A Longer Hike Day

Monday January 24th 2022

The inside temperature was in the upper forties at 7:30 this morning. I turned on the heat and returned to my warm bed. Unlike the last couple of mornings, the sun was out today. The sun gave the heater a lot of help getting the temperature into the comfortable range. I watched the morning news programs from the warmth of my bed. It was ten before I started the active part of my day.

Colorful wildflower blossom closeup.

After two days of limited exercise, I tried to make up for it today. I took a long hike around Dixie Lake and some of the areas in the front of the park. The hike took about three hours. I’d guess I covered five to ten miles during that time. The trails are not strenuous. They are wide and dry with only a little bit of elevation change.

Little white wildflower blossom dropping petals after this mornings frost.
Leaves on the plant with the little white blossoms drooping after the frost.

On the hike I spotted signs of last nights heavy frost. Most of the plants with small white blossoms that I have been taking pictures of were in bad shape. On many of the plants the blossom’s petals were start to fall off and the leaves were wilted. This was a small local example of the frost. On the TV news they showed many grass areas covered in frost this morning. It is a big deal this far south in Florida. Frost doesn’t happen every winter. Even the community of Frostproof Florida about fifty miles south of here may have gotten frost last night. It was named under the false assumption that it didn’t frost that far south. Needless to say it has quite a few times.

Only one turtle climbed out of the water during today’s fifty degree temperature.

The remainder of the weekend campers left this morning. The mostly Florida based weekenders have been replaced by travelers from northern states. There seemed to be an invasion from Pennsylvania today. I saw three RVs from Pennsylvania arrive to join a couple of unrelated ones that were already here. The second most prevalent states seem to be Wisconsin and Minnesota.

No Drizzle but Still a Bleak Day

Sunday January 23rd 2022

Saturday was a drizzly and bleak weather day. The drizzle was gone today, but most of the day was equally as bleak. The outside temperature began in the low forties and didn’t climb to fifty until the clouds moved out around 3PM. The sun set across a clear sky. The lack of cloud cover means there is nothing to keep the overnight temperature from dropping. There is a freeze warning for this area of Florida.

Vulture circling above the campground. I wonder why.

This day met the definition of a nothing special day. I did some reading, some TV watching, some cooking and lots of eating. Twice during the day I bundled up in another layer and took short walks around the campground area of the state park. There was a lot of turnover as you’d expect for a Sunday. Two of my neighbors departed near the 1PM checkout. The neighbor in a truck camper pulling a box trailer didn’t leave. For some reason, I’ve been expecting them to leave every day since I got here last Monday. It is probably because they put all their outside equipment away in the trailer every night.

Tomorrow should be warm enough to encourage a little more activity. This weather isn’t bad. It just isn’t as nice as it has been or will be in the future. Nice weather motivates activity.

No clouds in the sky at sunset.

Drizzle

Saturday January 22nd 2022

Some light rain fell overnight as the latest weather front arrived in the area. The inside temperature was in the fifties when I got up this morning long enough to turn on the heat. When I started my day the inside temperature had risen to the mid sixties. The outside temperature barely crossed the fifty degree mark. The high was fifty one degrees.

Blossom of the day.

Not only was it a cool day, but it was a wet day. A steady drizzle came down all morning. In the early afternoon there were a few dry periods. I tried to get in my first walk of the day around the campground. The north wind kept it raw and uncomfortable outside. I returned to my RV home after an abbreviated walk very damp. It was much drier on my second walk just before darkness settled in. I even managed to take a couple of pictures.

Around the campground, most people seemed to be hibernating. Most of the people out and about were out to walk the dog or make a quick trip to the restrooms. There were no bicycle riders or kids playing. I did find one surprising odd activity during my first walk that was shortened by drizzle. A wedding party was taking pictures near the dock on Hammond Lake. First, I can’t figure out why they picked the location. The background is not very picturesque and the lighting was terrible. Second, the bride must have been freezing. She was the only one in the group of ten to fifteen people without a coat. Everyone else had coats or at least long sleeves. Starting your married life with pneumonia isn’t a good thing.

I spent my day on the computer working on my itinerary for the summer and next winter. My general plan is to head for the Dakotas this summer. It is already late to book many of the public parks in the popular areas, but commercial parks still have openings. I’m planning a little differently this year. My intent is to book each of the major holiday periods first then fill in the weeks between with appropriate reservations. Last year the holiday’s came quickly and required a lot of scrambling.

Posing Alligators

Friday January 21st 2022

The sunniest part of the day was at sunrise. As the day progressed clouds continued to move into the area. By sunset the clouds blocked the bright yellow and orange colors of the setting sun. The temperature peaked in the low seventies.

