Saturday, January 19, 2019

Lovely Lettuce Lake, 12/27/2018

We last visited this county park two years ago and decided to return to spend some time in nature. (The previous post can be found here

After a quick tour of the Interpretive Center we went for a walk along the 3,500’ boardwalk

The park lies in a natural flood plain of the Hillsborough River. Below are some views of the hardwood swamp forest.

Although many cypress trees here fell victim to logging, the large remaining ones are mostly hollow. The cypress in the first photo below has been certified as over 900 years old

These two alligators were enjoying some time in the sun.

A portion of the boardwalk was flooded during our visit. Canoes and kayaks are usually available for rent, but the flooding was in the area where they are kept.

The observation tower provides great views of Lettuce Lake (although it is not really a lake, just a shallow extension of the Hillsborough River). In addition to seeing some ibises and anhingas, we also spotted several alligators swimming in the lake.

Peninsula cooter turtles could be seen on logs in the lake (if you look closely for them). And we even saw a couple of Florida banded water snakes

Leashed dogs are not permitted on the boardwalk but are on the trails. We returned to the car to get our sweet doggie, Sadie, and some water, and headed out on the 1.25 mile bicycling/jogging paved trail. We came upon this large cooter (about a foot long) in the road. John moved him to safety...

Sadie noticed the first armadillo and then we came upon a second one on the nature trail. Such interesting looking animals...

Shelters are situated in various locations throughout the park and can be reserved/rented (although some were flooded when we visited). Check out the massive tree roots and trunk.

The trail took us through pine flatlands. With a high thin canopy of pines, a common understory plant is the saw palmetto as seen here. Without natural fires, pine flatlands will turn into a hardwood hammock. 

swamp in a depression (usually caused by a sinkhole) and dominated by cypress trees is called a cypress dome. Because the center is usually wet year round, cypress trees cannot grow there (only around the edges of the sinkhole where the land is dry part of the year).

We continued our hike on the nature trail, but encountered flooded conditions in various locations. 

The last time we were here we saw lots of water fowl, but today we saw many reptiles and the armadillos. It was a lovely day! 

For additional information about the park, go to

Friday, January 18, 2019

Our 2018 Christmas, 12/25/2018

This year we had a quiet Christmas in the RV. This is the one time of year I miss our house in Pennsylvania (well, a little). We always had family and friends over with lots of decorations inside and out. And our dining room could accommodate a large group for dinner, which I loved. 

We still do a few decorations in the RV (it just would not be Christmas without them). Our tree is only about 1’ tall instead of 7’! And our daughter and my brother (and his family) “inherited” our treasured ornaments. 

FaceTime enables us to “be with” our kids, and grandson, as they open the gifts we ship to them for Christmas. 

So, that is really the highlight for us. And we exchange a few small gifts. Of course, Sadie, has her own stocking and was thrilled with her new Christmas mouse and treats!

We send out holiday cards to keep in touch with our friends (old and new). I like to share some photos of the amazing places we have visited each here. Here’s a copy of the 2018 one. 

The photos are arranged chronologically and were taken in the following locations, (starting in the top left corner).
  1. Sunrise, Corpus Christi, TX, (January)
  2. Padre Island National Seashore, (January)
  3. Mesa Verde National Park, CO (April)
  4. Rocky Mountain National Park, CO (May)
  5. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, UT (June)
  6. Lower Calf Falls, Grand Staircase, UT (June)
  7. Capitol Reef National Park, UT (June)
  8. Sadie (July)
  9. Shiloh National Cemetery, TN (August)
  10. Cumberland Island National Park, GA (September)
  11. Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge (November)
  12. Seaplane at Dry Tortugas National Park, FL (November)
  13. Sunset at Grassy Key, FL (November)
A Sunday brunch on Christmas Day at our RV park was a lovely way to enjoy the day with others. John prepared a delicious ham for our dinner (and I did the sides). 

Thank you for following our travels. May your New Year be filled with happiness!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Lake San Marino RV Resort, November 28 to December 1, 2018

Rating:  3.0 on a scale of 5

Location: When looking for an inexpensive place to stay for a few nights before arriving at our winter destination, I found this place. The primary reason we stayed here was because it was about halfway between Marathon, FL, and Lutz, FL. Since we were only here for three nights, we did not do much sightseeing in Naples (as we have been here before). We did, however, visit Sanibel, a favorite place in the area. So, this place fit the bill for our needs.

Lot size: Our back-in site was not that large but sufficient for our needs (motorcoach, tow dolly, and Mini Countryman). There were park models and/or RV sites on either side and behind us. All of RV sites are back-ins and there are over 400 lots here. The best ones are around the lake. 

Cottages are available for rent here.

Amenities: The wifi is usable, but not great (it rarely is in RV parks). There is a lovely pool and shuffleboard courts near the office.

In the same building as the office are the laundry room, small fitness center, small game room, and showers. In the rear corner of the park are horseshoe pits, petanqe/bocce ball and pickle ball courts.  

The lake is lovely with a fountain in the center. There are sites all around it (mostly park units) and no trail. But there is a small dock area accessible via a sidewalk to the lake. 

Cost: $108/3 night stay; or $36/night included 25% discount for veteran. 

Management: Check in was a breeze and these folks seem to do a great job managing this 55+ Sun RV resort. 

General Comments:  This park was nice enough and the price was great for late November in Naples. I do not think we will be back though. 

Visiting J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, 11/29/2018

After a month in the Florida Keys, we headed north to Naples for a short 3-night stay before arriving at our winter residence in Lutz, FL. About thirty miles from where we stayed is beautiful Sanibel Island. We decided to visit Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge again (we were last there in 2016). Here is a link to my post from that visit:

Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling was a pioneer conservationist that was instrumental in getting 6,400 acres set aside to protect endangered and threatened species on Sanibel, a subtropical island. 

President Truman authorized the Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge in 1945 because of the spectacular migratory bird population. Plumes were in such high demand (particularly in Europe) where an ounce of feathers sold for double the cost of an ounce of goldRenamed in 1967 to the J.N. “Ding” Darling NWR, the refuge provides safety for nesting and roosting birds from development and hunters.  First, we went to the Visitor and Education Center (be sure to check it out if you visit the refuge). 

Since I have been here several times, we just did a quick walk through. An interesting display is of Ding Darling’s studio (with original furnishings). 

We picked up a map and headed out on Indigo Trail (begins right next to the Visitor Center) with our sweet doggie, Sadie. Leashed dogs are permitted on the trail and along Wildlife Drive. 

A portion of the trail is a boardwalk through a mangrove forest. The trail continues along a road to the an observation tower

In addition to several birds (little blue heron, great egret, and osprey) we spotted an alligator here. 

Several displays showed animal scat (poop!) When you lifted the top, it identified the associated mammal (whose scat it was). Here’s one of them. I found them to be very educational (John thought they were a little strange). 

We returned to our car to begin the Wildlife Drive. Our first stop was along Tarpon Bay to see the flocks of birds in the distance in the water. 

I always enjoy seeing the mangrove tree crabs at the Mangrove Overlook. They are mix of something creepy but fascinating to me. 

Continuing on the Drive, we stopped to snap some photos of some of the beautiful birds we saw along the way.

White Ibis

Great Egret PelicansEgretsSpoonbills

American White Pelicans

Great Blue Herons

We only saw a few of these, but roseate spoonbills are my favorite! 

Admission to the Wildlife Drive is a $5/vehicle (but our National Park Service Senior Pass got us in for free). Tram tours (90 minutes) are also offered with a naturalist guide. Hikers and bicyclists are charged $1/person. It is best to visit at low tide. For additional information about the refuge go to