Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Lake Placid Area Sights and Happenings


Winter is festival season in the South. On Saturday we went to Okeechobee for the Speckled Perch Festival and discovered it was also the weekend for the Okeechobee Rodeo, and a huge bass tournament on the lake.  Fortunately we arrived early and visited all the booths before it got too hot or traffic got too impossible.  

The band was just getting set up at 10 a.m., and the parade participants were lining up for about two miles so all the main roads were getting shut down.

Finally getting a walk in the Okeechobee City park to visit the Speckled Perch Festival last Saturday.  I started this post a couple of days ago, changed the cover photo, and then got distracted, so it doesn't quite make sense. I thought some scenes from around the area were in order.  The cover is of a farm a mile down the road from us.  I always admire the Brahma cattle that hang out by the fence.  This area is obviously in transition from huge farms to residential and commercial areas.  Some of the farms look like this:

Some are hundreds of acres of solar panels, many are orange groves, and many are sugar cane.

Sometimes cattle crossings, complete with cowboys on horses stop traffic on rural roads.

Most of the area was divided into 1/4 to 1/2 acre lots many years ago, and canals dredged to connect many of the large bodies of water.  So there are a lot of small lakefront lots where both a well and a septic are possible.  

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Myakka River State Park


Myakka State park used to be our favorite park.  We've been on the boat tour many times and the tram tour once.  Always before, we saw so many birds and animals. The only place I've ever seen a Purple Galinul was on the boat tour.  However, even though it was a warm sunny day, the wind was just howling out of the East when we visited the park yesterday.

So what we saw while on the water were white cap waves, and looking back toward the visitor center we could see the smoke cloud of the prescribed burn.  The park ranger told us they burn 10,000 acres of undergrowth in the park every year.

We did see birds and alligators, but they were all in the protected area of the boat basin where they could shelter from the wind.  My advice is if you are going to spend the $20 per person for the boat tour, choose a day when it isn't windy.

Also, if you do take the boat tour on a windy day, even if the temperature is 76 degrees, if the wind is blowing, wear a sweater!
Of course, you will see alligators in the sunny areas out of the wind.  We were told there are between 500 and 1000 alligators in the lake. And the lake isn't that big - one mile across and about 2 and a half miles long.  The weir at the end of the lake usually has multiple alligators sunning themselves also.

Since Myakka State Park is very close to Sarasota and the busy areas along the west coast of the state, it draws hordes of visitors.  Even on a weekday, we had to wait in a line of about ten cars to check in at the front gate, and barely managed to squeeze onto the first available boat tour.  And the huge air boats that used to take people out on the boat tour have been replaced with barges with two 50 horse motors, which can achieve a high speed of about 5 knots, and which can't get close to the shore like the air boats did in the past.  The feral pigs and shore birds along the banks of the lake were only visible with binoculars.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Fisheating Creek Outpost


While not a State Park, the Fisheating Creek Outpost has signs proclaiming it part of the "Great Florida Birding Trail".  A large campground along Fisheating Creek also has a camp store, washroom, and canoe rentals.

                                        Lots of canoes along the bank of the creek.

While I might be a bit anxious about jumping into a canoe in a creek that clearly has alligators, the nearness of the alligator didn't seem to disturb the little blue heron in his fishing.  We've even seen birds on an alligator's back.  The park docents say that alligators prefer food without feathers.

Oak trees can be pretty interesting - the limbs often grow horizontally instead of vertically, creating a nicely shaded picnic area.

                        Most old oak trees have many epiphytes growing on their bark.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Highland Hammock Annex Park

 Highland Hammock State Park has several areas - the main park offers camping in both developed sites and primitive areas.  Tram tours run twice a day, a CCC museum, camp store, and picnic pavilions are featured in this part of the park. 

We discovered a picnic area with a small lake, scrubby flatwood area, restrooms, and covered picnic area a few miles from the main park.  It has become our favorite place to practice with our drone.  
Today we surprised a man and wife who were fishing on the lake when our drone flew over.  We're getting more bold and less fearful of drowning the drone or flying it into the trees of the forest.  
I went to talk to them to assure them our intentions were good and asked them about fishing while Ron ran the drone.  Today wasn't a good fishing day - only one Gar, which they didn't keep - but they said they have caught monstrous bass in the lake in the past.

