Search This Blog

Saturday, December 9, 2023

A Christmas Paddle

Friday, December 8, 2023

Hi Blog! 

We have been transported into another dimension! We are now in Florida! After a series of short stays and frequent moves, we have finally landed in CB Smith Park in Pembroke Pines, Florida. This will be our home base during the Christmas season. During our trip south, we discovered an oil leak in the Jeep. The first order of business was getting the Jeep in for servicing. While we waited for our Jeep to return, we dusted off the kayaks and prepared for a voyage around the park.

It is such a pleasure to be able to launch our kayak right from our campsite. You can see Buster just over Kathy's shoulder.

This is our second visit to C.B. Smith Park. The park grounds were originally purchased in 1959 by Broward County from the U.S. Government. Before the purchase, it was known as Snake Creek Park and was a firing range for a gunnery school during World War II. 

The 299 acre park is a series of islands connected with various bridges. Large metal culverts allow the water to flow under the roadways. They are really fun to paddle through.

The limestone just below the surface with sandy soil on top makes it difficult for trees to put down deep roots. When a tree falls, it brings the soil with it.

As we glide through the canals, we keep a look out for local wildlife. This little guy is a green heron. Green herons are short and stocky, with relatively short legs and thick necks that are often drawn up against their bodies. They have broad, rounded wings and a long, dagger-like bill. They sometimes raise their crown feathers into a short crest. It's never easy getting close, as they are quick to take flight.

As we made our way around the back side of the park, we could almost forget that we were paddling in one of Florida's busiest urban areas. It's hard to believe that just beyond the tree line canal live 1.9 million people.

Not many park goers make it back this far into the park. With little boat traffic, the lily pads are beginning to take over the canal. 

We almost missed this guy as we paddled under the overhanging tree. A flash of orange caught our eyes. Turns out that male green iguanas often become more orange during their breeding season to appeal to potential mates. 

We soon found ourselves face to face with a flock of Muscovy ducks. These ducks are brown-black in color, with some pale wing coloration, but many of the domesticated ducks have been bred for white feathers. The drake grows from 12 to 15 pounds though the hen is much smaller, weighing from 8 to 10 pounds. Both have what is called a caruncle - a fleshy, bulbous growth- on the head. This is a breed distinctive trait. They are also quiet ducks - the male makes a low hissing sound, not a full quack, and the females makes a short, weak quack called a pip, which sounds like a flute. Not wanting to get hissed out, we gave the flock a wide birth.

We came upon a couple more ducks, but there appeared to be something off about them. Turned out they were decoy ducks.

We rousted a flock of White Ibis. These birds tend to flock in large groups in shallow wetlands and estuaries. With each step, their bright red legs move through the grass and their curved red bill probes the surface below for tasty tidbits. 

The calm waters of the canals created some really cool photos.

We spent the morning enjoying "the calm before the storm." When the weekend comes, CB Smith Park is transformed into an open air playground. The picnic pavilions are reserved for weddings, birthday parties and family reunions. In addition to batting cages and a driving range, you can play tennis, pickle ball, basketball, volleyball, baseball and soccer. The water park is closed during the winter, but you can still kayak and fish. There are miles of trails for biking and walking.

We are just starting to see some lily flowers. Once the days start getting longer, we will see more and more flowers.

Coots are some of the most common birds we see in our paddles. The black birds with their white beaks are easy to spot.

Coots are sometimes confused with moorhens. The big difference is the bright red beak of the moorhen.

As we paddled around the water park, we were entertained by the antics of the mating iguanas.  This one is not...ahem...mating at the moment, but he has taken possession of a magnificent arbor mansion and is inviting females to share the wealth.

Here is another one of those cool culvert shots.

Just beyond the culvert we came upon a Great Blue Heron and a Tri-Color Heron sharing the same fishing spot.

The park also contains a large concert ampitheater on a peninsula across from the campground. This area is closed off when not in use. It made a quiet place for a couple of Egyptian Geese to graze. 

The Egyptian goose is an African member of the duck family Anatidae. Because of their popularity chiefly as an ornamental bird, the species has also been introduced to Europe, United States and elsewhere outside their natural range. We can only assume this pair was imported for someone's personal pond and somehow found their way to CB Smith, just like the rest of the snowbirds here.

Not sure when our next adventure will be, as we prepare for our Christmas vacation to Sweden and Lithuania. We hope you have a fabulous festive season and happy and healthy New Year.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

North Peninsula State Park

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Hi Blog! 

After leaving Savannah, Georgia, we found ourselves camped in Ormond Beach, Florida. Our campground is just north of Daytona Beach on the Atlantic Coast. The last time we stayed here, we ventured into Daytona Beach. We found the area very commercial; so, for this visit, we decided to check out the North Peninsula State Park further north at the border of Ormond Beach and Flagler Beach.

It felt wonderful to put our feet on beachy sand!

Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the Intercoastal Waterway on the west, the North Peninsula State Park has almost three miles of undeveloped beach and marshland. The 534 acre beach park was added to the Florida Park Service in 1984. In addition to dune restoration, the park has a 2.5 hiking trail along with extensive inland waterways accessed by boat and kayak launches.
This beach is graced with colorful orange sand and subtropical plants, making for a scenic walk (or sit):

We parked at the High Bridge Road Beach Access, a popular place for surf fishing. A little snowy egret was patrolling near the fishermen, hoping for a free meal.

North Peninsula State Park boast a golden orange coquina sand beach. Coquina is sedimentary rock composed of assorted fragments of shells. The pounding surf grinds it down to form a rough sand known as coquina sand.

Highway A1A runs through the park with a sand dune separating the beach from the highway. The road is not heavily traveled in this stretch -- at least mid-day on a workday -- and we rarely noticed the highway noise over the sound of the surf. We walked over a mile before we even saw another beachcomber.

In fact, the beach was so quiet, we found this sandpiper taking a nap!

We encountered several speckled crabs. We wondered whether they were good to eat. Turns out, they are edible, but a lot of people don't eat them because of they're so much smaller than blue claw crabs, which is what they're often compared to, and the meat-to-shell ratio isn't that good.

Recent storms brought up a number of interesting things and deposited them on the beach. Have you ever seen a barnacled bottle cap?

Nap time over, time to look for lunch.

Speaking of looking for lunch, we spotted a small hawk surveying the marsh lands on the other side of A1A. In the 1930s and 1940s, dredging of the Intracoastal Waterway impacted valuable marsh along the historic Smith Creek. Since 2009, about 100 acres of spoil site from those dredging activities were restored to natural tidal marsh conditions. This salt marsh restoration area now provides valuable habitat for fish, aquatic plants and birds.

The north end of the State Park ends at Flagler Beach. Past the park boundary, much of the beach access is private, so while you can walk on the beach, many of the stairs over the dune are owned by the various condos along A1A. We made this our turnaround and began the mile-and-a-half walk back.

Once we reached our public beach access, we could have walked another mile south, but our tummies were grumbling, so we decided to call it. We had walked three miles and filled our pockets with sea glass, shells and coquina rocks!

We ended our outing with lunch at Lagerheads Bar and Grill, a very casual, beachy place with good food. We enjoyed palm trees and ocean views while eating our grouper sandwiches. The only thing this beach bar was missing to make it full-on "Key West Qualified" were free roaming chickens!

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Sunday in Savannah

 Back on the road again!

We paused our RV travels for two months in October and November to tend to repairs and upgrades for our new house, and to enjoy a very happy Thanksgiving with our daughter and Kathy's family.  Come December 1, we started our trip south to Miami to set the stage for a holiday flight to Lithuania to see our son and his family.  We're moving faster than we like, but we give ourselves a rest day in between each short leg of our journey.  After a few stops, we are in Savannah, Georgia, one of our favorite cities to visit.  Despite the predictions of rain, we got lucky with a warm, humid, but rain-free day in the city.

Savannah is known for its many beautiful squares, most graced with grand old live oaks.  One of the squares we visited was Ellis Square, with a grand and colorful Christmas decoration -- and a friendly greeting by a statue of the great composer Johnny Mercer, who wrote, "Moon River," among other familiar songs:

The squares in Savannah provide tranquil places of retreat in an otherwise hectic urban world.  Johnson Square offers a pleasant fountain and a monument for contemplation:

 We found some flowers blooming and stopped to admire them.

Our goal this morning was to visit the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters.  The mansion, built in 1819, is perhaps the most significant architecturally in Savannah, and exemplifies the neoclassical styles popular in England during the period. The Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters allows visitors to explore the complicated relationships between the most and least powerful people in the city of Savannah in the early 19th century.

Here is the view we had of the mansion from the reception area between the mansion and the carriage house:

We took the guided tour, which focuses on the art, architecture, and history of the home through the lens of slavery. 

During a renovation of the carriage house in the 1990s, the owners of the site discovered one of the oldest and best preserved urban slave quarters in the American South.  The carriage house has been stripped down to the original walls, revealing a blue wash paint used by the slaves to protect against evil spirits, and furnished to illustrate how it might have looked during the carriage house's years as slave quarters:

Here is the view the mansion owners would have had of the carriage house and slave quarters over a more modern parterre garden:

Looking back into the mansion from the portico, the owners would have seen this grand hall, decorated as it was when it was occupied by the original family:

The furnishings and decor are either original to the house or are original to its period, down to a painting of George Washington in the study that was painted by Gilbert Stuart's daughter, copied from an original by her father:

While the main and second floors were fascinating, they were furnished typically for historic mansions of the era.  One notable feature was indoor plumbing, including an indoor bathroom, one of the first in North America.  Water for use indoors was supplied by cisterns build into the house above the living quarters.  

