Welcome to our Adventure!

Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Homer, Alaska

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Travel Tidbits

We left on schedule from Florida on April 12. First time in three years we've actually departed on the scheduled date :-). Yay for us!

Our first stop was Topsail Hill State Park in Santa Rosa Beach Florida. This was a beautiful full hookup campground on the white sand beaches of the Florida Panhandle. I was so excited to actually score a site in this hard to reserve campground. Sadly, it rained the whole time we were there :-. We did get a short break in the weather one day to walk to the beach (about a half mile walk) and it looked beautiful, lurking in the dense fog. We also took a drive to Destin and walked the waterfront for awhile. It sure looks like it would be a rockin' place in the summer!
Our site at Topsail Hill State Park, Florida

We had originally planned to head to Vicksburg National Park for a couple of days, but with the awful weather forecast to continue, and flood warnings up for the Mississippi River in the area, we decided to scrap that idea and stay along the coast. Not that the weather was going to be any better, but no flooding was imminent.

We ended up getting a site at the Davis Bayou Campground at Gulf Islands National Seashore in Ocean Springs MS. It's a small campground with electric and water sites only. The best part of this change was meeting up with some Amazon friends, Fran and David Smith. While it was rainy again, we did take a nice walk with the dogs from the campground to the Visitor Center, stopping along the way to see the alligator in the bayou and exploring the waterfront area. We also stopped in the Visitor Center, watched the movie and perused the exhibits. If the weather was nice there are several boat excursions available taking you out to the barrier islands for further exploration. It definitely goes on the list for another visit.
The bayou as seen from the Visitor's Center
This gator barely moved for the 2 days we were there,

Fran and David entertained us one night by taking us to Biloxi to the casino row and dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe and Casino. It was sad to see the devastation along the waterfront Biloxi had sustained due to Hurricane Katrina, especially all the old antebellum plantations that had been destroyed. We did have a good time chatting with Fran and David, and wish them an excellent summer working at Hatteras Sands in the Outer Banks, NC.

After leaving Ocean Springs, we had two horrendous driving days through Louisiana on I10, I49 and I20. These have to be some of the worst roads we travel over. We overnight-ed in Natchitoches LA at Nakatosh Campground, and it really was way down on our desirable campsite list. Right behind a truckstop, no management on site. The only virtue it had was easy on/off the highway.

We then landed at Lighthouse RV Park in Melissa TX. We stay here while visiting Al's sister Sue and her family. Again, it's a no-frills campground off Hwy. 75, but only ten minutes from her house. We stayed there two nights, and endured a pretty strong thunderstorm the first night. The next day was pretty nice however, and we spent the day at Eisenhower State Park on Lake Texoma.  The park is very nice, with a large lake, several campgrounds, a small beach area and lots of hiking trails. The trails were extremely muddy from the recent heavy rains, so we passed on any hiking, but did try some fishing.

Beach area at Eisenhower State Park

Al's niece Kim, her boyfriend Frank and son Max

Trying their luck at fishing...no catching though :-(.

From Melissa we had a pretty long drive across to our next big stop, Grand Canyon National Park. We broke it up into four legs, stopping for one night in Amarillo TX, (with dinner at The Big Texan), then two nights at Santa Rosa Lake State Park in New Mexico, then one night in Gallup NM before finally landing at the Grand Canyon.

Santa Rosa Lake State Park was very nice, with a small electric/water campground and a couple of primitive campgrounds, on Santa Rosa Lake. It was a nice place to crash for a couple of nights. The weather was nice, for a change, and there were some nice hiking trails that we explored.

Our site at Santa Rosa Lake State Park. I like the covered picnic table :-).

We went for a hike along the Shoreline Trail.

A view of the dam and observation tower.

Headed down to the shoreline

Honey was ready to cool off!

All in all, it was a three mile hike. Quite enough for us since we are not used to the elevation yet.

The view from our campsite.

We had a pretty nice travel day from Santa Rosa to Gallup, but the next day as we headed into Arizona and the Grand Canyon, we had on and off showers all the way, as well as some hail as we headed up into Flagstaff. At least it was very small hail :-)! At Williams, AZ we turned off the highway and drove another hour north, finally arriving at Grand Canyon National Park. I had made a reservation a couple months ago at Trailer Village RV Park, the only full hookup campground right at the South Rim. So that is where we currently are. A recurring theme, the weather is terrible :-0, it's cold, raining and will be some snow tonight! We may not do too much hiking, but we are getting out and seeing what we can. That post will have to wait, and Monday we are supposed to finally see the sun. I plan on getting outside and getting some pictures then :-).

These elk created an elk jam on the way into Grand Canyon National Park.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

March is Done!

Where are Al and Karen??

I know its been awhile, but I really didn't realize its been a month since I posted anything. And hardly any pictures!

March was a month full of visits; visits from family and friends, and visits to doctors...all done with that now. We both have clean bills of health, thank goodness.

The beginning of the month we had a ten day visit from our close friend Ed from New York. It was the perfect winter for him to escape the cruel ravages of this year's snow in the northeast. Al and Ed played several rounds of golf in those ten days...pretty much the only time of year Al plays anymore :-). It can get expensive, but last fall we found the GroupGolfer site and by checking their emails were able to find several courses in the area that had half off vouchers. Score :-)! We also had our "cultural" outing during Ed's visit. Al had gotten tickets to see the Florida Orchestra in Tampa Bay play the works of composer John Williams. The concert was awesome, featuring music from such well known movies as "Star Wars" and "Superman", along with many many other movies and shows. I really do have a well rounded husband; I am so lucky he likes so many different things. We can go hiking, biking or kayaking; visit museums and exhibits; revel in the solitude of a mountain trail or experience the hustle and bustle of Walt Disney World; eat in a five star restaurant or picnic on the beach. We are really up for any and all experiences. it keeps things interesting, that's for sure :-).

