Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Wild Experience

White-tail DeerImage by guate84105 via Flickr

In my last post I wrote about the Suwannee River Water Management Area and how easily accessible the trails are right next to our site here at Kelly's RV Park. It's nice to have such an undisturbed, natural setting to walk through and last Friday provided us with a wild experience that could have been featured in a show on Animal Planet.

We headed out early morning and walked Southeast along a path that borders the park property. Just beyond the edge of the property, the path intersects a broader fire-access trail that leads either to an open marsh area or deeper into the woods. Since we had already walked along the marsh, we turned right and explored the more wooded route.

The woods in this part of the country are dominated by pines, oaks dripping in Spanish moss and an undergrowth covered in short Palmetto palms. Several areas showed signs of a burn which, based upon the contained size, were probably started by lightening strikes. Thankfully, there were very few insects and the humidity level has not yet risen to sauna levels.

After about thirty minutes of we came across a large pile of dove feathers laying directly in the middle of the trail. We stopped to inspect them and came to the conclusion it must have been the outcome of a fox or other predator. There were no meat remains, only small spots of blood and no moisture on the feathers; obviously a very recent kill. I proceeded to look for tracks of what may have attacked the bird, but was distracted by the sounds of something large moving in the area off to our left.

We stood for a moment listening for further evidence of what had made the noise, but heard nothing more than the wind and a few birds moving through the tree canopy. Thinking there was nothing to look for, we started to continue walking the trail. Then, within a few steps, the area off to our left once again exploded with the distinct sounds of something large moving directly towards us.

We turned and immediately saw a white-tailed deer leap out of a stand of young pine trees. It was moving fast, first directly towards us and then veered to our right for a short run through the underbrush. Suddenly, it once again took a direction towards our spot with leaps and bounds that lifted it six feet in the air and covered six to eight feet in distance at a time: The grace and beauty of the way it moved was breathtaking to behold.
Given the rate and distance it was covering fast, I assumed the deer was being pursued by something. Then, as it came within about ten yards, a large coyote came charging through the shrubs. It was also moving at top speed with its ears and tail laid straight back headed towards an area directly to our right. With one more graceful bound, the deer was directly in front of us and within inches of the coyote in obvious killer pursuit. More to myself than to Deb I said, "Damn, that deer is chasing the coyote!"

Either upon hearing my voice or catching our scent, the deer stopped and quickly turned to look directly at us. It was only about ten feet away and proved to be a magnificent doe. After a quick snort it must have decided we were of a lesser threat and proceeded in hot pursuit of her canine nemesis. The only thing I can surmise is that the coyote chose to threaten the doe's fawn(s) that remained in the heavy, protective growth of the young pines. All I know is, that doe was MAD!

We continued to stand in our spot while listening to the pursuit proceed through the woods. After looking at each other in awed disbelief of what we had just witnessed, we walked back to our home with a heightened sense of hearing due to the fact there was both a very angry deer and coyote in the general area; not a good place to be when two wild animals having nothing but kill-or-be-killed on their minds.

Every day since then we have talked about this magnificent scene. We will never know how that chase ended, but isn't that the point? It is one more blessing provided us by this wonderous journey of a full-time RV life and all the glories of the many places we stay. There's beauty in that kind of mystery.

copyright 2009-2010 Lane A Geyer
photoes by Deb

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Getting Settled In

Since arriving here at Kelly's RV Park in White Springs, FL, we have spent time comfortably settling into the quiet atmosphere and exploring the area. This place is so peaceful it is all to easy to just sit and relax, but we have managed to take numerous walks into town and along trails in the Suwannee River Water Management Area that borders the park property.

From where we are, the walk to the East end of White Springs is about a mile along highway U.S. 41. For being along a road, the route is surprisingly pleasant and clean. The berms are wide and planted with a large variety of wild flowers. Right now there are black-eyed susans, thistle, trillium and many other species in full bloom. Just before reaching the town limits, there is a large bridge crossing the Suwannee River and then wide sidewalks. We haven't walked all the way through town yet, but having it within a nice walking distance is a handy when we need to purchase a few odds and ends.

One of the things Florida did well was to protect the Suwannee River ecosystem from development and human alterations. It is one of the most highly protected river ecosystems in the world and the River Water Management Area plays a large role in maintaining it's natural beauty. Within 50 feet of our RV there is a trail marker into the Area that access numerous paths through woods, open meadows and bogs. If we wanted to, we could walk this Suwannee River Wilderness Trail for 170 miles to where the river empties into the Gulf. We're not planning that kind of endeavor, but having such a such a beautiful natural area at our easy access is one more perk in staying here.

The one thing you see everywhere here is Spanish moss. All of the live oak trees are heavily covered with it. We have been through a lot of places where it thrives, but none as so dominated by its ethereal presence as this area.

An example of a classic misnomer, Spanish moss is not actually a moss; it is an epiphyte that gathers nutrients from air and rain and is more closely related to the pinapple plant. During the eighteen and early nineteen hundreds it was heavily harvested for use as packing material. With the advent of plastic-based materials, that market quickly dried up and there is no wide-scale use for the plant today other than as mulch for bedding plants. The one drawback is that it heavily attracts wasps and spiders.

We still have plenty to explore in this area and plan to see more of the town and trails over the next few days. After spending too much time on our butts during our snowy winter in South Carolina, it's good to be exercising again on a regular basis. Now, if someone would just turn down the humidity level and UV index a tad every afternoon we could appreciate even longer walks.

copyright 2009-2010 Lane A Geyer
photos by Deb

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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Back Into The Sauna

It's good to finally be in White Springs, FL again!

