November 23, 2004

Crystal River, FL

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:50 pm by diandy2004

The weather has been perfect. Sunny and warm. It would be a delight to sit outside and enjoy the temperatures, but the gnats have been fierce. Driving us insane with their bites and buzzing.

Yesterday we visited Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park. They have a variety of Florida’s wildlife – manatees, alligators, panther, black bear, foxes, bald eagles, cranes, hawks, and lots of other birds. Some of them have been injured and cannot be returned to the wild. We almost didn’t make it into the park, however, since the boats were full and the lines were long and slow. The disorganization of it all was almost too unbearable to wait through.

Afterwards we played some tennis at the RV Park. It’s an Encore Superpark and they have all the amenities – heated pool, spa, pool table, shuffleboard, tennis, lake, docks on the canal, a variety of classes, etc. Sadly, Andy beat me at pool and tennis. I have to quit teaching him so well. Then we relaxed in the spa and pool (heated to 84 degrees).

Today was a dual-sport day. Drove to Dunnellon to kayak in Rainbow River and bike on the Withlacoochee State Trail (Rail to Trail). Rainbow River was beautiful. We put in at KP Hole County Park and paddled against the current to the headsprings. The water is crystal clear, and a year-round 72 degrees. Kayaking this river is like snorkeling without getting wet. We could see fish and turtles swimming below us. We had hoped to see anhingas and alligators pass by underneath but we weren’t that lucky.

Kayaking Rainbow River

Kayaking Rainbow River

Rainbow Springs State Park is the headwaters of Rainbow River, so we got out of our kayaks and walked the trails here. They have several waterfalls (all man-made) but still a very pretty place. Unfortunately several paths were closed due to downed trees from the hurricanes. Rainbow Springs is the fourth largest spring in Florida. No disposable items are allowed on Rainbow River (Gatorade bottles, snack bags, etc) which could be one reason we didn’t see any trash – even on the bottom!

Rainbow Springs State Park

The Withlacoochee State Trail is a 46-mile paved path running from Dunnellon to US 304. We almost always enjoy biking these Rail-to-Trails because they are more peaceful than biking on unfamiliar roads. The one problem that we have encountered several times, however, is finding the trailheads. Today was one of those days. Oh, well. Once we found it, it was a nice 12ft wide path with trees buffering any paralleling roads. Rolling hills kept it interesting. Andy had some trouble with the local wildlife though – almost running over a snake and a gopher tortoise (which would’ve been messy for him and the tortoise).

Afterwards we slowed down to enjoy another gorgeous sunset…

Sunset on the Gulf

Sunset on the Marsh

Ok for now, we’re heading back to the pool and jacuzzi!  Clicking on any picture will take you to the Web Albums where more pictures have been posted…

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November 21, 2004

Cedar Key, FL – Kayaking Old Florida

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 9:24 pm by diandy2004

In Cedar Key we kayaked, kayaked, and shopped a little.

This is a neat little town with art galleries and small shops, restaurants and bars, and water, water everywhere. Some of the original buildings from the 1850’s are still standing.

Downtown Cedar Key

For Sale

We took the ‘yaks out two days and paddled around several of the small islands surrounding Cedar Key. I’ve never seen such a variety and quantity of birds as we saw here: gulls, pelicans, terns, sandpipers, herons, egrets, ospreys, roseate spoonbills, kingfishers, 3 bald eagles, and many more. These were the first bald eagles we’ve ever seen in Florida! And their huge branch nests. Very exciting.

Bald Eagle Nest

Bald Eagle

Tides have to be closely watched here, because when the tide goes out, much of the area becomes mud flats. And there are huge mounds of oyster shells that can slice up you or your boat if your not careful. And much of the area is dotted with grassy keys which creates a kayaking-maze with lots of dead-ends. We enjoyed it immensely and will have to come back some day to do some of the other islands.

Andy Kayaking

Jerry and Dee popped in on Saturday for a visit. Thankfully their timing was perfect (since we didn’t check phone messages) and they caught us after our kayak and just before we were heading out for lunch. What a great surprise to have friends ‘pop-in’ to spend some time with us.

