April 7, 019 – Hickory Point Park in Tavares, Florida

We picked up several Lake County Water Authority park brochures at Bourlay park the other day. Hickory Point Park was the most surprising. We have driven past this park so many times, but it never occurred to us to turn in and explore it. The brochure hinted at what we’ve been missing.

We cruised by the boat ramps and parked in front of the biggest picnic pavilion I have ever seen. It is two floors high with screens and balconies all around.

Hickory Point Park Picnic Pavilion

The pavilion is available by reservation for picnics, weddings, and any other sort of event. There was a large party underway to the left of the front door. We went straight through and out the back door.

When we exited, the scene was beautiful. There was a small pavilion to the left and the right.

I turned to look at the pavilion from the lakeside. Lovely.

Andy continued out to the fishing pier.

I followed as Little Lake Harris was coming into view.

Here is an aerial view of the pavilion from the brochure.

I was surprised by the number of boat slips. You can see the Howey Bridge in the back right, where we have driven by so many times.

I turned back again to admire the Bald Cypress trees and Spanish Moss along the shoreline.

The side piers have large decks on the end. The gap in the trees in the background is the gateway from Lake Harris to Little Lake Harris. Venetian Gardens and downtown Leesburg are on the far side of the large Lake Harris.

We enjoyed the sun, breeze, and views for a while and then walked back to shore and followed the shoreline to the nature trail. The loop trail is a mile long and the first third of it is a boardwalk through a swamp.

It’s a jungle in there.

Andy spotted this turtle resting on a branch next to the boardwalk.

Turtle

I saw a fine lizard on a tree trunk on the other side of the boardwalk.

The boardwalk made a lot of twists and turns.

There are also a number of wide spots with benches to stop and rest or just admire this wild place.

There are many Bald Cypress trees and several ones are quite large. The photos just don’t show it.

Bald Cypress Tree

I love baby leaves and saw many of them along the trail.

A large area of the swamp was covered with these tiny plants. I don’t know what they are.

Boardwalk Through Cypress Swamp

I saw plenty of ferns and one area was covered with them.

Ferns
Heart-shaped Leaves

Two Ibis flew across our path and landed in the swamp. There must be something they like in the mud because they were digging down with most of their beaks buried.

We crossed a small road and saw a citrus grove to our left. A sign said, “Stay on the Trail”, so we did not explore the grove.

Citrus Grove

The elevation changed and we were in an upland forest. It smelled like fall with the leaves covering the trail.

The trail followed along the swamp.

Ibis in Swamp

We passed a storage yard with a long boat shed. There were all kinds of small boats stored there and also a good number of police vehicles.

Andy with a Walking Stick

Eventually, we came out of the woods and a large group of eighteen volleyball courts. Only one was occupied by four people who seemed to be practicing. Andy admired the uniforms.

I took more pictures of baby leaves as he watched volleyball practice.

The loop took us right back to the picnic pavilion and our car.

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April 5, 2019 – Construction Equipment

For months now, we have been watching earthmoving equipment in the field across the golf course, preparing for the next section of homes. Today, we saw a piece of equipment neither of us had ever seen before.

The ground is not perfectly flat so it took us a long time to figure out what they were doing. It moved extremely slowly. Almost imperceptibly so. The only hint was the continuous line-up of cement trucks pulling up to it.

The cement trucks poured their cement into a big red scoop-looking thing at the front. Usually, the machine would stop for reloading, however, in this photo, the cement truck was delivering cement while backing up at the same rate of speed as the machine. Skills there.

I was proud that I figured it out, or maybe just guessed correctly. They have no paved the streets in that section. The only reason I could come up with for the scene was that the machine was pouring and forming the cement gutters that line our asphalt streets. Eventually, they moved to a spot where we could see the cement gutters and confirmed my theory.

These two Sandhill Cranes were foraging along the golf-cart path with no concern for all the noise and activity nearby.

April 3, 2019 – Bourlay Historic Nature Park

I have a goal of exploring all the parks in this region and today it was Bourlay Historic Nature Park right here in Leesburg. Buddy Bourley III donated this 88-acre property to the Lake County Water Authority in 1999 to honor his parents. Buddy is a descendant of Evander Lee, the founder of Leesburg. The land was first settled in 1843 by Leesburg’s first homesteader, Thomas Robertson. However, he moved away and the town was named after Lee, who moved to the property in 1857.

This old “Cracker House” was moved to the property and serves as the visitor center. A cracker house is an old house from early settlers in Florida. People still refer to Florida natives as crackers or Florida crackers.

Bourlay Historic Nature Park Visitor Center
Visitor Center Interior
Cracker House Kitchen
Founder of Leesburg Evander Lee with wife

Our next stop was a park information kiosk.

These beautiful, fragrant, and bee-laden flowers are growing on a small tree (or large shrub) next to the kiosk.

