Exploring in Lake Louisa State Park

Monday January 21st 2019

Last night after I published my blog entry, I stepped outside my RV home to check out the “Super Blood Wolf Moon”. The sky was clear and the red coloring of the moon was clearly visible. I’m not sure how much closer the moon was to the earth to warrant the “Super” attribute. It didn’t look to be much bigger than normal. I can’t dispute that it was the first full moon of the year, but why Native Americans called it a Wolf moon is folk history. I made a couple of attempts to take a picture, but without setting up a tripod it wasn’t happening. My memory and other people’s pictures on the internet will have to suffice to recall the interesting Lunar Eclipse.

Wildflower blossom of the day.

Last night was reported to be the coldest night of the season in this area. It got down into the high thirties. Today’s high was only in the high fifties about fifteen degrees cooler than average. There were no clouds in the sky today, but there was a strong north to northeast wind. The next couple of days are forecast to be warmer before a long term change in the weather pattern arrives at the end of the week. The weather roller coaster is forecast to plateau at the bottom of the cycle. A couple of weeks of below average temperatures are in the forecast.

This would be considered nice fall foliage up north. Here it just looks out of place.

In this state the Martin Luther King Jr Holiday is very visible. It was clearly a three day weekend at this campground. Today was the big departure day for the weekend visitors. I would guess about half the sites turned over today. When I was out of the park, as expected the schools and local government offices were closed. Many of the local industry and non retail businesses were also closed judging by the empty parking lots. The retail businesses that aren’t open on Sunday’s probably weren’t open today either. It was very different on MLK day in Arizona last year.

Lake Louisa beyond the Cyprus swamp area.

For exercise today I hiked the state park trails near Lake Louisa. There is a defined “nature” trail with signs about the plant life and potential animal life. I need to go back another time when there aren’t as many people around. A noisy family was following my every step along the path. Hearing the birds over their noise or sneaking up on any animal life was impossible. At every branch I took the path less traveled, but they followed anyway. Even when I decided to cut the hike short and loop back to the parking area they followed. I didn’t know I was the leader of their hike.

Redheaded Woodpecker pounding away at a tree along the nature walk.

The state park has a little swimming beach on Lake Louisa. There were a few people getting some sun on the sand, but no one was in the water on this cool day. Surprisingly there were not any boats out on the part of the lake visible from the state park. The other side has many homes with docks along the waters edge.

Football Sunday

Sunday January 20th 2019

The cold front went through last night with a couple of hours of rain and some wind. The cloud cover kept the warmth of the day around most of the night, but it was on a continuous slow cooling. It was in the mid sixties early this morning. By late afternoon it was barely in the fifties.

The tall grass on the side of Dixie Lake was bending to the wind.

A strong northwest wind blew all day. My campsite is well protected from that direction by tall trees, palms and bushes. I can hear the wind and see it blowing the branches high in the surrounding trees, but at ground level it is pretty calm. When I took my morning walk I was shocked by the strength and chill of the wind. I added an extra layer for my walk later in the day.

The Spanish moss in the trees was nearly horizontal from the wind.

Watching the two conference championship football games was my primary objective of the day. Before they got started I did a little reading and managed to grill a couple of burgers for lunch. Once the NFC game started it was all football except for one more walk at halftime of the first game. The difference in the officiating of the two games was noteworthy. It didn’t seem like they were calling many penalties in the Saints vs. Rams game. The one obvious miss call at the end of regulation practically gave the game to the Rams. In the AFC Championship game between the Chiefs and Patriots they seem to be calling every little contact.

I wanted the Saints to win in the NFC and the Patriots in the AFC. If I could only have one, I’m glad it was the Patriots. They’ve been my football team since they didn’t know how to beat a college team back during the last century. My emotions were up and down throughout the game. I started on a high when they scored first, but went way down when Brady threw an interception on the second scoring drive. By the end of the first half I was in neutral. During the second half I tried to change the channel, but I was back to the game within a couple of minutes. When they regained the lead with thirty nine seconds left on the clock, I was afraid. The fact that they held the chiefs to a field goal so they could win in overtime was amazing. On to the League Championship game. If Vegas makes the Patriots the under dog, I predict they’ll win.

Whatever these blossoms are I like them. I keep taking pictures of different instances of the blossom.

Walmart as a Tourist Attraction

Saturday January 19th 2019

Today’s weather was the pinnacle of another weather roller coaster hill. The temperature reached the high seventies early in the afternoon. A cold front is due to pass through the area before dawn tomorrow. It will be much cooler tomorrow and Florida cold on Monday.

