Thursday, June 15, 2017

Hillsborough River State Park–Thonotosassa,FL

The campsites in this park are nice and open, with plenty of space.  It was very busy over Memorial Weekend, but we arrived on Monday, so the crowds had dwindled by the time we were set up.

Campsight 103
The campsites are pretty big!

Rocks and trees-2We arrived a little early, so we parked in overflow parking while we waited on our campsite to open up.  We took the opportunity to ride our bikes around the park and check things out.  The campground has three loops – we stayed in the southern loop – each one with a bathhouse that also has laundry facilities and sinks for dish washing.Small tree by the river

There is a big swimming pool on the main loop road; the capacity sign said that they could allow up to something like 260 people.  On Memorial Day, the park was so busy that there was a line stretching into the parking lot, with people waiting to get in.

Tina on suspension bridgeOn our first full day, we went hiking on the Baynard and Florida Trails on the north side of the river.  Later that day we took a drive down to Tampa to visit the Tampa Aquarium.  I really recommend the hike, and I really recommend avoiding the aquarium.  Tampa Aquarium is overpriced at $25 per person, and the whole aquarium can be seen in about two hours if you take your time.Rosy-8 Spoonbill-1

We also went canoeing on the river – it is absolutely gorgeous on the river.  Also, the river flow is slow enough that the return trip upstream is about as easy as the downstream paddle.  Along the way, keep an eye out for herons, anhinga, and other water fowl.  We also saw an otter and, of course, a couple of alligators.

This is a great park to visit; I wish we had more time to stay!

Related Posts

Baby gator-2
Hiking Baynard and Florida Trails
Florida Aquarium
Downstream-2Canoeing on Hillsborough River

Biking around the park

Popup Setup and Short Tour

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Canoeing on the Hillsborough River–Hillsborough River State Park

I seem to have lost half of my kayak paddle, so we rented a canoe for this trip.  We got a later start than we planned because the rental office didn’t open until 10a, but that might have been because it was a weekday.

Coquina in the river

There are three spots to launch in the park – two next to the pool area, and one in the campground.  All of the rentals are available right next to the pool area, so that is where we launched.

Downstream-2We started our trip by heading downstream. The water in the river is very calm in this section of the river, the current is barely noticeable.  I was amazed by how clear the water is; no tannin can be seen even though the river goes through a lot of swampy areas before arriving at this point.Gnarly tree

The clear water makes it easy to spot the fish in the river.  We saw several gar, and probably a couple thousand plecostumus.  I see these fish all over the place (they are invasive, and got their fin-hold in the Florida ecosystem from people dumping their freshwater aquariums), but I’ve never seen so many in one spot before.  It could be because the water is so clear.  They sure have taken over the aquatic neighborhood.

Gator swimming byWe followed the river downstream until we came to the park border.  One of the rangers told us that the river is an easy paddle further downstream, but to be aware that there are about seventeen branches in the river and they’ve had a few people get lost down that way.  If you use a mapping app like Wikiloc, this shouldn’t be too big of a concern – apps like that make it very easy to retrace your route.OMGOMGOMG-Turn Around

On the way back we saw a young alligator crossing the river.  The picture isn’t that great, but you can see he was only about five feet long.  When we returned, we paddled upstream a little ways past the launch site until we saw what I think was the same ten-footer in the river that we saw sitting on the bank during our hike the day before.  This was our signal to turn back.  (Tina doesn’t care for paddling with gators – if you hover over the picture on the right, you might appreciate the name of the photo).

Anhinga on palm tree-2
Anhinga on Palm
bridge over river
Footbridge over River
Tina and Andy paddling-2
Tina & Andy

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Friday, June 09, 2017

Hiking Baynard Trail–Hillsborough River SP

We woke up in the morning to a light rain shower that finished with plenty of time left for a morning hike along the Baynard Trail and Florida Trail.