We spent two nights at a Tiki Bar a short walk from camp. The gnats were a little easier to handle here then on the docks at our RV Park. The sunsets on the Gulf were beautiful and the conversations there were lively. Three couples who help run the motel are full-time RVers and we had lots to share.

View from Tiki Bar

Just Another Gulf Sunset

More pictures are available on the Web Albums – just click on any of the above pictures to look at the others.

November 18, 2004

Old Town, FL – Kayaking Old Florida

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:49 pm by diandy2004

From Tallahassee we headed south and stayed along the Gulf Coast. We refer to it as “old Florida” because it’s what Florida used to be like before all of the condos and concrete.

In Old Town we stayed at a lovely RV Park called Suwannee River Hideaway. The park office was an “old” 1920’s General Store.  The owners had built – by hand, mind you –  a 1500′ boardwalk through the swamp to the Suwannee River.  Shortly after arriving, we set out to find the boardwalk and the river.  We sat on the floating dock enjoying the view and then were joined by another couple – Jerry and Dee, and their dog Jaxson.  The hours slipped by before we knew it.  Jerry and Dee have been full-timing for the last three years and it seemed once we started talking we couldn’t stop. After three days together, we feel like we’ve known them forever. We’re hoping to cross paths with Jerry and Dee again someday on our travels.

The 1500' Boardwalk

The Floating Dock

It was too long of a portage to carry our kayaks to the river from the campground, so we drove to the town of Suwannee looking for kayak launches. There were supposed to be two along the 9-mile Dixie Mainline Road – one on Sanders Creek and one on Shired Creek. The spots were too crowded with saw palmettos and other pointy plants and too thick with muck to be inviting. Not to mention that a “blow-back” tide was in effect, in which the wind was pushing the tide out even though it was a rising tide. The thought of the water getting any lower was disconcerting. Luckily we ran into a FL Fish and Wildlife Ranger who gave us several other boat ramp options to choose from. We had a wonderful paddle down a narrow waterway from Munden Camp to the Suwannee River and then down some other channels leading into a wildlife refuge. (Note: we finally got to paddle the Suwannee 10 months after our first attempt in Jan).  We saw turtles, alligators, and lots of birds. I rescued a dragonfly who had lost a wing and was floating in the river – he stayed with me the rest of the trip.

Paddling from Munden Camp

My Hitchhiking Buddy

There are several canoe-kayak trails near the Gulf that we saw in a brochure.  We’ll have to investigate these on another trip.

We should mention too that the drive along Dixie Mainline was a treat – taking you through wetlands, marsh, swamp, and dry hammocks – and was worth the trip even if we couldn’t kayak. Many of the homes in Suwannee were on stilts, some around 20′ high.  We did a couple of short walks during the drive, too – to Fishbone Cemetary, Fishbone Observation Point, a boardwalk at Salt Creek – so there were places to get out and stretch and explore.

Dixie Mainline

View from Dixie Mainline

Another day we rode our road-bikes along the Nature Coast Trail (a Rail to Trail). The trail is a total of 32 miles long and is shaped in a “y” going to different towns. We started in Old Town near the Hardees and rode to Trenton and then down to Fanning Springs. Eventhough we rode 28 miles, it was a lazy ride with a lunch stop in Trenton (at the Cypress Swamp Cafe at the Trenton trailhead which was built in an old 1925 Coca-Cola building and offered salads, sandwiches and deserts) and then a stop at Fanning Springs just to enjoy the green waters of the spring. They experienced some damages from the hurricanes here, but fortunately for us the waters returned to their natural green color last week.  If you’re lucky you’ll see some manatees here.  The springs are a constant 72 degrees.

Trenton Train Depot

Fanning Springs

Added Note: Suwannee River Hideaway throws a big halloween Party every year – and they even put together a “haunted house”.  If we’re ever back in that neck of the woods in late October, I want to remember to check it out.

October 2, 2004

Oregon Coast – Canon Beach & Nehalam

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 6:46 pm by diandy2004

We did end up spending one more night in Portland due to our converter dying. It wasn’t the fan, but the converter itself and it was a good thing we took the time to make the appointment since it was dead. Kaput. No wonder our batteries weren’t recharging to full capacity.

