Archives for 2015

Monday, Dec. 7, 2015 – Travel Day, Quick Change of Plans to Kissimmee Prairie Preserve

SAM_4169 SAM_4170 SAM_4166 SAM_4167 SAM_4168

Monday, Dec. 7, 2015 – Travel Day, Quick Change of Plans to Kissimmee Prairie Preserve

When we left Ocala, we were headed for St. Sebastian Preserve, but I finally got a return call back from them (I had left several messages trying to discern whether we needed to pick up water or if they had a spigot in one of their two horse camps), and learned that one camp was booked up and not available, and the other camp didn't allow travel trailers there, only live-in horse trailers and people in tents! They said there wasn't enough room for RV's, though I would have thought if they had room for live-in horse trailers, they could fit in a travel trailer. In any event, it was no go, so I pulled out my computer and started to look for alternatives. We even considered heading straight to my brother's, but a quick check with them warned us away, as they've had so much rain in that neighborhood that where we usually park is several inches deep with water, in other words, not really accessible. We also considered camping at Dupuis, which we love to ride but have never camped there, because they used to have a strict rule against dogs, though we learned from a camper at Doe Lake last month that they had changed that rule on July 1 this year. Finally, we decided to check out a new place that was pretty much on the way, Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. We learned they had corrals, spigot water at every site, and even electricity! All for just $17 a night! We headed there with gusto, having had a very pleasant conversation with a ranger (unlike the previous one at St. Sebastian), and arrived in short order. It was a pretty straight shot, and only the last few miles were on a pretty good dirt road, though it could have stood a little grading. We learned that the horse camp was fully booked on Friday, so unless someone cancelled, we'd have to move out by then. No worries, at least it bought us a couple of days. The terrain here is incredibly flat, with horizons that just seem to go on forever. Both campgrounds, however, are nestled among absolutely gorgeous live oak trees, providing fabulous shade even in the warmer-than-normal temps we're experiencing this week. Hubby found a spot that was available, site 24, which he predicted he could get a satellite signal. My cell phone had one to two bars, so with the antenna on my jetpack, internet was not a problem. Despite the bumpy start to the day, we settled in quickly, and enjoyed a super quiet evening, as this place is WAY, WAY out in the boonies!

Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015 – Football and Prep Day

Spent the day getting ready to leave tomorrow, and enjoying football and movies in between.

Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015 – Another Ride Day at Ocala NF

SAM_4162 SAM_4159 SAM_4160 SAM_4161

Bound and determined to plan a route that doesn't take us into the brush today, I mapped out a route that appeared on Google Earth to be sand roads almost the entire way. I always try to map as much of an area as possible, which gives us ample opportunity to see many different parts of the forest, and today was no exception. We headed south out of the camp, then east, and within a mile we were on a new road heading due east for a ways. Then we turned north for about 50 feet, then east again, along the back of some rather trashy homesteads with lots of junk, dogs in kennels and cows and horses in pastures along the way. That eventually turned north, and we were doing great so far, every trail more like a road, which made us both happy. Then despite a forecast with NO rain in it, it began to drizzle, though very lightly at first, then it stopped, then it started again, until it was hard enough for me to put on my poncho (Hubby decided he was already too wet to worry, though I'd asked him several times earlier if he wanted one.) Finally, we had to turn west again, and the road I chose, which looked perfect from the satellite, had evidently overgrown some since that picture was taken, because we quickly started running into overgrowth again, which by now was quite wet overgrowth. Much less than our previous encounters, at least, but still enough to cause us some concern for half a mile or so. Apollo once again turned into a bulldozer, picking up his pace and literally plowing through, and my only recourse was to grab my hat and lean over his neck, letting the branches skim my back as we went by, getting me drenched in the process. Hubby only caught a bad branch once, when the stampede strap on his hat broke, but otherwise we made it through, once again bursting onto a two-track trail, covered with pine needles. Whew! Happily, the rest of the trip was clear sailing, and we even got a bunch of canters in on the way back. I've been holding back since my fall two weeks ago, but we can't ignore the need, so we worked on cantering, trying to get him to slow down, as his habit is to start to canter, then get faster and faster, then catch something out of the corner of his eye and sidestep, which doesn't always end well for me. We managed half a dozen canters, with me doing my best to slow him down, and eventually he relaxed and was more cooperative. I hope when we get to my brother's house we can trailer them over to a nearby public arena and run them to death for a while, until they learn there is such a thing as a slow lope! Anyway, completed another 7.5 miles in good time, got the horses settled in, filled the RV with water for showers and hopefully a couple more loads of laundry tomorrow (drying weather permitting), then settled down with a nice bottle of wine and a barbecue chicken dinner.

Friday, Dec. 4, 2015 – Work and Errand Day

Spent the day working on the new book, hoping to get it done in time for the cattle drive we’re attending in January, made excellent progress. Hubby ran to a local feed store to pick up a couple of bags of horse feed and some generator gas. A good, quiet, productive day.

Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015 – Another Ride at Ocala National Forest

SAM_4156 SAM_4157 SAM_4158 SAM_4154 SAM_4155

After a nice rest day yesterday, and having played bulldozer a bit too much on our last ride, I did my best this time to plan a trip on roads I could actually see well on Google Earth, not paying any attention to what GE has marked as a trail. This proved to be a bit easier, but we still ran into overgrowth that had apparently sprung up significantly since the last GE picture was taken of the area. This time we circled the perimeter of the campground to the north, then crossed the road early and barely found the trailhead on the other side. There was a pretty big ditch on the side of the road that had been made by heavy equipment, but my big guy just stepped over it and hauled himself (and me) over it. Hubby and Clio followed, and we stayed on a two track trail for quite a ways. Even so, there was a lot of lumber that had fallen over the road, really amazed at how little maintenance goes on at this forest Fortunately this section was a lot more open, so getting around them was pretty easy. We turned north, still following a rather nice track, getting a bit concerned when a road that should have been on the left wasn't there, but as we continued on, the road eventually turned west, and I realized that when drawing the map, I had taken a shortcut because I couldn't actually see the road at that point. In any event, we stayed on the road, which stayed on track, and circled back east again, crossing the main road, missing a fork to the south, which, thanks to my GPS, we quickly realized, and got back on track. Then we came to a section that had a big berm, and several large trees blocking the way. We had to climb over trees to reach the top, then over a tree that laid across the berm and dropped directly downward. A bit tricky, but my guy managed it okay. Clio hesitated a bit, being the smaller of the two, but Hubby managed to move her to where the tree was slightly lower, and made it down okay. We followed that to a T, then turned left. That part of the trail, unfortunately, began to be overgrown again, not quite as bad as Monday, because there weren't any trees down that we couldn't get around, but lots of branches that were horse-head high, which meant lots of ducking and scraping for us, and a lot of bulldozing for Apollo. One time Hubby lost his hat and almost lost his glasses as the brush became too thick. Fortunately, that didn't last too long, and we soon came back out on a two track road, much to our relief. The rest of the way was pretty uneventful, thankfully, and we made it back to camp after completing our seven mile loop in relatively good condition. The weather was perfect, low 70's and sunny, with just a light breeze, just what we come to Florida for! Settled down to a drink and dinner and relaxed in this beautiful, live oak, mossy-covered park!

Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015 – Shopping Day

After spending a few hours on the new book, we decided to run down into the nearby town just west of here for groceries and other sundries that we needed, so that tomorrow would be a more productive day. Were out for a couple of hours, got most everything we needed, and got back to camp just as the sun was setting. Beautiful!

Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 – Rest and Laundry Day

Though I had managed to get one load of laundry done yesterday, today was my time to finish it off, so I started a load before breakfast, then we got out the sump pump so we could fill up the tank to do the rest. While there a many spigots throughout the park, they are not at every site, and they do not have threads on them, and the handles are spring-loaded, so we had to resort to our sump pump in a tub routine, which didn’t take too long. The rest of the day I spent catching up on my blog and writing my new book, which I hope to have ready by the cattle drive at the end of January.

Monday, Nov. 30, 2015 – Ride Day in the Southern Part of Ocala NF

SAM_4148 SAM_4149 SAM_4150 SAM_4151 SAM_4152 SAM_4153 SAM_4146 SAM_4147

With rain coming in later in the week, we decided to take a longer ride today, so after noon, we saddled up and headed out the horse trail which passes right behind our site. I had again mapped out a route on Google Earth due to the lack of a trail map, and we headed west across a field to a clear trail. We managed to stay right on track for most of the trip, with most of the trail good two track roads, many of which didn't look like it had had any motorized traffic on it for a long time, if at all. Occasionally we would be on a motorized road, and sometimes we had some lovely single tracks that were just perfect. Eventually, we got back to the main road, and I asked Hubby if he wanted to go straight back to camp along the road, or do another small loop I had planned across the road. Since we didn't want to arrive in camp through the front entrance (there's a leash rule we didn't want to break), but Hubby didn't want to take the loop I had planned, we decided to try to find a trail that took us back to camp without going by road. That choice turned out to be misguided. I found a road the looked like it was going back east, but actually ran more north. I thought eventually I would find a trail that crossed southbound (and in fact, Google Earth indicated such a trail), but it was impassable. After going too far east, we turned back and attempted to take what looked like a trail south that we had seen but decided was too impassable. Considering the alternative, we decided to give it a go. Unfortunately, we ran into a number of downed trees (and I forgot to put my camp saw in my saddlebags), so I resorted to jumping up and down on them until they broke enough for me to move them, or go around, which was very difficult. Apollo continued to be a bulldozer, these trails were almost completely overgrown, and only visible because of a small, pine-needle-covered indentation on the ground. After what seemed for forever, we FINALLY came out on an actual two-track trail, where I consulted my GPS and discovered we had, indeed, pushed ourselves southward, but also eastward, and the trail we crossed was the same trail we had come out on. A short mile or so later, we were once again, back at camp, though an hour after my estimated arrival from my original plan. Hubby had acquired some bruising and bleeding from running up against hard limbs, so I had to clean those up. Before putting the horses away, I walked them down to the dump (yes, this place even has a dump!) and rinsed them off with a very short hose there. Got them fed and bedded down for the night, we congratulated ourselves on our persistence (survival of our own dubious choices), and settled down for the evening.

Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015 – Travel Day to Big Bass Lake Campground

SAM_4163 SAM_4165 SAM_4164

By the time we got moving in the morning, quite a few people had left already, and we had a quick bowl of cereal and started to get ready. Julie came by to say good-bye, as did Paula, before we headed out. Fifteen short minutes later, we were pulling into our new campground, and just in the nick of time, as another camper at the dump had his eye on Site 10, our chosen site, but even though they're not allowed to reserve sites, the campground host was kind enough to take this new person into going into another site, as 10 was simply perfect for us. Good thing we arrived only moments later! It didn't take long to get set up, with the corral in place, the RV settled and the satellite dish up. Shortly after that, our friend Dee from Palatka arrived, and we had a wonderful afternoon getting caught up, drinking wine, have a good steak dinner, and otherwise enjoying the beautiful weather. She left about 5:00, and we then fed the horses and settled down to watch the football that we had recorded during our visit. A beautiful day! The only drawback of this place is that the mosquitoes are really bad, even during daylight hours, and we both have been getting bitten like crazy, even through our clothes! Well, at least it's not snowing, like in the Rockies and the Midwest!

Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015 – Another Ride Day in Ocala National Forest

SAM_4134 SAM_4131 SAM_4132 SAM_4141

After another decent night sleep and leisurely breakfast, we saddled up and took another route, north of the campground this time. Being the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the place was full of hunters, so we kept off the main trails and tried to follow a GPS route I had created from Google Earth. Dozens of miles of trails here, and no one has a trail map of any kind. Even what I found on the internet was hugely lacking, with nothing comprehensive whatsoever, which is what led me to simply scratching out a route from Google Earth. We wanted to check out a primitive campsite on Trout Lake, as we're hoping to find a place to go tomorrow, when we have to leave Doe Lake, but that is still in the area so we can meet up with a friend of ours who recently moved from PA to Palatka. Trout Lake wasn't really accessible for an RV though, the tree limbs were too low for us to get in, so we had to find an alternative. We swung north around Trout Lake, missed a turn I had planned, but continued to follow trails until we soon came back to camp, barely an hour after leaving. Again, most of the trails were well traveled, though we did get off on one that was pretty overgrown, my Apollo had to push through like a bulldozer to clear the way. Occasionally we came across a downed tree, but I was able to move it or go around it. Overall, the ride was a bit too short for my taste, but it left us time to solve the other logistics problem of where to go tomorrow. After putting the horses away, we headed out in the van to a place marked on a map I had that was supposed represent dispersed campsites that allow horses. Our first stop where called the South Firetower, but when we got to where we thought it should be, there was only a clearing, not a tower, and there were wood posts blocking the entrance for anything wider than a small car, so that was out. I kept heading south to try to find a way back that didn't require us going back over the many miles of potholed dirt road we had just traveled, and came across an official campground known as Big Bass Lake. I drove in to look at the map on the kiosk, hoping it would confirm where we were and if the fire tower site was where we thought it was, and had a lovely chat with the campground hostess, who told me, yes, there USED to be a firetower there, but no more. After a few minutes, I asked if they would allow horses there, and she said, no one had ever asked, and she didn't see why not, but she called her supervisor, and then the top ranger, and they all agreed it would be okay! What a find! Every time I had called the office here, they insisted the only non-primitive horse camping was at Doe Lake, with a group, period! Anyway, we drove around, and Hubby found the perfect site for his satellite signal, plus it had a great little clearing behind it that would make a perfect, concealed paddock for the horses! Fabulous! We told them we'd be back by mid-day tomorrow, and went on our way, happy that we were able to so easily solve our problem of where to go for the next few days! Perfect! We went back to camp, fed the horses, and then I went off to the dining hall to listen to an advocate, named Michelle, for the Great Florida Cattle Drive 2016 that's being held in January, and which Hubby and I have already signed up for. I learned a few things I didn't know before, but mostly it was a repeat of information I already had. Because I wanted to talk with Michelle afterward, I hung around while the club had a meeting, learned a few more rather surprising facts, listened to them discuss the horse slaughter problem that is apparently prevalent in Florida right now, and then run off on some tangents, as most meetings tend to do. I finally had to leave because we hadn't eaten yet, and I knew Hubby would be cranky by now without food, so I asked Julie to ask Michelle is she would stop by for a few minutes before she left. Fixed dinner, and not long after, Michelle and Paula, (the good officer) came by and we ended up chatting for nearly 1 ½ hours! Eventually, they left, Hubby and I watched a quick one-hour TV show and headed off to bed.