Otter on a River Rock

Jurassic entranceWe started our hike at the suspension bridge that crosses the Hillsborough River.  This bridge was built by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) in 1934, and looks like it is right off a movie set that could have been used for the entrance to Jurassic Park.Andy by fern covered log

On the north side of the river is a map of the Baynard Trail, which I believe was put up by the Eagle scouts.  The trail to the north to make a 1.1 mile loop.  The trail follows the river for about a quarter of a mile before turning to the north and heading through the woods.  After heading north for a short distance, the trail turns to the west and runs parallel to the northern boarder of the park for about a quarter of a mile.

FLTrail MapThere are several boardwalks along the way, but the ground below them was dry due to the recent drought that we’ve been having.  Most of the resurrection ferns were still closed up, even after the rain that feel overnight and into the morning.

Blue Heron-1After turning to the south for about a quarter of a mile, the trail intersects with small spur that branches to the east leading to the Florida Trail.  It was this part of the river where we saw the most wildlife.

Big gator-5Along part of the way, there was a deer that stayed just far enough in back that we couldn’t get a good picture, but along the river we did spot an otter (the photo at the top) next to a blue heron fishing for lunch.  Both of these guys were hanging out on the rocks/coquina in the middle of the river.

Tina and Andy by treeOf course no Florida waterway is complete without a gator siting, and this was no exception.  We saw one young alligator (probably about four feet long) and one very mature gator that was probably closing in on about ten feet long.

Ancient fallen log-1The Florida Trail follows the river for about a mile and a half to the western border of the park before turning to the north.  On this leg of the trail is a an incredibly old oak tree.  The trunk of this tree is easily over six feet in diameter, and the burls around the roots make it even larger.

Before too long, there is another branch on the trail that leads to a primitive camping area.  It looks like there were several campsites there, and only one was in use on this morning.  It seems to be a very primitive area – there isn’t much to see other than a few areas cleared for tents.

From the camping area, it is only about a mile to the end of the loop which brings us back to the sign with the map.  From there we took the fixed footbridge back to the parking area to round out the hike for the day.  Both of these are pretty trails that are very well marked and cleared.  Good times!

Baby gator-2
Young Gator
Coquina in the river-2
Coquina in the  River

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Biking the Seminole Wekiva Trail (northern section)

I started this ride from the same spot on Lake Mary Blvd. as I did back in March when I rode the southern portion of this trail; this time I took the tunnel that leads to the north.

Seminole Wekiva River Trail Tunnel

The first half of this ride is all on sidewalks along relatively busy roads, but the second half is very pretty.  There is a rest area with a water fountain right where the trail turns to the west; from here the trail gets more interesting.  It passes by the Markham Woods trailhead, a small “Paint the Trails” section, and ends at the Wekiva River.

Paint the Trail

Seminole Wekiva Trail

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Friday, May 05, 2017

Koreshan State Historical Site–Estero, Florida

It was an interesting trip getting here, but we made it.  This is a nice spot that I found while browsing the Florida State Parks website.  What caught my eye was the photos of the Koreshan Unity Settlement.

We arrived in one piece!

BlowoutFirst a little about our trip down.  While driving south on Route 31, in the middle of nowhere, we had a blowout on our popup.  I realized what it was as soon as it happened, and was able to pull off to the side of the road.  There was such a minor change in the feel of towing that I can really see the value of a Tire Pressure Monitoring System for a bigger trailer.  I wasn’t too worried about being stuck – I had a good spare.  What I found out, though, is that I didn’t have a lug wrench that fits the camper.  What should have been a 10 minute tire change turned into a 3 hour wait on AAA.  As an added bonus, we got to go tire shopping the next day;  Since no one seems to carry this size tire, we ended up buying a whole new set (luckily they’re not too expensive).

When we finally arrived at the campsite, setup was yet another adventure.  The sites are all sand, and when I was taking the popup off the hitch, it popped off and the front post slid off the wood support and sank six inches deep into the soft sand.