We left Portland’s Camping World around 2pm and headed for our first stop on the Oregon coast – Canon Beach.  We got there in time to still walk a mile to the beach from our RV park and check out the Haystack – this one is the 3rd largest moonolith in the world.  It was low tide so we were able to walk around the rocks.  We saw tons of starfish, mussels, barnacles, gooseneck barnacles (which I think look like turtle toes), and lots of little fish.  Puffins visit the area, but in July and August (so I still haven’t seen any!).

Canon Beach Haystack

Reflection of Haystack

Our second day we went to Ecola State Park.  During our walk we got to see some elk and a bird that looked like a puffin – the orange-billed surf scoter.  I wouldn’t have been able to identify them without someone lending me their spotting scope.  But, hey, I *almost* saw a puffin.  We walked around town and ate lunch out before heading back into Ecola to another area of the park – Indian Beach area.  Andy got to explore this park more than I did.  I had some phone calls to catch up on, but you couldn’t beat the view I had from ‘my office’.  I did do some more critter-searching during the low tide.  I’m just amazed at how the starfish are just layered upon each other.

Starfish Eating Mussel

Starfish Eating Mussel

Sea Urchin

Sea Urchin

Large Rock Outcroppings

Our next stop was only 15 miles to the south – Nehalam.  We stayed at Nehalam Bay State Park.  Our first excursion after making camp was to drive to Oswald West State Park for a little hiking.  We walked a short way to the Short Sands Beach (named because the beach is non-existent at high tide).  Although this beach felt private because it was in a cove surrounded by cliffs, there were a lot of surfers to watch.  From there we walked to Cape Falcon about another 1 3/4 miles.  What views!  The rugged coast with the powerful waves down below us was such a sight.

Andy on the edge of bluff

View from Oswald

We considered paddling Nehalam Bay, but it was bigger and more exposed (to winds) than we had expected.  The park ranger recommended paddling Nehalam River instead and using the tides to go both ways, but there’s whitewater in one area and our kayaks aren’t made for whitewater.  One local kayak rental place in Wheeler gave us some information, too.  We do tend to find that, besides the rangers, the local bike/kayak shops are an excellent resource for us.  We try to buy something from their shop to show our appreciation.  We ended up putting in at a boat dock in downtown Nehalam and paddled with the tide.  Unfortunately, our planning wasn’t perfect.  Although we scheduled our paddle based on tides, we had the wind in our face on the way back.  But we got to see seals, an otter, and cows….now, that explained the occasional smell we encountered.

Paddling with Cows

The beach near our campground was so pretty with the dunes and sea oats. And the sunsets were outstanding.

Beach at Nehalam Bay

Sunset at Nehalam Bay

September 18, 2004

Yakima, WA – Biking and Kayaking

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 9:25 pm by diandy2004

We experienced a little culture shock coming back into civilization after spending the last few weeks in Olympic and Rainier. Cars, city noises, tighter camp spaces. But, we have WIFI, a heated swimming pool to do laps in, cable TV to watch Hurricane Ivan, and the other conveniences of city life.  We also had SUN –  glorious, glorious SUNSHINE!

After doing our laps and soaking in the jacuzzi we got on our bikes and rode the Yakima Greenway. The Greenway is a nice paved path that follows the Yakima River and connects 3 different parks in the city. It felt great to get in some exercise (other than walking/hiking).  We biked from the RV park to the southern end & Popoff Nature Trail.

We had expected a little more from the city of Yakima itself. For some reason we expected “Durango” or “Coeur d’Alene” type of a feel in the city. Probably because wineries and microbreweries usually create an eclectic, touristy feel. But the feel of the city we have (after a whopping 12 hours) is that it is purely agriculture, lower-income. Maybe we’re missing something, but we did drive around last night seeking a good place to eat out and saw quite a bit of the city.

Today we were going to try to get in a paddle – if we can find some more information on paddling the Yakima River near Roza Dam quickly. As of right now, we still plan on leaving tomorrow and heading towards the Columbia River Gorge.

|||Two Days Later|||

Well, we didn’t leave Yakima yesterday as expected. Apparently Willie Nelson was having a concert down on the Columbia River Gorge in the area we were heading and all the campgrounds were booked.

