Dockweiler State Beach

October 3-24, 2010 Dockweiler State Beach has a wide stretch of sand and a section of The Strand, a 22-mile-long bicycle path that runs from Redondo Beach up to the Pacific Palisades. It's just 2 miles south of Venice Beach.

We had a front row site and our front driver's tire rested on the sand. In fact, after strong winds we often had to shovel sand off our site to keep a flat base for our chairs.

We had gorgeous weather (80F+) for the first few days then cold, wet and blustery days for two weeks. However, the sun managed to make an appearance for sunset every evening.

We jogged the path almost every morning, drizzle or shine, and otherwise enjoyed the seascape.

One rainy day a seal galumphed up the beach to the path to sip fresh water from the puddles.

Dockweiler proved a good homebase for all that we wanted to do and see in the area. We head back there for another 3-week stay starting February 12th.

-P

Hocking Hills, OH

May 14-16, 2010 Ohio was one of four states we had yet to experience in the bus. We were told we couldn't miss Hocking Hills.

We took a short hike by Old Man's Cave, Queer Creek and Cedar Falls.

Cedar Falls were misnamed by early white settlers who didn't know the difference between cedar trees and hemlock trees.

It's a pretty park. Quiet, peaceful, uncrowded.

-P

Homosassa Springs State Park, FL

February 3-6, 2010 We took a boat to "The Fish Bowl", the biggest fish bowl we've ever seen. In the underwater observatory, we were the fish in the bowl. :)

These gentle, vegetarian giants wander from snack to snack in the fishbowl.

This 10-footer spun and spun and spun around the viewing station.

Caretakers supplement the manatees's diet of sea greens with vegetables, like lettuce, and vegetable pellets. Each manatee eats about 10% of it's body weight each day: 200 pounds of lettuce! That's a lot of salad...

It seems they have three modes: eat mode, play mode and relax mode.

This 6+ footer swam to the shallows until its belly could rest on the sand so they could sun their back.

Because it's been unseasonably cold in Florida for the past few months, Florida is experiencing their largest "manatee kill" ever. The placid mammals just can't handle the cold. Sad.

These ominous gators fare better:

A boardwalk trails through the park by a large waterfowl pond as well as birds of prey, native mammal and reptile exhibits and more, including an obviously not native hippopotamus left over from a circus. Florida residents balked at the plan to euthanize the hippo when the circus closed. Now it's a naturalized Floridian citizen.

Flamingos:

Egrets:

Sandhill crane:

The one redeeming quality of Nature's Resort RV Park (there's nothing "resort" about it) is across the street: Marguerita Grill which features margaritas as big as our heads and interesting eats.

And that's our Homosassa experience.

-P

St. George Island, FL

January 28-31, 2010 We stayed at St. George Island State Park, surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico and Appalachicola Bay.

St. George Island is just a big sand dune, a 22-mile barrier island between Apalachicola Bay and Gulf of Mexico, a quiet island surrounded by nine miles of scraggly slash pines, coastal scrub, white sand beaches, oyster shells, gulls, and balls of blowing sea foam rolling up the shore.

In the 1900s the pine forests were turpentined and the dunes used for troop training exercises during World War II. The island became a state park in 1963.

Source: Florida State Parks

St. George Island State Park campground also accommodates alligators in the marshes that border the entrance road. You have to pass them to get in or out of the park and to and from the beach.

We wondered if the fisherman that went along with the abandoned cart below intended to fish with the gators, but we looked around and found no one. Then we wondered something else on account of the 11 foot gator basking in the sun to the left of the tree.

The fisherguy came along in a minute and began toting his cart toward the beach. He'd have a set up similar to this:

Source: Florida State Parks

Surf and bay fisherman catch flounder, redfish, sea trout, pompano, whiting and sometimes Spanish mackerel.

Most St. George Island houses perch on pillars.

And some reach high for the best views.

The dune on one side, the sea on the other:

In our search for high speed internet, we crossed the 4-mile John Gorrie Memorial Bridge from the island to Apalachicola and found Cafe Con Leche on Water Street. The cafe features organic dark roast coffee, scrumptious breakfast paninis, fresh baked pastries as well as art and boutique items. 

Apalachicola has a lot of character. Old waterfront warehouses and net factories have become galleries, shops, restaurants and hotels. Once the third largest port on the Gulf of Mexico, Apalachicola still boasts an active maritime culture and a working waterfront.

We highly recommend St. George Island State Park for campers, beach-walkers, cyclists, kite flyers, anglers, and for the lazy. ;) We wish we could've stayed longer.

-P

Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park

December 8-10, 2009 Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park in McCalla, Alabama was only meant to serve as a waypoint en route to New Orleans. We didn't expect an interesting stay, but were happily surprised with what the park has to offer, including ...

