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Some Key West Adventures ** More Florida Adventures ** More 2005 Travel Adventures



Places Visited:

Florida: Chiefland & Manatee Springs State Park; Disney World& Ft Wilderness Campground and finally Lake Kissimmee State Park, Lake Wales & Winter Haven.

Saturday, December 3: Manatee Springs State Park; Chiefland, Florida. $17 compacted sand interior roads and sites, 30amps with water and central dump station. N29° 29.372' W82° 58.429'




We made it to Manatee Springs State Park by mid-afternoon giving us time to walk around the springs and down a long boardwalk to a nice dock along the Suwannee River.

Note the cypress trees on the far side of the spring. To the right is the board walk that crosses over the flood plane on the way to the dock on the Suwannee River.






A pileated woodpecker greeted us from the top of a big oak tree on our site as we checked in. That is what we like, plenty of wildlife.





Manatees were not congregated in the spring like they will be later in the winter. During cold weather manatee migrate from the gulf and gather in the outflow of these springs where the water is warmer. We had to settle for this pic of Joyce with the parks cement manatee.








For those of you that have heard of cypress knees but never seen them Joyce took this picture of cypress knees protruding from the flood plane. Experts are not sure what the function of these knees are but they do not form into cypress trees. They do come from the root system.








For some reason vultures, both black and turkey, roost in Manatee Springs State Park along the bank of the Suwannee River, at the confluence of the spring run. Around dusk hundreds of vultures descend on the huge cypress trees in an impressive display that can be enjoyed from the dock.


The flood plane along the Suwannee River is a mixture of gum trees and cypress. The gum trees have dropped their leaves while bald cypress trees have turned a rusty brown. It has been dry in this area as evidenced by the bone dry flood plane. The picture of the small cypress tree on the right helps to better showcase the color of these bald cypress trees as they prepare to drop their needles for the winter.





I took this picture of Joyce on a spot of "high ground" in the Manatee State Park that shows some major flood levels. That is so hard to comprehend.

Joyce took the picture to the right as we walked back to the campground in Manatee State Park.







Sunday, December 4 through Friday December 9: Ft. Wilderness Campground @ Disney World in Florida. $52 for full hookup 50-amps paved site & interior roads N28° 24.19' W81° 33.38' ------ this is Disney's "CHEAP" season. During regular dates Ft Wilderness Campground is $90 or more.

The Disney World complex is very big as in larger than most cities. An employee told me that Disney World employed more than 55,000 fulltime individuals. From Ft Wilderness we have access to all the Disney theme parks including bus, boat & monorail transportation to each of these venues. We visited each of the theme parks, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, MGM Studios and the Magic Kingdom. Each of these contain more than one can do in a day. You just have to pick and choose rides and venues that interest you. I suppose theme parks are the "main" attractions but there is much more such as; Downtown Disney, 99-holes of championship golf, boat rides, fishing (catch & release) on one of the many lakes, trail rides on Disney horses, pony rides for the little ones, a petting zoo, swimming in many places the list goes on and on, then there is an athletic complex where the "Pop Warner" league world championship was being held this week.

Disney World goes out of their way to accommodate handicapped individuals. Strollers and wheelchairs go almost everywhere (especially on the Disney provided transportation systems).



We enjoyed the week at Disney World with our Son & his family. This is our DIL's time to spend Christmas with her family so we spent this quality time with them. Our 3-year old grandson had the time of his life. He really liked getting close to and talking with all the Disney characters. By weeks end Joyce and I were completely exhausted. We ran at full speed every day from early to late, too late in my opinion.








Saturday, December 10 through Wednesday December 14: Lake Kissimmee State Park 15-miles east of Lake Wales-- $17 water & 30-amps with central dump station, paved interior roads with dirt sites N27° 56.924' W81° 21.018'




The ride from Disney World was 50-miles of heavy traffic down US-27 then east on US-17A through mega orange groves. Lake Kissimmee State Park is more or less a fish camp located on Lake Kissimmee while at the same time preserving a historical cow camp. In the 1870's, when there were no fences, wild cows roamed the prairies in this part of the state. Cracker's (cowboys with "bullwhips") rounded up these wild cattle and drove them to holding pins where they were branded, sold and other things cowboys do with cattle. A grove of live oak trees here in the park was one of those cow camps. The state park has recreated this cow camp complete with their sleeping facilities, cook houses, corrals and holding pins.

