Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Florida Big Bend

Odometer 28612

Trip 119 miles

Grayton to St. George Island

We really hated to leave Grayton Beach, so soon, but the weather is turning cool again and we are freezing our tookus off when we go to the beach.

The beach is BEAUTIFUL!, but the wind cuts like a knife and we end up bundled up in wooly pullovers with a windbreaker over the top. The water is warm by our standards but the thought of getting back out -wet- on this 57 degree day with 10 - 12 mph breeze blowing- not happening.
We stayed two nights at Grayton then raised the stabilizing jacks, pulled in the slides, and headed 119 miles south and east along the Florida coast to St George Island State Park. We were obliged to cross Apalachicola bay west to east, and then turned 90 degrees and re-crossed north to south to get onto St. George Island, where the State Park is. As we descended the bridge from the mainland onto ST.George Island, we were greeted by a small town, and this wonderful lighthouse

The park was nearly full and we could only get one night, but we arrived early enough to get set up and go to the beach for some shell hunting.

The hunting was good as you can see by our selection here. We love that the clam shells are so colorful here, with orange, brown, and yellow hues all intermixed. Our next door neighbors, Larry and Mimi showed us their collection, (several hundred pounds by Larry's estimation- tee- hee ;->)which got us energized and optimistic as we headed for the beach. We returned to the RV at dusk, and we felt like Popsicles, the sun just could not warm the driving wind, and having your hands wet from the surf was chilling to say the least.
Time to head towards the tropics
We are also calculating what time we have left until college spring break descends on Florida. We'd like to be out of the major tourist areas before the students arrive. We really can't see how this will work out because it's spring break somewhere throughout the whole month of March. Some schools are early March, some later- no matter what, we are going to be impacted. Our best bet is to have reservations and stay on a schedule- something we have not been very good at.

The result of all these concerns is that we decided to skip over some areas that we'd love to come back to on another trip in the future.

Odometer 28849

Trip 237 miles

Homosassa Springs

I know if you are not a local our sub-title here is a phonetically challenging, but after you have been exposed a little bit, the names get easier and more appreciated. We have traveled around the panhandle of Florida and are now about 1/3 of the way down the west coast. We have passed over or through places with names like Choctawatchee Bay, Apalachicola, Ochlockonee Bay, Sopchoppy Highway, mixed in with names like Perry, Cross City, Eugene and Salem! It' really fun!
We stretched our comfort zone and charted a route clear down to the Crystal Springs area north of Tampa, a trip of about 240 miles. We knew it would take longer, but we really wanted to follow the coast as much as we could on the way south.

I know, it sounds like I'm whining, but listen, the speed limits on many of these smaller roads goes from 55 mph to 35 and down to 25. Our average speed was around 40 miles an hour stretching out our travel day to 6 hours not counting a stop for lunch in Panacea. We arrived in Homosassa River RV park at about quarter to five, just before the office closes for the day.

We had made a reservation for four days here because we wanted a chance to see the manatees that frequent the warm springs in the area, and we also were able to get 1/2 the normal rental rate with our Passport America membership -Yeah! It all helps. We also have to weigh our travel expenses against out lodging expenses. It's a whole lot cheaper to stay in a park than travel down the road. Yesterday's fuel cost us $122 and 4 days at the park will cost us $67. It's easy to see that if we traveled this far every day of the month it would cost us $3600 dollars a month, just for the fuel. Sorry, didn't mean to drag you into an economics lesson here- suffice to say we have to balance our travel out to stay within our means. We have to bank some travel up to be able to swing the long trip out to Key West (130 miles each way from Homestead)
The RV park is built around a channel off of the Homosassa River. The river itself is the result of several large springs that bubble up millions of gallons of water from the porous limestone below the surface.

Unfortunately the stagnant nature of this small finger means the water is rather dark as opposed to the crystal clear waters in the fast moving river itself.
Oh! did I mention that the spring waters are a constant 72 degrees!
One of the major benefits of this particular RV park (other than the very reasonable rates) is that they are located less than a mile from the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, which is a small zoo of local animals including, foxes, wolves, bears, Key deer, flamingos, 4 or 5 different Owls, Roseate spoonbills, raptors, eagles, and of course- Manatees!

The park is designed around an active spring feeding the river, and a viewing structure is built into the spring to allow visitors to go below the water to see the marine life in the spring.
Today we did not even have to go below the surface to see several manatees inches below the surface of the warm river water

Manatees are drawn to this spot by the warm water. In fact, manatees cannot tolerate water temperatures below 68 degrees for any long period of time. As the Gulf waters cool in the winter, the very survival of the manatee depends on these warm springs. The typical adult manatee is 10 feet long and weighs over 1000 pounds.
We also saw many species of birds in the park. Flamingos are very rare, so we were glad to get to see these birds up close.

We got our first good look at real alligators here in the wildlife park. I swear, we thought these were painted plaster replicas of gators, until one moved!

Crocodiles are not native to the US- so if you see one of these reptiles in the wild, it's and alligator. We learned that gators are not active in the winter months, and will not eat from November to March. As the weather and the waters warm up they will become active again. They are mostly a nocturnal feeder, and will generally look for prey that they can eat whole, as they do not have chewing molars.

Jeff and Joan


  1. I like me some natural springs!
    Jeff's new nickname is 'Gator Smith

  2. Hello,

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