Wild flower blossom of the day.

In yesterday’s blog entry I described a loose plan for the day that included riding my bicycle to the other side of the park to view the equestrian event. It didn’t happen. I got up this morning very stiff and achy. I over did something yesterday that took the prospect of riding my bike several miles off the to do list this morning. By the end of the day the stiffness had passed. Hopefully it won’t be back in the morning.

I set out around noon with the simple mission of buying a couple of propane cylinders for the gas grill. It turned into a two and a half mile loop around the west side of Orlando. I finally stopped at a new Walmart near Disney World to buy the propane and a bunch of other stuff. The Walmart was a vacant lot when I was in the area in 2017. Now it’s a huge modern store with all the stuff Walmarts normal have and a lot of stuff for the tourists. The area near the checkouts has all kinds of Disney merchandise as well as luggage and the stuff you’d usually find in a hotel gift shop. The Walmart itself was a tourist attraction for foreign visitors. There were many people wandering aimlessly with their heads on a swivel talking foreign languages.

Back at the campsite I changed the menu and didn’t need the propane to cook my dinner. I took a walk over to the lake in hopes of catching the sunset, but the clouds associated with the cold front had started to move into the area. As darkness arrived the temperature started to drop quickly.

Travel Day to Lake Louisa State Park

Friday January 18th 2019

Today was moving day. I was ready to pull out of my site at Hillsborough River State Park before noon, but it was 12:38PM when I left the park. The first challenge was hooking up the car. I had to drive the car into the back of the site after moving the coach forward then backing it back to the car. It seemed like the best solution in the tight confines of he campground.

Blossom of the day. A little wild flower.

The next delay in my departure was the line up at the dumping station. I had to wait about fifteen minutes before I could dump my holding tanks. During the wait I made good use of my time. I washed the streaks of bird droppings off my front windshield. Just one of the “benefits” of a campsite in the trees.

The drive to Lake Louisa State Park in Clermont was uneventful. Traffic was heavy on Interstate 4 all the way. It was just starting to backup leading into the theme park area and Orlando when I got off at route US27. I arrived at the state park a little after 2PM. The staff at the gate of this park has different procedures than the other Florida State Parks I stay at. They are not prepared for your arrival. At the other state parks you tell them who you are and they give you a car pass and a map to your site. Here they do all of the processing once you identify yourself. Today I had to wait for four other campers to be processed and they all had fully paid for reservations like mine.

Site 51 at Lake Louisa State Park.

I got set up on site 51 by 3PM, but had one problem. My power management system wouldn’t connect to the 50 amp connection. One of the legs of the two phase circuit had no voltage. The 30 amp plug was fine. I drove back to the entrance to report the issue. By the time I’d driven the 3 miles back to my site a park ranger was already at my site. He confirmed the problem and went for tools and parts to fix the problem. The breakers were replaced before he finished for the day. I’m now connected to the 50 amp plug. It really makes a difference on what I can run on electricity. A 30 amp connection only provides 30 amps, but a 50 amp connection is really 100 amps. The 50 amp plug provides to legs of 50 amp power.

This is the same park I was in five weeks ago but a different site in the B loop. I like this park. It’s in a good location and the sites are well suited to RVs. There is a big equestrian even going on tomorrow. The Friends of Lake Louisa have set up a cross country course with obstacles for the horses. I may go see what it’s all about tomorrow. I’ll have to ride my bike as parking may be limited.

Tonight’s sunset across Dixie lake.

Last Day at Hillsborough River State Park

Thursday January 17th 2019

Last night was the coldest I’ve experienced since November well north of here. The temperature reports around this area ranged were in the high thirties. One area twenty or thirty miles north was reported in the high twenties and the areas south of Tampa bay were in the mid forties. The high temperature for the day was about seventy. Tonight won’t be as cold as last night and tomorrow is going to be a bit warmer.

The water flows very slowly through this section of the Hillsborough River.

This is my last day at Hillsborough River State Park. I spent the leisure part of my day riding my bike and hiking around the park. The water level in the swampy areas has gone down since I arrived last week as has the river level. I spotted some birds in the marshes that I hadn’t seen on previous excursions through the park. The white birds have good camouflage in the grass and the Great Blue Heron blend in with the leafless tree branches. A good pair of binoculars would have been useful to spot the birds, but mine were in the RV. There are still trails to explore on future visits.

This Ibis is hard to spot in the waters at the edge of the marsh.

