A Frustrating Day

Tuesday February 28th 2023

Today’s weather was pretty much a clone of Monday and that isn’t a bad thing. It was a beautiful weather day. Once again the temperature peaked in the mid eighties.

My day began with frustration. I was up early to attempt to book a Florida State Park stay for next winter. For the second two week interval in a row I stuck out booking a stay at one of the popular parks. Between the new software and perhaps an increased demand, I am having difficulties earlier in the winter than I’ve ever experienced before. Usually I experience difficulties for March or February but this year it is with January. I am going to have to get creative which may mean moving into the cooler weather areas of the state.

The only other major activity for the day was a grocery run. I was out of milk, non frozen meat and a few other things. Based on what I came home with, I wasn’t all that desperate for groceries. I had fewer bags than usual and I spent a bit less. Even so, I seemed to have everything I needed. It looks like I’m eating differently causing me to use things at different rates. I’ll be within five to ten miles of a grocery store for the next three plus weeks so it will be easy to get anything I need.

My walks around the campground today didn’t result in any nice wildlife pictures, but I made a point to get a sunset picture or two. There were a lot of other people with a similar goal.

Some Chores and More Touring

Monday February 27th 2023

It was a little bit cooler today, but it was still above normal. Along with the continuous breeze it was a very comfortable day. The temperature peaked in the lower half of the eighties.

Early in the day there were lots of fluffy clouds in the sky.
As the day progressed the clouds thinned out.

I split the day between catching up on chores and a little touring. The morning was for chores and the afternoon for touring. I drove along the Tamiami trail to the main Big Cypress National Preserve Visitors center. Unlike the Oasis visitors center near the Midway campground I was at last week, this visitors center doesn’t have alligators. Instead it has a boardwalk along the mangrove lined marsh where you can often see manatees swimming. There weren’t any today. The best I saw today were a few purple blossoms.

On the way back I stopped at the Marsh trail of the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife refuge again. Yesterday I walked the whole three mile round trip out the trail and back. Today I only walked a short way to the observation tower. The majority of the wildlife are in that part of the trail. Today the Rosetta Spoonbills were hanging out in front of the observation tower.

The campground had more turnover today than it did yesterday. There was a steady line of departures starting before eight this morning. The campground hosts were very busy checking the sites as each became empty. By night fall the campground was full again.

An elusive Green Heron.

Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge Marsh Trail

Sunday February 26th 2023

It was another beautiful day in south Florida. A steady breeze kept the above normal temperatures from being oppressive. The high temperature for the day was in the mid eighties.

I’m bigger than you.

I expected the campground to have a mass departure this morning. It wasn’t as dramatic as I expected. While a lot of people did leave early, others hung on to the 1PM checkout time. I think some even paid for the extra night so they could leave late in the afternoon. There still weren’t as many empty sites as I expected. Maybe more will depart tomorrow.

One medium sized alligator in the brackish water of the marsh. Bigger gators prefer fresh water.

For exercise and entertainment today, I ventured back to the east on the Tamiami trail to the Ten Thousand Island National Wildlife Refuge Marsh Trail. This trail is a gravel road into the marsh to access some monitoring equipment. A viewing tower, benches and informational signs have been added to make it a nice trail. It is an out and back trail that goes about 1.5 miles into the marsh. There are mangroves and water on both sides of the trail.

When I zoomed and cropped this photo the turtle in the heron’s mouth came into view.

Today, most of the wildlife was along the first half of the trail. I saw lots of varieties of birds, an alligator and a turtle in a Heron’s mouth. I took plenty of pictures.

A Relaxing Saturday at Home

Saturday February 25th 2023

Then TV weather forecast last night presented a very hot picture for today. It didn’t turn out as extreme as they indicated. The temperature only reached the mid eighties under bright sunshine. If the temperature set records, it wasn’t here.

The only blossoms I have seen in the park are in a flower bed planted and maintained by the park volunteers organization.

The campground has been very active today. There seem to be several extended family groups occupying neighboring sites throughout the park. The closeness of the sites makes this park ideal for gatherings. That combination resulted in lots of noise and activity. On one walk around the campground, I passed three different corn hole games.

Impressive wooden bald eagle statue in the flower garden.

At the water access many kayaks and small boats were launched as evidenced by empty roof racks and boat trailers. The actual boats were all out of site down the narrow channel in the mangroves. I walked out a trail that paralleled the channel behind the mangroves. The trail went from wide and well traveled to narrow and impassable in a few feet after I’d walked a quarter mile or more. I only managed to get a few brief glimpses of the water through the mangroves. The purpose of the trail to nowhere is a mystery.

Great Blue Heron perched high off the ground to get a little bit of sleep.

It was a relaxing day overall. I seemed to alternate between eating and walking. First there was breakfast followed by a walk to the water access area. Then there was lunch followed by a walk around the campground loops. After another light meal, I returned to the water access area to check for evening wildlife action. The same Great Blue Heron seemed to be in the same branch of a tree as last night.

