Mystery Solved

Friday March 31st 2023

It was a warmer and more humid day today. A strong breeze out of the southeast was the cause, but it was also the comfort saving element. As long as you were in the breeze the temperature was tolerable. The record high temperature in the area was almost set today as the temperature peaked in the very high eighties. The average temperature for this date is eighty.

Every time I see another one of these blossoms, I have to take a picture. They are very pretty.

The mystery associated with all the preparations going on at the day use area was solved on my first walk of the day. They are setting up for a series of races tomorrow. A 5K, 10K and half marathon are scheduled. There is an elaborate start and finish line setup beside the pavilion complete with a victory arch and medal platform. Around the park there are race direction signs and arrows to mark the race route. As the day progressed they added more elements to the setup. I spotted a water station with plenty of orange coolers were the half marathon route returns to five and ten K routes. The half marathon route seems to follow just about every trail in the park.

The park is full these temporary route markers.

With all the setup work the race organizers have to do, it is not surprising that they got started Thursday afternoon. I bet they will take it all down and depart a lot quicker. They will likely be gone by tomorrow night. That will be nice, because I anticipate absolute chaos on the park roads and trails tomorrow. Residents of the campground can’t leave the park without driving along and across the race route a couple of times.

The campground is filled for the weekend with the expected mix of local area weekenders out for a party with friends. The atmosphere is a little more lively than during the week. One downer on the weekend revelry came this afternoon. The county has issued an open fire ban because of the dry conditions. That means no campfires. The camp host had the task of delivering the news to each site. There was a big wildfire on the other side of the county earlier in the week.

Hiking in a Different Direction

Thursday March 30th 2023

It was a cool start to the day. The inside temperature was in the low sixties this morning. That is probably close to the outside temperature since the windows were open all night. The temperature rose into the mid eighties during the day. The lower humidity was offset by the lack of wind. In some ways it felt warmer than yesterday.

Wildflower blossom of the day.

To start my second week here at Colt Creek State Park, I explored a different area of the park today. Instead of heading for the ponds at the day use area on my first walk of the day, I turned east on a trail that heads out to the back of a recently cut pasture. The trail goes south between open areas and a swampy area. For the most part the swamps are without water. The dry spell so far this spring has left the swamps mostly muddy.

At the southern most point on the trail there is an equestrian campground and another day use area. The trail continues to the east and loops back to the north. I chose to take the main park road back to my RV home. The loop trail around to the north would require several hours and more supplies to complete. At the southern day use area there is one little pot hole style pond. It is probably less than 100 feet in diameter, but it had an alligator in residence.

I think “he” knew I was there. Not a good idea to get to close.
This tortoise seems to be a different breed than the Gopher tortoise I’m used to seeing.

For my second walk of the day at sunset I returned to the main day use area. There was a lot of activity at the day use pavilion. A group was busy unloading a U-Haul truck and setting up for some kind of event. I don’t know if the event is tomorrow or on the weekend, but they were doing a lot of setup. I’ll have to check it out tomorrow.

An Active Day Following a Quiet Day

Wednesday March 29th 2023

The latest cold front has passed through the area toward the south. Today’s temperature was cooler than the last several days. It peaked in the lower eighties. This evening the wind out of the north added a little bit of a chill to the air. The good thing with respect to overall comfort is the humidity is going down. On the other had the dry air and lack of rain is raising the fire danger.

I didn’t see any butterflies around the flowers in the butterfly garden today.

Today was opposite the day before in terms of activity level. While Tuesday was quiet, today was a very active day around the state park. About half the campsites in the park turned over today. In the early afternoon there were many empty sites. This evening there were only a few still empty which probably filled after darkness fell. Elsewhere in the park I found lots of activity too. There were people fishing at the fishing pier in the main park pond as well as several people using picnic tables for lunch. Out by the third pond there were empty horse trailers when I walked by. Where the horses and their riders are will remain a mystery. I didn’t encounter any horses on my walk today.

I continue to find new sources of this blossom as the old ones die away.

Continuing with the opposite behavior today, there was nobody around the day use area when I made my second walk of the day near sunset. Tuesday there were people fishing and kayaking. It was very quiet and the sunset was blocked by cloud cover.

A Quiet Tuesday

Tuesday March 28th 2023

The fog was thick and slow to depart this morning. It was close to 11AM before it started to brighten up. During the afternoon a nice breeze camp up to keep it comfortable despite the above average temperatures. The temperature peaked in the upper eighties a little lower than yesterday.

I found another of these beautiful lilies.

This was a very quiet day around the state park. There wasn’t a lot of turnover in the campground and the day use area was empty during my afternoon walk. I didn’t see any people or vehicles on my walk to the area or at the area while I was there. One state park truck passed by on my walk back to my RV home. Later in the day during my evening walk there were a couple of fishermen and a pair of kayakers at the pond. The campground had a few dog walkers when I got back. Overall everything was pretty quiet all day.

