Sunday, February 13, 2011

More Fort DeSoto and The First Few days at Blue Spring State Park (St. Petersburg and Orange City, FL)

Our stay at Fort DeSoto County Park was a great success!  As the time passed we made several great discoveries about the place.  Maybe first and foremost, it has the most BEAUTIFUL beach.

It has been rank like #1 in Florida, or the country or the universe or something.  But the point is that the beach area is enormous and perfectly unspoiled!!!!

As you leave the gigantic parking area you walk through a grand stand of trees that opens up to nothing but sand and ocean! Additionally there are several fishing piers, trails and sidewalks adjacent to the ocean that gives you plenty of opportunity to simply enjoy the view.

We spent much of a day biking the area.  A day of sunshine and biking can make an old man sleepy.  So there we were on a pier and I discover a comfy looking concrete bench.  Now, I always claim I can sleep anywhere.  I rest my case.  I stretch out on the bench and snooze.  Later as I'm waking I hear someone say, "is he breathing?" 

At the other end of the peninsula there is another great beach.  As we approach this area we are delighted to see kites, huge kites that are attached to folks that are kite surfing.  Mighty pretty!

And much to our liking, there also are plenty of our winged friends.  One of our favorites is Osprey.  In areas adjacent to water they're quite plentiful.  They are big birds and maintain huge nests.

They are also known as Fish Hawks because they actively pluck fish from ocean and carry them to their family. 

We had a wonderful time viewing these great fellows.  But there also have been multiple opportunities to view some many great birds.  Debbie has done an impressive job of capturing pictures of the shore birds and waders.  VERY NICE!

We moved to Blue Spring State Park near Orange City, Fl on Monday, 7 Feb. The campground is nicely wooded (not too much), the roads are amply wide, some sites are small but others are a fair size. Blue Spring State Park has a great deal to offer including access to a way cool paved bike trail that is actually just outside the park. One evening I was riding the trail doing my best Lance Armstrong imitation. All of a sudden a squirrel darted out from the woods and got tangled under my front bike tire. He leaped or was thrown in the air and slapped my leg. I had visions of a rabid attack but he scampered away. Fortunately, we both survived.

Blue Spring State Park is also a habitat for the Florida Scrub Jay. This is a good looking blue fellow that is working hard to survive.

I won't pretend to be an expert but it is my understanding that they are only found in Florida.  Their preferred habitat is, act surprised, areas of scrub growth.  I think it's accurate to say that scrub is primarily stunted live oaks and palms. The quantity of this type of habitat has steadily diminished with years of development.  Debbie and I were here last year and the park folks had recently cleared, acres of land to facilitate this type of habitat.  These same acres have already grown back creating what I imagine is a perfect scrub habitat for the hearty Florida Scrub Jay.  This is a great example of why state parks and their natural areas are so important. 

Probably the winter highlight of the park is the presence of lots of manatee.  The Blue Spring creates a run that enters the St Johns River.  The manatee come up the run to enjoy the warmer water which I think stays at about 72 degrees.  The first night we strolled down to the river and there were oodles of manatee just hovering. 

There were so many that we enjoyed an endless chorus of manatee "blowing" as long as we stayed by the river.  The boys and I have returned to the river everyday since on our morning walk.  I now know that the number of manatee present is well over a hundred.  One morning there was a wildlife person in the run taking pictures of the manatee.  Her mission was to identify the manatee by their scars.  The scars are normally the result of being hit by a boat propeller. Saturday morning was a great outing.  The sun was shining brightly and the run was full of manatee.  We also had a visit from a "friendly" alligator. 

You could easily watch him ease his way up the run.  Eventually he dragged the full length of himself up on a downed tree to enjoy a little sun time. A great sight to see.

The park also offers an eco boat ride.  Laska, Bo And I walked down to the area where the eco boat departs.  And now the icing on the cake.  Across the St Johns river I see a bald eagle just waiting to have his picture taken.  One problem, no camera.  The boys and I discuss it and decide we'll walk back to the camper so I can get the camera and return.   It takes maybe 20 minutes for me to go up and back.  But when I return with camera the bald eagle is still there waiting for me.  Thank you!

Debbie has been absent from some of these activities for a couple of reasons.  Some of these days have been a bit cold and/or raining and she has left the adventure to us boys.  The other reason is that she spent much of two days doing our taxes.  Not surprisingly, I'm no help so she must put it all together.  It's done, we're not paying thousands as we normally do (love that retirement) and "we're" glad that the task is complete!
Today continued to be a great.  Debbie and I decided to cruise over to Daytona Beach. Our destination was  the Ponce De Leon Inlet Light Station Museum.

Not surprisingly, it was Debbie who identified this as a place for us to visit.  It turned out to be interesting, educational and pretty. The lighthouse and support buildings are wonderfully  maintained.

You have to walk 203 steps to reach the top of the lighthouse.

Worth every step!  The views from the top railing are spectacular!

I thought the brickwork and spiral staircase was mighty impressive. The support buildings contain endless displays of historical information that relates to lighthouses and history of the era.
These buildings housed historical stuff sorted by a particular subject.  One house contained displays related to the development of the  area.  Another may have been primarily about lighthouses across the country.  There was a generator house, a pump house an out house, etc.  There was a building that contained light house lenses.  The lenses are both impressive (one weighed 12,800 pounds) and beautiful.

This was a photogenic moment. We just had a wonderful visit!

But the day wasn't over yet.  It's now chow time.  In moments Debbie is on her "data" phone and finds a seafood restaurant that receives great reviews.  We go to Down the Hatch.  We get a booth with terrific views on the water.

Throughout our meal we are treated to a stunning sunset.  It lasts at least an hour.

At one point the sunset is parted by the Goodyear blimp that I think is in the area in preparation for the Daytona 500 next week. 

We have dolphins stroking along the waterway that are joined by a few birds as the sun sets. Our meal and the service is good.  We eat too much  then we headed home.  What a great day!!!!!

As I read and reread what I have written I recognize that I too frequently use the word GREAT.  I try to get away from that word but I can't help myself.  We view so much of  what we're doing, seeing and experiencing as nice, good, wonderful, beautiful, pretty, way cool, keen, spectacular, boss, groovy, the get the picture.  We're GRATEFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



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