Luckily a small popup like this is easy to lift

We managed to get everything set up without any further surprises, and learned a few things in the process.  Since we still had a few hours before dinner time, we road out bikes around the site and took a few photos…

Riding around the park

I haven’t heard anyone talk about this spot, and it is really nice.  It also is close to a lot of other things to do.  The way the sites are set up with plenty of plants growing between them, the privacy is good.  There is a boat launch at the park that is suitable for most small to average size boats, and manatees can be seen on the river. 

 Related Posts

Getting ready to launch
Paddling the Estero River
Tina and Andy on the boardwalk
Hiking Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Andy by fig tree
Edison & Ford Winter Estates
Koreshan Unity Settlement

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Thursday, May 04, 2017

Exploring the Koreshan Unity Settlement

Established in the late 1800’s, the Koreshan Unity Settlement was home to a group of people who had a unique perspective on the world.

Koreshan Science-5
A Model of the Universe

Koreshan Science-1The leader of the community, Cyrus Teed, and the rest of the Koreshans had some unique beliefs; the most interesting of which was that the earth is a hollow sphere and we live on the inside.  This belief started with the understanding that the universe cannot be infinite because and infinite universe is incomprehensible to man, and God wouldn’t have made something that cannot be understood.Koreshan Science-1a

What I found really interesting is that they performed experiments that, they believed, offered scientific proof that their belief was true.  What they did was measure, using a known straight instrument (the “rectiliniator”), the two points at which it would intersect the earth.  The last member of the community, Vesta Necomb, said that she believed everything about the hollow earth until the Apollo moon landing.  That was the event that convinced her that the moon was not an illusion as they had believed.

The Unity Settlement was not isolated from the local communities.  They had a store where they sold their goods, and their gardener even traded plants with the gardener of the Edison & Ford Winter Estate.  The Koreshans had their own generator that provided power to the community.

Generator Building
Generator Building

Machine shop-5The workshop is very close to the generator building, and showcases all of the power tools the Koreshans had at their disposal.  It’s an impressive sight with all of the belts and pulleys that ran the tools still in place.

Membership CottageOther buildings on the site are set up for viewing through windows or glass-partitioned entryways, and all of them have furnishings that are either from the original community members, or pieces from the time that are representative of what the Koreshans probably had.

This site has an interesting history, and I only touched on the surface of the stories of the people who lived here.  Access to the site is through the gate of the Koreshan State Historic Site for a nominal fee at the ranger station.  If you are in the area, take a couple of hours to look around.  You won’t be disappointed.

More photos are available in the Gallery

Art Hall Info
Art Hall Information
Andy on the bamboo landing Planetary Court-1
Planetary Court
Founders residense-2
Founder’s Residence
Vesta Newcomb Cottage
Vesta Newcomb’s Cottage
Koreshan Science-3
Earth’s Layers

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Touring the Edison & Ford Winter Estates

Found on the south bank of the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Meyers, the estates can be toured with a simple interpretive tour, an audio tour, or a guided tour.  We opted for the guided tour, but the audio tour is nice too since it allows you to move around at your own pace.  Admission to the estates also includes the museum and laboratory.

Lab office-2 
Edison’s Laboratory Office

One thing that is really notable about the estates is the number and variety of plants.  Much of the study done on the site was looking for alternative sources for rubber, as well as material to use for filaments.  Both of these searches were focused on agricultural solutions.

That's one Banyon Tree-2
This is a single Banyon Tree
Fig tree
Fig Tree by the River

The estates themselves were nice too…

Edison home
Edison Home
Edison bedroom

But the most interesting areas were the laboratories and the museum

Lab – Left Side
Lab – Right Side
Lab Model Full
Scale Model of Lab (very cool!)
Model T-2
Model T

One final bit of trivia – Did you know that the Model T cam in any color that the customer wanted, as long as they wanted “black”?  It’s true!  Actually, the original model T did come in other colors but as part of the assembly line process, the other colors were eliminated.

More photos are available in the Gallery