Christmas Florida Style

Merry Christmas Florida style!

The beauty of Florida is everywhere. From the blue of the ocean to the flora of the forest, everywhere you look there is an ahh moment. In Fanning Springs State Park you can get a feel of the crystal clear water and the serenity of the forest. I took a walk along the boardwalk that runs beside the Suwannee River. Wasn’t there a song about that river? Oh yes by Bing Crosby.  Ohhh I am showing my age there. Lol! It is every bit as beautiful as the song.

The boardwalk

As you enter the boardwalk there is a sign. Watch out for alligators. Haha! Oh wow. After all isn’t there always a little beast with the beautiful? I have always wanted to see an alligator in the wild but at a distance not along my path. As I walked I carefully kept my eyes open for signs that an alligator was near.

Watch out for Alligators!

As I marveled at the crystal clear water. The reflection of the trees glimmering with the waves. The tree stumps and the foliage that grows in the water fascinates me. The trees that grow right out of the water and the remnants of those left behind, each in there own adding to the incredible infrastructures of nature is amazing.

The beauty of the relection

To stand and just watch as the reflection of the trees wave with ripple of the water is almost therapeutic. As I stood I could not help but feel a calm come over me as I gazed and got lost in the beauty of the moment.  

The amazement of nature

It was interesting to watch the different small lizards and creatures that made their homes and got their dinner from the stumps and tress that seem to rise up and flourish in the calm of the water.

At the end of the boardwalk was the Suwannee River. A beautiful view as the sun settled on the horizon.

Stunning sunset

As I wandered out on to the dock a beautiful black bird sat and admired the view with me. Although I do not really think he wanted to be friends as I got the distinct impression that for the moment it was his piece of paradise.

It is his moment.
The Suwannee River

Remember that alligator sign? Well apparently it is not the alligators you need to worry about. It’s the birds. There are many variety of birds here. Remember the drunk pelican in last week’s blog? Well he is not the only bird that I thought I was going to have an encounter with. As I walked the boardwalk I looked up into the trees to see these large black birds. Watching as they gracefully flew through the air I did not realize how clumsy they really are.

Someone is watching!

As I strolled along the boardwalk breathing in the calm of the still waters, all of a sudden above me it sounded like something was falling through the trees. Startled I looked up and one of the birds was litterly falling through the trees, hitting branches as he tried to get air under his wings. I thought this is it I am going to get falled upon by a large black clumsy bird. Luckily, as he was about three branches away his wings caught air and he soared up and missed me! Hahaha! Phewww!

And they said be worried about alligators!!! Ha! Look up not down!!

All along the coast I kept seeing these beautiful white birds. So majestic in their stance and graceful as they glided over the water. At least this one did not try to run into me or fall on me! Lol!

As I was sitting in my van at my campsite, which was awesome by the way, I noticed this what looked to be a custom painted van that had California plates. It had a beautiful mural of mountain ranges. I happened to bump into the couple driving it and they told me it was actually a rental van that they had rented to do a little exploring. Oh how cool!! A Vanlife rental!!

Heading out on a beautiful sunshiny day I traveled down the highway and came across the town of Homosassa. I saw a sign for Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins. You know I had to turn. An interesting set of ruins of an old sugar mill.

Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins

As I searched for the ruins I saw signs for the Homosassa Wildlife Preserve. Curious I stopped in and so glad I did. Entering the visitor center I was directed to the tram car that would take us to the preserve. How cool to be driven through the Florida forest looking at all the different foliage as we drove on through.

A tram ride through the forest.

When we landed a boardwalk led us to the different animals throughout the park. All of the animals in the preserve were I Jared animals that could no longer survive in the wild. The array of animals was impressive. From a beautiful cougar and a sweet otter to an old and sleepy in the midday sun alligator. Yea! I got to see an alligator. Safely on the otherside of a big fence. Lol Of ourselves Florida would not be complete without the gentle giant of the ocean, the Manatee. What beautiful quiet creatures these are.

The wild animals of Florida
The oceans gentle giant

The variety of birds they had there was impressive. A majestic Bald Eagle, a flamboyance of flamingos, yes I had to look that up, and some I had never seen before. There were also Sandhill Cranes which we have in Canada during the summer. Interestingly enough they sound like a pterodactyl. Really they do. Such a beautiful bird with a kind of scary call. They even had pelicans. None made the walkway in front of me a landing strip. Pheww!

The Birds of the preserve.

I watched as one even did a dance for us. Ohhhh so pretty!