Settling in at Collier-Seminole State Park

Friday February 24th 2023

The temperature continues to set record highs in various reporting areas around Florida. In this immediate area there were enough clouds to keep things comfortable. Just as it started to warm up a cloud would block the sun long enough to keep the temperature from spiking. The temperature peaked in the mid to upper eighties. This trend is forecast continue for the next week.

Tonight’s sunset

I spent the day getting re-familiar with Collier Seminole State Park. It was the fall of 2020 the only other time I visited this park. The only significant difference is the occupancy of the campground. In the fall it wasn’t full every night, but this time of year availability is in short supply. This is an old style campground. Many of the sites are small and close to other sites. In the middle of the camping loops the sites are very random in location. The back of one site is often very close to the side of another. My site is on the outer side of the loop which is better spaced with bigger sites. Even so, I had to use extensions to reach both the electric and water hookups. In modern designed sites power and water hookups are better located for today’s RVs.

Channel toward the Gulf of Mexico

Access to the water is a good walk from my site. I haven’t measured the distance, but it seems to be about a half mile away. The water is tidal. It seems to rise and fall about four feet judging from the floating docks. A channel leads to the Gulf of Mexico west of Marco Island. It is several miles long. The canoe and kayak rental doesn’t seem to be open, but many of the campers seemed to come prepared with their own equipment.

The park also has several historical displays. I will revisit those over the next few days. I doubt that what was history two plus years ago has changed. Revisionist history usually only applies to concepts not artifacts.

West to Naples

Thursday February 23rd 2023

While the north is getting snow and ice this area of the south is having a mini heat wave. Today’s high was in the low nineties. The good thing is that the temperature still gets down into the high sixties overnight. The bad news is today was a moving day. It is never fun to move on a hot and humid day.

Site 103 at the Collier-Seminole State Park in Naples Florida.

I departed the Big Cypress National Preserve just before the noon checkout. It is difficult to stretch it out to the last minute. Once you get started with travel preparation tasks it is hard to slow down. The problem was finding a place along the way to kill some time. I didn’t want to arrive at my destination before checkout time. Finding a place to park my 55 feet of motorhome and towed car is a challenge. Today I ended up making two U-turns while driving in an exaggerated oval before finding a place to hand out for a half an hour. Basically I killed half an hour driving and another half an hour parked at a roadside rest area on the wrong side of the road.

I arrived at Collier-Seminole State Park on the eastern approach along the Tamiami Trail to the Naples Florida area at 1:30PM. This is the park that didn’t reopen after hurricane Ian until January. I was concerned that I was going to have to find an alternative, but the park is OK for the most part. The older of the restroom buildings is still closed for repairs. The other two newer and elevated restroom buildings are open. One trail is also marked as closed. The campsites seem fine. I’ll check things out tomorrow.

More Birds and Alligators

Wednesday February 22nd 2023

There was a strong breeze out of the east this morning. It continued most of the day generally improving the weather conditions. The wind prevented the fog from settling in this morning and kept the temperature under control during the day. The actual temperature peaked around 90 degrees, but the breeze kept the comfort level in the manageable area.

Great Blue Heron in mating plumage.

An alligator showed up in the campground pond today. That is not unusual. I expected to see one during my stay. The story the campground host told was unexpected. Apparently, the gator was spotted by a camper walking in from the canal on the other side of US 41 during the night. I know they are nocturnal roamers and the mating season is approaching, but I sure wouldn’t want to meet up with one in the middle of the night. This afternoon the gator was on the bank at the far end of the pond.

Helicopter disturbing the peace. with a dangling payload.

I got my daily dose of gators and birds with another stop at the Oasis Visitors Center down the road. Today the gators became very active when a tractor trailer truck pulled up along the road beside the canal. The slow moving truck caused all of the alligators on that side of the canal to get in the water and swim away. Either the truck blocked the sun or caused enough of a rumble in the ground to disturb the gators. It took a good fifteen minutes before the alligators gradually started to return to their favorite sunning spots.

The birds didn’t seem to mind the disturbance of the truck or the swimming alligators. The Great Blue Heron and Great Egret continued to stare at the water looking for a wayward fish and the Cormorants continued to dive and swim to get their lunch. There was a lot of activity in the canal.

At the campground the regular daily turnover of sites continued. The site behind me has been occupied the last two nights by a guy camping in a minivan from Pennsylvania. He has a bed in the back of the van and a big box fan setup to blow air into and around the van. Other than that it looks like a tent camper without the tent until you look closer. The occupant is mobility challenged. He uses a wheeled walker to get around and I think I saw a wheel chair as well. He uses the van to drive to the bathrooms and is probably sightseeing during the day.

This is my last day at the Big Cypress National Preserve Midway Campground. Tomorrow I move back west to the outskirts of Naples. It is going to be another day trying to find a way to kill time on a short travel distance day. Checkout here is before checkout at my destination. Finding a place to stop along the way with a big motorhome is a challenge. Hopefully my destination doesn’t enforce the 3PM check in time.