Oh well, at least we were able to go kayaking on the Yakima River because of the delay. We drove into the Yakima Canyon area to check out the river. We had learned that there were lots of places to put in and take out. Most people do it as a one-way float trip and set up a shuttle system. Instead of us setting up a bike-shuttle, though, we decided to do it as an out-and-back trip figuring it would be more convenient. (Partly because the apple-crate semi-tractor trailers use this road.  We weren’t comfortable sharing the road on our bikes.)  The river looked doable. Since there was less current closer to the dam we put in at Roza Recreational Site and paddled towards the dam. It started out easy enough, but quickly became a workout. The current got stronger the further north we paddled. We did have a couple of eddies that we were able to duck into in order to take a breather and enjoy our surroundings.  Did we mention that eastern Washington is a desert? Well it is and it’s been a shock to be back in brown-grass and sage bushes after coming out of the rainforests of the NW. So we’d sit in the eddies and look out at the brown slopes of the canyon. We saw several deer, birds, and baby fish.

Of course our competitive sides kicked in when we hit this one riffle (small rapids). Both of us tried feverishly to paddle up and over it, but to no avail. We’d get about three-quarters of the way through and then get stopped as if we hit a brick wall. We both finally quit and portaged over it. After that, though, the river just became harder and harder to paddle and make any headway. Diane was the first to cry “uncle”. It’s just no fun when there is no visible progress. But it was a good thing we turned around when we did. Big, black rain clouds came in from every direction and the rain started minutes after we loaded the kayaks on our car.

June 21, 2004

Manila, UT – Flaming Gorge

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 2:36 pm by diandy2004

Continuing north, we stopped at Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area for two nights. Our original plan was to stay at Sheep Creek Bay Campground because we wanted to do some kayaking in the area by Sheep Creek Bay.  But the campground was full – not surprising since there were only five sites – so we stayed in Manila at the KOA.  Unfortunately we didn’t find out that the campground was full til we drove down the steep road to check it out.  This was one of the first times we caused our brakes to burn and get stinky.  We detached part of the way down the Gorge road and let them cool off.

Unfortunately our plans didn’t quite work out.  It rained both days here…with wind gusts of 25-40mph.  So, no kayaking; no kayak-camping; no hiking.

To explore the area we decided to drive around the Sheep Creek Geological Loop (detailed brochure). We saw beautiful changing formations and tried to correlate the different geological periods.  We also saw some mountain goats, including a baby.  We even detoured to the historic Ute Fire Tower (in Ashley National Forest). While we were in the tower talking with the volunteer, a lightning storm occurred, which is a scary place to be when you are the tallest structure in a forest.

Ute Fire Tower

Storm Over Ute Fire Tower

Inside Ute Fire Tower

Inside Ute Fire Tower

We then drove to the Dowd Mountain Overlook via 4 1/2 miles of unpaved road with large cows blocking our way.

The Locals

The Locals

View from the Dowd Overlook:

View of Flaming Gorge

View of Flaming Gorge

We had made camping reservations at Grand Teton and Yellowstone, so we couldn’t wait out the bad weather. We’ll put Flaming Gorge on our list again for a future trip. I think kayak-camping in here would be beautiful, especially near Red Canyon where the red-rock walls are several hundred feet high on both sides of the waterway.

June 18, 2004

Fruita, CO – Colorado National Monument, Biking and Kayaking

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 2:32 pm by diandy2004

From Ridgeway we headed north to Grand Junction, CO. We stayed in Colorado River State Park in Fruita, a ‘burb of Grand Junction. A private campground across the street offered WIFI, which we were able to access. Unfortunately, they were having internet problems so we kept losing our connection. Not a huge problem except that I had tried several times to update this blog, and when I would try to ‘post’, it erased my text. So, if any descriptions seem abbreviated, it’s because I’ve written this previous section three times now.

Our first night welcomed us with a beautiful sunset from our campsite:

Sunset at Colorado River SP

Sunset at Colorado River SP

We drove through Colorado National Monument, which was an unassuming mountain range just outside our doorstep. Once we drove in however the scenery changed. There are canyons, red rocks, arches, painted deserts, and all of the western formations. We did some short hikes in here as well.

