Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Chassahowitzka River Campground in Homosassa, FL

After about four consecutive trips back to St. George Island to camp, I have finally started going elsewhere! (Only because the snowbirds are keeping that campground full....) I decided to try a new private campground in Homosassa, one that is right alongside the Chassahowitzka River, a river I have heard of but never paddled.

Here I am in my site, #22.

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This is a very long site, as many of them are. I parked far at the back, so that my windows wouldn't be directly adjacent to the patio of the rig in the next site. While I would not call these sites close together, there is so little greenery that there is little privacy. There are, however, lots of tall trees, and each site seems to be somewhat hemmed in by them, particularly at the entrance. This would be a backing-up nightmare for anyone who has trouble with that. Also, because of the trees, very large bus-type RVs could have a problem here, though there were so many that obviously they can get into the sites.  Here is a view across 2 or 3 empty sites next to me (which later were filled):

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I had taken my kayak, and I went down to the boat ramp the next day to launch. This proximity to the ramp (1/4 mile down the campground road) and the wonderful sandy launch area for canoes and kayaks are the best features of this campground, IMO. They rent canoes and kayaks for reasonable daily rates right at the ramp.

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I turned left after launching, which is downriver, but at this time was against the wind and current (the tides affect the river here), so the best way to start. Here's how the river looks just off the ramp.

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Strangely, there were no egrets at all on the shorelines. However, I did see this great blue heron.

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I paddled a little farther, encountering a lot of other paddlers on the river. And then I saw a surprising but welcome sight--a pelican!

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That was not the only one on the river, and over the course of two days of paddling, I ended up seeing quite a few of them. I thought I had said goodbye to pelicans when I had my last stay at St. George (we are moving to North Carolina soon, where I don't believe there are many pelicans, at least not in the mountains...).

I headed back to the boat ramp after a couple of hours. This anhinga was drying its wings in a tree.

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When I was approaching the ramp, I saw an osprey at the top of a tree.

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There is quite a large deal made out of the manatees that are in this river, and there was a huge grouping of them just off the boat ramp. I generally tend to keep my distance, given their occasional fun idea of bumping kayaks...I am carrying a fairly expensive camera in the boat and so even friendly dogs at boat ramps can be a tipping risk, never mind a giant manatee! But I decided to get a few pictures anyway.

This one was coming up for air next to me,

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while these two are swimming away.

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I went back out paddling the next day, repeating my downstream trip, and then drifting over the manatees to continue upstream. The river looks like this going upstream:

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Since this is spring-fed, it is crystal clear. I paddled into a canal, one of those that has high concrete edges, with houses on either side. I passed a bait shop with many pelicans hanging around it. I went on for a way, but then it was getting late and so I turned around and drifted slowly back. And then I saw this fin coming at me, slicing very rapidly through the water ahead of me and headed right for me. My mind kind of blanked out while I watched it, but I did decide to move over to the right to get out of its way. It moved with me. Of course after a few seconds, which is all it took to reach me, I realized what it was. A dolphin! It passed right by the boat, no more than 12 inches from the side, and looked up at me as it went by. I mostly just gawped back at it as it passed. And then of course came to my senses and realized that I had been sitting there with not one, but two cameras in the boat....and had gotten no photos of it. Ah well.

Here's the boat ramp area from the water.

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On Saturday I wanted to go for a hike. I prefer state parks to private campgrounds for a lot of reasons, one of which is the trail system they all have. I had to drive into Crystal River, some 13 miles away, to reach the Preserve, which has trails. Actually, I had chosen a trail that was even farther, 20 miles away, near the visitor's center (which is closed on weekends, as is, oddly enough, the nearby Nat'l Wildlife Refuge). The trail was nicely cleared at its start. 

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There are no signs on the trail at the many points where it splits into 2, 3, or at one point, 4 different directions. No indication of trail length or whether it is a loop. I took one of the forks at one spot and it dead-ended. I was fairly frustrated with it all and decided to just go back to the campground. Then I came to a hub with 4 different trails going off it, and two people with fishing poles emerged from one of the spokes. Ok, maybe there is water not too far down that way. So I headed that way. Within half a mile, I came to water on both sides. This side had a no-wake sign, so it must be a tributary of the river.

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This side seemed more like a small lake.

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And then I headed back to the campground.

Here's some campground info. Verizon cell service was 2-3 bars. My Verizon Mifi hotspot got a very strong signal--as a result, I can't report on the campground wifi since I never used it. The bath house is clean and heated (nice!). There is a Publix supermarket very close by, and a Walmart not far down the road. The Publix has a Chinese restaurant in the same shopping center as well as a Subway, but that's about it for restaurants close by. This was a huge drawback for me. If you want anything besides Chinese or Subway, you are going to have to drive at least 15 miles one-way (hmmm, the Pizza Hut might have been closer than that). In addition, there's just not much to do in the area! There is a very nice wildlife park in Homosassa, but once you have seen that, you have exhausted the local attractions. So, this would be a great place if you want to cook all your meals and spend all your time either on the river or in your site. This is a surprisingly empty part of Florida. When you check in, the person at the desk will give you a list of the campground rules, which are for the most part the same as you always see. She will then tell you that they are particularly firm about two of them--quiet time is 10 pm to 6 am, and no alcohol is allowed in the park. I'm not sure how they expect to regulate that last one, and I have never encountered that before.

