Talullah Gorge State Park, Tallulah Falls, Georgia

My friend Mabel told me they had camped at Talullah Gorge last week. I recalled passing by the state park on our way to and from Big Creek and suggested to Andy that we stop there for the night. It was only two hours away from our cozy campsite behind the Cracker Barrel.  We had time so he agreed.

It is a beautiful drive through north Georgia. It gets even more beautiful when approaching Tallulah Falls. Our first stop was the full campground.  We were lucky – it was Sunday and most folks were leaving by the one o’clock check-out time.  We picked our site (near the restroom) before the occupants had left.  http://gastateparks.org/TallulahGorge

Then we headed to the visitor center for a look around before taking the rim trail. I got a kick out of the bench out front but did not sit down to try it out.

The visitor center building architecture was interesting in itself and there were some nice displays inside.  We watched an excellent short film about the history of the gorge and the formation of the park. Then we headed out the back door to the rim trail along the gorge. Read all about it on my favorite website, Wikipedia.

The falls were large and beautiful, but we were so high above them, they looked small.

The mountain laurel was in full bloom. One shrub, out in the sunshine, was overloaded with huge clusters of pinkness.

This is Tallulah Falls, falling over the dam.  We were shocked to see that we had driven right over the waterfall many times and never knew it was right under the highway bridge.

If my connection from the sign to the flowers is correct, these are pink grass orchids. But, after looking it up, I say it is a Birdfoot Violet.  Pretty either way.

This is the suspension Bridge over Hurricane Falls.  According to the sign, the gorge is 330 feet at that point.

I zoomed in for a better look.

This is one of the towers used to suspend a tightrope across the gorge for Karl Wallenda to walk across it as a publicity stunt in 1970.

There is a wonderful view down the gorge from that spot. The gorge is about two miles long and a thousand feet deep.  That dark rock jutting out on the left of the river is supposed to be the face of a woman, but it looks more like a bear or dog to me.

After our hike, we drove to Clayton to eat at Henry’s.  We had stopped there before and I don’t remember being very impressed with the home cooking.  This time I scarfed down two plates of vegetables.  Here is Scamp tucked in for the night.

We went over to visit with our neighbors, Jo and Dan, who turned out to be from Merritt Island.  They have a big ole lab “Ozzie” with them.  Ozzie used my feet as a pillow. We plan to stay in touch and will visit them at the beach sometime in the future.

The dogwood is in full bloom in Tallulah Gorge.  They are all over the campground.

The park issues one hundred passes a day to walk down into the gorge. That is on days they are not releasing water.  Andy said he is not ready for the long staircase down into the gorge.  As much as I wanted to go down there, that was a relief to me. We slept soundly.


On the Road Again

We brought the RV up to the front of our house about three days before we planned to leave home.  Then we puttered about loading more stuff into it as we thought of things we needed to take.  We still forgot a lot.

I had not thought ahead and had a freezer full of food. I loaded what I could into the RV on Thursday.  Then, on Friday some neighbors who volunteer at a food pantry came and picked up the rest. I did end up throwing away several days worth of leftovers in the fridge. I loaded opened boxes from the pantry and cabinets into tote bags and shoved them into the RV floor.  We are not going to be able to move around well until we eat most of it.

In the morning, as we were loading in the last few things, two men dug three holes in our front yard and were running a pipe/cable/wire under the lawn.

Digging Under Front Yard

Here is a closer look at the Ditch Witch.

We got underway at 0800.  We had planned to stop for coffee with Bill and Laura in Ocala.  We somehow got completely screwed up in our directions that we ended up WAY past Ocala. Andy was so annoyed, he decided that we should just keep heading north and catch up with Bill and Laura later.  It was a big disappointment as we don’t get to see them often enough.

One of my favorites, if not my very favorite town in the whole U.S. is Madison, Georgia. It is full of charming old homes and an equally charming downtown.  Just  Google some images of Madison Georgia and you’ll see what I mean. We spent the night in the Cracker Barrel parking lot.

Arlington Ridge and Marathon, Florida

I downloaded pictures from my camera tonight.  Looks like I got a bit behind again.