The picnic area is ideal for launching the drone as it has a cement apron in front of a table and benches where we can sit.

We're getting better at taking pictures of ourselves with the drone.  It can be quite exciting moving the toggles too fast and sending the drone speeding in the wrong direction, bolting into the air out of sight, or plummeting toward the ground.  So far, so good - still on our first set of wings and toggles.

Information sign for the day.  We've been looking diligently, but so far haven't spotted either variety of skunk - or even smelled skunk or seen any as road kill.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Paynes Creek Historic State Park

Obviously this park has seen busier times.  The parking lot is large enough for many cars and boats with trailers, and there is this curious sign just before we got to the lot:
So it must get a lot busier than we found it.

The map shows how large the park is and how many different things there are to do here.
Another informational sign - All of the undergrowth in the parks and most of the huge empty spaces in the middle of Florida are routinely set on fire.  Pine and most palm trees seem to withstand the prescribed fires.
We often see worrisome clouds of smoke and remember a few years back when about half of Florida was on fire.  The prescribed burns supposedly keep the area safer as fuel for out of control fires is minimized.
It doesn't look very pretty when first done, but things grow so fast here that in days it starts getting green again.

Payne Creek Park isn't just for canoe people and fishermen, but it does have several places to get into the creek.  It also has a huge playground and several pavilions for picnic parties.  
The visitor center was closed due to Covid, but well-maintained grounds and sparkling clean restrooms at the main picnic/playground area showed it is being cared for.  We only saw two other vehicles in the entire park - both with out of state plates.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Lake Istokpoga


This appears to be the main park on a very large lake just outside Sebring, Florida.  We couldn't figure out if it was a city or a county park, but it isn't a State Park and isn't listed on any of the maps we've found.  And how to pronounce it?  Not a clue.

Another well tended and nearly empty park, with restrooms, picnic pavilions, trails, boardwalks along the lake and boat ramps.  There were several trucks with empty boat trailers (most with out of state plates) in the parking lots, and we did see boats out on the lake with fishermen.

They do have rules and informational signs.  These are more about fishing rules and regulations and less about teaching.  We talked to the lone fisherman at the end of the dock, and he told us that bass and crappie were the species found on the lake.

The boardwalks and benches extend out into the lake so you can see just how large the lake is.

We did spot an alligator lying in the middle of a patch of water lilies and weeds at the edge of the lake.

Can you spot him?  There's also a little blue heron and a turtle in this picture.

Obviously the park was developed over a swampy area, because the Cypress trees can still be found in the grassy areas, and oddly Cypress knees pop up all over the open dry spaces.

Monday, March 1, 2021

A Trip to the Eastern Shore


While we're surrounded by lakes in Lake Placid, we are an easy day trip to beaches on the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico.  The salt water beaches attract many more people, so not a good motorcycle trip as we don't like to ride the bike in heavy traffic.  This picture shows the stark difference between the State Parks along the water and the commercially developed areas.

Ft Pierce Inlet

Barrier islands along the Atlantic coast form a protected passage for boats on the intercoastal waterway.  In Florida, Highway A1A runs along the barrier islands with the intercoastal on the west and the Atlantic Ocean on the east, with occasional corridors between the two bodies of water.  

The Corps of Engineers built up the natural passage with tons and tons of stone on both sides at Fort Pierce.

The park at Fort Pierce offers fishing along the inlet, and lots of beautiful sandy beaches.

It was a hot sunny day and people were starting to flock to the park even at 9:30 a.m. when we arrived at Ft Pierce.
The red flag in the background warns that it is a windy day and caution should be exercised by surfers and swimmers.  
The sea birds were out in force - all facing into the wind.  We could walk within a couple of feet of them before they would even think about moving.
Avalon State Park is only a couple of miles north of Ft. Pierce State Park.  There are lots of other entertainment possibilities along A1A.  

The Navy Seal museum is located on A1A but we didn't stop for a visit yet.  We headed back across the farmland in the middle of the state accompanied by the wonderful smell of orange blossoms, happy to be heading away from the traffic of the coastline.