I continued my surveillance of the campground laundry facility. It is a very busy place. I haven’t found a convenient time to get my clothes washed. Doing the laundry in the middle of the night is always a possibility, but not one I plan on using anytime soon. The machine was likely available while I was away from the campground during the middle of the day. I was out touring the area and dealing with heavy local traffic. Just getting out of the state park proved difficult today. Traffic entering and exiting the new housing development across route 27 from the park makes breaking into the steady line of cars more difficult. It is only a matter of time until a traffic light is added.

While out touring I stopped at the Walmart in Clermont to stock up on food. The store was very busy, but unlike the last few Walmarts I’ve shopped the shelves were well stocked. I was able to get everything I wanted. The real difficulty was navigating the store with all the shoppers. Each aisle had three or more other shopping carts and most had a Walmart picker doing their thing too. Unlike many Walmarts lately this one had most of the staffed checkouts open as well as the self serve. It didn’t help get me out of the store quicker. I was in like behind a lady that had more than three hundred dollars worth of groceries. She paid with cash counting out the money using twenty dollar bills in a slow cadence. The cashier then recounted it twice at more than double the pace. The things we see!

As expected the campground is full this weekend. The difference is the turnover yesterday and today has resulted in more weekender type visitors. There are several sites with small tents and others with elaborate outdoor entertaining areas setup. There is a 5K race in the state park tomorrow morning. I wonder if any of the new visitors are here for the race. It starts at 7AM, so I’ll probably sleep through it.

A Nice Slow Day

Thursday January 20th 2022

Today was the weather peak for the week. It was a bright sunny day with only a little wind out of the south. The temperature exceeded the norm by reaching a high of seventy nine degrees. The next cold front in a continuing pattern is due to pass through the area tomorrow afternoon. The forecast high temperatures over the weekend are in the high fifties to low sixties.

This turtle likes to be alone.
These turtles like to be together. Every day there number increases.

I really squandered the good weather day. It was afternoon before I completed breakfast and my morning internet reading. Once I emerged from my RV home I did a little walking around the campground, but was over dressed for the good weather. On my way back home to shed a few layers, I noticed the laundry facility was available triggering a plan to catch up on my accumulating pile of dirty clothes.

Wildflower blossom of the day.
One of three rental tents setup for Glamping. They have power, air conditioning, and bedding. Every night the three tents seem to be occupied so they are obviously popular.

It wasn’t a well thought through plan. Back at my RV home I loaded the dirty clothes including the sweet shirt I was wearing into my laundry bag. I gathered up my laundry supplies and returned to the laundry area. In the fifteen minutes I was away, someone else had started a load of laundry in the only washer. They weren’t around so it was a pure guess on how long the current load would take. I returned thirty minutes later to find the dryer going with the load that had been in the washer and someone else loading the washer with what looked like the first of several loads. An hour and a half later I checked the availability again with no success. My laundry bag is now waiting by my door. I’ll check the machine availability every time I go by the facility until I succeed.

Sunset

A Hike Around Hammond Lake

Wednesday January 19th 2022

The day began a few degrees warmer than Tuesday. It was a little above fifty when I turned on the heat this morning, but unlike yesterday it climbed rapidly into the low seventies. Today’s high temperature was consistent with the norms for the area. The next cold front is due Friday afternoon or evening.

The day began without a cloud in the sky. As the day went by fluffy white clouds moved into the area.
View from the trail on the back side of Hammond Lake.

After a slow breakfast and catching up on my Internet reading I set out on a hike around Hammond Lake. This is a small body of water on the south east side of the campground. The trails around the lake are wide and flat. Today I only met one couple on the trail. It was quiet walk.

One of several abandoned Orange trees that managed to survive in the brush line along the trail.
Closeup of the fruit on the Orange trees.

Some of the land the state park is on used to be Citrus Groves. My guess is they were abandoned and cleared when the state acquired the land in 1973. On the back side of Lake Hammond a few old orange trees and some newer wild growth trees are filled with Oranges. The small orange fruit seems be pretty close to ripe. I’m not brave enough to find out. Oranges I’ve picked from trees in the past have been a bitter experience.

There were five turtles on the downed tree today, but no alligator

Monday, the day I arrived, there was a lot of turn over in the campground. Since then there have only been a few changes in occupancy each day. When I was here in December, most of the residents were from Florida. This time around there are many more states represented. My immediate neighbors are probably fellow full time RVers. They have plates from Texas and South Dakota which along with Florida host many of the full time RV travelers. There are also many northern states represented in the park. I saw license plates from Minnesota. Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Vermont in the north and Colorado, Arizona, California and Oregon from the west as I walked through the campground this evening before sunset.

