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New Sights and New Routines

After Navarre Beach, the next planned destination was quite a ways farther down the gulf coast to visit my friend John Snow in Fort Myers. John (another old friend from the photographic industry) cast the bait when he offered a free place to park my RV and set the hook with, “I’ll take you fishing!” I loved fishing when I was young. Most memorable were the carefree days spent fishing from the dock or a canoe on Spirit Lake, at the base of Mt. Saint Helens. (More on my memories of those days here.) I’ve had little opportunity to do much fishing as an adult, but since Hobie Kayaks are designed with fishing in mind I’m thinking it’s time to buy a rod and reel (and freshen up on my fish cleaning skills!)

The trip from Navarre to Fort Meyers is about 600 miles, which is at least 10 hours in an RV. I’ve learned that anything more than 5 or 6 hours is a LONG drive in The Beast, especially if the conditions are anything but open road and mild weather. Rather than drive all the way down the gulf coast, with an overnighter somewhere along the way as I intended, John suggested Ichetucknee Springs as a place I’d enjoy kayaking. After a little online research of the area I reserved a camp site near the north end of Ichetucknee Springs State Park, and then settled in for one last night at Navarre Beach.

When it started raining lightly just before dark I debated putting my kayak on top of my car. As mentioned in my last post, this is still a bit of a chore for me on my own, and I didn’t relish the idea of doing it in the pouring rain. The idea of getting out to celebrate another sunrise on Santa Rosa Sound got the better of me though, so I left the kayak down and ready to launch. When I woke in the middle of the night to rain so heavy it sounded like gravel hitting the roof of my RV, I wondered if I was going to regret not getting my kayak tied down on top of my car the night before. I know how quickly the weather can change though, so I fell back asleep with hopeful thoughts and visions of a beautiful sunrise.

Unfortunately it was not to be. I woke to the pouring rain and practiced avoidance over a second cup of coffee. While working up the gumption to handle what came next, I opened the door so the dogs could hop out to relieve themselves. They walked to the doorway, looked out, and then in unison looked up at me as if to say, “You’re kidding right?” I was asking myself the same thing. Not only did I have to wrestle my kayak to the roof of my car and get it strapped down tight, I had the “pulling up stakes” routine to handle as well. [For those of you who dream of doing what I’m doing, but have no RV experience, you should know that this is part of the routine EVERY time you set out for a new destination. Rain or shine!]  Next step was stowing my grill and lawn chair and tools I had pulled out back into the storage compartments. Then backwash, disconnect and hose down and stow the sewer line. Unhook and roll up the water hose. Unhook the power cord and wrestle that monster back into the belly of The Beast. Bring all three slide-outs in and raise the leveling jacks. Batten down everything that could slip, slide or fall while wobbling down the road. Move the car aside and pull the RV out far enough to get the car aligned perfectly behind it. Hook up to the tow hitch, safety chains and electrical cord. Go through all the gears and leave the car running for 3 minutes before turning the key to auxiliary. And in the case of this morning… peel off the rain slicker and muddy shoes, program the GPS, and we’re good to go!

With the dogs sitting dry and happy on their platform next to me we set out down the road in the downpour. Unfortunately it didn’t take long before the wind kicked it into high gear as well, and for the next few hours I “white knuckled” it through one the most brutal drives I’ve endured to date. It was so tiring that I took advantage of several rest stops along the way just to give my muscles a break. I’ve said it before… this ol’ girl (I’m taking about my motorhome) does some serious shuckin’ and jivin’ in heavy winds, and it is my job to keep her upright and between the lines. It can be exhausting!

We finally arrived safe and sound in Fort White (just a ways northwest of Gainesville) and our quiet little campsite in the woods. When I say quiet I mean I was the only one camped there with the exception of a few full time residents of the park. It was very peaceful listening to nothing but the sound of birds happily singing in the trees. I have to add, the best part of the drive was seeing all the beautiful wild flowers along the roadways in Florida!
Ichetucknee Springs was very quiet as well. I put my kayak in the water at the north end of the park and peddled/paddled my way downstream for about two hours. With little rain this season the water level is much lower than normal, so what is normally a fairly fast moving stream (very popular place to float downstream on inner tubes!) actually took a bit of work to navigate. The low level meant dragging through the thick aquatic grasses and lily pads. With camera in hand (or in lap) I was constantly alternating between peddling where I could and pulling up flippers and rudder to paddle where I had to. All worth it though! I got a great workout AND enjoyed the amazing natural beauty, completely unblemished, all along the way. And not another soul around! I have to admit I cringed at the thought of water snakes lurking in the low hanging trees I had no choice but to go under. I’d heard tales of Water Moccasin dropping from trees into the bottom of passing boats with a sickening thud. Thankfully I did not see a single water snake on my trek. Lots of turtles though! And an amazing variety of birds! When I arrived at the south end of the park I turned around and ventured back up stream to where I started (and my car was parked).