I didn’t get this one square on but want to share my farmer photo with the farmer painting. This is the only portrait I have of Grand-daddy and Grandma.  He always wore overalls as far as I know.  All my life, just about everyone I know in North Carolina has told me that I look just like my Grandma.  Actually, they say I’m the spittin’ image of her.  Funny expression, given that she used snuff. I don’t recall that she “sniffed” or “snorted” it.  I remember seeing her putting a pinch inside her cheek.  I could be wrong.  That was a long time ago.  Grand-daddy rolled his own cigarettes.  That is an empty can of Prince Albert loose tobacco sitting atop the photo.  I found it in the barn after he died.

Quince and Verline Dail

This is a look up our street to the left of our house on January 9.  There are three houses nearing completion. The closest and the farthest are the same model as ours.

There is still an empty lot between us.

In fact, the lots on either side of us are still empty.

I got an email from our keys neighbor, Rosa.  The project keeping their trailer on our lot for months is nearing completion.  A big crane lifted their trailer up and onto the new raised platform they had constructed. So we drove Scamp to Marathon to clean out our shed before Andy is too busy getting a new knee.  Hurricane Irma had filled it with about three-and-a-half feet of seawater, seaweed, and mud.  We were amazed that our plastic Home Depot shed remained standing when so many large trailers were washed away.

Here is Scamp in our RV lot.  The golf cart belongs to Rosa and Charlie.  Notice that the mangroves are mostly bare. Our gorgeous wall of green has been denuded and the mangrove forest is full of trash. It is not just trash, but the household goods of people’s homes. The mangroves have already sprouted out new leaves – in clusters. The ones closer to the ocean are still bare.

Here is Charlie and Rosa’s trailer on its new perch. There are stairs to get up there behind that gray gazebo roof. They subsequently lowered it down into that notch.  They used jacks and pulled out the concrete blocks one level at a time. Doug and Sandie’s house next door lost siding.  They are still waiting for a building permit to get it replaced. I was surprised you need a permit for siding.

Here is a look at our shed during the cleanup. Andy had taken out part of the patio furniture and the grill.  I dragged out the small stuff.  There was a thick layer of mud on the floor.

The barbecue grill took it hard.  There are big rust spots all over it and a few dents here and there. We did not try to turn it on this trip.

All in all, the shed was not nearly as bad as I was expecting.  Rosa had told me that she cleaned out some of the seaweed.  The furniture was muddy, but I did not see any mold.  I had expected everything in the shed to be black and fuzzy.  The furniture, including the cushions, came fairly clean with a water hose.

Good boating buddies, Martin and Betsy, came to see us.  They had planned as many visits in one week as we usually get in two months.  I was craving seafood.

We went to Burdine’s where I ordered their fish sandwich while listening to Joe Mama play and sing. I don’t know why everyone raves about Burdine’s fish sandwich.  To prove my point, we went to Keys Fisheries the next day for hogfish sandwiches.  Martin agreed with me that it is far superior to Burdine’s. I would have taken this photo with the sea in the background but that was directly into the sun.

If you find a better fish sandwich than Keys Fisheries, let me know. Another day, we went to my favorite fish taco restaurant, Sparky’s Landing.  Their old building is completely gone and nothing but a level gravel lot now.  They reopened at the old Tarpon Creek, behind the Holiday Inn. It is a better place in my opinion.  I’ll still miss the old funky Sparky’s though.

We drove out to Sombrero Beach, which my regular blog readers have seen here many times.  It was almost unrecognizable. The hurricane pushed tons of sand out of the ocean and all the way across the street to the houses opposite the beach park. It has been pushed back to the beach by heavy equipment.  The thick lawn is under there somewhere.

Even so, the beach was full of tourists. Notice how much sand was lost beneath the boardwalk.

Back at the shed.  We used Charlie and Rosa’s golf cart to haul loads of destroyed “stuff” from the shed to the dumpster. The pressure washer bit the dust, or should I say bit the mud?  Several partial sheets of plywood showed little evidence of having been under water.

