Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ochlockonee River State Park

Our weather took a turn for the cooler and so I decided to try another camping trip, this time away from the Gulf (and the bugs). My most recent trip to St. George, not posted here since there was nothing new to post from there, was indeed very buggy.

I reserved site #29, a site I had been wanting to try since I tent-camped here over a year ago. At that time, deer were plentiful in the park and they often entered the campground at this end; site 29 is the site closest to the road at the end of the loop. It also is a large and pretty site, with woods behind it, no sites to the right, and many palmetto bushes between it and the next site to the left.

Site 30, across the campground road, is also an excellent site, even bigger than 29, with direct access to the trail that runs along the river; I'll try that one next time, which will likely be in the fall.

The weather was ideal; significantly less humid than at home, though only a 90-minute drive away. There was a very strong wind both days that I was there, which helped keep the no-see-um bugs away. The nights were cool enough to have to actually have to close all the camper windows.

This trip stands out in particular because of the wonderful people that I met while I was there. Campers are nearly always friendly (with exceptions, as noted in an earlier post from a different campground...), but I met some very special people this time, with whom I plan to stay in touch.

The white squirrels are still at this park (and I spotted a large fox squirrel as I was leaving this morning), though all the ones I saw were running around in the picnic area rather than in the campground itself.

While I was walking on the long trail on my first day there, I spotted a red-headed woodpecker. It was very far away and the photo was not clear enough to post here.

Later that day I mentioned to a woman I met there that I had been disappointed to have hiked for an hour and a half through the woods without spotting a single deer, even from a distance.

The next morning while I was still lazing around having coffee and reading in bed, she went out to the trail. When I was up and out and about, she came over and showed me a photo she had taken of two deer on the trail. Argh. So, even though I suspected it was too late in the morning by then (and I had to pack up and leave soon), I headed back out to see if I could find them.

No luck. I did see another (the same?) red-headed woodpecker on a distant tree (again, photo too blurred to post).

I also passed by this bird, which I am going to venture a guess is an Eastern Phoebe (yes? No?).

This used to be one of my regular spots during camping season, but I had not been here since I came with Deb last November; it has been overlooked in favor of new places. I think I will spend more time here after summer has passed.

Meanwhile, I have a long camping trip planned for next week--five new/different campgrounds in eight days, the farthest one in South Carolina. Great way to wind down the camping season until fall!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Indian Forest Campground in St. Augustine, FL

I was making another trip to the bird rookery, but this time I wanted to camp closer to the interstate, so that I would not have to tow the camper through several miles of very busy city traffic, as I did last time I went to the rookery (when I camped at Anastasia State Park). On my way out of St. Augustine last time, I passed this campground and it looked nice enough from the road. I read the reviews of it when I got home and it sounded fine. So I stayed here on this trip.

This is by far the best privately-owned campground I have visited; in fact, it's the only one I have really liked. I had a wonderful site, #77. When I was checking in, the woman said she had planned to put me in 66 (which was also a good site) but she told me that 77 was the one she would want if she were camping there. Great choice. It also was suitable for my small camper.

The camper was 100% shaded, which was appreciated since we are getting warmer here. I had a nice view of the small pond nearby.

It was a little strange how many people in the campground were from Ontario--and in particular Quebec. People walking around, women I encountered in the bath house, and my neighbors in site 78 and their friends that visited them all spoke French. I was walking through the campground one day and passed a large rig that had a TV set up on the table outside. The guy was watching something that was being broadcast (or had been previously recorded?) in French. It was very much as if I were the one in the foreign country who did not speak the language. DH told me that the Canadian dollar value puts them at a significant advantage right now, and maybe that has something to do with it, but it still seemed odd that so many French Canadians had found this particular campground in this particular city. It's a very large, sprawling campground and I don't think all of them could have been part of a group traveling together. It would be a very, very large group. Anyway, kind of unusual.

I think the best site here is #71. It is an extremely large site. I would like to request it next time, but they may prefer to reserve it for the very large RVs. It is right next to the pond. Here is the view from site 71:

I doubt I will get back to this campground again until next spring, since I have no other reason than the rookery to go to St. Augustine, and by the time I make my next trip there in a couple of weeks, it will likely be too hot to camp. But I very highly recommend this campground if you are going to be in the area. My site was along the row farthest from Rt. 207, and there was still some traffic noise at night, which doesn't bother me. They do not allow tents.

