-95 is not the most exciting or scenic way to travel but it gets us to our final destination.
Day 3 we ended up at Jekyll Island, Georgia. Jekyll Island is a small island about 7 miles long by 1.5 miles wide and has a beautiful beach with sand dunes for walking. We had a few hours to walk the beach the day we arrived and also the morning before we left. The one surprise about the beach was the lack of shells on it. We found one very small shell that was whole. Otherwise it was a very clean, shell-free beach the day we were there.
Never seeing the trees with Spanish moss we found them very interesting. Despite its name, Spanish moss is not Spanish and is not moss but a bromeliad—a perennial herb in the pineapple family. It is a flowering plant that grows upon larger trees, commonly the southern live oak or bald cypress in the southeastern United States from Texas and Florida north to southern Arkansas and Virginia.
6/24-27 Akron, NY
6/28 October Mountain State Forest, Lee, MA
Our next to last stop was in Akron, NY to visit cousins. We called from Niagara Falls to announce that we were arriving two days early. Pam and Ron were, of course, very gracious that we arrived so early. Rudy, (their maltese dog) seemed really excited to see us. Each time we walked out the door and re-entered it was like we hadn’t seen him in years. This trip was pegged as “I feel like I am an actor in the movies” trip. One night we went to Main Street in Akron where every week they shut the street down and owners of old cars line up and you walk down the street admiring all the “old-timers.” We felt like we were on the American Graffiti movie set.
Our next “movie set” was watching the little leaguers play baseball. We called this one “Field of Dreams.” This was a beautiful field that was created by someone that missed a lot of his kids’ games due to work so he built a field next to his house and allows the little leaguers to play at it. We were able to watch Jack (our cousin) first as shortstop and then as pitcher. His team won 12-5 that night.
We left on Sunday, June 28 for our two day trip home. We came full circle and stayed at October Mountain State Forest in Lee, Mass. which is where we started on May 18th.
Arriving home on Monday was wonderful and Shelby and Patches (the cat) still remembered us and were happy we were home.
We were excited to go on our trip and ready to arrive back home after six weeks on the road. Hope you enjoyed reading about our trip and seeing some of the places we visited.
Here are some trivia facts from our trip:
- Miles traveled: 8,454
- States driven through: 17 states plus Ontario, Canada
- Discovered where there are more mosquitoes than we have ever seen: Signal Mountain, Grand Tetons
- of license plates seen of different states: 49 (that elusive Hawaii just wasn’t to be found); 7 provinces of Canada
- Favorite Park: Bryce Canyon NP (Cheryl); Grand Tetons (John)
- Favorite camping spot: Rocky Mountains because of the view
- Best Hike: Lower Paddock Trail (Theodore Roosevelt National Park)
- You can find WalMart stores everywhere—even in Canada
- Most expense gas: US Yellowstone NP ($3.89) Canada $5.00+/-
- Least expensive gas: $2.53 (Kansas)
6/21 Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Marie Louise Lake, Ontario
6/22 Lake Superior Provincial Park
6/23 Grundy Lake Provincial Park
We stopped at Grand Portage National Monument which is close to the US and Canada borders. Grand Portage National Monument preserves a vital center of fur trade activity and Anishinaabeg Ojibwe heritage. The canoe we looked at was about 36 feet and held over 14 people.
Leaving Minnesota we followed Lake Superior into Canada. Crossing the border was no problem except they wouldn’t let us bring in the 8 eggs in the fridge. Wine and beer was no problem to have in the camper so donating the eggs to the homeless (that’s what they told us) was a minor concession. We were pretty much off the radar while in Canada…no GPS to find our way (and I’m not good on directions), no computer, no cell phone…but we survived.
We spent three nights in Canada at three different provincial parks. The parks are all very nice (but a little expensive at $44 a night). The weather didn’t cooperate for us while we were in Ontario. It was mostly raining and foggy so we didn’t get to see too much. We have been to Lake Superior before and it has a beautiful sandy beach. This visit we couldn’t even see it through the fog so for the first time, I didn’t even take any pictures.
Because of the weather we drove extra long days to get out of Canada. With gas at about $5 a gallon we had no reason to linger there. Driving through Toronto was an experience. We had been used to very desolate places with few cars and then we hit Toronto. With no GPS to guide us I had to rely on the map. Other than directing John the wrong way off the expressway and having a woman almost back into us, we found our way back to the QEW highway and made it back into the good ole USA with no problems.
Animal sightings: bald eagle, deer, black bear, great blue heron, painted turtle, elephant (okay that may be stretching it but we did see one as we drove by a circus just setting up).