First Full Day at Lake Louisa State Park

Tuesday January 18th 2022

Most of December temperatures in Florida were well above normal. The first part of January was about normal. The last couple of days seem to be the start of a below normal trend. Today’s high temperature was twelve to fifteen degrees below normal. The high temperature was fifty eight in this area today.

At 7:30 this morning the inside temperature in my RV home was forty four. I turned on the heater and got back under the covers in my warm bed. After a few long busy days in a row, I took the opportunity to catch up on my sleep. When I finally got up the inside was comfortable in the seventies. It was only in the low fifties outside. It really was a nice weather day looking at it from the big picture. It was not cold and snowy or hot and humid.

Turtles on a log.

Today was a pretty routine first full day at a new location. I completed the setup tasks I didn’t get to yesterday and took a walk around the campground to check out the area. The changes from my stay in early December are subtle. The water level in the two lakes may be a little lower and the type of wild flowers that were in blossom are no longer brightening the area. I also saw fewer turtles taking the sun on one of their favorite logs. That may be a result of the cooler weather. Maybe more turtles will be out in the next couple of days which are forecast to be warmer.

The lake was much calmer today. Yesterday it was filled with white capped wind driven waves.
Cabins in the setting sun.

I got in two and a half walks around the campground today. The first was in the early afternoon, the second was at sunset and the third “half walk” was a trip out on the fishing pier to attempt to see the Falcon 9 rocket launch from Cape Canaveral. The 7:04PM scheduled launch didn’t happen. It was moved to 9:02PM. Rather than taking another cool dark walk, I just turned out my lights and watched out the window of my RV home at 9:02PM. The ascending fireball was visible in a slightly different direction than I expected, but I managed to see it. In some ways it is more impressive to watch from seventy miles away than from five to ten miles away on the coast.

Return to Lake Louisa State Park

Monday January 17th 2022

The weather has taken a turn to the cold side. Today’s high temperature was no more than sixty. The full sun was offset by a strong wind out of the west. Wind gusts near 30mph were reported in the area with the average sustained wind speed around 15mph.

Today was a moving day. I had a twenty five mile drive to Lake Louisa State Park in Clermont. This is my second two week state at Lake Louisa this winter. It has been thirty one days since I departed on December 17th. I am on a different pull trough site in the middle area.

Site 27 at Lake Louisa State Park in Clermont Florida.

Check out time at Fort Wilderness is 11AM. People start leaving early and the Disney staff is quick to clean up the sites as soon as it is empty. I needed to leave as late as possible since I couldn’t check in at the state park until after 1PM. Arriving and departing as a single traveler with a towed car to deal with is complicated. It isn’t possible to leave the car at the area Disney kindly provides to unhitch. The area isn’t big enough to park a car and still allow others to use the area. Consequently, it is necessary to use the overflow parking area near the Outpost check in area to hitch up my towed car.

I drove the car to the overflow lot around 9AM and walked back to my campsite. Working slowly, I finished packing and left my campsite at 10:45AM and drove the motorhome to the overflow parking lot to meet up with my SUV. The parking lot had filled up with arriving and departing RVs since I parked the SUV. The arriving RVs were waiting for their sites to become available and the departing ones were waiting for their owners to get back from one last theme park day. I parked the motorhome beside the car with the intent of waiting until noon before hooking up. As I waited more RVs arrived and I became partially blocked in. I could get the motorhome or the car out, but not with them connected. Since I wasn’t in a hurry I just continued to people watch.

Most of the sights were of people loading and unloading golf carts from utility trailers or the backs of big fifth wheel trailers. In addition to golf carts many of the trailers had multiple bicycles onboard. One family of five had the process down to a science. They stop in the middle of the parking lot aisle with a motorhome pulling a utility trailer. Three kids with Mom and Dad got out of the RV. The trailer was unloaded of three bikes and a golf cart. Two bikes remained on the trailer. Mom and Dad pushed the utility trailer into a parking place after unhitching it from the motorhome. The three kids got on their bicycles, Mom got in the golf cart and Dad in the motorhome and so the parade to the campsite began. I assume they came back later for the adults bicycles.

The funniest thing I saw while waiting in the overflow lot was a little kid chasing a turkey. A boy that I’d guess was four or five was running after a turkey. His Dad was chasing after the boy calling his name. I don’t think the Dad could decide if he should get mad or start laughing. A couple of minutes later the Dad walked back carrying a very upset little boy.

When 1PM arrived and the parking situation hadn’t resolved, I walked around looking for a better place to hook up my towed SUV. An area at the back corner of the parking lot had emptied out as people sites became available. I drove the motorhome out of its tight location to the open area then walked back and got the car. I was hitched up and ready to roll at 1:30PM.