I'm heading back to St. George next week for what I am sure will be the last camping trip there until fall! It was hot and buggy there last week, I wonder if it will be hotter and buggier this time?

Sunday, April 04, 2010

St. George Island--Again

I didn't plan to post this trip--I have already posted two trips to this park in this season, and I didn't imagine there would be anything new to show or tell, but it turns out there is.

It's spring break all over the place and so there were a lot of families camping this time, with a lot of kids, aged about 5 to 15. Lots of tenters. All the sites were taken. And one of the bath houses was closed for renovation. I wonder if they considered the timing when they planned that...

I had managed to nab site 34 a couple weeks ago when it magically became available in the midst of all the reserved sites--probably a cancellation and I happened to check the website at the right time. I have been in this site before, it's a good one. I had the campground host on one side and a group of three adult couples who were tenting on the other, with a lot of foliage at each side. I have added a new element to my site, a colorful pinwheel that brings a certain festive flair.

Another new element I added a month or so ago is the birdfeeder. I had a few cardinals come to it on my last trip, to O'Leno SP; prior to that, no takers. Well, I was still setting up the camper this time when a cardinal showed up. The feeder was at the edge of the woods, on the far side of the camper in the above site photo.

And that was just the start. (I ended up purchasing more birdseed the next day since I had not brought nearly enough.) I was particularly excited to discover my new favorite songbird, the rufous-sided towhee. What an incredibly vivid bird!


There were several of them that were regular diners at my site, including a female.

After a while the grackles and blackbirds discovered the feeder. When they were there, the other birds stayed back.

Then they would move on, and the others would return. As you know if you read my blogs, I always need help with small bird identification, and never more than on this trip! No idea what this one is. Solid gray with a dark cap on its head:

And this one, which was the same shape and size as the towhee, but light gray with darker gray wings:

While the one above had mockingbird colors, and certainly the right tail for a mockingbird, it seemed too round-shaped to be one.

This next bird appeared for the first time in the afternoon of the second day. It was very shy and mostly stayed on the ground just inside the wooded area between my site and the tenters'. It spent a short time once in the feeder. I looked this up when I got home and it seems to be a brown thrasher.

Normally when I sit outside to do some reading, I face my chair toward the campground road so I can watch passers-by, but this time there was a lot more of interest going on at the feeder, so I spent a fair amount of time sitting there with the camera and my Kindle. I was surprised to see a red-bellied woodpecker (edited after a comment corrected my initial identification!) decide to have some seeds!


And speaking of sitting outside, it involved citronella candles and spray-on repellent this time. The bugs called no-see-ums were out in masses, which probably means that my camping season is winding down. When I got the birdseed, I also bought some stuff to spray on my camper screens to keep them out, and that worked well. But if I can't sit outside without dousing myself in chemicals or covering up from head to toe....why bother going? I have reservations to return to St. George soon--I'll be taking the screen enclosure on that trip! And that may be it for this campground until the fall.

There are two freshwater ponds between the campground and the Gulf, and a resident alligator that travels back and forth between them (actually, according to the ranger, it's not always the same gator in the ponds...). He was on the bank showing off his jaws when I walked by.

Of course I spent a lot of time at the beach, which was beautiful, as always. On the first day, the water was very flat and calm. I sat down to enjoy the view and almost immediately saw the familiar fins of dolphins passing by.

The sandpipers and gulls were gathered here and there as well.

There were a lot of people fishing along the shoreline.

On the second day I thought I would walk toward the end of the island. This couple seemed to have had the same idea.

I didn't make it all the way to the end (the couple turned around before I did), maybe next time. On my way back down the beach, I came to an interesting sight. Which of these objects is different from the others?

Yes! It's the great blue heron on the right! He was just standing there, quite close to all the people, and unconcerned about any walking by him. I took pictures as I got closer and closer, expecting him to move off at some point. He didn't.

Time to do a little preening.

He stayed there as I passed him, and was still there when I left the beach.

Another great trip to St. George, despite the bugs! This is a wonderful campground--if you are going to be there any time soon, don't forget bug spray, and bring some birdseed!