Cedar Key to White Springs, FL

 

13 Feb 05 Sun - 20 Feb, Sun:  Sunset Isle RV Park, Cedar Key, FL

 

It used to be a normal way of life for us, this moving thing, but after sitting in one park for two months, it was a big deal to move eighty miles over to the shores of the Gulf to this little park east of town.  The park is small, the sites are jammed together, but it's on a bay (which can be seen by peeking between the rigs) unless there happens to be an empty site or two.  We were backed up to a little channel so had that bit of water when the tide was in, plus trees behind us.  Good vibes, everyone friendly and so handy to downtown.

 

The center of this tiny town of Cedar Key is only a mile from our park but, since the bridge between us and it was under repair and too narrow to walk safely, we drove to the other side of the bridge and then explored on foot.  At the museum downtown and the Cedar Key Museum State Park we learned that Cedar Key was settled in the early 1840s .  It was flourishing in 1861 when the cross-state railroad from Fernandina was completed. 

 

The two major industries were a pencil mill and a fiber mill. During the War Between the States, blockade runners hauled cotton, lumber and naval stores to foreign ports and brought food and war material for the Confederacy.  Salt needed by Southern armies was also made locally by boiling and evaporating seawater in large iron basins.  However, in 1861 a Union ship entered the harbor and a landing party took command of the town without firing a shot, destroyed many ships and the rail facilities.  After the war, lumbering again led to prosperity, but as that industry decreased in importance during the 1880s, the area relied heavily on the sea which provided great quantities of oysters and fish.

 

Today the farm-raising of clams has revitalized the tiny island community as the surrounding waters have the perfect sand banks for clams.  That and tourism are sustaining the quaint island. There are many restaurants and little shops and galleries; kayaks, bicycles, and golf cars are rentable for those who wish to explore on land or sea.

 

We enjoyed a couple of restaurants, did some gallery-browsing and found walking the streets while admiring the old buildings was interesting and good exercise.  We have to say that, at first glance, we were not terribly impressed as much of the Key is TIRED, but the 'quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem' grew on us and we hope to return some day.

 

21 Feb 05, Mon - 27 Feb, Sun:  Rainbow Springs State Park, Dunnellon, FL

 

On Monday we drove 62 miles due east to spend a week at this State Park as we had plans to meet Connie's cousin and her friend from Indianapolis here.  The RV campground has access to the river and one of its most appealing features for us were the nature trails winding through the surrounding pine and oak forests.

 

Tuesday noon Carol and Jay arrived at our site as prearranged and soon we were off to Bentley's Restaurant for a delicious lunch and good catch-up visiting. 

 

We rounded out the afternoon with a drive to Rainbow Springs which is a part of the State Park and is one and a half miles from the campground.  It's a popular destination to swim, snorkel, tube, fish, canoe, picnic and stroll in the gardens.  The latter was the only activity on our agenda.  We thoroughly enjoyed our walk through the gardens where azaleas were blooming.

 

Rainbow Springs has a complex of four main vents (outlets) in its headspring.  Numerous smaller vents and boils contribute to the average flow of 450 million gallons per day.  Viewing a couple of manmade waterfalls and ambling along nature trails beside the river made for an unforgettable afternoon with friends.

 

Bob and Helen drove up from The Villages for a visit on Thursday; lunch at Skeeter's BBQ in Dunnellon was followed by another visit to Rainbow Springs.

 

The annual Cracker Days Festival was being held this weekend so we returned to the Rainbow Springs area on Saturday.  The craft show was very interesting as many folks dressed in garb of yore sat before their spinning wheels, displayed their quilts, and demonstrated pottery making.  Folks were making baskets, and displaying their wood and leather crafts, but one of the most unique was the woman spinning with angora rabbit fur.  She had a lap full of white from which she pulled fur and then added it to the yarn on her spinning wheel.  On closer examination, there was a rabbit nestled contentedly in her lap from which she was getting the fur.  Connie asked how long the rabbit was content to sit there so placidly, and she answered that "when she wiggles, it means it's time for a bathroom break and if I don't respond, I pay!"  The rabbit has a sister with whom she takes turns.