My question of the day relates to dog walking. The requirement to pick up after your dog is now pretty common. When I had a dog to walk as a child it wasn’t a requirement. Today I passed a pile of fresh horse excrement on the trail. When will the horse riders have to pick up after their animals?

My main activity for the day was a maintenance and repair task. My Fan-Tastic vent wouldn’t open. The motor was spinning, but the lid wasn’t climbing. On closer examination the plastic mounting bracket was cracked. The motor drive shaft was not held in place correctly. I have the mechanism disassembled. The motor works OK. A quick search online for parts proved interesting. I could only find the complete motor assembly not just the plastic mounting piece. After I dig out the manual, hopefully with part numbers, I’ll do another search. In the mean time, I’m going to try and glue the plastic mounting piece together as a temporary work around.

A Warm Day for a Longer Hike

Monday March 27th 2023

There wasn’t as much fog this morning, but it was still very humid. By mid morning the sun and clouds had reached a balance that kept the sunshine reaching the ground about half the time. It was comfortable while the sun was blocked and hot when it reached the ground. Overall the temperature peaked around ninety degrees with plenty of humidity.

I spent the afternoon walking more of the trails in the park. Today I looped around the far side of the ponds and out toward the park entrance before heading back along a woodland trail to the campground area. I enjoyed the walk, but didn’t seen anything singularly spectacular. I drank plenty of water on my hike and didn’t really notice the heat. The trail passes through a meadow area near the ponds, swamp areas moving away from the pond and tree filled areas with pines and hardwoods deeper in the park. The most notable area along the trail was an area of wildflowers filled with butterflies.

There wasn’t much turnover in the campground today. Very few of the weekenders stayed through to Monday. The site beside mine did get occupied last night. I don’t know when they arrived only that the site was occupied this morning.

The Alligators Made an Appearance Today

Sunday March 26th 2023

The fog was heavier this morning. It took longer for it to burn off. It was well after noon before the sun won the battle with the clouds. Once it did the temperature returned to the upper eighties. It is about ten degrees warmer than normal for the season.

Wood Stork

This morning I watched a steady stream of departing RVs. I would estimate more than half of the sites turned over today. By the time I lowered the shades in my RV home the only empty site remaining was beside me. There is always the possibility that it will be filled by morning.

With the arrival of full sunshine in the afternoon, I took a walk to the ponds at the day use area. People were in the process of cleaning up after a wedding. Apparently the pavilion was rented out for a wedding earlier in the day. They were in the process of removing white plastic chairs and other festive items. The day use area seems to be busy with special events. There was a concert yesterday and a wedding today.

I didn’t see as many wildflowers today. The blue lilies that were plentiful the last couple of days were down to only a couple of blossoms today. Instead I found a few animals to take pictures of. A Wood Stork was in the mud trying to get a drink of the little remaining water in the part of the swamp where the lilies grew. Over in the main pond I finally spotted a couple of alligators today. On my first few visits to the ponds I didn’t see any gators, but knew they were most likely present. Today I saw two young alligators. One was at the edge of the reeds and the other was swimming under the fishing dock. I suspect there are a few more back in the reeds.

A Busy Day at Colt Creek State Park

Saturday March 25th 2023

The humidity arrived overnight. The day started foggy and transitioned to bright and sunny via a very brief light rain shower. The high temperature for the day was around ninety degrees, but the humidity made it feel much warmer than yesterday.

The morning fog turned into a lot of puffy clouds during the day.

It was a busy day around the state park today. This morning while I was having breakfast an ambulance, fire truck and police car sped by the campground on their way toward the group camping area. They departed a few minutes later with much less fanfare and hast. I assume it wasn’t a major issue. The action in the afternoon moved to the other direction from the campground. A couple of folk music groups preformed this afternoon at the main day use area.

I walked up to the day use area this afternoon to listen to the music and get some exercise walking around the ponds. The music was entertaining, but not memorable. The event sponsored by the Friends of Colt Creek State Park drew a good crowd. There were cars overflowing the parking lot and lots of people were sitting in chairs they brought with them for the occasion. Some people even brought “easy up” style awnings to sit under. A shaved ice food truck was also present to keep the crowd refreshed. I listened for a while then walked around the ponds before returning and listening to the music again.

The volunteer staff have planted flowers to attract butterflies.

During the middle of the afternoon I returned to my RV home for some lunch. It also was an opportunity to cool off and watch a little TV. Just before sunset this evening I returned to the day use area to watch the sunset. Once again I watched for signs of deer, turkeys or other wildlife that might come out into the field areas in the evening. Similar to yesterday I didn’t see any.

Settling at Colt Creek State Park

Friday March 24th 2023

It was a warm sunny day. There wasn’t too much humidity or wind, but the temperature climbed into the upper nineties. Some places in the area broke the ninety degree mark. It is about a month earlier than the average first 90 degree day.

The loop roads at the campground are wide with campsites set well back from the road.

