Hanging out in Lake Monroe, FL

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Ibises

We usually don’t make RV park reservations six months in advance, for doing so can mess up our flexibility (we call it “jello planning”) as we travel along.  But we were forewarned that snow birders from the northeast flock to Florida during the winter and parks fill up fast.  Now, six months later, we arrived at Lake Monroe, Florida for a month’s stay at Town And Country RV Resort.

Town and Country RV Resort

Even the golf carts are in the holiday spirit

We learned long ago not to be fooled by the “resort” designation, as it is often misused to make a park or campground sound like what it isn’t.  We chose this park for its proximity to Orlando Int’l Airport, from which we’ll be departing for our vacation.

Town and Country RV Resort

This place is not exactly the stuff you write home about.  In fact, the campground has been sold to a developer and in its place will be homes which will be constructed next year.  No wonder the park is not crowded; on the contrary we’ve seen several of the “perms” packing and moving elsewhere.  We feel bad for them, as many of them live in structures that cannot be moved and will have to start over.  But to our advantage there are fewer campers, no crowds, less noise and spacious surroundings.  We’ve kept ourselves busy – I with my household chores and reading, while Steve does maintenance and minor repairs.

We have a great site, an end spot under a huge oak tree with a canal view 🙂 (site #9).  The local “feathered residents” are so welcoming as they check us out daily – early in the morning, around noon and again in the early evening – showing off their plumage.

As you may know, Florida is teeming with birds and I don’t have to walk far from our site to observe these waterfowl quarry for food in the canal next to our site.

The weather here during the past week has been astounding – 80’s during the day and mid-60’s at night – as we leave our windows open while we sleep.  This, while most of the nation is suffering such a cold snap.  We almost feel guilty!  Our friend Marcy advised us that a “National Hate Florida Day” has been designated because of our fantastic weather break.

Lake Monroe Conservation Area

For our exercise, we drove to the nearby Lake Monroe Wildlife Conservation Area to tackle their yellow, red and blue blaze trails.  We went there twice and never encountered another human during our long walks (although we did chat with several cows).  Is that cool or what!

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Gee, hope I don’t get a sunburn!

Lake Monroe Conservation Area

They must think we’re trespassing – we’ll just keep mooooving!

Sandhill Cranes

Lake Monroe Conservation Area

Ground Spider

~Thousands of these spider webs were all over
the dew-covered fields when we arrived.

The city of Sanford was only 10 miles away, so on another day we loaded up the bikes after deciding to ride along their “Riverwalk” – thinking it would be a nice a long path.  Well, it was actually quite short, but we enjoyed riding its length several times while checking out the abundant waterfowl that seemed quite comfortable in this urban setting.

Riverwalk, Sanford Florida

Wow, it’s really warm out here today!

Riverwalk, Sanford Florida

This woman is in “bird heaven”

Armed with a tip from Steve’s barber, we took another trip to a more promising bike path at Big Tree Park, which follows the Cross Seminole Trail.  Before our ride, we walked down the park’s boardwalk to see “The Senator”, an approximately 3,500 year old Bald Cypress Tree that was lost to an arson fire in January of 2012.  Steve angrily commented that he hoped whoever did that would himself burn when the time came.

About 40′ feet away is the Senator’s sister tree – “Lady Liberty” – another Bald Cypress Tree estimated at approximately 2,000 years old.

The Cross Seminole Trail was not one of our favorites, because a large section of it ran through residential areas and paralleled a heavy traffic road.  But part of it was nice as it passed through 3 miles of Big Tree Park and over U.S. Highway17/92 via a large overpass.  The signage was a bit confusing and we ended up stopping after 10 miles.

I know it seems like we are running around all the time, but yes we do take a break now and then to just sit around or read while waiting for our feathered friends to come and visit us.

Town and Country RV Park

Our afternoons at the site.  Did I mention how warm it is here?

I still have a post to write about our exciting visit to the Kennedy Space Center, but I’m running out of time.  By the time you read this Steve and I will be on our way to San Juan, Puerto Rico to hang out for a few days before hopping on a Royal Caribbean liner for a seven-day cruise in the southern Caribbean.  Steve calls this “a vacation from our vacation”, for he will not have to drive Betsy during this trip.  We’ll be back a few days before Christmas – happy holidays to all of you!

