Sunday, July 10, 2016

Week Away

It is amazing what a good vacation can do for your mind and body. This past week Hubby and I camped at Manatee Springs State Park. It was hot as Hades but the spring (that is a constant 72 degrees) was only a short walk away. My knee and back weren't in pain the whole trip, partly from taking a break from walking/hiking but I think most of it had to do with the lovely cool water and current in the spring.
The first thing we did after setting up camp was jump in the spring to cool off.
My sunburn from St George was very visible on Monday but luckily all but the worst areas healed while we were there.
The waterproof camera was so much fun on the trip. Everything just seems more magical underwater.
After a good long soak in the spring we started dinner and hung out with our good friends in the campsite next to us. While we were eating a group of does and fawns walked right by the screen tent and grazed, they were less than 10 feet from us. We saw so many deer during the week, we even saw one young buck with tiny velvet covered antlers. The deer liked to come through the campsites to graze and beg for food. Even though feeding animals in State Parks is not allowed many picnickers do feed them causing them to loose their natural fear of humans.
 I took these at dusk with a zoom so they aren't the best photos but I had to try to get photos of the fawns, we must have seen 7 that evening. I didn't want to get too close since mommy animals are very protective of their young.

Every night around 2-4 am a barred owl came to our camp and called from one of the trees. It would wake me up every time but I enjoyed listening to it. I love owls and we have a good sized population in our neighborhood but it was a treat to hear one only a few feet away. Just one of the many perks of tent camping verses RV/trailer is getting to hear nature. I could have done without all the cicadas though, they were crazy loud.

Tuesday morning I woke up early so I put some coffee on and took a walk while it brewed. I walked to the spring and down the boardwalk. It was peaceful and quiet before the park was open to the public.

The water level was lower than in February when camped their last, the Cyprus swamp was all mud. A lone great egret was fishing while several green herons tried to run it off.
After my little stroll our friends took us out for breakfast at a local joint. Usually while camping we don't leave the park so it was a nice treat. 
Fajita lunch made with peppers from our garden and left over steak from dinner the night before.
Tuesday was a little hard for me getting adapted to the heat, I tried to take a nap but my body wasn't having any of that so I just sat in front of the fan and played my 3DS for a while until we couldn't take the heat anymore and jumped in the spring. I also was a little shaken up because we found out the dead log several feet from our tent door was home to a pine snake and I also had one stand up and check me out while walking to the bathroom alone. I am quite scared of snakes, not the kind of fear that makes me want to kill them though, I have a healthy respect but they sure get my heart going when I come across them.

 I finally got up the courage to put on my goggles and swim around underwater.
The ledge before the drop off into the spring, it goes from 10 or so feet to very deep.
 Carp are often seen swimming in the spring
For dinner I cooked up sausages and corn, the smell of the corn attracted the deer and they begged for a while before the realized we weren't going to give them any. That was the day we saw the buck. I caught a photo of him through the tent with my phone, I think it is on Instagram.
Wednesday we slept in till 9ish and I cooked purple potatoes and the left over sausage for breakfast, coated with a heavy layer of Cajun seasoning, of course. It was already over 90 degrees after breakfast so we suited up and jumped in the spring. I didn't have much energy with it being so hot so we just ate a snack lunch. With our stomachs filled we took a little walk down the boardwalk to the river.
 We stopped at the outlook points and watched the fish and turtles in the crystal clear water.
A beautifully colored spotted orb weaver we found at the dock
At the end of the boardwalk there is a boat dock where the creek meets the Suwannee River. Gulf Sturgeon are summer residents of the river and I got to see the gigantic fish leaping out of the water. Hubby always seemed to miss seeing them leap and just saw the splash afterwards. He did point out an out of season manatee swimming where the waters met. After our stroll we took another dip to cool off and treated ourselves to ice cream at the boat rental/BBQ shop on the grounds.
 I had made a lovely chili full of veggies from the garden the week before and froze it for the trip, we had it for dinner along with some toasted buns with chive butter. We spent the rest of the evening coloring with our friends. 

Thursday we went on an adventure with our friends, I will write a post just about that soon.
Thursday was one of the hottest days while we were there with temperatures over 97 degrees and a heat index of at least 115, we were grateful for a long car ride for sure. When we got back we took a swim. Scuba divers are a common sight in the spring, they often come to explore the cave system.

Perfect rays of sun into the deep
This is truly how blue the water is in the spring, it is amazingly beautiful.
My mermaid in her natural habitat

A white rock on a rock ledge underwater
Deer stopped by in the evening before dinner. It's giving us the, 'is that a banana?' look. 
Thursday evening was our last night there so our friends treated us to an amazing grilled shrimp and cheese grits dinner. We talked and played dice games till late then retired for the evening. Early Thursday morning we had some unwelcome visitors in our camp, a family of trash pandas (raccoons) tag-teamed to work together to move a heavy bin off of our cooler and take turns prying up the lid and hold it up while the others stole our eggs. Normally I would never leave a cooler outside the car at night but we had just bought an electric one to keep our food at a safe temperature in the heat, so we had left it in our kitchen tent with a heavy bin on top of it. I woke up to noise in our camp and got up to investigate. I thought I would scare them off just being there but even when I walked up and moved the bin back on top they didn't run off but moved the bin back off and kept cooler raiding. I went back to the tent to wake up hubby and when the raccoons saw both of us they reluctantly moved off to watch from a distance. We cleaned up what we could and repositioned the gear so they couldn't get in without even greater effort. I took the few eggs left and dumped them in the dumpster in hopes of luring them away. It seemed to work because they didn't return. However, I had a hard time getting back to sleep and didn't get any rest until after the sun rose.
A spider egg case

After we got up Friday our friends treated us to breakfast at the restaurant down the road. When we returned we tore down our camp and packed the car. We spent a few minutes dipping our feet in the springs then hug out with our friends for a few before taking off.

On the way out we stopped at Fort Fanning Park to look around. The drive back was pleasant and uneventful. When we got back into town we ate at our favorite dive before going home.  When we got home the animals were all so glad to see us and demanded pets and cuddles. We both miss being in the woods although not being covered in sunscreen and bug spray constantly and I will admit being in 80 degree AC is pretty nice again too.

Some Bunny Loves Ya!