One very sad thing I just found out today - my friend Connie lost her mother on Christmas Eve. I knew Margarete for more than 15 years and, as I put into the family's online condolence book, I don't think I ever saw her any other way than smiling and happy and feeding everyone around her. "Eat something..." was her mantra! My heart breaks for Connie and her entire family. This is one of the few times I wish I was home, so I could be there to offer my condolences in person.
OK-so here we are, at Hillsborough River State Park. But to back up - we left Cedar Key on December 29th and moved about 80 miles south to a nice RV park in Crystal River. The park is called Crystal Isles (we love the names of these places...!) and it was quite nice actually. The sites are all really big and we were assigned to a very nice spot on the side of their little "lake" - see attached pix. They have a very nice swimming pool, a full schedule of activities (which, frankly, doesn't really matter to us but is nice for the other guests) and you can even have a fire! (Believe me, this is not the norm!) We only stayed for three days, but it was enough to give us a good taste of what the park is like. We would certainly consider coming back here sometime, but probably not until we begin to slow down a little. For us, the best places continue to be state parks and other places where we can do a lot of the physical things we enjoy doing.
So, to continue, we left here on Sat, January 1st and moved another 80 miles or so south - to Hillsborough River State Park, just south of Zephyrhills. We were here last year for about a week, and this time we're here for 10 days. We REALLY like this park. It has terrific walking and hiking trails, for me. And Dave likes to bike here because the park road is a one-way loop with a nice bike path on the side. The loop is about 3.5 miles, so Dave rides it two or three times to get his daily workout (that's why he's still such a hunk!). But the best thing about the park is the river itself. The river is VERY clear and pretty - in most places you can see right to the bottom when you're kayaking. There are no houses at all along the part of the river where we kayak - it's like a primitive jungle and is absolutely beautiful. I've attached some pictures (including one with a nice gator in it, alhtough you might have to look a little closer to see him), but none of them do justice to how pretty it really is. We went for a paddle today and are just amazed at how gorgeous it is, and how quiet and peaceful. It's probably one of our favorite places to paddle. When we were paddling today, we both saw an alligator slip into the water ahead of us. He began swimming down the river at a nice leisurely pace and was completely out of the water (normally an alligator goes right under or just has his beady little eyes sticking out). We just followed behind him for probably 200 or 300 yards, until he finally just swam back into a little inlet. It was VERY cool!
As I mentioned earlier, the trails are also very nice. There is a combination path/boardwalk that runs along the edge of the river - I'll take some pictures tomorrow and attach them. There's a pretty little rapids at the top of the river and a couple of bridges that cross over to trails on the opposite side. There's a really pretty little 1 mile trail across the river, and also a more challenging 3.2 mile trail loop. The longer loop runs along the edge of the river for a mile or more, then circles back into the jungle (that's what I call it!) and then returns to the starting point. It's very dense and green and jungle-like, with lots of roots and bumps and stuff (so you have to be kind of careful walking - it would be very easy to trip and fall!). What's really cool is that there is an AVA walk right in the park! It incorporates the 3.2 mile trail plus the 1 mile trail plus the river walk trail all into one very pretty 10K walk! So I get another stamp in my book!
It's nice to know we have another full week here before we move on to the next park. Since it's the first of the month, I'll be putting in a few extra work hours, but I know I can schedule it all so I can still have lots and lots of time to PLAY OUTSIDE every day! What a great start to the new year!