My mission today was getting settled in and familiarizing myself with Colt Creek State Park. This is my first visit to this park. I believe it is fairly new. The campground and all of the buildings look new. The campsites are all big, level, and gravel lined with both a fire ring and a charcoal grill. The distance between sites is also very good.

The third pond at the main day use area.
There are plenty of things intended to support horses.

The campground is located about 2 miles from the entrance to the park. You pass the main day use area about a half a mile before you reach the campground. The main day use facility is around a series of ponds that seem to have been created by digging out swamp land and and creating raised banks to hold in the water. Further down the main road there is another day use area, an equestrian campground and a group camping area. There is an extensive grid of trails in the park. Most of them are suitable for people, horses and bicycles.

Wildflower of the day

I walked part of one of the trails to get from the campground to the day use area. The trail was probably three times longer than the direct route along the park road, but it was through the woods. The water level seems to be low. The trail followed beside a creek bed that was mostly dry. Once I reached the ponds they seemed to be well below the maximum capacity, but I don’t have a basis of comparison. There were plenty of wildflowers to see along my walk, but I didn’t see many animals. I expected to see ducks or other water birds in the ponds. The only water bird I saw was a single Great Egret hiding in the reeds while searching for lunch.

Late in the day just before sunset, I walked back to the day use area. There are several open areas along the road that I hoped might be a good place to see deer. The setting sun over the pond was pretty, but I didn’t see any deer or other wildlife along the way. I plan to repeat this walk a few more times during my stay.

North to Colt Creek

Thursday March 23rd 2023

The day began on a positive note. I successfully booked another two week Florida State Park stay for next February. This particular site is at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. I will be on the same site I was on in January of this year. There were only two sites available this morning and I got the best of the two. Now I can sleep in for the next two weeks before I have to get up early to book the next two weeks.

The next part of the day was filled with physical labor as I prepared the rig for travel. The temperature rapidly climbed into the eighties as I worked to get everything packed and configured. Lake Manatee State Park is another older campground that doesn’t have room on the camping loops to hook up my towed car. Once everything is ready for travel, I move the car over to the day use area. After walking back I take the motorhome to the dumping station and then to the car in the day use area. By the time I got all these tasks done, it was close to 12:30PM as I pulled out of the state park.

I arrived at Lake Manatee State Park two weeks ago with an almost empty gas tank. My first order of business was to fill the tank. I scouted a Seven Eleven earlier in the week for easy access to the pumps. Once again a pickup truck with a very slow agenda put a monkey wrench in my plan. There was nowhere appropriate to wait for the truck to finish up at the pump I needed to access. I moved on in search of plan B for gas.

A Raceway station on the opposite side of the road a few miles closer to the highway was my solution. I had bought gas there before, but it necessitated crossing the four lane road at an intersection and maneuvering into the station from the back. I got lucky and no one was using the pump with easy access. Two hundred and twenty five dollars on two credit card passes later and I was ready to be on my way. It was after 1PM when I got on Interstate 75 heading north. It took over half an hour to travel the first eight miles.

Site 27 at Colt Creek State Park.

The trip north and east on Interstate 75 and Intestate 4 was solid traffic. This area has some of the heaviest traffic I encounter in Florida during the winter. There were also several construction zones. Traffic slowed to a crawl in each construction zone. It was well after 3PM when I arrived at the check in station for Colt Creek State Park north of Lakeland Florida. I still had another two miles along a winding road to reach the campground. I’ll be here for two weeks before I return to the Sarasota Bradenton area. Lucky me I have to travel through all the traffic two more times in the next month.

Last Day at Lake Manatee State Park Until December

Wednesday March 22nd 2023

The overnight temperature only got down into the fifties last night. It warmed up quickly this morning. The temperature peaked in the mid eighties this afternoon. A partly cloudy sky and a gentle breeze resulted in a very nice day.

“hurry up and dry wings!”

I put off my grocery run as long as I could. My next stop on the Rambling Road Trip is in an unfamiliar area. A quick view on Google Maps shows a lot of undeveloped area for many miles around my destination. The bottom line is the nearest Walmart or any real grocery store is likely to be a good distance away. My goal was to stock up before I move tomorrow. Note: I just checked Google again. The nearest Walmart is 17 miles away. It isn’t nearly as bad as I thought.

Traffic on the road was heavy today, but the crowd in the Walmart was less than I expected. I was the only one in some of the shopping aisles. It was a nice change from resent grocery shopping trips. I even managed to find an empty staffed checkout when the time came. Judging from the final cost for the groceries, I succeed in stocking up for an extended period. That was confirmed as I loaded the groceries into my cabinets and refrigerator. My goal is to avoid another grocery run for at least 16 days.

The animals came out on my last day here at Lake Manatee State Park. In particular a young alligator decided to take in the sun on boat ramp. I don’t think there are many gators in this lake. This one hasn’t lost all of its juvenile coloring. It was only about five feet long.

Tomorrow I’m traveling about one hundred miles to Colt Creek State Park. I have never been to this state park before. It is located about twenty miles north of Lakeland FL in the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve area. I’ll be there for two weeks.