Dancing in the sunshine

Not all of the birds I learned belonged to the sanctuary, some just came to visit. A safe place to stop for the day. As you walked you had to watch as they were perched on the railings along the walkway. 

There were a lot of big black birds. They did not look like the ones in the other park and as I got closer realized they were vultures.  The gentleman that worked there explained because vultures were opportunistic eaters they would finish off what the cats and and other meat eaters in the park left behind. They were all wild. The park had no vultures. Well no registered ones. They were everywhere. As you walked you could see them in the trees. Feeling them watch you as you walked under them. Some sitting on the railing as you walked by. As I walked I mentioned to a couple that was looking up at the vultures around us that it kind of felt like the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds. (My favorite movie) Lol! Seriously a little creepy!

They are watching.

It was an excellent day and a great experience. If you are in the area stop in for a visit.

Farther south I found a campground that had an old fort on it. Oh perfect!! Fort Desoto Park is a beautiful park that apparently  you have to reserve months in advance. I happened to get lucky and there was a cancellation just before I called. Woohoo! It was meant to be. On an island just south of Tampa it had beautiful campsites and an amazing history.

A cozy Chipmunk

Fort Desoto was built in the early 1900’s to defend Florida’s coast against the Spaniards.  This impressive structure held 29 post buildings including barracks, a hospital,  administration buildings as well as a mess hall, storage buildings, kitchen and workshops. Interestingly the four mortars that remained in the Battery Laidley are the only original mortars in North America. It was a great self guided tour through history.

Fort De Soto

Beside the Fort was of course the beautiful white sandy beaches that Florida is so famous for. There is something about the sound and the sight of the the ocean gently rolling onto the land. Listening to the waves as they crash to shore and the sight of the water that seems to go on forever. Did you know that this campground has sights right on the water, with hydro (power) and water? Oh what a score. I did not get an waterside site this time but I will plan for a couple of days there next time I come.

Oh what a view!

There is nothing like having morning coffee in a forest. It is my absolute favorite place to sip. The sounds, the smell all go good with coffee!

Let’s go Vanning!

As I said good bye, as sad as I was I was also excited! The reason I came to Florida was to see and hug some very great people. I am very blessed to belong to a very special group of people. I have known some of these people for over 30 years. We are Vanners!! A very cool network of people from all over the world and what we have in common is vans. I not only live in a van but as you know own a beautiful custom van. There are “vanning events” held all over the world and although I have never got off the continent I have met some very wonderful people and hope to visit them all one day.

In Hudson Florida there is a very special place run by very special people. The Museum of Vanning which is hosted by Joe and Bonnie Madonia takes you for a walk through the history of vanning. Donations from clubs everywhere has created a story that some of us have been in and enjoyed for many years. From full size vans to toys, patches and pins of past events and memories of years gone by. Started in 2012 with Joe’s memorialbilia a new museum was built in 2016 and has continued to grow.

Our hosts. Joe and Bonnie Madonia
The vans of the museum
The history

The vans are beautiful but it is the people that make it special. I did not realize when I decided to go, the array of my friends that would be there. Friends from Washington, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Michigan and New York, Illinois and Indiana just to name a few. There were even old friends I have not seen for a very long time from PEI Canada. Normally we would see each other other throughout the summer at different van shows in the US and Canada but since covid it has been way to long since we hugged. Each of these people add such a variety of love and care in my life. The weekend was filled with laughter and warmth from every part of our very special world. It seemed fitting we were celebrating Christmas because what a beautiful gift.

Our weekend started with a pub crawl at 11 am. Lol! Now for me that is a coffee crawl but we are on Florida time I was told. Our first bar we enjoyed the wonderful atmosphere and got to feed a herd of turtles. Yup you read it right, a herd. They had a little gumball machine filled with fish pellets and as soon as you turned the dial the fish and turtles would come. The turtles had to be quick though because the fish would scoop it up if they were not.

A herd of turtles.
Such fun

Saturday was a day spent around the pool listening to a very good band. Even Santa showed up! Dancing poolside or even in the pool the fun was just beginning!

Saturday night was the table sale and ugly sweater contest. Oh what fun to laugh with and at my beautiful friends. Hugging my old friends and meeting some new ones! It’s OK they laugh at me too and I did not even wear an ugly sweater. Lol.

My beautiful friends

My friend Shirley was so sure she was going to win my book at the table sale. Sure enough she did!!

The winner!!

What a wonderful ending to a great adventure! Back to the north for Christmas with my kids and grandkids with warmth of the sun on my back and the memories of my friends love in my heart!

Merry Christmas

From my home to yours I wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Thanks for coming along on my Chipmunk Adventure! See you next week.


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