Florida 2004 / GoodeG Home / Trip Index

Another cool winter in Florida and daughter Val came from Texas on Thursday, January 29, 2004, to go camping with me in the GTRV Westy van and visit other Florida attractions. John was undergoing chemotherapy so we could not be away from home more than a few days at a time. Val visited the zoo and aquarium in New Orleans on the way here. Also did the hiking at St. Joseph's Peninsula State Park and visited the Estuarine Research Center in Apalachicola and the Panacea aquarium.

On the same day John got a phone call from a niece and her husband who live in Illinois but were traveling with their boat to Key Largo where they have a vacation rental for the next two months. We met them later that evening at Cracker Barrel off I-75 and visited more than 3 hours catching up on the past 30 years and taking lots of pictures.

Friday, Jan. 30. We went to Silver River State Park to purchase a family pass for the year and also to do some hiking. The weather was gorgeous and we hiked a couple of short trails, took pictures of such lively subjects as small wolf spiders, fungi, and a slug. Val took pictures of a water snake basking by the river. Then we went to the Appleton Art Museum and took photos of the outdoor schulptures there and at an adjoining theater.

storm damage on the trail

painted horse

Sat., Jan. 31. Went to Payne's Prairie State Park to do a little hiking and to check out visitors' center. Spent an hour and a half at the Natural History Museum in Gainesville, and then to Kanapaha Gardens for more than two hours. One of the neat exhibits at the museum shows underwater creatures in huge models. A jellyfish was about 10 feet tall and a blue crab was 5 feet wide. There were foot wide barnacles and giant fish, shrimp, and other creatures. On the way home, it started raining and coninued all evening.

Butterfly Rainforest under construction

trilliums at Kanapaha Gardens

Sunday, Feb 1. Selby Gardens had a nice exhibit of poison arrow frogs in aquariums besides their usual fantastic collections of plants. Myakka River State Park was very quiet and foggy in the mornings. We met a volunteer on the bird boardwalk on the lake that knew somebody in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin, who is the superintendent of roads or public works or something like that. We did a lot of bike riding in the park - Val used the 3-speed pedal bike and I used the electric bike. We saw many birds and alligators and other creatures. Also enjoyed the canopy boardwalk. A sandhill crane was strolling in the parking lot by the boat ramp.

Tamps Bay at Selby Gardens

canopy walk at Myakka

Tues., Feb 3. The first thing we did was go to the dam to observe a least a dozen vultures doing their morning rituals of warming up in the sun, preening each other, and fighting. As the sun rose, they would orient their backs to the warmth and open their wings like big black umbrellas. Did the bird boardwlk again and the biking. Then went back to the canopy walk. In the evening we watched the human fishermen competing with the alligators on the banks of the river and also spoonbills, ibis, and herons. We biked about 17 miles today.

Myakka River dam

vultures on the dam

Wednes, Feb. 4. On the way back home, went to Turtle Beach on Siesta Key which was the closest beach, and spent a couple of hours walking the beach. There was a great blue heron on the beach checking out all the fishermen and even the beachcombers. The next day was John's chemo at the lab so I took Val to Silver Springs attraction for the day. Got her in for half price with my membership pass and a coupon, then met her later in the day.

things found on beach

great blue heron



Fri, Feb 6. Planned a trip to Tampa to the Lowry Park Zoo and Florida Aquarium. The zoo was so interesting and so many things to see, that we did not have enough time for the aquarium. Especially good was the tank of rays - cow-nosed, eagle, and sting. People were allowed to feed and touch them.

4 lizards


Sat, Feb 7. Arrived at Homosassa State Wildlife Park shortly after it opened at 9 am and were able to get a parking space in the lot close by the park so we didn't have to wait for the boat or tram. We did go to the visitor center to see the two-headed turtle and other exhibits. Before we left we saw one of the cougars energetically plucking the feathers from a dead great blue heron.