Ed left on Friday March 13, and we turned over the guest room for our next guest arriving Saturday, our niece Emily. Emily is a freshman at Smith College in Massachusetts, and decided to escape the winter by visiting her grandmother, Al's sister Ginny. It was delightful having her down for the week, and we had several fun days, including a visit to EPCOT's Flower and Garden Festival, and a visit to Lakeridge Winery for their Wine and Seafood Festival. I would certainly recommend a vist to Lakeridge Winery in Clermont. They have a festival once a month year round, with a large craft fair and food booths, along with live bands. The theme is different every month. There is a tour of the winery, along with tastings of course. It was a really nice place to visit. An extra bonus was seeing our friends Flo Ann and Cliff Avery, who we worked with at Bar Harbor in 2013. They make beautiful wire-wrapped jewelry, and attend all the festivals at the winery in the winter.
Emily at Disney

As soon as Emily left on Sunday March 22, we packed up our rig and left Monday morning, headed for Jupiter, Florida. Our good friends Mark and Kiera were visiting family there, and we headed down to visit with them as well. Mark is one of Al's very good friends that taught EMT classes with him back in New York, and has succeeded him as senior instructor. They had a great time playing golf, and checking out boats at the Palm Beach Boat Show...no, there is no boat in our future at this time :-)! We stayed at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, and thought it was a very nice campground with extremely large sites and full hookups. Due to severe landscape damage from hurricanes a few years ago, there isn't much privacy between sites, but it didn't really bother us. There were miles of beautiful trails to walk the dogs on as well, so they were happy. Next time we will have to try kayaking on the river there, and visit the Trapper Nelson Interpretive site, which looks quite interesting. We also learned that Honey is apparently a beach puppy. We went down to the ocean beaches one day, and found a dog-friendly section south of Jupiter. She headed right for the waves, running in and splashing like she's always gone to the beach. It was so cute. 

After several happy times and good meals, it was time to leave Jupiter. We were then headed over to North Fort Myers for the weekend, to visit our good friends John and Carol Herr, whom we met and immediately bonded with out in the Grand Tetons. They volunteer at J. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, and we wanted to see them before they leave on their summer long trip to Canada.
We stayed at Upriver RV Resort, mainly because it was the only place I could find with an open site that was large dog friendly. We really liked it, even though it was an hour's drive from Sanibel, and it was your typical crowded campground in south Florida. But the staff was very nice, and we have to say, the people in the campground were the overall friendliest group of campers we've ever encountered as transients in a campground. There are lots of activities available, but it was quiet all the same. This is one I would also recommend if you are in the area.

John and Carol gave us a marvelous tour of the refuge and the island in two days. It was absolutely beautiful, and the weather couldn't have been more co-operative, with temperatures in the 70's and sunny both days. Our first day we went kayaking with them and their friends Patsy and Bob, who we had also met out in the Tetons. 
John and Carol ahead of us.

Carol took this picture of us as we headed through the mangroves.
The kayaking was beautiful, but we did have a rather severe mishap as we started out. Most of the time I do not carry my camera with us when we're kayaking, simply because its a pretty large camera and space is limited in the SeaEagle, and I'm always a little nervous about it possibly getting wet. But being that we were kayaking in this fabulous refuge chock full of beautiful birds, I decided to bring it. Well, you can probably see where this is going, right? As we were loading up, I got in the front of the kayak, got all settled, Al pushed us off the ramp and started to get in. His footing slipped and as he was off balance, the kayak tipped over, spilling him, me and the camera all in the water. Yes, it was my good Nikon D50 with my good 18-200 zoom lens. Completely submerged. Very bad. We immediately rinsed it all off, took out the battery and card, and let it dry, and I shipped it off to Nikon Monday to see if it can be repaired. My fingers are crossed. After the kayak we had lunch at a popular island restaurant called the Island Cow. Funky little place with good food :-).

The next day we were up before the sunrise and headed over to the Wildlife drive at the refuge. I was hoping to see the roseate spoonbills, and we needed to get there while the tide was out. We were in luck, we did find them and they were in the perfect spot for taking pictures. Carol was kind enough to send me pictures so I do have something to show.

Roseate spoonbills at Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. They were even in such a perfect spot for pictures!

White pelicans along the drive as well. Photos courtesy of Carol Herr.

After the drive, we stopped at the Visitor Center. It wasn't open yet, so we took a hike along the Indigo Trail for about an hour or so. Then we spent awhile in the Visitor Center, looking over the beautiful exhibits they have on display. Then we all went down to Jerry's, a grocery story and restaurant on the island, for a late breakfast. 

Monday we headed back home to Homosassa. This is our final two weeks here before heading west, and this past week saw our final doctor visits (all good for another year), a card game with cousins Fred and Kathy, a whirlind visit with my sister Amy and her husband Mike (down to pick up items from our mom's house that they wanted to keep) and finally today, Easter dinner with our family, Al's Aunt Doris and Uncle Ron, cousin Bruce, and the newest Floridians to the family, Al's sister Janet and her husband Tim, who moved to Tampa last month.

Thanks for bearing with me as I catch you all up with our activities. We leave to start traveling west next Sunday, April 12. I do have a back-up camera, so there will be pictures as we go along. Our first stop will be three nights at Topsail Hill Beach State Park in the Florida panhandle. And that is probably where I will be posting from next! In the meantime, we wish all our family and friends a wonderful Easter holiday, and safe travels wherever you are.