Tales From The Camping House

Tales From The Camping House

Friday, January 31, 2014

Disney World

While we were at the Thousand Trails Orlando we purchased an eight day pass to Walt Disney World. We went a couple of days while we were at the resort, then moved over to Fort Wilderness Campground at Disney World for five days. We had been to WDW with our kids, but now it was time to experience it on our own.  We had a wonderful time!

Visiting Disney World in January was much different than July.  Most of the time we had cool temperatures in the 60's and 70's and little humidity.

We did, however, have our share of some temperature extremes, but nothing like up north and even in Texas.

One day we were enjoying a sunny day in the 70's

and a couple of days later, it was drizzling and in the 40's.  Thank goodness for indoor shows and rides that day.

We enjoyed the landscaping at all four of the Disney attractions, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios.

We ventured on Mt. Everest (it's a roller coaster that has a partial backwards drop) in Animal Kingdom


and found ourselves going back over and over again (three times) to the Hollywood Studios.  There, Hollywood Hotel of Terror and the Rock and Roll Roller Coaster were not to be missed experiences.

We enjoyed the stunt shows at Hollywood Studios, the Indiana Jones movie and

Lights! Motors! Action! The Extreme Stunt Car Show.

We even took in a couple of performances of the American Idol Experience.

We enjoyed dinner at the Hollywood Brown Derby.

The Wishes fireworks show was definitely not to be missed.  The slide show that is on the castle fifteen minutes before the fireworks was also magnificent.

 So many people have enjoyed this wonderful, magical place throughout the years. Just think, all because of a man and a mouse.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Hanging Out In Central Florida

We arrived at the Thousand Trails in Clermont, Florida about eight miles from Walt Disney World.  We have never seen such an enormous rv park, 850 rv sites.

The first week we were there we went over to Tampa to the giant rv show.  It was the biggest we had ever attended.  There were lots of vendors in the vending hall and even more rvs that could be walked through.  

The first weekend we drove to Titusville to go through the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  We were also motivated to go there as Jim has just turned 62 and was able to pick up his National Parks Senior Pass.  We were so excited since we love to stay at the Corps of Engineers parks and now we can stay at most of them for half price.  

Merritt Island NWR is an overlay of NASA's  John F. Kennedy Space Center showing that nature and technology can coexist.

We started our explorations along the boardwalk outside the visitor's center.

We were kind of fascinated seeing pink lichens, it was not a color we were used to seeing.

After walking the boardwalk, we got into the car and drove over to Black Point Wildlife Drive.  It was a sunny day so the water was a beautiful deep blue and the birds reflected in the water.

We saw many birds on the drive.  I think this is a Pied-Billed Grebe,

a Great Blue Heron all fluffed up

a White Ibis,

a Snowy Egret,

a Great Egret,

and a new bird for us, a pair of Wood Storks wading through the water.

Here's a closer look at the Wood Stork.

We continued on the drive and towards the end, the guide book we had said to begin looking for alligators.  We found one! It was sitting on a little island in the middle of the stream.

Here's a closer look.

We drove a little further and saw another one out in the afternoon sun.

After taking the Black Point Wildlife Drive, we wanted to visit the Canaveral National Seashore just next door.

It was our first look at the Atlantic Ocean in a long time.

Turning the other way you can see how close the Space Center is.

I zoomed in close to what looks like a launching pad.

We also have wildlife at the Thousand Trails Orlando RV Resort.  There is a little pond in the middle of the resort where we spied a Sandhill Crane sitting on a nest.

We looked over to the right and saw the mate.  While we watched them for awhile, the mate went over to the nest and they switched places.

We then watched it turning the egg before it sat down.  It's amazing how close nature can adapt to living so closely to humans.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Way Down Upon The Suwanee River - Stephen Foster State Park

We left Henderson Beach State Park on Friday to make the 257 mile drive to White Springs, Florida.

For us, that is a really long drive.  We left at 9, but forgot we would be switching to the Eastern Time Zone and would lose an hour.

We arrived at the Stephen Foster Cultural Center State Park around 4:30 making it before the office closed at 5:00.  We checked in and proceeded to our campsite.  This is another one of Florida's beautiful state parks.

We found our campsite and Jim got us back in to our spot.  There are also many pull throughs here that are just as spacious as this site.

Here we are tucked into our spot for the next three nights.

We spent Saturday morning exploring the park. There was a 70% chance of rain, but we wanted to see as much as we could. The center opened in 1950 to honor the memory of Stephen Foster, America's composer who wrote "Old Folks at Home" or as many people know it as "Way Down Upon The Swanee River",  Florida's state song.  An interesting tidbit we learned was as Stephen Foster was writing the song he needed a two syllable name of a river to go in it.  His brother pulled down an atlas and found the Suwannee River and asked about that one.  Foster shortened it to Swannee and a song was born beginning Florida's tourism as people would travel there to see the river.  Stephen Foster never visited Florida to see the original river. 

The centerpiece of the park is the 97 bell carillon tower which plays Stephen Foster's music throughout the day.  There is a chime every quarter hour and a bell performance at 10, 11, 2, and 4.  It was quite lovely to hear the chiming throughout the day.  I think the last chime was at 6 o'clock in the evening.

We rode our bikes throughout the park.  There is an extensive trail system and roads that makes bike riding easy.

We visited Craft Square which contained these little houses where local artisans demonstrated their crafts of spinning, weaving, leathermaking, pottery, and blacksmithing.  Everyone was very friendly and willing to share about their craft.

We also made a stop at the Suwannee River.  This is a put in point for canoes.  We won't have time to do it this time, but we will be back here in March and hope to get our kayak wet then.

We went back to the fiver for lunch and the rain hit.  In fact, our phones began a siren like sound signaling a tornado warning.  We had just been in a flood and didn't want to risk our lives.  We pulled in the slides, picked up the dogs, and drove the car over to a bathhouse to wait it out there.  Luckily, it was just heavy rain and winds.

Sunday just happened to be Stephen Foster Day in the park.  There would be a performance in the carillon at 2.

We headed over to the museum built in 1950 located in this beautiful home for a visit.  There are 8 wonderfully constructed dioramas with moving pieces. Each one took over 1500 man hours to construct.  The workmanship is exquisite, so many details, that you see something different each time you look at one.  There were also items that belonged to the Foster family,  as well as paintings and some unique pianos.

 The area had always contained a sulphur springs which was first visited by the Indians.  In 1903, the springs were enclosed by concrete walls that included multiple water gates to prevent water from flowing in during floods.  A four story bathhouse was constructed around the springs since many people thought there were healing qualities in the water and flocked to springs around the country.  By the 1930's the popularity of the resort had faded.

 A fire in the 1970's destroyed most of the bathhouse. Today, only the walls with the gates in the middle and part of the walkway survive.

Here's a picture of the bathhouse in the height of its popularity.

At 2, we went to the carillon for the afternoon performance held in honor of Stephen Foster Day.  There was a lady who played the carillon.  There are only a few people who have the ability to play this and we were really lucky to be able to see this performance.

There was also a dulcimer performance and the two young people who had won the Stephen Foster and Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair awards sang several of Stephen Foster's songs.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time here.  Most people think of the beaches and Disney World when they think of Florida, but it was really great to see another part of this state.