Overview of the Trip – Florida January 2008

We just got back from our first big camper trip to the southeast. It was fun to see some new wild places, and try out the camper to be sure it works the way we want it to. We learned a lot – as we always do when doing something new.

We took so many photos, and saw so many interesting places that I thought I’d divide them up into a couple of blog posts. This first one will give an overview of the trip, and then I’ll do a few about specific places.

We hooked up the camper the day before we left – in our snowy driveway.

But by the next morning, the temperature was above freezing, and it was so foggy we could barely see to drive.

We spent the first 3 days in beautiful – and empty – state parks. I guess no one wants to camp out in the winter – even when the temperature is in the 50s. Every morning I took a walk – with camera, binoculars, and coffee – around the campsite. So I have pictures of the camper in every place we stayed.

The first night was in Wayne Fitzgerrell state park in southern Illinois.

It was on the shore of Rend Lake.

Then in Old Stone Fort State Park in Tennessee.

This was a beautiful park, and we were the only campers. This is the river next to the campsite.

And Indian Springs State Park in Georgia.

The next morning with mist on the lake.

Then we thought we’d check out the Okefenokee Swamp in south-eastern Georgia. We both read Pogo when we were kids, and remembered him poling his flat-bottomed boat through the swamp.

This is our campsite in Stephen C. Foster State Park – a gorgeous place, right in the middle of the Okefenokee.

It’s a wonderful park and it was almost empty. One night we shared the campground with one other camper, and there were never more than 4 or 5 campers. Here’s the story and photos of our adventures there.

The only problem we had there was that there was no cell phone coverage or internet access – it nearly drove Mike crazy. We got marginal cell coverage for one day and then even that disappeared. Here’s Mike on top of the camper trying to get a signal.

We were determined to get to the everglades, so next we headed south into Florida.

We stayed one night at Manatee Springs State Park near the gulf coast in northern Florida. It has a warm spring that flows into the Suwannee River and attracts manatees during the winter. (The bubbles in the water aren’t manatees – they’re from divers who were under the water looking at the spring.)

Here’s the link to the story about Manatee Springs State Park.

This is our first commercial campground – near Sarasota – so we could finally get some internet access!

We were so excited to be near the gulf that after we parked the camper we drove to the coast to see if we could find a beach. We got there in time to walk on the sand and watch the sun set as a storm blew in.

We visited some friends near Ft. Myers and saw some beautiful wild areas. Here’s the link to the Ft. Myers area story.

Here I am with my friend Kristin, at her house in Ft. Myers. Kristin is an artist – she does beautiful paintings and painted quilts.

I introduced her to my close focusing binoculars and we found a great spider by her pool.

It’s in a family of spiders called Longjawed Orb Weavers (Tetragnathidae).

The commercial campgrounds usually have some wild or weedy place where I can find wildlife to look at. The one near Sarasota was next to a river, and when I went on my morning walk I watched an otter searching for food along the bank.

Our campsite in Ft. Myers was along a ditch with very short mowed grass, but it was full of flowers – some native and some exotic – and numerous butterflies.

The campsite:

The flowers: (our friend Chris helped me identify these, since none of my books include Florida wildflowers)

Bay Lobelia (Lobelia feayana), endemic to Florida

Mexican Clover (Richardia grandiflora) – not really a clover, and not native

Spanish Needles (Bidens alba) – some debate about whether it is native

Birdbill Dayflower (Commelina diffusa) – not native

Another nice thing about the campsite was that it was on Pine Island, which is a quirky little island just west of the city. There’s a narrow causeway leading to the island, with bright colored shops and restaurants lining the road.

Next we headed to the Everglades – to Flamingo, the campground at the southernmost tip of the park. It’s a beautiful campground – spacious and quiet – but has no water or electricity – or cell phone or internet access. But at least this time Mike was prepared. And the mosquitoes weren’t too bad. This is the “mosquito meter” the park provided.

Here’s Flamingo at sunrise.

We loved the Everglades – it’s a huge park with many different kinds of habitats. We saw amazing wildlife – the animals were very accessible and didn’t seem to be bothered by people. Here’s the link to the story.

Our last day was the warmest – 85 degrees. It was great to soak up all that heat and humidity. But the weather forecast was for rain and cooler weather, so we decided to head home.

We arrived home after 3 long days of driving, to a temperature of minus 15 degrees. A 100 degree difference in 3 days!