We drove to Fort Island Beach on the way home and braved the gale force winds while walking around the beach and fishing pier. We notice two men launching a catamaran type sailboat; only one man embarked with the boat. Several minutes later Val noticed the boat had tipped over. I could barely see it since the wind was quickly blowing the boat down the coast. We met the other guy and asked if he knew who was on the boat. It was his brother who recently had heart problems. He tried running down the coast to find the boat, but we rushed to our car and drove to pick him up and give him a ride down the road to where the boat was. Another boat came to the rescue and we drove the brother back to his car where his relatives were. When we were leaving we saw that the guy on the boat was finally coming into shore. We checked to see that he was all right. He did not have a wet suit - he was lucky!

boat at Fort Island Beach

capsized boat

Sunday, Feb 8, stopped at the Jacksonville Zoo on the way to Fort Clinch State Park. With the Silver Springs pass, we got in for half price. It was a very windy cold and mostly sunny day with temperature starting in the 40s and raising to low 50s, which made many of the animals rather lively. Many of the big cats were on the lean side and very active as if they are not overfed, but the lions seem to sleep all day anyway. Fort Clinch was only 45 minutes away and we set up camp at the beach site. There was a big boat off shore which was dredging the ship channel. The enormous rusty old pipeline stretched as far as we could see and we could hear the water and sand flowing through. We walked the deserted fishing pier and got back to the van when it was dark. We postponed showers since they were located in an open air section of the bathroom with the wind howling through.



Monday, Feb 9, we walked the 2 miles along the beach to the fort looking for fossil shark teeth. While we were circling the fort, a submarine escorted by 2 tugboats and several smaller craft was passing through Cumberland Sound to the Atlantic Ocean. We stopped in the visitor center to use the facilities and to warm up. On the way back we met a couple of park rangers carrying a small whale skull and jaw. The pygmy sperm whale had washed up over a year ago and they were taking the skull for interpretive programs.

We took a bike ride to the fort in the afternoon and spent a couple of hours touring it. I had enough pictures of the fort for a CD which I presented to the fort the following year. It was low tide and we went down to the river and saw crabs, snails, barnacles, sea squirts, and small sponges on the rocks. A ranger told us more about the dredging. The channel must be kept 53 feet deep and over 100 feet wide to meet federal regulations. The dredging is done every 2 to 3 years in different sections at different times. It started to rain, but the next day we followed the pipeline about a couple of miles to where the sand and mud was spewed out. We joined several other people looking for shark teeth; Val found several including a really nice large tiger shark tooth. Walked the beach to the fort again.


the fort

Wednesday, Feb 11, stopped at Little Talbott Island State Park and walked the beach in the cold drizzle, mist, and light rain with temps in the 50s. On the beach we found starfish and many shells and other dead stuff. We also stopped at Rodman Dam in the Ocala National Forest and watched pelicans, ospreys, and cormorants catching fish.

When we got home we found out that John's sister Marion (age 93) had died and the funeral was the following day. We had planned to go the Dolly Parton Dixie Stampede dinner and show in Orlando. On Thursday, Feb 12, the weather was perfect but the funeral was exhausting for John, and he had to go for his chemo the following day. Saturday, Feb 14, we went to the Florida Aquarium which was quite delightful with plenty of beautiful fish and other animals. It was raining when we left, but we put on our ponchos and hit the beach at Honeymoon Island State Park. Sunday, Feb 15, we went to the Central Florida Zoo near Orlando and Blue Spring State Park.

boardwalk at Little Talbott

duck at the Florida Aquarium

Monday, Feb 16 we went to Flagler Beach on the Atlantic coast and Washington Oaks State Park where coquina rocks are exposed on the beach. The wind was still intense and very cold. On Wednesday, Val left Ocala to return to Texas and didn't stop overnight on the way. She was anxious to see her husband Larry and meet her new dog.

Flagler Beach

fishing pier

blowing rocks

blowing rocks

Florida 2004 / GoodeG Home / Trip Index