Next trip is to a familiar place with a couple of friends. I have to get in as much Florida camping as possible before we move! 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

St. George Island State Park in Florida.....Up Close

I camp at this park so often that it is a challenge to find a new way to post about my trips that won't just be re-runs of the same story and images. I sometimes skip posting, but that's not as much fun as sharing!

Last time (which was quite recently) we took a broader view than usual and toured around the town. This time I decided to zoom in a bit for some of the photos.

Of course this park is all about the beautiful beach.

The breeze was causing the long grasses to carve out patterns in the sand.

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The tide was going out, stranding many jellyfish on the beach.

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It's so interesting how the ripple pattern on the sand mimics the water so well.

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I had clearly missed a lot of crab activity here!

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A little farther along, I didn't see this guy half in and half out of his hole until I nearly stepped on him! He was a medium size crab, maybe 4" across.

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I took several photos from several angles while he was motionless. I actually asked him if he was dead. No response, though that seemed like it would be an odd place to shed the mortal coil. I said okay, well, thanks for the pictures, and got up from my crouched position to leave. As soon as I did that, he sprang to life, ready to defend his little home.

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Later, I wandered down to the bay. Someone had set this on the picnic table--lots of oyster shells attached to something. If I were creative, I would make a lamp base or something out of this...

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The next day I went for a hike on the trail that goes inland a bit, and through wetlands. There were several pine-y type trees, with needles extending out from a center area. Those look almost like little closed pinecones in there.

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And hey Sharon! Look! Another one! There were several of these, many of them with large caps, growing out of the sand on the trail, similar to those at St. Joe except these had brown caps.

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I had not planned to take any long scenic photos for this post, but that great blue heron was on the beach every time I went for a walk. I decided to process this photo a little differently, just for variety...

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When I was down by the bay late one afternoon, it was so calm and peaceful, I decided to get a short video of it, another way to make this post different from others.

In contrast, this was the Gulf the next day. (Quite a wind so the sound is terrible....)

Even though I had made these reservations about 10 days earlier, my usual jinx of having it be pouring rain while I am trying to hitch up and do everything else involved with leaving was clearly firmly in place. But this time I was ready for it! When I saw that rain coming, I just reserved for an extra night. And so for the first time for a long time, I was hitching up and leaving in sunshine, after an extra day at the beach! Win-win!

I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays. Let's all have a great 2014!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

St. George Island State Park (yes, again!)

On this trip, I was camping with my friend Kim. We had a fantastic time and were lucky that the weather was warm enough for beach sitting and eating oysters on the deck at Boss Oyster in Apalachicola.

I was in site 57 again, which is one of my favorite sites. It's at the Gulf end of the campground so I could clearly hear the surf through my open windows. Kim was next to me, in site 59, also a nice site.

As many times as I have posted about camping at this park, I wasn't sure what more I could offer in the way of information about the campground. Ah, but I have never shown you any of the town (such as it is). So I took an afternoon and walked around taking some photos.

This is the bridge coming from the mainland to the island:

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When I am camping here, I often drive off the island into Eastpoint to get shrimp to cook for dinner. It's a bit of a drive, though, so if you aren't inclined to do that, Doug's Seafood trailer is nearly always parked in a big parking lot near the bridge.

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There is a sign that says "Future Home of Doug's Seafood" on a small parcel of land alongside the road that leads to the park. It's been there for years. I guess the future never really gets here, does it?

As soon as you get to the island, you see a lighthouse. This is actually a reproduction of the original  lighthouse, which finally succumbed to constant battering by hurricanes and toppled into the Gulf in the early 2000's. Next to the lighthouse is a combination gift shop/museum, which has some artifacts from the original lighthouse as well as a wealth of information.

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The lighthouse windows were decorated for the season.

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People who don't camp can choose to stay in a very tall, skinny house in a row with other tall, skinny houses on the beach.

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And that concludes our brief tour of town. Back to the beach now!

I like pretty much everything about this campground with one exception. This:

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Now, if those little pointy things, aka sand spurs, would stay on the plant and up off the ground, that would be great. However, they plummet to the sand and then cling to shoelaces, socks, pants, and often feet...which is really painful. I have at least half a dozen of these presently stuck to the bottom of my shoes. They are particularly hard on dogs--not only do they dig into their paw pads but they cling to the fur between those pads and can be difficult to dislodge.

The campground has the Gulf on one side and a quiet, placid bay on the other. This is the approach to the bay, taken when the sun was low in the sky.

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I sat at the picnic table for a while just enjoying the quiet, and then took one more picture as the sun was lengthening the shadows.

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And then out to the Gulf side the next day for some beach sitting. First, the obligatory seagull photo.

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I believe this great blue heron has made an appearance in this blog before, but maybe it was his look-alike cousin...

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I sat for a long time looking for dolphins (no luck), and watching the little sandpipers skitter across the shallow water of a receding wave.

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Every once in a while one would get carried away with the search for food and fail to notice the next wave coming in...

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I had plans to camp elsewhere later this month, which, in addition to other future plans, would prevent me from returning to St. George until late January. While I was sitting on the beach I realized I didn't want to wait that long (I may have mentioned that we are moving to NC in May, and so my camping time at St. George is limited) (no plans to return to FL once we move). So during this trip I cancelled those plans and reserved a site in this campground for those dates. I hope to return to St. George several more times before we move, though I might not post those trips.

This was a great one! I hope the oyster population can replenish itself before I get back; Kim and I managed to deplete it somewhat.