"It is in the wild places, where the edge of the earth meets the corners of the sky, the human spirit is fed." Art Wolf

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Florida, the Short Trip

I was not forced into deciding to start my seasonal work several months early. It was a decision made free and clear but strongly motivated by my recently collected memories of Scotland and my imagining how many other destinations are still out there not discovered by me. Yet.  So increasing the savings account requires staying around Ohio this winter.  Making a quick visit to Florida to spend some time checking in with friends and remembering what warm weather feels like seemed like a good idea to motivate me to buy warmer boots and tough it out up north.

I took three days to make the drive to Live Oak, Florida, to hang out with Liz and friends.  Judy and Birdie joined us on our first hike.  Lark enjoyed her off leash opportunity and handled it responsibly like a good Golden Retriever should. 

And then there were the morning walks with just Liz and Thistle.  Lark began to better understand that the possibilities for hikes is greatly increased in the winter if the GHL leaves Ohio and travels south. 

Liz no longer lives full time in her RV. She and her new husband Bob live in a retirement community with miles of trails and convenient kayaking access.  The small campground available for guests and visitors is just around the block from her home.   It is very easy for the dogs to stop by and gather their friends for morning hikes. 

I tried to locate my pictures from last December's trip when the Suwannee River was so high.  I found them on iPhoto but not when I tries to pull them up to transfer to the Blog for comparisons.  So now I have another project to add to my list. Organized photos.  That being shared, last year the sand bars and banks where all covered.

And this section of grass was covered.

And the river was within a foot of the pavilion roof.

And the wonderful riverside hiking trail was our private very special watery kayaking trail through the woods. Last year.

More Thistle, Audrey and Lark hikes.

Coming to Florida also gave several of us a chance to create a mini Get Together up in Alachua.  It doesn't take much more than the mention of food to gather folks together even with only a few days notice.  Retirement helps.

Left to Right: Bob and Liz, Steve and Irmi, Birdie, The GHL, Peggy and Nan.

The Christmas Eve Day, Judy and a young friend, and Liz and I took to the river.  After attaching the kayak to the roof back in Ohio, in the dark, in the middle of a sleeting cold rain, with frozen fingers, I was determined to kayak in Florida even if it was an overcast, light jacket weather.

Remains of the beached whale. Maybe.

And this is Liz's method of transporting kayaks.  When she came off the road and traded down from her Class C to a smaller Class B RV, she specifically made sure that her Hornbeck would fit in the aisle.  She reports having carried up to four kayaks when necessary, just don't try to get to the beds or the bathroom.

From Live Oaks I drove south towards Cedar Key stopping at Nan's driveway in Beverly Hills for two nights.  As important as it is for our children to purchase homes with flat driveways or acreage suitable for their mother's RV, it is very nice to have friends around with similar offerings.  (The next best option is to live within 15 minutes of beautiful state parks. Claudia and Martha.)

I was invited to Nan's grandson's and Christmas dinner.  No one went hungry.  Nan and I enjoyed visiting during our car ride.  Later, I got to go to Publix to refresh my supplies and spend more time catching up and sharing stories and perspectives on life.   A mutual friend, Donna, made the short drive over from her Florida home to visit briefly. Lark and Audrey were invited into Nan's house to meet her new Min Pin, Jessie, and once again both remembered their good manners.  We promised not to tell on Audrey and her raid on the trash tissues.  It was only a small lapse of judgement, really!

After leaving Nan's driveway I traveled over towards McIntosh, FL, to stay the remaining  couple of days on Orange Lake with their kayak ramp within walking distance from my door.  

This handsome feller quietly observed my paddling past before turning and slowly walking away through the vegetation.

Ok, so it wasn't a bright sunny day.  It wasn't a rainy downpour sort of day, either.  I was paddling on water. I was happy.

Coming back into the campground, I took this picture to show Liz that her favorite campsite on the lake is still here.  This is what a Premium Lake front site looks like.

And the water in the lake was up. Not as far a up as the river by Liz but enough to attract more sport fisherman.  This particular campground is small and geared more to long term residents and fisherman.

In the afternoon after kayaking I drove to the store to pick up dog food and later drove up highway 441 towards Gainesville. Nan had mentioned that Paynes Praire Park was slowly filling up with water again after a suspected shift in the limestone had drained it years ago.  She was right.  So the Bison and wild horses will have to be satisfied with less grazing land.  However, the ducks, Ibis, Cranes and other water loving birds will be very happy.

Just some friends hanging around the campground early on a damp morning.

One of the reasons that I like to come back to this campground when I come through Florida is because the dogs and I get to take our daily walks around the beautiful  village of McIntosh. Other years I have made posts of the wonderful old Victorian homes and the streets lined with large Spanish Moss covered Live Oaks.  Many of the homes are beautifully kept up. Others are in need of love and a good handyman.   Some appear to be more storage facilities than homes. As I walk past those I imagine an episode of "Hoarders" or the wild treasure hunt of valuable discoveries that might be made as one would work themselves through the various hallways and rooms.  

I stayed long enough in the Ocala area to visit with my friend Leslie who is an Ohio transplant.  She and her husband moved to a new home this past summer.  I liked the view of the lake through the screened porch.

Lark liked the view, too!

Leslie said that a few very small gators have been seen around the lake but weather permitting the grandchildren swim off the dock and one neighbor does his ritual lake swim across and back every morning regardless of seasonal weather changes.  This is life in Florida.

And Leslie shared that the additional acreage across the one lane sandy road in front of the house. also came with their house.  I think Lark is evaluating its potential to fit a small RV.

Sigh. So after gathering up memories of warmer weather, I climbed back into the driver seat and headed back up I-75 towards Ohio.  I once again successfully navigated my way north through Atlanta right before rush hour and made it home Wednesday, New Year's Day.  I got the dogs cleaned up and groomed on Thursday, headed off to a supervisor's meeting on Friday and spent the Saturday and Sunday with Lark and Audrey at their first Rally and Obedience Events.

Both Lark and Audrey earned two Rally Novice B legs and Lark earned her first leg in Beg Novice B Obedience.  Audrey's attention in Rally told me all I needed to know. She will be entering Obedience next time, too!

And for those that have been following Josef's adventures in the conformation ring, he completed his Silver Grand Champion title in November and finished his Owner Handler year in the Top Ten for the third year in the row.  He declined his invitation to Orlando this year.  He had happily sent me off to Scotland in October to use up his Orlando funds.   

Here he is in PetSmart practicing a long down stay next to some of his favorite squeaky toys.  He was learning how to be a better mannered companion animal.  In early December he and I drove up to his Other Mother Cindy's house to meet a wonderful family from the Philadelphia area. He had been corresponding to his humans by email while he was finishing up his Silver title.  It was pretty much like finding love on the internet. The dog version of Match.com. That "First Date" worked out so well, he left to go back to PA with them and meet the two younger humans in the  family.  He has sent pictures reflecting what being an"Only Dog" means to him: More snuggles on the couch, sleeping in bed with his humans and no other dogs to compete with for attention.  He says he likes being THE "heart" dog to humans that need him.  Just this afternoon he sent another email outlining how well his new humans are responding to his training.  

Sadly, Lark and Audrey won't be helping me add 10,000 step to my Fitbit now that we are back in "frosted fingers" Ohio weather.  Maybe walking around Rural King enough practicing our obedience moves will add a few steps. I still have a few days to locate those warmer boots before reporting to work on the 20th.