We arrived at Kelly's RV Park early afternoon on the 5th. As soon as we started setting up our site we were quickly reminded how humid and how much more intense the sun is here in Florida. We're not complaining because we lived in S. Florida for years and love this kind of weather. But after being in 40% humidity and a UV index of 3, it's an adjustment to suddenly step into 95% humidity and a UV index of 10.

Our departure from the Flower Mill RV Park in Taylors, SC was delayed by one day due to very heavy rains. The front that caused the flooding in Nashville, TN moved through the Carolinas on the third resulting in heavy downpours and high winds. We have driven through that kind of weather before and swore we would never do it again unless absolutely necessary. It's not safe and it's not fun. So we just waited for the weather to improve and enjoyed the fact that the full-time RV lifestyle allows that kind of freedom.

The first leg of our journey was on I-26 to the Jolly Acres RV Park in St. George, SC. It was a pleasant four hour ride with clear roads and blessedly light traffic around the Columbia, SC area. We stayed there for one night enjoying through our front window the peaceful setting of a farm pasture with cows and. The park was well maintained with level sites and a great rate of only $16.00 with our PassPort America discount. The only drawbacks were a rooster from the farm and a bird outside our window that never shut up throughout the entire night. There's nothing like waking up every two hours thinking that morning has arrived and it's time to hit the road again.

Still a bit sleep deprived, we headed South the next morning on I-95 towards Jacksonville, FL. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I-95 is right at the top of my list as one of the boringest stretches of drives anywhere. Except for too many billboards advertising the same things every ten miles, there's nothing to break the monotony. Every time I drive that stretch of road I'm reminded of the quote by Charles Kuralt who said, "Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel the country from coast to coast without seeing anything."

After a brief stop at a Flying J in Brunswick, GA to fill up on gas ($3.00 per gallon!), we headed West on I-10 outside of Jacksonville for a much more scenic drive to U.S. 41 and then North for six miles to our stop here at Kelly's.

It hasn't taken us long to fall in love with this place. It is a very well-maintained RV park with many permanent and long term residents. The property is surrounded by woods of Southern pines, palmetto palms and oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. The access roads are paved, the sights spacious and level with full hook-ups and the people are openly friendly. We have a fast wifi connection, crystal clear spring water, a paved patio area under our awning, on-site laundry facilities, a 24-hour clubhouse with a very large library and a short one mile walk into the town of White Springs for miscellaneous supplies. When we do need to stock up on major items, there is a Wal-Mart just ten miles down the road in Lake City. The best part is the monthly rate is very reasonable for this part of the country. We are booked in for a month, but are already discussing extending our stay for much longer.

Next week we plan to further explore White Springs, walk the extensive trails around the area, work on regaining our tans and enjoy the peacefulness of this place. We'll move at a slower pace than we have over the past five months because, once your back to living in a sauna, the only way to survive the Florida conditions is to adapt a local attitude and just slow down.

copyright 2009-2010 Lane A Geyer
photos by Deb

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Carolina State Of Mind

Over the past week Deb & I have been preparing to hit the open road again. After our delays in departing a month ago, I am hesitant to say we will be leaving the Flower Mill RV Park in Taylors, SC next Monday for a month stay in White Springs, FL.(Karmic projections and all that.) But the one thing the delays taught me is that life has a way of disrupting even the best-laid plans. However, this time, except for an act of God or some other freak occurrence everything is in place for a certain departure.

During our preparations we have also discussed how much we will miss this area. It has given us so much in many blessed ways. Our stay was longer than planned, but that worked out for the best. It provided quality time with family, a chance to meet new friends, the opportunities to enjoy exquisite foods and the joys of entering into a Carolina state of mind.

The best way to understand a Carolina state of mind is to stand in a check-out line at a grocery store. Nobody is in a rush. Everyone is talking to each other. The clerks are asking a customer about their Momma or Daddy. The person in front of you will kindly ask if you would like to go ahead of them. A total stranger will proceed to tell you their life story. If you ask someone behind you if they would like to go first their response will usually be, "No, you go right ahead. I'm in no hurry. All I've got to do is go home and clean the house, so I'll just rest while I'm here in line and how ya doing today?"

Everyone here is openly friendly, patient and makes you feel a part of the community even though you've never met them before. People wave at total strangers as they drive down the street. They sit quietly in line at a congested traffic light. During our five months here we heard a total of two honking car horns and both vehicles had plates from Northeastern states (go figure). The pace of life is slower and more respectful. All one has to do is experience the rudeness of people in S. Florida, New York or many others places we have been and it becomes vividly clear that people in the Carolinas define the meaning of the Golden Rule.

A Carolina state of mind also arises from the land. This is a good land blessed with ample water, the gently rolling majesty of the mountains, the soft-wave music of the beach and the explosion of flowers in the spring. It is in the sounds of the Whip-Or-Wills singing through the night. It is in the reflections of a full moon on lush forests or fertile farmlands. It is the peace one feels from experiencing these gifts of the land - and more.
So, for now, we say goodbye and thank you to the Carolinas for a wonderful visit. Thank you Mom and Dad for your hospitality. Thank you Bucky's Bar-B-Que and the Plaid Pelican for marvelous food. Thank you local residents for your friendship and thank you Flower Mill RV Park for a peaceful place to stay.

Although we are headed to new regions, we know that the Carolinas will be a part of us forever. That's the one thing about entering into a Carolina state of mind - once it's there it never leaves you no matter where you go. Somewhere down the road that fine old tune by James Taylor will resound through our heads and we'll be singing:

In my mind I'm gone to Carolina
Can't you see the sunshine
Can't you just feel the moonshine
Maybe just like a friend of mine
It hit me from behind
Yes I'm goin' to Carolina in my mind...

copyright 2009-2010 Lane A Geyer
photos by Deb

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