Exploring Big Cypress National Preserve, part 1

Everyone has heard of “The Everglades National Park”. But did you know there is another , equally beautiful, tract of land just east of the Everglades called Big Cypress National Preserve? What’s the difference between a national park and a national preserve? Land use is restricted more tightly in a national park, for example you can not legally hunt in most national parks, but you can in national preserves. Big Cypress was the first national preserve, established Oct. 11, 1974.

The concept of a Preserve was born from an exercise in compromise. Everyone saw the importance of protecting the swamp, but many did not want this region merely added to nearby Everglades National Park that was created in the 1940s. Many felt that national parks were managed in a restrictive manner and access to the swamp would be lost. The resulting compromise created a new land management concept – a national preserve. An area that would be protected, but would also allow for specific activities that were described by Congress within the legislation that created the Preserve.”

Steve and I recently spent 10 days exploring Big Cypress. We stayed at Burn Lake Campground which was a perfect jumping off spot for our day trips. There are no services at Burns Lake (electric, water or sewer), perhaps that is why it was so much less crowded than some of the other campgrounds. With only 10 RV sites (sites 1 & 2 are reserved for camp hosts) and 6 tent sites crowding is seldom an issue. Several nights during our stay, we were the only RV in the campground other than the camp hosts.

No matter where you travel within the park, you are guaranteed to see 2 things – alligators and birds!

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Frequently near each other. These wood storks aren’t paying any mind to the alligator on the shore. I don’t know how often a bird becomes a snack but…

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This vulture was more than happy to feast on these alligator remains, while the rest of the flock waited their turn…

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While many of the birds are out in the open and easily seen…

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Others challenge you to find them…

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Some birds strike regal poses for you…

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While others appear to be having a “bad feather” day…

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And speaking of feathers, I loved the way this one was drifting along in the current…

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Some of the other birds we saw…

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But, the most exciting bird encounter we had was at nearby 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Steve and I had been there several days earlier, but wanted to go back for a sunrise view from the observation platform. While the sunrise was beautiful, I didn’t really get any images I thought were spectacular. Not wanting to waste our visit, we walked along the refuge’s Marsh Trail. We stopped for a time to enjoy the peaceful surroundings…

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When to our amazement, an osprey decided to search for breakfast right next to us! The scene went something like this. The osprey flies in, literally, not more than 20 feet over my head…

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Sees something good to eat and prepares to dive…

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Gaining speed…

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I lost sight of him in the brush, but I heard the splash.  Then he re-emerges and flies off with breakfast…

Osprey Hunt-5130Steve and I were stunned to witness this so closely! On our way back to the Jeep, we stopped at the observation platform and I think this picture is perfect. To me it shows what a wide variety of people enjoy the refuge…

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Ok, so about those alligators. There are signs everywhere, warning people not to feed or harass the alligators. In the visitor’s center, they tell you to stay at least 10 feet away from them. That’s it? 10 feet? Hmmm, okay. My picture…

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Sorry, wrong one. My picture…

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And my proof I was 10 feet away…

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We happened upon lots of gators soaking up the sun…

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One of the hardest animals to get any photographs of were the turtles. Yep, the turtles! Nearly every time I would see one, Steve would stop the Jeep and they would disappear into the water. I did manage to get a few images…

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If you are lucky, you might get a chance to see some of the other animals in the preserve. While we did not see any bears or panthers, we did see a few deer off in the distance…

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What else is there to see and do? Stay tuned for Part 2!

Thanks for coming along!

Doing It Florida Style

So here we are in Florida. After the “adventure” of our trip down here, I was definitely ready for some down time. I knew we had to get Waldo over to the repair shop for an estimate on the roof, but first we had to unload the belongings staying in Florida. I’m sure Waldo was quite happy to shed a few pounds!

On Thursday, we brought Waldo to Nature Coast RV, handed over the keys and hoped for the best. It would be a few days before we got the estimate so we set our sights on some relaxation time.

It had been quite a long time since Steve had enough spare time to get out in the kayak. While water sports aren’t his favorite activity, he does enjoy kayaking on calm waters. My first thought was to head down to the Gulf of Mexico (only about 10 minutes from my dad’s house). We made a quick stop at the store to pick up some sunscreen. Steve has two colors of summer – Casper white or lobster red. Not wanting him to spend his first week in sunburned pain, we opted for spf50! I thought better of the gulf because the waters can be choppy and there is no shade. I decide a trip on the Rainbow River would be better. The Rainbow River is a busy river with boaters, tubers, kayakers and paddle boarders. Since it was father’s day weekend, the river was crowded, but not so much to make it unenjoyable. Steve seemed to have a good time…

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We promised my dad a trip to his favorite restaurant for father’s day. I dislike eating out on holidays due to the crowds, so we waited until later in the week. Peck’s Old Port Cove serves steamed blue crabs. Daddy and I split 1 1/2 dozen crabs while Steve had their fried fisherman’s platter…

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A great meal – as always!