The prairie stretches to the banks of Lake Kissimmee in this picture.





We like Kissimmee Lake State Park and the area around it for the flora and fauna especially the wildlife. The area is surrounded by mammoth orange groves, cattle ranches pristine lakes and fish camps.


Joyce took these pictures of the ubiquitous Sandhill Cranes that wander through the State Park and residential yards in this part of the state.







Deer, feral hogs, armadillo, sandhill cranes, anhinga, egrets, poinsettia bushes/trees, massive live oak trees draped in resurrection fern and Spanish moss, myriad varieties of palm trees and the brilliant fruits that adorn their crown, prairie lands covered with palmetto are just a few of the delicacies that entertain our optic senses.











Unlike humans, sandhill cranes mate for life. These cranes are generally spotted in pairs unless they have adolescents with them. At this time of year we are seeing groups of three or four sandhill cranes indicating the mating pair are being accompanied by one or more offspring that have not "left the nest" with a mate. Sandhill cranes can be seen roaming through the campground as well as feeding in residential yards. They are not skittish is the least bit. They are everything but pets in this area.









Lake Kissimmee State Park is located on a prairie on the northern bank of Lake Kissimmee. Most people find it difficult to think of Florida prairies but much of the southern portion of peninsula Florida is indeed a large prairie. On higher ground oak groves have established their niche in the ecosystem.


Both of these pictures give you a feel for this prairie land accentuated by picturesque live oak trees.


Feral pigs are so abundant that they have become a nuisance but we seldom see them as they are very elusive. However, they are not elusive enough to escape automobiles.





Most of us think of poinsettias as small potted plants that are available around Christmas. Around here poinsettias are big bushes that brighten the landscape of many yards.











Some homeowners go out of their way to titillate the optic pallet by combining brilliant orange trees with gaudy giant bird of paradise plants.

Myriad varieties of lilies add texture and colors to the landscape.












Imported tropical palm trees provide green fronds and vibrant fruits.


The bright orange fruit seeds on this palm tree really caught our attention.














Mulberry bushes are showing off their brilliant purple berries juxtaposed against the brilliant greenery of south Florida.


Resurrection fern adorns ancient live oak trees all over Florida. Resurrection fern gets its name from how it turns brown and withers during periods of drought yet "resurrects" after a shower.








These are more pictures of resurrection fern. You can see the vibrant green that appears after a shower.

















We drove into Lake Wales on Monday to visit Bok Tower and Sanctuary. For those of you not familiar with Bok Tower it is a beautiful carillon tower constructed in the late1920's on the highest spot of land on the Florida Peninsula at 290' above sea level. The apex of the Lake Wales Ridge is the site of Bok Tower.

We have Edward Bok to thank for leaving Bok Tower and sanctuary for us to enjoy. Bok was born in the Netherlands but moved to the United States when he was only 6-years old. As he embarked on his journey to the United States his grandmother told him, "Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it." It was those words that stuck with Bok and eventually resulted in Bok Tower and Sanctuary.

This area was where Bok wintered. He would walk to the top of this ridge to sit in solitude and watch breath taking sunsets. It was on one of these visits that he was inspired to purchase the property atop this ridge and hired America's most famous landscape architect to transform the area into a sanctuary that would "touch the soul with its beauty and quiet."

As the sanctuary started to take shape, Bok decided to add a carillon tower to be a visual and aural centerpiece for the garden. In 1929, the sanctuary (garden) and bell tower was dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge as Edward Bok's gift for the visitation of the American people.

What a story, this magnificent bell tower located on the highest spot on the peninsula of Florida. The tower was constructed of local coquina rock and pink marble from Georgia.