Colorado National Monument

Colorado National Monument

Diane Sitting at an Overlook

Diane Sitting at an Overlook

Formations at Colorado Nat'l Monument

Formations at Colorado Nat'l Monument

Another day we put our kayaks in and did a 9-mile stretch of the Colorado River. Our GPS said we averaged 4.2 mph, and we didn’t paddle much! Paddling was only required to get through the little rapids and steer us around the bends. We got to see deer crossing the river and a variety of birds including “bank swallows”, which lived in holes bored into the riverbank.  Since this was a one-way trip we had to set up a self-shuttle system. We left our car at Blue Heron Point where we put in the kayaks.  Upon reaching the boat ramp at the State Park, we carried our kayaks back to the RV.  Then we got on our road bikes (which we left at the RV) to pedal back to Blue Heron Point to get our car. Just a ten-mile bike ride, except it started to rain on the way. Of course it rained. It hadn’t rained in how many months now and we hadn’t ridden our road bikes since San Diego. Oh well…It was still a nice day overall.

The next day we took our mountain bikes for a ride. Mary’s Loop was recommended as a first ride to riders new in the area. It is a 9.3-mile loop with about 4 miles of it being on Kokopelli’s Trail (a 142-mile bike trail from Loma, CO to Moab, UT). What a great ride. Challenging but doable. Gorgeous scenery: Colorado River, meadows, white sandstone, red rocks, a box canyon, slickrock, etc. Sometimes it’s hard to ride when there is so much to look at.

We also went into the town of Grand Junction. GJ has a historic downtown area with nice shops, restaurants, etc. One night they had a Farmer’s Market/Arts & Crafts Festival going on. They closed off Main Street so it was a pedestrian walkway only. They even had belly dancers doing a show (Geri, we thought of you!) and one intersection was ‘drumming’. A bunch of drums were provided and people could sit and join in on the so-called jam session. Everyone did a different beat, and the various drums made all different types of sounds. The result was actually very good, not what we would have expected. We also had to visit the Rockslide Brewery on Main Street, of course.

June 4, 2004

Cortez, CO – Mesa Verde and More

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 3:19 am by diandy2004

On our drive from Page to Cortez, we had to make the obligatory stop at Four Corners.  It’s one of those things you have to do, right?  Get out of the car, pay $6 to the Navajos, and step on a small marker denoting the spot where you are touching four states in one footprint.  We think that this whole process took about one minute!

One of the first things I learned in Colorado was that the descriptions of bike trails are a little different. When they say “intermediate” I will now consider it an “expert” trail! We took a bike ride in the Cortez area (Sand Canyon’s East and West Loops) that did have some nice or manageable sections – rolling hills, sandy spots, fun downhills- but other sections had slickrock drops so steep I had trouble carrying my bike up or down, or sections of jumbled boulders I couldn’t imagine anyone crossing. The elevations are something else we keep having to adapt to as we move. This ride was between 5400 – 5900 ft. Quite different than our house at 13′. So, we keep on learning…and struggling to breathe. But the views on this bike ride were great – we saw arches, red rocks, cliff dwellings, and pinon pines.

Biking Sand Canyon

Biking Sand Canyon

We took our kayaks up to Dolores, CO and put in at the McPhee Reservoir. There is a side canyon called House Creek Canyon that we paddled up the arm until the water just ran out.

Kayaking House Creek Canyon

Kayaking House Creek Canyon

We spent a day at Mesa Verde NP touring the ancient cliff dwellings. We took two guided tours here – the Cliff Palace, which is the largest, and Balcony House which is considered an “adventure tour” because of the ladders to climb and tunnels to crawl through. Both were fun and very interesting. Two-thirds of the park have been burned by forest fires within the last 10 years, so it was interesting to see the various stages of life-after-fire and to learn just how long it will take before these high-desert trees reach any height.

Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde

Climbing the Ladders at Balcony House

Climbing the Ladders at Balcony House

Don't Look Down!

Don't Look Down!