Martin and Betsy drove us to Home Depot to buy a push-broom and dustbin.  Ours had disappeared.  Later Rosa told us she found it in the mangroves and returned it to us. We brought the new one back home with us. The inch-thick mud was very dry and easy to scoop out. The hardest part was getting the last bit of mud and water out after washing it out with the garden hose.

One of the saddest sights is the canal in our RV park.  It is full of trailers, boats, and all kinds of other debris. This is four months after the storm.  The neighbors are in an uproar as our canal must be the only one in town that has not been cleaned up.  I don’t know why.

Here is a closer look at the distant heap.  I think that is a motorhome in there since it has a ladder to the roof.

FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is renting lots from our park owners to place emergency housing (FEMA trailers) on our now-many empty lots. I always associate FEMA with big, ugly, gray trailers.  All these FEMA trailers are recreational vehicles.

It was so distressing to me to see all the trash in my beautiful mangrove swamp.  Debris is into the woods as far as I could see. It looks like some good stuff in there, but it is so treacherous (and muddy) to try to get in there to retrieve it. I saw coolers, flower pots, and even a nice-looking tool bag. I know neither Andy nor myself should attempt to go in.  We would break a leg or ankle or both, for sure.  I hope to hire a young man to clean it up.

By the end of the week, our shed and RV lot were in much better shape.

I was lucky to get to the keys before the first concert of the Florida Keys Concert Association.  I have been working hard to keep track of ticket sales remotely and felt bad about not being there.  At least I was at the ticket desk the first night.  Sharon and Claudia seem to have things under control.  My friend Mary also showed up to help at the ticket desk.  She didn’t even stay for the concert. Then, I was able to attend the monthly board of directors meeting the day before we left.  The best part – more fish for lunch at Fiesta Key.

P.E.A.R. Park

The weather warmed up as soon as Sister Barbara flew north.  Andy and I decided to take a walk in P.E.A.R.  That stands for Palatlakaha Environmental & Agricultural Reserve.  It is a fifty-acre park adjoining our neighborhood. I’ve taken you there before.  This time we drove in a different entrance and parked by the garden plots.

We struck off toward our neighborhood on the far side of the Palatlakaha River and the tree line. It felt so good to get outside in warmth and sunshine after that week of nasty weather. This walk reminded us of some of the prairie walks we have taken in Wisconsin.

We discovered another pavilion.  It has a circular walkway around it with spoke-boardwalks radiating out from it.  There are butterfly gardens between the boardwalks.

The underside of the pavilion has a delightful passion-flower vine sculpture on it.

We explored the area around the pavilion and then continued on the trail we had started.  This pavilion was at an intersection of several trails.

This magnificent live oak is close to the river.

We then walked to the riverbank where we could see the construction equipment in our development, clearing land for more houses.  It really is hard to call this tiny bit of water a river.  I can barely think of it as a creek. It is still lovely to walk along it though.

This pavilion is an overlook for a marshy pond. The grass on top also reminds me of Wisconsin and the prairie.

Here is the view out the other side.  We only saw two small ducks in the distance. This view is very similar to much of the countryside around here.  There are ponds and lakes everywhere.

Sister Barbara Visit

My sister Barbara flew down from Maryland, thinking she would soak up some of our Florida sunshine and warmth between school semesters.  Wrong. She brought the cold with her. We picked her up at the Orlando airport on December 31.  One of the things she said she wanted to do was go to the beach so we drove immediately to Port Canaveral since we were already part way there.  We ate lunch overlooking the cruise ships.  Then we took a nice walk along the cold, windy Atlantic Ocean.  Someone offered to take our picture.

Then the weather turned colder, windier, and wetter. We mostly stayed in the house except for a couple outings to stores. Finally, as her week here was ending, the weather warmed up to the fifties.  Barbara also wanted to see a manatee.  She was in luck there.  When it is very cold in Florida, the manatees head up creeks and rivers to warmer water at the springs.  They also adore the warm water outflow from power plants.  I did a bit of research and learned that there was a herd of manatees in Blue Spring State Park.  Hundreds of other people had the same idea.  We were in line to get into the park for about an hour.  It was worth it.

Of course, living on the boat all those years, we have seen manatees many times. I don’t recall ever seeing more than ten at any one time though. There must have been hundreds of them in Blue Spring and the stream to the St. John’s River.