We walked along a trail to this chickee (palm-frond roof) stage with benches for the audience.

It is right next to Lake Griffen.

Coral Bean

This pier was just a few yards farther along the lakeshore.

I stopped to take a photo of this anhinga before we startled her away. Sure enough, she took flight just as we stepped on the first board.

Anhinga

We continued on out the pier.

Pier on Lake Griffen
View to Left
View to Right
Pickerelweed

We sat in a corner bench built into the pier railing and watched a group of osprey fishing.

Waterlily Leaves

We watched one osprey swoop down to the water’s surface but didn’t think it caught a fish. Then, it flew by right in front of our faces with a fish nearly as big as the bird. Of course, it was yet another fantastic photo opportunity missed. Neither the camera nor I were fast enough to get the bird focused and in the frame before it flew by. I did get another one searching for a fish though.

We also spent a lot of time enjoying this small grebe diving in the lake. It only spent about three seconds on the surface before the next dive, so it took a number of tries before I got this picture.

Grebe

This is the old Bourlay house on the lakefront. It was built in the 1930s. It is now occupied by the person who takes care of the property. Nice job perk!

Here is a wider view showing the lake behind the house. The house and yard are surrounding by fencing and No-Trespassing signs.

We continued on past the house parallel to the shoreline and came upon a heavily-laden tangerine tree. I picked one and peeled it. Andy thought it was over-ripe. I thought it was tasty.

Tangerine Tree

I learned that Bald Cypress grows all over Florida except in the Florida Keys.

Bald Cypress Branches

I looked and looked, but could not find the name of these flowers.

I found these with Google Images and they have a dozen names. I’m sticking with Spiderwort.

Barn

I admired this shiny magnolia leaf on the ground in the parking area.

Birds in Venetian Gardens Park

We have been walking a good bit recently and even reached four miles per day a couple times. Usually, we walk around the neighborhood. But, we walk in Venetian Gardens at least once a week. We park at the lakefront and eat our sandwich first.

Then it is time to walk. I had not noticed the hole in this Great Blue Heron’s feathers until I got the pictures on the computer.

Great Blue Heron

This is an ordinary sign in Florida parks and anywhere near water.

I was able to get really close to this Limpkin.

Limpkin

There were Great Blue Herons everywhere. This one whizzed by waist-high as we walked.

I don’t believe I’ve posted a portrait of an Ibis before.

Ibis

This Great Blue was standing next to the bridge from which we were watching the alligator. It was keeping a close eye on the alligator too.

Great Blue Heron

The alligator decided to swim on up the canal. It was not moving its limbs at all. Only the tail moved with a slow and gentle sideways wave.

Alligator

Big Trees in Leesburg, FL

Good boating buddies and excellent exploring partners, Martin and Betsy stopped in to spend the night with us on their way from the keys to Massachusetts. I’m a little annoyed that they only stayed one night; I wanted them to stay at least a week.

So, to squeeze a little exploration into their visit, we took them to Venetian Gardens park to eat lunch on the waterfront. Then we took them to see our trees.

This Live Oak (so called because it does not lose all its leaves at once and is never bare) in Lake Griffin State Park is the second largest tree in Florida. Now that I know that, I have plans to visit the largest in Gainesville.

Betsy, Martin, and Andy in Lake Griffin State Park

I ask myself the question: is this one tree or six trees grown together? Here, Martin is peering into the “nest” formed in the center of the trunks.

Our next stop was a little road-side park in the town of Lady Lake. It is also large, but wide rather than tall.

Martin, Betsy, and Andy marveling over the tree.
Martin and Betsy

Venetian Gardens Park

I was reminded today that I have not been updating my blog very much. Sometimes life just gets away from me and I am swept up in activity, useful and not so useful. We have been out walking a good bit to get Andy’s new knees a workout and to build up some muscle he has lost over the past few years. I have actually gotten out of the habit of wearing my camera!!!!!!! I have taken a few of Venetian Gardens, which is a lakefront city park here in Leesburg and a beautiful place to take a walk.

Alligator Lounging Along Canal

From Wikipedia: In 1938, during the Great Depression, the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration invested in infrastructure and improvement projects across the county. Its Works Progress Administration began work on the Venetian Gardens waterside park, located on the shores of Lake Harris. These canals and gardens have been a centerpiece of the community ever since.

As its name suggests, the park is full of canals and bridges.
This picnic pavilion looks out to Lake Harris

The park is home to a wide variety of birds.

Great White Egret

I am rather proud of this Anhinga portrait.

I have never caught a fish but enjoy watching others try their luck. Lake County is named so for its many lakes. This may be one of the most scenic fishing spots.

Purple Gallinule

We have seen this bird-feeding person tossing large quantities of food on several occasions.

Bird Feeder


Do Alligators Smile?
The water lilies are beginning to bloom.
We got a lecture from this squirrel.