A Foggy Start to a Beautiful Day

Tuesday February 21st 2023

My RV home was shrouded in fog this morning. It was dense enough to obscure the other side of the pond in the center of the campground. Shortly before 10AM the sun started to break through. By mid afternoon the temperature climbed into the upper eighties under a partly cloudy sky. There is enough humidity in the air that tomorrow will probably begin the same way. This weather is about two months early. I could use the cooler winter temperatures a little longer.

The bird picture of the day.
There were of puffy clouds today.

This area is behind in rainfall for the year. Some of the swampy areas are drier than I remember them from previous years. Other areas of deeper water, such as the campground pond, seem to be higher. Walking through the Kirby Storter roadside stop area this afternoon the swamp was mostly mud and some of the grass areas that are in water during the rainy season was very brown. The main channel area still had plenty of water, but I only say one turtle rather than several I saw last year. Overall there seems to be a lot of differences in the wildlife this year.

Today’s turtle picture.

The campground had about a fifty percent turnover today. Most of the visitors stop for only a night or two. Very few come for a long time. There just isn’t enough to do in the area and services are forty to fifty miles away. Those that do stay longer seem to pick up available sites by moving every couple of days.

Alligator Quest

Monday February 20th 2023

After the light rain ended near midnight the temperature stayed warm overnight. The morning was sunny and very still. The full sunshine and the lack of breeze allowed the temperature to climb rapidly into the upper half of the eighties. Along with the unseasonably warm temperature there was a lot of humidity. It combination was approaching the uncomfortable level.

View across the pond to my RV home this morning under a bright blue sky.

The first thing after breakfast, I finished my day after arrival setup tasks and set out on a walk around the campground pond. My mission was to see am alligator or two. There are one or two alligators that claim the pond as their home. The campground hosts give out warnings and alligator instructions to every visitor. In past visits to this campground I’ve seen the gators sunning on the bank and even coming ashore to threaten little dogs that are getting walked a little to close to the edge. Today I didn’t see any gators in the pond, although one of my neighbors claimed there was big one out yesterday. I suspect I’ll see a gator or two in the pond before I leave on Thursday, but I was in a hurry.

Later in the day I drove a couple of miles back west on US 41 to the Oasis Visitors center. The drainage canal between the center and the road is always filled with gators. Today was no exception. There were many gators along with plenty of tourists watching them. The parking lot wasn’t quite as full today as it was yesterday, but the available parking spaces were in short supply. The alligators seemed to be more active today than other times I’ve visited. One big one was even very snappy with a smaller one that had the audacity to approach its location. My quest for alligators was satisfied.

Traveling South to the Big Cypress National Preserve

Sunday February 19th 2023

The day began bright and sunny. The cool overnight temperature climbed rapidly as I prepared for travel. The temperature was in the seventies by 10:20 when I departed Davenport Florida heading south. It was in the mid to upper eighties when I arrived at my destination 200 miles to the south, but it was a more overcast day. As evening arrived so did a light shower.

My travel day involved dealing with a couple of tight spots. First I needed to go back and forth a couple of times just to get out of my campsite. The way my neighbors parked their cars just made it too narrow to make the turn in without some maneuvering. The net result was that I had to hook up my car after I got out of the site. Luckily nobody needed to drive down the road while I was hooking up. I blocked the entire road.

The second tight spot was at the gas station, but was more of my own making. After giving the station close to two hundred dollars in exchange for more than sixty gallons of gas, the exit from the pump area was blocked by a truck. I thought I could exit through the truck area to the back and headed for a wide aisle in the parking area headed for the back of the station. It soon became clear that my selected route was not a through path. A line of bushes blocked the way. Moving on to plan C, I tried to make a tight turn before entering the dead end aisle. I really didn’t want to unhook the car so I could back up the motorhome. If I made the decision to turn about a foot sooner, I would have been home free. As it is my front wheels climbed the curb and followed it for a few feet while the branches from a low hanging tree scraped the roof. There wasn’t any damage to my RV home or the tree, but it wasn’t one of my better choices.

The remainder of the trip was uneventful and a bit monotonous. I kept looking for hurricane damage as I got closer to the path of both Ian and Nicole. The real damage was closer to the west coast than I was traveling. All I saw were a couple of gas stations with missing plastic from their signs. One thing that broke the monotony was motorcycle groups. This seemed to be a day for a lot of group rides. I passed two different groups. One probably stretched over two miles with all the riders.

Site 10 at the Midway Campground in the Big Cypress National Preserve.

I arrived at the Midway Campground in the Big Cypress National Preserve about 2:30 after a little more than four hours on the road. I’ve stayed at this campground several times before. The campground has sites around a pond with an alligator or two in residence. It is located about half way across the state from Naples to Miami. Other than the Big Cypress Preserve there isn’t much around.