Sunday, April 2, 2017

Lake Louisa State Park, 3/23/2017

Our niece, Karen, and family (husband, Rick, and daughter, Elizabeth) notified us that they were in Orlando for vacation during Spring Break. We decided to get together for a visit Thursday afternoon (one of the days they were not going to Disney!). Lake Louisa State Park seemed like a good meeting place (about 1.5 hours from where we were staying in Lutz and about a .5 hour from Orlando).

The 4,500 acre park has six lakestwo streams, and 105 acres of lake shoreline. There is a full-facility campground, 20 cabins (kitchen, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and fireplace) as well as primitive and equestrian camping sties in the park. Fishing by boat is available at four of the six lakes. There are 24 miles hiking and biking trails in the park and another 16 miles of equestrian trails

We arrived a couple of hours before we were scheduled to meet so we could spend some time exploring the park and hiking with our sweet doggie, Sadie. Our first stop was at Lake Dixie. Because it was overcast, the light on the Spanish moss on the cypress trees along the shore of the lake created a beautiful sight. 

An observation deck provides great views of the lake and surrounding area. 

We continued on the main park road around Dixie Lake to smaller Hammond Lake near the campground. Various activity gear can be rented here. 

We spotted a gopher tortoise burrow here, too, but no sign of the tortoise (probably due to the rain). These wild flowers grew everywhere and were so pretty and colorful. It started pouring rain while we were here, but stopped shortly thereafter. 

Stopping again in area where we hoped to see some gopher tortoises; we found some of their burrows and an area where they eat (prickly pear). But there was not a tortoise in sight. Sadie helped join in the search, but fortunately for her, she did not see any either. 

As we were checking the various trailheads in the park, we met these three lovely ladies from New York. We instantly struck up a conversation with them talking about our RV lifestyle and the many outdoor activities we have done in various parts of the country. They seem to enjoy a lot of the same outdoor activities that we do. Sadie, our doggie, is always a good icebreaker, too, when we meet people in the parks we visit. As I have said many times, meeting new people in random places is one of the best aspects of our lifestyle

We parked at the large Lake Louisa lot and headed out for a hike to Bear Lake. Along the way we saw various picnic areas, including ones for equestrians. After getting a view of the lake, we made our way back to the road to Lake Louisa.

Karen and Rick texted us they were a few minutes away, so we walked back to meet them. A boardwalk over wetlands leads to the beach and playground on Lake Louisa. 

We caught up with each other on what's been happening in our lives since the last time we were together (about 1.5 years ago in Ohio). We had some picnic snacks while Elizabeth played on the playground

Lake Louisa is the southernmost of three lakes (Minneola and Minnehaha) that are part of the Palatlakaha chain of lakes. The lakes are primarily fed by waters of the Green Swamp to the southwest. Because the waters flow slowly through decaying vegetation of the swamp, the lakes are "tea" colored due to the tannic acid that is created. Although the water looks a little strange, it is safe for humans, fish, and wildlife. 

Another interesting piece of history here is a memorial (above) dedicated to WWII Distinguished Flying Cross recipient, Army First Lieutenant Dean Gilmore, who was killed during a low-altitude training exercise. He was leading five P-51 Mustangs on November 11, 1944, when he crashed into Lake Louisa and was killed instantly. It was his 23rd birthday. 

Karen, Rick, Elizabeth, John, and I went for a hike on the short (.5 mile) Nature Trail near here. Multiple interpretive signs are placed along the trail. Of course, Sadie enjoyed the hike as much as we did!

It started to rain, so we returned to the sheltered area to spend some more time together. It quickly cleared up and Elizabeth got some more play time at the playground with lots of other kids!

It was so nice to see members of our extended family here in Florida. We had a great visit and look forward to our next opportunity to spend some time together! This park had something fun for all of us! 

Day-use admission to Lake Louisa State Park is $5/vehicle. For additional information about the campground and activities here, go to this site:

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