Lastly, just for laughs this holiday season, somebody does not know their spanish…

Funny Sign

Next up:  Touring the Kennedy Space Center, FL

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Into the Abyss – Cave-hopping at Lava Beds National Monument

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Exploring lava caves can be exciting if the queasiness of being in the dark and tight places are overcome. Armed with flashlights  and childlike excitement, we ventured out and explored many of the caves at the Lava Beds National Monument.  The caves found here were created by flows of smooth lava 10,500 to 65,000 years ago and we visited this fantastic underground world on our own.

The Lava Beds National Monument was established in 1925 to preserve the unique geological, natural and historical features of the local landscape. There are over 700 lava tube caves, the greatest concentration in North America, occupying over 46,000 acres of volcanic terrain.

Lava Beds Landscape

Glimpse of Lava Beds Landscape

On our first morning, we arrived at the Visitor’s Center and were screened to determine if we had been to any caves east of the Rockies (we had not).  The reason is that a disease called White Nose can be transmitted to other caves to the west, and this disease has apparently killed millions of bats by interrupting their hibernation habits.  After the screening we were given a nice cave map to use for planning our trip around the Cave Loop and began our exploration.  To the Batcave, Robin!

ScreeningPass Requirement

ScreeningPass Requirement

Tools of Cave Hopping

Tools of Cave Hopping

Cave Loop Map

Cave Loop Map

The caves are categorized from least challenging (caves with high ceiling and smooth floors); moderately challenging (may involve stooping through low sections) to most challenging (crawling with helmets and kneepads required).  There were also developed caves where stairs and platforms are built for easy access and trails to guide to the entrance of each cave. Caves are well marked and some required stooping at the main passage.  What we loved about this experience was that the caves are unlighted and folks are on their own to explore as they wish. Since we didn’t feel like crawling around on our bellies, we stuck with the easy and moderate caves, then walked as far as we could into the challenging ones.

Formations made of lava, calcite and ice, yes ice – were observed at Skull Cave.  There are several “types” of caves – some with smooth floors, walls and ceilings – others very rough and rocky.  Each one was formed by the type of rock and other conditions present at the time of the lava flows.

Lichen on lava

Lichen on lava

Pictographs at Symbol Cave,Steve believes this was the first version of Google Calendar

Pictographs at Symbol Cave,Steve believes this was the first version of Google Calendar.

Inside Cave

Formations inside Cave

Catacomb Cave

Catacomb Cave, this one was huge and one most likely to get lost in.

Cave hopping can be a workout – some required a walk of up to a half mile to the entrance, then stairs throughout the cave plus some bending and walking on uneven floors.  This was a great experience, much cooler than we had thought it would be.  Once you learn how the tubes were formed and walk through the various sizes, twists and turns, you realize yet again how fantastic the natural processes are.  We spent two full days exploring caves and hiking other areas of the park, then another day checking out other natural attractions in the area – to be detailed soon.

Steve had never been in caves like these before and was practically running around each one like a little kid! This is a must-do if you are ever in the area!

DO NOT TRAVEL to ALASKA, if…

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DO NOT TRAVEL TO ALASKA, if…

1)   You don’t like dealing with unpredictable weather.

2)   You hate it when your GPS signal sometimes gets lost because you’re so far north.

3)   You don’t like people who work at a more leisurely pace than you’re used to.

4)   You get aggravated when a Bear or Moose walk near the road you’re driving on.

5)   You don’t like being in areas away from supermarkets or an internet connection.

6)   You can’t stand to drive a dirty car.

7)   You don’t like to fish, hunt or spend a lot of time outdoors.

8)   You hate it when other drivers wave Hello at you all the time.

9)   You think up to 20 hours of sunlight per day during the summer is a bad thing.

10)  You get tired of eating the Best salmon and halibut in the world all the time.

But, if like us you think these are just some of the “minor inconveniences” that make Alaska an interesting and charming place, YOU MUST TRAVEL TO ALASKA for one of the best experiences of your life!

~Steve