We found the ground floor (it would be the basement if it were below grade) more interesting because of their novel features.  One room was a wine cellar and beer cooler:

Another room housed an ice vault, which, constructed entirely of tabby within the walls of the house, had a trap door through which large blocks of ice, transported from the Northeast, were stored to provide refrigeration for food and drink.  A more remarkable room was the baths, consisting of four separate bathing rooms, supplied by the internal water system, where family members bathed. The pater et mater familias has their own bath in their bedroom suite.  Slaves were required to bathe in the courtyard.

Some of the rooms on the ground floor had windows looking into the other rooms.  This window looked out into an adjoining room where a model of the house was displayed:

The owners of the house over the years were highly accomplished gentry of the Savannah community, but built their fortune on slaves in two ways.  First, they made wealth by transporting slaves.  Second they employed slaves to multiply their wealth in domestic service.  The tour gave us a lot to think about.

After the tour, we walked down to the river and strolled River Street, deciding to have a lunch of Southern cuisine at The Shrimp Factory.  We can never pass up an opportunity for fried green tomatoes when they are on offer --

 -- and we had to order traditional main dishes --  a Low Country Boil for Kathy and a Pine Bark Stew for David:

We finished up with a stroll further down River Street, admiring the late Fall color and some unique public art --

-- finishing up with a walk from square to square back to our Jeep.  

All in all, this was a wonderful new encounter with a favorite place of ours.  It's nice to have a special outing as we work our way South.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Fall Hike in Promised Land State Park

 Monday, October 2, 2023

Hi Blog!

After leaving the White Mountains of New Hampshire, we made a stop along the Hudson River just below Albany, New York. We used that stop to visit Dave's brother and sister-in-law, Laird and Risa. We had a great take-out dinner Friday and a fabulous brunch on Saturday at the new and improved Cafe Madison. We also managed to play Chuck Luck! The visit was too short, but hopefully once we settle in the new house there will be more opportunities for visits.

On Sunday, we left the Capital Region of New York and stopped in upstate Pennsylvania at one of our favorite parks, Promised Land State Park. We typically camp on Pickerel Point, but decided to stay in the Beechwood Campground because it is closer to the small boat launch on Lower Lake. However, after back to back to back moves, we really didn't want to sit in our kayaks. We opted to take a hike instead. The nice part of being in the Beechwood Campground was we could just walk over to the trailhead.

The Little Falls Trails is popular with campers. Several other hikers had preceded us, knocking down most of the spiderwebs. However, one lone birch leaf spun on an invisible thread of spider silk.

The first part of our hike follows the East Branch Wallenpaupack Creek.

Looking back upstream from the bridge, we saw the spillway for the dam at the bottom of Lower Lake.

With all the recent rain, the creek was flowing briskly. The trees are beginning to show their fall colors.

Normally dry side channels now required a little rock hopping.

In all of our hikes, this is the first time we have come across woolly alder aphids. Woolly aphids are spectacular. They sit on twigs in large numbers and fly through the air like bits of fluff or feathers. Their aerial appearance has earned them common names like fairy flies, fluff bugs, and angel bugs.  Of course, they're not as angelic as their nicknames imply.

The “wool” on a woolly aphid is wax, produced by abdominal glands in order to make the aphid look less like a Happy Meal to its predators. The wax streamers shed water, make the aphid look like mold, and are distasteful and distracting. Several sources suggested that the strands also assist a woolly aphid when it’s aloft, helping it float in the breezes and disguising it as an airborne plant seed. 

We bid the woolly aphids goodbye and continued down the trail. A carpet of maple leaves hid the infamous Pennsylvania rocks.

After hiking to the end of the Little Falls Trail, we set out on the East Branch Wallenpaupack Trail. We were hoping to make it to Lake Paupack. However, we found the lake surrounded by private properties and were not able to get a good look at it. We made our way back to the Little Falls Trail. You can normally ford the stream here and pick up the Dam Ridge Trail. However, the recent rains had made fording a very wet proposition.

We hiked back to the bridge next to the Little Falls. 

In the photo below, Kathy is sitting on a bench at the far end of the bridge taking in the falls.

We thought this would make a great lunch spot. We listened to the falls while we ate our sandwiches.

After lunch, we continued down the near side of the creek. The high water flow was creating interesting new channels through the flats.

We left the creek behind and picked up the Dam Ridge Trail. After the hurricane came through a couple weeks ago, a number of trees were knocked down along the trail. Kathy practices a little trail yoga in the photo below.

The trail crossed right through a rododendron forest. If it wasn't for Dave's red shirt, Kathy would have missed the trail.

We connected with the Hemlock Trail, which is actually a forest road and fire break. It was nice to walk on the old woods road instead of all those rocks!

The hike ended at the far end of our campground, in an equestrian camping area. While there were no horse campers present, you could definitely smell that some had been here recently. Good thing blog posts don't come with a smell feature!

This may be our last blog for a while. We move to the South Philly KOA tomorrow. We plan to spend the next several weeks working on our new house, visiting more family and puppy sitting for our daughter. Until next time, stay thirsty my friends.