A Crappy Weather Day

Sunday January 16th 2022

The same weather system that is dropping snow and ice along the east coast to the north of here had a significant impact on Florida’s weather. There were tornado warnings in southwest Florida near the bottom end of the cold front. Here in central Florida heavy wind started in the early morning followed by plenty rain. By late morning the rain started to tapper off. The afternoon was damp and gloomy. The sun never made an appearance and the temperature remained in the lower half of the sixties.

The remnants of the morning rain.

This is not the kind of day the typical Walt Disney World visitor wants to have during there visit. A cold and wet start to your day in the theme park is far from fun. The people that traveled a long distance from northern states to avoid the cold and wet braved the weather to maximize there time in the park. Many of the Florida residents that visit Fort Wilderness don’t come with the expectation of spending a lot of time in the theme parks. Some, like me on this visit, come to just enjoy the campground.

This afternoon I bundled up in a second layer of sweatshirt and continued my exploration of Fort Wilderness. I have been doing a lot of walking. The internal bus system seems to be a lot less reliable than in the past. I’ve been reading about all kinds of cost savings and cost increases at Disney World. Fewer internal buses may be one of them. Other things I’ve seen are obvious cost savings moves. There are fewer transportation boats on Bay Lake. There are still two boats going from Fort Wilderness to the Magic Kingdom. I don’t know how many places they stop along the way. They used to be non-stop. What is missing is the smaller boats that used to make a round trip from Fort Wilderness to the Wilderness Lodge on to the Contemporary Hotel before returning to Fort Wilderness.

Cleared area behind construction fences for the suspended Disney Vacation Club resort construction. This used to be a beach with trees separating it from the old River Country Water Park. The dock is also under repair.
View of construction site from the service road side. The Tri Circle D ranch and barns used to be in this area.
New Tri-Circle-D Ranch across the service road from the old location.

The Settlement Trading Post near Pioneer Hall and the boat to the Magic Kingdom is now only open from 11AM to 5PM. It used to be open from early in the morning until late at night. People coming and going to the Magic Kingdom could stop on their way for supplies or souvenirs. The Hoop-de-do review at Pioneer hall that also drew people to the area has not restarted after stopping for the shutdown at the beginning of the pandemic. The bigger Meadows Trading Post is still open longer hours.

Getting ready for the pony rides.

I walked down to Bay Lake to catch my third and last showing of the Enchantment Fireworks above the Magic Kingdom. It sprinkled a little on the way to the lake. I almost turned back, but since this is my last night, I continued. The tiny bit of rain stopped and the clouds in the sky started to clear. The wind was still very strong out of the west along the open shore of Bay Lake. On my way back the moon was out full and bright.

Exploring Fort Wilderness

Saturday January 15th 2022

Today was a beautiful sunny day with a high temperature just above seventy. The good thing is yesterday’s wind was gone. Another cold front is due to pass through the area late tonight into tomorrow morning. It sounds like we will get a lot of rain and wind with this front.

Meadows trading post at Fort Wilderness.
There are lots of azalea blossoms around the park.

I did a lot of exploring around the Fort Wilderness campground today. My fist visit to the campground was in the late eighties and I’ve been here a number of times since. The biggest change since my last visit in the spring of 2019 is all of the land clearing in the old River Country Water Park area behind Pioneer Hall and Crockett’s Tavern. They were just getting started with the construction of the new hotel on my last visit. The work stopped in March of 2020 at the onset of the pandemic. No schedule for restarting the work has been announced. I suspect the whole project will be re-imagined over the next couple of years before work gets underway again.

Fancy carriage behind a plexiglass wall at the Tri Circle D Ranch.

One of the parts of the construction that has been completed is the new Tri-Circle D ranch barn. The new barn is a large modern steel structure across the service road from the old barn’s location. About a third of the barn is open for visitors. You can checkout the horses in their stalls and take a pony ride if your of the right age. When I visited this afternoon it was bath time for a Clydesdale and a pony. The contrast in size is remarkable.

Time to towel down after a good shower bath.
Watching the boats arrive and depart on Bay Lake.
More spectators.

On my exploration today I walked around a number of the camping loops. A few sites still had elaborate Christmas decorations on display. Some were in the process of being taken down. Considering it has been three weeks since the holiday, the site residents must have been here a long time. Campers at this campground seem to be big on decorating. Most of the year it is very Disney oriented. At Halloween and Christmas the decorations are seasonal with a Disney flair.

Launch heading for the Magic Kingdom.

I concluded my day back at the beach on Bay Lake to watch the fireworks from the Magic Kingdom. Tonight I found a beach chair way down at the end of the new area of the beach with no one around. I was able to here the music and see all of the aerial shells clearly. Between the better location and the fact that I was warmly dressed tonight, I enjoyed the show more tonight.