Before we left New Hampshire, I had been looking for a place to workamp. Work Camping is when you work at a campground in exchange for your RV site. Sometimes there is an opportunity for extra hours for pay, but not always. We had committed to a park in Texas, but didn’t leave NH in time to make it when they needed us. I was very happy when the manager of  Wind Point Park in Lone Oak, Texas emailed me and said we were still welcome to come work for the summer! Their website shows a beautiful park and conjures visions of lovely sunsets and quiet evenings by the campfire. I can’t wait to get there and settle into our new life as workampers!

We had received the estimate for Waldo’s roof…gasp! Between $7000 and $9000! Double what it cost to put a roof on the stick and brick house in NH! But, it has to be done! Steve checked in on their progress this week and it’s getting there…

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They are hoping to have it done by the 30th so we can be on our way.

While Steve was checking on the roof, I decided to take my kayak out to the gulf. I drove to the end of Ozella Trail. There is a great park there with a  boat launch. A few other kayakers were out. I parked next to them, unloaded and hit the waters. As I suspected, the water was choppy, but it was a gorgeous summer day and I made my way around the mangrove islands and headed back. I hadn’t checked the tide report before I went out and I won’t do that again! When I got back to Trouble, the tide had come in enough I could paddle right up to it…

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It was still over an hour before high tide, so I’m glad I headed in when I did.

Hoping my next post is about an uneventful 14 hour trip to Texas and our arrival at Wind Point Park!!!!

 

Planning To Wander

We’ve had a 5 year plan for about 14 years now. When we first got married, we talked about homesteading; living off the land, finding our own way. Life has a funny way of changing your plans for you. It doesn’t ask – it just does it and leaves you with the mess. After you dust yourself off, you start making a new 5 year plan. Sometimes, if you’ve screwed off for 5 years you’re not careful, 5 years comes and goes without any furtherance of your plan. Perhaps it wasn’t the right plan. My mom had a long list of serious medical issues, things that would ensure she didn’t live to be a centurion. So, my dad retired early, put their home on the market, bought a truck and a camper. Medical issues be damned – they were going to travel. And the things/places they saw!!! Steve and I began to formulate a NEW new plan. We wanted to travel too! Anyone who knows me, even just a little, knows I hate winter and I hate the cold. I’ve been talking about leaving New Hampshire since, well, let’s just say for a very long time.

Over the years, my parents went through several upgrades and downgrades. Everything from a 26′ tag trailer called The Dog, towed by an F250 named Beast to a 38′ Class A motor home named Waldo who towed a nameless Jeep Wrangler. I’m the one who named the motor home. I never knew exactly where my parents might be. Just because they were in Arizona yesterday, didn’t mean they were still there today. Hence – Where’s Waldo. Every summer, my parents would make the trek to New Hampshire, park their rig in our driveway and spend a few weeks with us. During their visit, Steve and I would listen to stories of the places they had visited and “oops” moments along the way. We learned a lot from my parents. Things like: when you buy your rig, make sure there are enough outlets, don’t buy things you don’t have room for, be willing to unplug from the world, it’s never too soon to start downsizing but maybe the biggest thing we learned is LIFE IS SHORT. Due to deteriorating health, in 2011 my parents bought a house in Florida. Travel time was over.

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Before my mom passed away in 2012, my parents gifted Waldo to us. Our travel plan got a little nearer – we had wheels!

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The next 16 months were a disaster for us. In Oct 2012 , my mom passed away at just 64 years old. In Sept. 2013, Steve’s dad passed away. And in Feb 2014, Steve’s 32 year old son lost his battle with cancer. We were learning first hand how short life is. And just to show that life doesn’t care what your plans are, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder to go along with the heart problems I have. Luckily, the heart problem was mostly solved with a cardiac ablation, but the autoimmune disorder isn’t going away (as with most autoimmunes there is no cure). Steve and I have learned to “live with it”. Good days – bad days. S0, before it becomes Bad days – good days we have decided to throw caution to the wind and implement our plan!

The first part of this blog will be about our journey from

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To

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We have a different Jeep now but you get the idea…

As we wander, I will post about where we are and the adventures we are having. I’d love for you to wander with us!

You can see where I’ve visited in New Hampshire by checking out www.TouringNH.com