Between excursions around the park I did a few chores and started to get the RV ready to move tomorrow. In addition to loading the bicycle on the car and getting it ready to tow, I put some air in the tires. Yesterday morning the cold temperature brought the tire pressure warning light on so I got the air compressor out and topped off the tires. The right rear tire was down just enough to trigger the warning. The longest part of the whole task is wrestling the compressor in and out of the storage bay and getting it setup. Once the compressor pressurizes the tank, it only takes a few seconds.

This little gator blends in with the log as it warms up in the sun.

I’m going back to Lake Louisa State Park in Clermont tomorrow. It’s only about sixties miles if I go over the river and through the fields and woods. I plan to go back to the highway, so it will be closer to seventy miles. In this case the highway is an easier drive.

A Visit to the Florida RV Super Show

Wednesday January 16th 2019

It was a nice sunny morning, but the temperature was in the low forties. By the middle of the day thick clouds had moved into the area which kept the temperature below sixty. Late in the day the clouds gave way to clear skies just in time to allow more radiational cooling over night. The forecast is for even cooler temperatures tonight.

The crowds outdoors weren’t bad.

Today was the first day of the Florida RV Super Show in Tampa. I got to the State Fair grounds at ten about an hour after it opened. The traffic backup getting into the parking lot was about a half a mile long. The lines at the ticket window were equally long, but looked more like a disorganized crowd. Inside the show grounds the crowds were manageable in the RV exhibit areas, but inside the vendor sales buildings it was another mob scene.

View across the pond at some of the other RVs.

I don’t know if it was because today was seniors day or a general characteristic of RVers, but there were Electric Convenience Vehicles, dog strollers and dogs on leashes jamming the aisles. The ECV came in all sizes and shapes. One ECV was actually a small golf cart. As for the pet menagerie there were big dogs and small dogs. Some came in pairs and others were dressed in their owner’s idea of pretty costumes. Why does a little fur ball need sun glasses to go with a skirt and head bow? The crowds were not a safe environment for the dogs. I saw a couple shivering in fear while being ignored by their handlers. I hope none of the animals got injured by all of the big feet around their little bodies.

Overall I was disappointed by the show. I’m not in the market for a new RV so I only looked at a few. It’s still one of the best shows to attend if you’re in the market for a new rig. Just about every brand in the industry is represented. The same couldn’t be said about the vendor areas. There are a few upgrades and accessories that I am interested in buying. I didn’t find any of them. I don’t need cookware, essential oils, RFID protected wallets or a bunch or other stuff unrelated to RVs. If I want to buy something that Camping World sells, I’ll go to a real Camping World not a slapped together temporary store. I’d like to buy items sold by the independent vendors that make a living selling at RV rallys and shows. One in particular was present, but was only selling a limited set of products do to space. I’ll have to buy online and get it shipped when I’m at a place that receives deliveries.

I spent less than four hours at the show. When the clouds got dark and it looked like rain, I returned to my RV home. My ticket is good for another day, but I don’t think I’ll go back.

This bird can’t figure out what’s going on at “his” fair grounds.

More Hillsborough River Exploring

Tuesday January 15th 2019

It didn’t get as cold last night as forecast. The cloud cover kept some of the heat of the day in place overnight. It was almost noon before the clouds disappeared keeping the sun from warming the daytime air. The high temperature today was a little above sixty.

Cypress trees in the river near the “rapids”.

Once the sun came out I did some more exploring along the banks of the Hillsborough River this afternoon. There were very few other people on the trails this afternoon. It made it easy to listen to the sounds of the water, the birds and occasional noisy squirrel. The trails wind along the side of the river with an occasional boardwalk to span a gully. Looking out over the water are many beautiful vistas complete with Spanish moss hanging from Cyprus trees and palm trees leaning over the water.

Small alligator taking the sun.

As I walk along the rive I keep looking for the typical Florida water residents. A few weeks ago in Myakka State Park, I saw many water birds, a few turtles and alligators. I still haven’t seen any turtles or the typical water birds here, but today I spotted an alligator on the far bank. It was a small gator about five feet long taking the sun on a log. I guess all the warning signs weren’t warning people without a reason.

Blossom of the day.

Animal Visitors

Monday January 14th 2019

After the cold front passed through the area yesterday afternoon, it was cloudy this morning. The trees surrounding my campsite combined with the lack of direct sunlight made it very difficult to get going this morning. By the middle of the afternoon the sun had broken through the clouds and was reaching the ground through the trees, but the temperature only made it into the mid sixties.

There was no wind to add ripples to the surface of the Hillsborough River.

