Wednesday, April 19, 2017

South to North Part III

On Monday, April 3, we were sitting out tornado watches and severe thunderstorm warnings in Santee, South Carolina at the Santee state park, in our travel trailer.  Watching radar on our cell phones showed where tornadoes might appear.  For a brief moment, our county was pictured, and then thankfully it disappeared.  Even earlier that evening the ranger came around to alert campers about the possibility of a tornado; directions were to head to the brick and concrete restrooms if a tornado was imminent.  We were prepared to book it!  Although we did experience thunderstorms, predicted hail and damaging winds didn't materialize.  Our only issue is that we lost electricity for just a short time.  Overall, we were quite lucky as severe storms were happening in the areas around us.

We picked the state park off the map as it looked like a nice area and decided to stay two nights.  Electric and water hook-ups were available and the fee was not very high, although the cost eludes me now!  The loop we camped in was called Lakeshore, right on the shoreline on Lake Marion, off of the Santee River.

Heading down the road to the Santee state park.

This is part of the sinkhole the trail is named for!

We requested a campsite on the perimeter of the loop, and though we were close to the woods, we had a slight view of the lake.  Later we went down to the lake just to take it all in.

Lake Marion.

On the 3rd, before the storm warnings, we noticed a piece of something was loose in the center of the tire rim, ultimately discovered to the the bearing buddy, a cover that goes over your wheel's bearings.  A silver disc-like cover goes over the assembly and that was missing.

Two of the greatest resources we refer to for trailer answers is the Rpod owners forum and the Rpod Facebook group.  Both of these groups are very active, and everyone is free with their advice to help you solve your Rpod related problems.  Lots of folks chimed in with their comments, everything from "uh oh, your are in trouble", down the line to identifying what this loose part was.  Michael took off the wheel and rim and discovered it was an easy fix (thankfully!).  He re-installed the bearing buddy tightly, and that was that!  Once the wheel was reassembled, Michael covered the opening with duct tape, silver of course for a match, until we order a new cover to go over the bearing buddy.  Luck was on our side with this one!

A great zebra swallowtail butterfly!

One beautiful spot we visited was the Santee National Wildlife Refuge, Bluff Unit, not too far from the state park. It is bordered by Lake Marion on the west and Cantey Bay to the east. It has been called one of the best inland birding areas in the southeast.  There are forests, ponds, fields, and freshwater marsh.  After stopping at the small visitors center, we drove on the refuge road to the Santee Indian Mound that dates back to 1200 to 1450.  This one mound rose about 30' and was part of a ceremonial mound complex.  European settlers encountered the Santee Indians in the 1700's and  shipped many to the West Indies as slaves.  British troops erected Ft. Watson on the abandoned mound.  General Francis Marion, for whom the national forest is named, took it in 1781.  This remaining Santee Indian Mound was added to the National Register of Historic Places.  It was a moving experience to be there thinking about the history of this special place.  We climbed up to the observation deck allowing us to view the mound from above.

We then took a walk one the one mile Wright's Bluff Nature Trail.  It was an easy walk through the woods and overlooking Cantey Bay.

Cypress trees.

Hitching a ride!

Heading deeper into Francis Marion National Forest.

Two of our three cats traveling comfortably!

Bought great tomatoes and boiled peanuts.  I couldn't handle the smell of hose peanuts!  Michael liked them!

Now we are in NJ, visiting relatives.  I'll update soon!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

South to North Part II

Georgia presented one of the true highlights of our two years on the road...the Golden Isle, and more specifically, Jekyll Island!  We have wanted to visit the island since we hit the road, and this time the logistics were perfect!  The big attraction for us on Jekyll Island was the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.  Why?  Well, we developed a love for sea turtles while living on Cape Cod in MA, when we volunteered for Mass Audubon's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (and where I worked for our last four years on Cape). During the summer, adult and  juvenile sea turtles (primarily loggerheads, greens, and Kemp's Ridleys, the rarest and most endangered of all sea turtles) born in the south, migrate north to the Cape Cod Bay to feed on an abundance of food.  As the water temperature starts to dip, the instinct to migrate back to the south for the winter kicks in.  Putting it simply, the juveniles don't quite get it and end up stranded in the bay.  As water temperatures continue to decrease into the 60's and 50's, these remaining turtles get stunned by the cold temps.  Their metabolism severely slows down and they begin to float on the water, unable to fend for themselves.  November and December are the peak months for stranding so the wildlife sanctuary forms a large corps of volunteers to walk bayside beaches looking for these stunned turtles.  The turtles are typically brought onto shore by the incoming high tide and then as the tide goes out, they are left on the beach.

Volunteers are trained how to handle these stunned turtles, who look dead.  But in many cases they are actually alive, but so severely stunned they do not move.  Sanctuary staff gathers the turtles off the beach and take them back to the center where initial assessments are made as to the condition of the turtles.  Then additional volunteers drive the turtles to the New England Aquarium for rehab.  If the number rescued is very high, the aquarium will ship the turtles out to other turtle rehab centers for care.  Which brings us to the Georgia turtle center!

We were thrilled to visit the hospital area and see 3 Cape Cod turtles that were saved this past winter!  Be prepared for lots of following photos!

The above two photos show the tanks used to rehab the sea turtles.  The above turtles are loggerheads.  They are tended to by veterinarians, vet techs, and volunteers.  See below.

The above two photos are of diamondback Terrapins, a salt marsh turtle, not a sea turtle.

The above are box turtles!  These turtles are superficially related to tortoises in their terrestrial habits and appearance, but are actually members of the American pond turtle family.

The center had a very impressive education center and gift shop, too!  

Jekyll Island itself is beautiful!  Quiet residential areas, lovely beaches, fantastic bike and walking trails, small shopping areas, and more.  We camped just two nights at the island campground.

Lots of island history to check out, too.

We look forward to returning to the Golden Isle to visit other islands in the chain.  Meanwhile, stay tuned for South Carolina!  See you in a few days!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

South to North Part I

After spending a few days in Ft. Myers, Florida with Michael's father and brothers, we headed to Tampa for a visit with family, my sister and brother-in-law, Linda and David.  

David with some of his large orchid collection.

Linda cooking for us...again!

One of Linda's friends, whom we never met, left a gift for us.  It was perfect:

While in Tampa, we had to find a place to camp each night as Linda's neighborhood doesn't allow parking on the street overnight.  So we alternated between Walmart and Cracker Barrel.  And who knew birding could be so good in a restaurant parking lot!

Wood stork

Great egret with some breeding plumage.

White ibis.

It was time to head north, so once again we headed to Ocala National Forest.  Since Lake Eaton didn't have potable water or a dump station, a fellow camper told us about another Ocala campground a short distance away that had both the dump station and water.  This campground at Fore Lake was larger with roomier campsites, so we ended up camping there for a couple of nights.  It also gave us the opportunity to continue our unsuccessful search for the elusive red-cockaded woodpecker, and once again, no luck finding this bird!!

Next stop, Georgia!