Maybe our favorite Florida camping trip – The Keys!

In May of 2008 we joined Catherine and Eugene for part of their annual, week-long trip to the Florida Keys.  Our campsite was Long Key State Park.  This trip included kayaking in the ocean, snorkeling around the coral, watching sea turtles up close and personal, amazing sunrises and sunsets and, of course, a trip to Key West.  In Key West we had the most wonderful Cuban lunch in an out-of-the-way place that Eugene knows and overpriced margaritas downtown.  The no-see-ums were annoying when the wind wasn’t blowing but overall what a wonderful trip.

 
Beach in front of campsite.

Cool morning breeze off the ocean.  Trust me, it warmed up.

Sunrise.

Darryl watches sunset.

Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.

Catherine and Eugene plan the day over morning coffee.

Low tide looking from camp and back.  We appreciate whomever put that pipe in the sand.
  
High tide.
Key West Pics below.
 
  
  
Ugh!

  
  
  
Garden at the Hemingway house.
 

Very funny story about this fountain/cat watering trough.  The bottom (tiled) part was a urinal from Hemingway’s favorite watering hole and putting it in the garden was a revenge move toward his soon-to-be ex-wife for putting a pool in while he was away.  You should go there and hear all of the stories during the tour.
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Another Florida, New Years camping trip.

I believe this was our last camping trip in Florida – it was New Years weekend ushering in 2009.  At the time we did not anticipate that it would be our last year in Florida.  This was also a cold weather trip but not quite as cold as the O’Leno trip.  We were at Payne’s Prairie State Park.  No kayaking on this trip but we took the bicycles and explored this unique area.  Darryl and I enjoyed our sandwich lunch watching a bald eagle perched high above us.  This was just one of the several eagles we observed that weekend.

 
Hmmm, wine and potato chips – camp cuisine.  Notice the touch of class on the table next to Darryl. 
 
Rubber spider hung from a tree.  Somebody’s idea of a joke – I love it!
Another chilly night ahead.
 
Yeah Baby!
 
“Portrait of an old man as a turtle.”
 
Happy New Year!  Time for bed.
 
Bikes and Spanish moss.
 
Any snakes in there Darryl?
 
Eagle surveying the lake.
 
I believe these are grebes, which is no big deal.  However, when this pair started swimming toward us we were also watching a small gator that they were headed straight toward.  It was easy to see when the first one noticed the gator and quickly changed course, avoiding a “circle of life” moment for us.

Kayaking in Ocala National Forest.

As promised, here are some pictures from a kayaking trip with (you guessed it) Catherine and Eugene to the Ocala National Forest on Juniper Creek.  This was a wonderful afternoon trip in the cool, crystal clear waters of this spring feed creek.  Catherine advised that we purposely start as late as possible to avoid being overtaken by faster kayakers allowing us to leisurely enjoy the surroundings.  This worked out pretty well.  We did encounter a family horribly out of their element in a canoe that was stuck against a deadfall – they were having a hell of a time and just didn’t know what they were doing.  I was able to ‘rescue’ them from the deadfall (and not get eaten by a gator in the process).  Darryl and Catherine also had the pleasure of watching a local get bitten by a water moccasin while attempting to grab it out of the water – alcohol may have contributed to this incident.  I believe this trip was in late-April or early-May of 2007.

 
I have to say that paddling this very small creek with river bend banks at eye level, the thought of a gator encounter was a bit unnerving.
 
Darryl launches.  Note how clear the water is.
 
Snack break on the river.
 
To me this picture captures Eugene.
  
Pretty serious look, there, Darryl.
 
Note the cooter (turtle) diving in the creek at the far left of the little island as Eugene and Catherine approach.
 
The take out.  That is my yak in the foreground.  The guy looking skyward is the father of the family I ‘rescued’.  He was pretty glad that trip was over; though not nearly as glad as his wife.  The ranger had been waiting on them for the shuttle back to their car.  That is Catherine out in the river near where the Cracker impaled himself on a water moccasin moments before.
 

You can freeze to death in Florida!

Yes, it is true.  Catherine, Eugene, Darryl and I almost proved it.  I suspect that Darryl and I were in worse danger since our camping gear was marginal for cold conditions.  Rather than blab on about the weekend trip, here are some shots that probably tell the story much better.  If my memory serves (it frequently lets me down) this was November of 2007 and I think we were at O’Leno State Park.  As I recall Eugene put a cup of water on the picnic table overnight to discovered it skimmed over with ice in the morning – reached 28 degrees that night.  We did have fun that trip, though nearly freezing to death put a damper on some of it. Another first for us was seeing a scorpion when packing up to leave – nice.

 
Not exactly the right temperature for red wine.
 
The wine must be kicking in…
 
The wine has not kicked in for Catherine yet.
 
It did get better.
The Santa Fe River
 
Don’t have to tell me twice!
Darryl just reminded me that I was going to share some of our kayaking adventures after the last post.  OK that will be next – I mean it this time.