... old blast furnaces and blower houses, ...

... history ...

... rustic architecture ...

... poignant stories about "Powder Monkeys" ("boys ... under the age of subscription ... used as laborers in saltpepper production ... these boys entered the caves at daybreak and left after sunset doing backbreaking work by candlelight ... Many suffered from lung and back problems.") at the Alabama Iron and Steel Museum, ...

... Amish butter, all kinds of candy and ...

pickled hot okra at the Sweet Shoppe.

-P

WOW! Moonbow!

December 2, 2009 (I think) When the dark fell down, Debbie, Jay and I ventured out with a nighttime picnic to Cumberland Falls State Park in Kentucky to see a natural anomaly, a moonbow! I'd never heard of such a thing.

"Known as the 'Niagara of the South', the 125-foot wide curtain of water is dramatic day or night. But it's only at night during a full moon that you can see the moonbow, a phenomenon not found anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere."

And there it is:

It looks like daytime because the three of us played with the exposure setting on my camera, using terminology and strategies we all learned from Lloyd, and captured the bow. With the naked eye the moonbow was a silvery arc in a wall of mist, but my Leica D-Lux 4 pulled out colour from the pitch black. That impressed us almost as much as the bow itself. :)

And if that wasn't enough marvelling for one night, we were later treated to a bold halo around the moon above the Faires house.

It was an extra special night of wonder...

-P

WOW! Moonbow!

December 2, 2009 (I think) When the dark fell down, Debbie, Jay and I ventured out with a nighttime picnic to Cumberland Falls State Park in Kentucky to see a natural anomaly, a moonbow! I'd never heard of such a thing.

"Known as the 'Niagara of the South', the 125-foot wide curtain of water is dramatic day or night. But it's only at night during a full moon that you can see the moonbow, a phenomenon not found anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere."

And there it is:

It looks like daytime because the three of us played with the exposure setting on my camera, using terminology and strategies we all learned from Lloyd, and captured the bow. With the naked eye the moonbow was a silvery arc in a wall of mist, but my Leica D-Lux 4 pulled out colour from the pitch black. That impressed us almost as much as the bow itself. :)

And if that wasn't enough marvelling for one night, we were later treated to a bold halo around the moon above the Faires house.

It was an extra special night of wonder...

-P

Recent Utah Hikes

Capital Reef NP - Cassity Arch Hike This is a wonderful hike in the area Butch Cassity and his men hid from the law. The views along this trail are breathtaking. It is a strenuous hike.

Capital Reef NP - Capital Gorge Hike

This is an easy hike along the floor of the canyon where the Mormon pilgrims carved there names into the walls of the canyon in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Escalante SP - Petrefied Forrest Hike

This is a moderately strenuous hike that leaves the campground and ascends to a great view of the town of Escalante and many large petrified tree trunks.

Escalante National Monument - Devil's Garden Hike

This is an easy hike around the hoodoos and formations. See the upcoming photo gallery for images from this magical place.

Bryce NP - Queens Garden Navajo Loop Hike

Sorry for the poor quality of this Google Earth image. There must have been a fire when the Satellite took these photos since smoke covers the entire Bryce area on Google. But this hike is considered the "world's greatest three mile hike" and we would have to agree. After a steep decent into the canyon floor you have wonderful views of Bryce from below. The steep ascent out of the canyon makes this a moderately strenuous hike. Well worth the effort. -L

Goblins

August 1, 2009 Goblin Valley State Park, UT

An ancient sea deposited sediments here 170 million years ago. Since then wind and rain have sculpted the sandstone into odd goblin-like formations.

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They're not all goblins. Some are mushrooms. Doesn't Lloyd look like a little Smurf here?

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And I think I saw toy soldiers and a few naughty forms.

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Visitors can wander through the valley. Part of the San Rafael Swell in the background:

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"San Rafael Swell is a wonderfully unique kidney shaped geographical anticline on the Colorado Plateau in central Utah. The "Swell" is about 50 miles in length and 30 miles in width. Only one paved road crosses through the approximately 600,000 ..."  Impressive.

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Some of the San Rafael desert:

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Only the hardiest of animals can live here: scorpions, midget faded rattlesnakes, pronghorns and kangaroo rats.

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Few people visit this park, but we highly recommend a stop if you're driving from Moab through Hanksville or to Capitol Reef National Park.

-P

Goosenecks State Park, UT

June 28, 2009 We could only catch up to two "goosenecks" in a shot.

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In fact, we could only see four from the viewpoint. Imagine at least that many with the gold-green San Juan River, a thousand feet below, snaking back and forth for miles...

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The river flows 5 miles, but only makes 1 mile of headway toward Colorado River and Lake Powell.

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-P