Shortly after noon I got motivated to find a Walmart Super Center for some groceries. My supplies were getting low. I wasn’t starving, but I had to be creative with my spotty supplies. I didn’t have all the fixings for any single meal. I found the Walmart with everything I needed eleven miles north in Zephyrhills. It was a very busy place both for shopping and socializing. There seemed to be a meeting of friends blocking every aisle in the store.

While I was out I got gas for the car. For the first time in ages I spent less only $1.899 per gallon for gas. The gas price at most stations has been below two dollars since before Christmas, but this is the first time I’ve bought gas for less than $1.90 in many years. I’m sure that the price of gas will be on the rise by the time I start my travels, but at least it will be starting from a lower value.

This squirrel blends in with the dried leaves on the ground.

At the campground I had more visits from the local animals. The squirrels are very comfortable around people. They will scurry around within a couple of feet if your not looking in their direction. If they see you paying attention to them they will stay about fifteen or twenty feet away. Three Black Vultures also wandered through the campground today. I was inside when they came through my site, but the neighbors were out. The birds weren’t phased by them.

This Black Vulture came for a visit today.

Exploring the Hillsborough River State Park

Sunday January 13th 2019

Today started bright and sunny. The temperature climbed into the high seventies before the clouds associated with a cold front arrived. A few light showers even dampened the ground around nightfall. Tomorrow is forecast to be ten degrees cooler with a north wind.

Palm trees leaning off the river bank.

My theory that this park was full of weekend campers was validated this morning. There was a mass exodus before the 1PM checkout time. During the early afternoon the park looked very empty. By nightfall it was close to full again. There are more out of state license plates on the new residents than the old.

I split my explorations of the Hillsborough River State Park into two groups separated by the Patriots vs. Chargers football game. This morning I road my bicycle around the loop road in the park. All of the traffic follows a one way loop road through the park. The campground is located about two thirds the way around the loop. I didn’t explore off the road, but got a sense of where things are located in the park.

The football game was a good surprise. I feared the Chargers would win. My faith in the Patriots defense wasn’t high, but they proved me wrong. By the end of the first quarter I had a good feeling about the outcome of the game. As the Patriots would say, “It’s on to Kansas City”. I’m looking forward to the game, but it’s tough to beat a good team twice in one season.

After the first football game I set off on foot to explore other areas of the state park. The picnic area and a few nature trails are along the area up river from the campground. The river through most of the park has a slow current and is very good for canoes and kayaks. The trees along the river banks lean out over the water creating a canopy of foliage. There are many down trees from years of storms in the woods and other signs of damage to structures from hurricanes. A sign on the top of a shelter indicates the high water mark from flooding and one of the foot bridges over the river has been closed since hurricane Irma a year and a half ago. There are many trails that I want to explore in more detail over the next few days.

Foot bridge over the Hillsborough River that was damaged by hurricane Irma.

I cut my exploration short and hurried home to avoid getting wet by the line of showers approaching with dark clouds. The second football game of the day caught my attention for the next couple of hours. It was a much closer game than the first game of the day.

Turkey Vulture watching over the picnic area.

Diesel Engine Noise and Sleep Don’t Mix

Saturday January 12th 2019

I got a slow start to the day. My sleep was interrupted last night by a late arrival. Around 12:30AM, just as I was getting to sleep, I was woken by the sound of a diesel engine. The noise kept increasing as it got closer. It finally stopped right in front of my campsite. By this time I was completely awake. I dragged myself out of bed to the living room window. Peaking around the curtain I saw two headlights about six feet away aimed at the side of my RV home. A diesel motorhome towing a box trailer was trying to back into the site across the road. It seemed to take forever, but probably took less than half an hour before nighttime quiet was restored.

This morning I could more clearly identify the source of the nighttime disruption. It was an older diesel motorhome with a family of five on board. They barely fit on the site. Their box trailer was only a few feet away from the trailer behind them. If those neighbors were awake they might have been concerned about getting hit by a monster in the night. At 11:30AM the family loaded into the motorhome, started the noisy engine and departed the campground. They were only here for eleven hours, but I’ll sure remember them.

This campground has a lot of families and groups of families staying here. I think it may be a popular weekend park for residents of the Tampa Bay area. There is a real party atmosphere to the campground. Kids are making kid noises and adults are yelling at the kids. Dogs are plentiful, noisy and sometimes unrestrained. Last night and tonight there are many people gathered around campfires. One campfire nearby even has a guitar player attempting to entertain his friends. I retreated into my RV home to watch the football playoff games and write this blog entry.

I didn’t get to do much exploring today. Most of my day was focused on finishing setting up for my week long stay and doing chores around the rig. Tomorrow I’ll start to explore the State Park beyond the campground.

Blossom of the day.