 

That afternoon we joined John Semess and about a dozen other folks on his pontoon boat for a Singing Tour on the Rainbow and Withlacoochee Rivers.  John has lived on the Rivers since we was 9 years old and imparted a wealth of interesting information about the ecosystem of Central Florida in general and these two rivers in particular.  The alligators were under water on this cool, cloudy day but many turtles were perched on logs and there was an abundance of waterfowl all along the 1 12 hour trip.  At one point John pulled the boat into some dollar grass, picked up his guitar, and sang four great Florida songs that were fun and informative, one of them written by his mother.

 

28 Feb 05, Mon:  Ocala Ranch RVP, Ocala, FL

 

Little did we expect to be returning to Ocala, but the flexibility of our life is what makes it interesting.  Bob and Helen have recently purchased a new 38-ft. Monaco Windsor motorhome that we were very anxious to see.  It has four slides so Bob took it to a large parking lot where he could open it up for show and tell.  Very beautiful and spacious.

 

1 Mar 05,Tue - 08 Mar Tue:  Lee's Country CG, White Springs, FL

 

This campground is a keeper, gets our highest rating, #5.  The grounds are neat and perfectly landscaped (that's unusual) complete with shrubs, two little waterfalls, and potted pansies.  Washroom and laundry are spiffy as can be and it's a Passport park so $10.50/night.  Our site is usually open to woods around the park, and it's quiet as can be.

 

Our first adventure in this area of plentiful trails was an excursion where a neat trail through the woods led to the Suwannee River.

 

The Big Shoals Wildlife Management Area (5,000 acres) situated along the Suwannee River near White Springs has seasons for archery, muzzleloading gun, small game and spring turkey.  Fishing is permitted throughout the year, camping is permitted at designated sites but, of course, the miles and miles of hiking trails are of great interest to us.

 

Friday we drove to the north entrance of Big Shoals and beside a dirt trail, we were astounded to see a 10-foot wide paved trail off into the woods.  What a joy to hike with no thought being given to footing, just soaking up the sunshine and beauty of the pine forest.  We met a couple of cyclists and one gal roller blading, other than that it was just us and the birds on this 2.6-mile trek.

 

Saturday, 5th:  While at Big Shoals yesterday, a couple of RVers recommended the buffet lunch at the Telford Hotel in White Springs so we checked it out today.  What a lucky break that hint was:  we found an ample variety of delicious, home-cooked food, reasonably priced.  The brick Hotel is a charm, built in 1903 and one of the few to escape fires which leveled much of the town in 1911.  The Hotel still welcomes overnight guests.

 

After that delicious meal we drove a very short distance to the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, a wooded park on the Suwannee River that "honors the composer who immortalized the river through his song "Old Folks At Home".

 

We visited the gift shop and wandered from one craft shop to another while listening to Foster's music played from the "Carillon Tower that houses the world's largest set of tubular bells".

 

Our last stop was the White Sulphur Springs which "was promoted as a health resort and the spring water advertised as a cure for almost any ailment.  In 1906 the spring was enclosed with a high concrete wall and gates to keep the river out.  Buildings on either side of the spring contained shops, dressing rooms and clinical examination rooms  Today the original concrete wall and gate still exist" but are in serious disrepair.

 

Sunday, 6th:  We drove to the east, Little Shoals, south entrance of the Big Shoals Area and again hiked on the paved trail from the other end.  We walked in about 1 12 miles and figure in another 2/3 of a mile would have reached the point where we turned around Friday.  We weren't up for that distance, however, but did clock 3.2 miles for the day.  Again, we met two cyclists, other than that, blissful peace and quiet for us and the birds.

 

Monday, 7th:  We returned to the north entrance of the Big Shoals Area but drove past the paved trail to another parking lot as our goal was to see the Big Shoals.  After walking 1 12 miles on a well-marked trail through the woods, most of it within sight of the River, we saw the Big Shoals, the largest rapids on the Suwannee River.

 

It's now Wednesday, the 9th, and we're planning to extend our stay here in White Springs, probably through the weekend.  After that it's anybody's guess!

 

Think Spring - Cal and Connie