Navajo Dancers

Navajo Dancers

A panoramic view of Mesa Verde:

Mesa Verde

May 28, 2004

Page, AZ – Kayaking Lake Powell

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 6:27 am by diandy2004

We’re currently in Glen Canyon Nat’l Recreation Area, aka Lake Powell, and we finally got our ‘yaks in the water. Boy were they happy to get off the car! We put in at Lone Rock and paddled towards Wahweap Marina.

Kayaking Lake Powell

Kayaking Lake Powell

Hike to the Cave

Hike to the Cave

In that area there are two caves back inland. We took a hike to go check them out and realized one is an arch or natural bridge. As you may know, the Southwest is experiencing a drought. It is very apparent at Lake Powell which is about 150′ below normal water levels. Land bridges exist now where water once flowed deep. Marinas are closed because their docks no longer reach water. So boaters are limited to where they can put in and access. Being Memorial Day weekend, we’re expecting a lot of boaters and waverunners – in a ‘compact’ area (since we’re located in Wahweap, one of the only open Marinas). We hope to get our ‘yaks back into the water, but we’ll have to be more careful now that the weekend is here.

Overlooking Wahweap Marina

Overlooking Wahweap Marina

Maybe on our next visit we’ll try some of the other recommended kayaking spots for Lake Powell

We are scheduled to leave here on June 1st, and it looks like we may be heading into Colorado after this. Hope you all enjoy the holiday weekend!

April 7, 2004

San Diego, CA

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 8:30 pm by diandy2004

The drive to San Diego took us over summit passes of 4,190′, past huge boulders, and through some pretty towns. We arrived in San Diego and got to see the Pacific Ocean on March 28th!  Woo-hoo!   We love San Diego. Especially the Mission Bay area. We stayed in Campland on the Bay for 10 days. The campground is not much to speak of – it is basically a parking lot and you occupy about 2 parking spaces.  Barely enough space for your rig, a picnic table, and for some unknown reason a fire ring (of sorts).  But you’re right on the bay with a biking path and the beach nearby.  For the first two days we didn’t drive at all – what a relief! We biked everywhere we wanted to go…through Pacific Beach and around the Bay and to the Ocean.

Andy Bikes Past an Old Favorite

Andy Bikes Past an Old Favorite

We kayaked around Mission Bay and checked out the penguins at Sea World from the water. We even checked out the condos in the area and realized that San Diego is not an option for us at this time – 1600 sf condo for 1.5 mil!! Granted, it was on the Bay with great views, including Sea World’s fireworks, but….

We toured Cabrillo National Monument (to see tidepools and the lighthouse). The original lighthouse hasn’t been used since 1891 because it was built too high up. The fog and clouds would obscure it. So a new lighthouse was built about 100′ below the original.

Cabrillo Lighthouse

Cabrillo Lighthouse

We got to see my sister Karen and her husband Craig while staying here in San Diego. We hiked in Mission Trails Regional Park – which just reopened since last year’s fires.

Craig and Karen in Mission Trails Reg. Park

Craig and Karen in Mission Trails Reg. Park

On another day we met my sister at Birch Aquarium at Scripps. The aquarium is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen – artistic display tanks, interactive displays, and the fish actually seemed healthy.

Karen and Diane Gobbled up by a Shark!

Karen and Diane Gobbled up by a Shark!

A Seal Pup on the Beach

A Seal Pup on the Beach

We had considered kayaking the La Jolla Caves while we were here, but the size of the surf changed our minds.  We did, however, get our road bikes out for a ride.  We enjoyed the Silver Strand Bikeway along Coronado Island (starting at the Ferry Complex) to Imperial Beach.  And, on impulse, we signed up for the Coronado Bridge Liberty Run.  We were pretty impressed with our times considering we weren’t running 4 miles very often these days AND the run was up and over the *big* Coronado Bridge (the bridge offers a 200′ clearance in the channel).

We enjoyed our week in San Diego, but we were getting antsy to move on and find a campground with more natural beauty and some elbow room.  We decided to move closer to my sister’s house and stay in an area called Silverado.

(Added Note on Dec 2008:  I was re-reading my journal and had to laugh that we made a note that we had to pay $2.09 for gas in CA.  Considering that we’ve recently been paying $4/gal this year, I found my concerned comment quite humorous!)

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