The manatees were milling around in the water or just hovering in one spot. I could not capture a larger scene.  All those gray things in the water are manatees and this is only a small portion of them. They were thick up and down the stream.

Of course, we had to get the picture with the manatee statue. Note, it was a warmer day but still required a parka.  In Florida.  Barbara was offended by the weather greeting she got.

Here are a couple closer shots of manatee families in the spring.

Well, I am guessing they were families anyway.

Christmas in Wisconsin

I met Sherree, a neighbor, in the grocery store and invited her over for coffee the next day. We chatted amiably for a while and then the subject got on to missing family.  She told me that she flies to Minnesota to visit her grandchildren every month or so.  Right then and there I decided that I needed to go to Wisconsin to visit my grandsons.  When I called to say we were visiting for Christmas, Son-in-Love George said, “Come earlier, for Cam’s birthday”. We drove.  It is a two-day trip from central Florida.  I love to drive.

It started snowing when we crossed the Wisconsin border. Driving into the small village of Thiensville at night, in the snow, with Christmas lights was magical.

Cam turned four on December 16. George had already suggested presents to me.  Lego’s are a big hit in that household.  At six years old, Owen is an accomplished Lego-set assembler.  Cam will be too, but not yet.  He concentrated mightily and studied the instruction photos. Andy offered suggestions.

Daughter Jennifer laid out a beach blanket to contain the many small pieces.

Big brother Owen could not contain himself and just had to step in and help out.  Mama told Owen not to do it for Cam, but to help Cam do it himself.  That worked out fairly well.

Darling, snuggly little Cam had a snotty nose. I knew I was in trouble immediately. I caught the cold. That didn’t stop me from going to the nursery school Christmas program where Cam wore and penguin hat. One of the songs they sang had something to do with penguins.

They served a pasta dinner after the program.  Here, Owen was watching the goings on in the room.  He has changed from a little boy into a boy this year.

George and Jennifer were both off work for the week between Christmas and New Year.  On Christmas Eve, George decided to work on the treehouse he is building for the boys. It was snowing.  But, he was off work and had time to work on it.  At one point he came in and asked Andy and Jennifer to go outside and hold the ladder for him.

Despite the cold and snow, George worked on the treehouse for most of the day.

Actually, it is a stump house.  They had two trees cut down at the edge of the woods behind the house. Both were left as tall stumps. George is going to use both for the “house”.  I am excited about it.  The plan is to build it to look like the Drum Point Lighthouse at the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, Maryland (near our home).

I’ll provide an update on this project in July.

Christmas day was a delight.  We had cinnamon buns for breakfast, emptied stockings, and then opened presents under the tree. This is how it looked before opening them. Note: Jennifer made the very cool star atop the tree.

George got a t-shirt from one of his siblings.

Jennifer got one too.

Owen loved the Lego set we gave him. Oh, I should have taken a picture of that train in the background.

Cam got a watch and studied it intently.

I was sick most of the time.  The cold turned into a sinus infection. I went to the doctor while there, as I had developed bronchitis after my visit last July. I keep it delicate and just say the antibiotics wreaked havoc with my gut.

It was ten below zero the morning we headed south.  We had planned to stay longer, but Sister Barbara called with her schedule to visit us in Florida.  We were happy to run from the cold, but it followed us.






December 8, 2017 – Tree Moving

The family room has taken shape and now looks “lived in”.  Note Teddy on the sofa. I got him for Christmas when I was five years old.  Old bear.  One of his eyes had fallen off when I pulled him from a box in the garage.  I found the eye in the bottom of the box and will get around to gluing it back on soon.

The purple flower shrubs in front of the house have finally started looking good.  All three are loaded with buds.

We saw a tractor dragging a tree on the golf course.  I went out to investigate.  It was apparently leaning too far toward another house on the golf course.  Instead of simply cutting it down, they decided to move it next to our house, in the spot where another tree had succumbed to the hurricane.

I was quite a struggle to get the root ball into the too-small hole they had dug for it.  Another tractor arrived to help.

It didn’t look like enough root to survive to me.

Here is the status of the garage.  Sigh.