Bells were imported from England. These bells aren't your ordinary hand bells, far from it there are 60 bells weighing over 61.5 tons. The smallest weighs only 12 pounds while the largest bell, called the bourdon, weighs 22,300 pounds (over 11 tons). Bok tower is one of the most perfectly designed and situated carillon towers in the world. It complements the natural setting that surrounds it, and enhances the sound of the carillon within. In addition to hearing bells on the hour special concerts are held where professional carillonneurs bring the bells to life --- I suppose the socially correct thing to say is they "perform a recital?" The melodies played each hour & half hour were enough for my redneck taste. VBG





Entrance to Bok Tower includes a tour of the 20-room manor home of Austin Buck of Pennsylvania. This house typifies the winter retreat lifestyle wealthy snowbirds enjoyed back in the 1930's. Mr. Buck attended the dedication of Bok Tower in 1929 and fell in love with the gardens and property. Mr. Buck purchased property adjacent to Bok Tower and sanctuary and created his own "sanctuary" and garden complete with a winter retreat. Like Bok's formal gardens Buck's estate was designed by the same landscape architect that created the Bok gardens. This magnificent home showcases a 1930's Mediterranean Revival mansion complete with original furnishings and accent pieces from Europe. Italian tile is featured extensively throughout the mansion but principally in the downstairs areas. Downstairs floors are unique Cuban clay tiles. Massive ornate doors decorate every room.

If you get a chance visit Bok Tower the gardens and this manor home, you will be glad you did. For more information try





Lake Wales is located on a ridge that runs down the backbone of Florida's peninsula. East or west of that ridge the land gently slopes back to sea level on the east and west coasts. Polk County bills itself as having more acreage in citrus than any other Florida county. The citrus is located on the rolling hills of that ridge. Citrus groves quickly give way to prairies and cattle ranches east and west of the ridge. Western ranchers would envy these lush spreads that are able to graze large herds of cattle on much smaller ranches. The highest point on that ridge, the Lake Wales Ridge, is only around 290' above sea level so it is nothing spectacular.







We spent the remainder of the week visiting area fish camps and touring the area via our Saturn.

The picture on the left is the parking area at Camp Mack Landing & Fish Camp. To the right is a picture of Lake Rosalie only a mile or so east of Lake Kissimmee.








Joyce took these pictures along the banks of Lake Howard in Winter Haven just down the road from historic Cypress Gardens.

That is an anhinga on the left and cattails on the right.










Joyce also captured this picture of a moorhen and great blue heron while at Lake Howard.











Joyce captured this picture of cypress trees on the bank while at Camp Mack fish camp and this picture of the boat launch basin in Lake Kissimmee State Park.










This is a picture of an oak grove in Lake Kissimmee State Park an a sandhill crane that wandered through our campsite as we were trying to leave.








Thursday, December 15 through Wednesday December 21: Lake Manatee State Recreation area 15-miles east of Bradenton on Florida's west coast-- $17 water & 30-amps with central dump station, paved interior roads with dirt sites N27° 28.87' W82° 20.70'

Thursday morning found us packing up and heading south west to Lake Manatee State Recreation area located about 15-miles east of Bradenton on Florida's west coast. There is a Lake Manatee State Park and a Lake Manatee State Recreation area. Don't get them confused if you decide to camp here. I think both have campgrounds.

From the Lake Wales area we took State Road 60 to the small hamlet of Mulberry where we turned south on State Road 37. As we approached Mulberry we started noticing huge mounds of sand that resembled mine tailings we are used to seeing out west. Sure enough that is what they were, mine tailings or the residue from phosphate mine operations in the area. As we continued south on SR 37 we continued to see a steady line of these phosphate mines and their telltale tailings. I wonder if phosphate mines have to return their open pits to natural areas like the open pit coal mines have to. If they do we did not see any evidence of it. At one mine they were operating close enough to the highway that we could watch giant cranes in operation. The buckets on these huge earth movers were large enough to easily hold a 15-passenger van.

Unlike most of our journeys in this area we did not see any unusual wildlife today. That really is strange since we avoided congested highways and stuck to "blue-highways". Cattle ranches, phosphate mines and orange groves made up the vast majority of roadside activity until we got to the south end of SR-37 where we encountered an enormous tomato farm with staked plants stretching for miles. I suspect that tomato farm was several thousand acres. They must have been irrigating that tomato field with a drip system since we did not see any evidence of a sprinkler system. The field was flat as if it had been sculpted with a laser level and the land was extremely low, as in just above the water table.

It was so warm today that we had to wear shorts and could have easily turned on the air conditioner but the news says a cold front is headed our way that could put us back into jeans before it gets dark.

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Until next time remember how good life is.

Mike & Joyce Hendrix

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