Judging by the condition of his shell, this little guy must have tales to tell!

Cormorant comically fleeing in fear

Double-crested Cormorant

Great Egret

Great Egret in flight

Raccoon fishing up some lunch

Not a favorite shot, but the only one I saw… Male Anhinga

Common Moorhen

Little Blue Heron

American Coot

Juvenile White Ibis

Juvenile White Ibis

Great Egret and Snowy Egret

Limpkin

I was amazed to see numerous turtles, often huddled close sharing a single log. As I drew near most would drop with a loud “plunk” into the water. Only the bravest stayed above to watch me go by. And some were curious enough to swim over and check me out from below.

Notice the baby turtle balanced on the back of what I assume is his mother.

Great Egret

Great Egret with White Ibis fishing in the background

Black-crowned Night Heron

The next day I reconnected with a new friend I met while in Colorado a few months ago working on my book. Elissa, not only shares my daughter’s name (the only other place I’ve seen that spelling is on the bow of a ship in Galveston Bay), she shares my love of nature and adventure. She brought her sister, Libby, along for some kayaking on the Santa Fe River. They rented a two person kayak at Santa Fe Canoe Outpost in High Springs and Lars, the owner, was kind enough to drag my kayak along for the drop off and the pick up down river. This was a great 3 hour adventure!

I can’t help but wonder what lesson the wise old turtle is sharing with the youngster! 🙂

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron in flight

Next stop… Fort Myers. In the mean time I have to share another new routine I’ve begun. While focusing on developing a new exercise routine, I’ve also been pondering “diet”. Not that I’m needing to diet per se, but I had put on a few pounds since my journey began in September and lack of regular exercise was not the only culprit. I wasn’t necessarily eating more, but I was eating lazy. After long days on the road, and lots of hours out shooting and hiking, and then facing the hours of editing and blogging and other work I had to keep up with, it was easy to eat what was… EASY! When it came to keeping my weight in check I learned one very basic rule from my Father years ago… in order to maintain your weight you have to burn as many calories as you consume. To lose weight you burn MORE calories than you consume. Pretty simple. What was never factored in was metabolism, and I never understood why mine was always so slow. I consumed relatively little food throughout the day. That was my routine. The “three squares” that we were brought up on would never work for my body unless I were training for a triathlon! What I discovered recently, and I will share in much more depth in future posts, is the importance of eating “clean” and lean AND more frequently. Another huge change for me! I had been ignoring the “hunger pangs” my entire adult life. Now I have to remember to eat every 3 hours! I literally had to set a timer on my cell phone to go off ever three hours as a reminder. The difficulty is fitting food into a very active lifestyle. When kayaking or hiking or beach combing for hours on end I have to remember to bring along not only water, but a snack as well. And not just any snack, but a snack made up of lean protein and complex carbs. I will keep y’all posted on how these new routines are working out for me, but in the mean time here’s a recipe I concocted for some healthy snack bars that are easy to take along on my adventures. When I say concocted I mean I looked at some recipes and then adapted them to fit my new routine. I’ve never been big on exact measurements in the kitchen, and prefer “a dab of this and a dash of that” to suit my taste. In the case of this recipe I use coconut oil rather than butter for example, because I’ve read wonderful things about the benefits of coconut oil, and as much as I love butter, it’s guaranteed to end up as lard on my thighs!

Wholesome Fruit and Nut Bars

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 cup honey

1/4 cup water

1 cup coconut oil

1 tsp sea salt

6 cups rolled oats

2 cups roasted, sliced almonds

2 cups wheat germ

1/2 cup sesame seeds

1 cup dried pineapple, papaya, mango (or mixed… use whatever sounds good!)

1 cup raisins

1 cup chopped pitted dates

In large pan heat the sugar, coconut oil, honey, water and salt. Simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in oats, almonds, wheat germ and sesame seeds. Cook while stirring for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add fruits. Pour into jelly roll or baking pans lined with wax paper. Score deeply into bars. Allow to cool for an hour. Cool in freezer for 20 minutes before breaking apart.

I store half in the fridge and half in the freezer for a twice daily, healthy, high energy treat.

Enjoy!!

 

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