Saturday, December 12, 2015

Now We're At Ocala National Forest

Musings first...

We're often asked how we plan our travels, and we are honest and say our planning is minimal at best.  Typically we know where we want to be around a given time, but how we get there is planned kind of on the way.  We know, for example, that we need to be in Livingston, Texas by January 5th, so to start, we sketched out a potential route in our atlas, taking us from Tampa to here at Ocala. But should we want to, we will deviate from the route we highlighted. Those green dotted roads (scenic roads in the atlas), often dictate how we'll get from place to place.  And sometimes it's a grocery store, a laundromat, or free "camping" at Walmart that nudges us along a certain path.  This type of freedom is truly appreciated by us.

And mosquitos are not my friends.  If they are around, they aim for me.  I have bites and welts almost everywhere and itch like crazy!  I take Benadryl, and use mosquito coils (toxic as they may be) at our campsites.  If you have a secret remedy for the itching, let me know!!

We arrived at Ocala NF and went right to the ranger's station to get oriented.  We decided on a small campground after our stays at the bigger state parks.  We got here around 1pm and got organized.  We love how quickly it takes with our teardrop!  Basically, we park, set up the side tables, do some other odds and ends with the campsite like setting up our tent (REI In-Camp tent) which is our living room.  We ate some lunch and have just hung around, listening to birds and insects.  

One of the beauties of our travels is just listening and hearing.  We've had a barred owl close by calling,   and listened to woodpeckers when we arrived.  Now, at 7pm, we hear a neighbor now and then, but mostly it is super peaceful with only the animal sounds serenading us!  It is bear country, but the campground volunteer said none have been reported at this campground.

Entering Ocala National Forest

We've spent two nights here so far and all is well and quiet!  The barred owls call regularly as do the pileated woodpeckers.  There are many black and turkey vultures that roost at the campground too.  

Today, Friday, we went searching for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.  We drove well into the forest on forest road 11, where there are a number of colonies established.  The trees where they have nested have a wide white ring painted on the trunk.  We walked through one area where a few trees were marked.  Unfortunately, we didn't see the birds, but just finding the trees was exciting!  We were here at Ocala about 15 years ago and luckily saw the woodpeckers then, but we're hoping to see them again!

Marked trees where red-cockaded woodpeckers have nested




Look closely for a hole and mesh on the tree trunk; a nesting site




The red-cockaded makes a hole for the nest, and then makes a series of smaller holes around the main hole.  These small holes allow sap to drip around the nest hole and it is thought that the sap might deter some predators. It appears the forest service is reinforcing the nest holes, but we don't really know for sure. Something to research!

The weather has been beautiful, days are sunny and temps are in the 70's, nights are clear and starry, with temps in the low 50's.

We have had interesting insects at the campsite, one pictured below.