We are parked back on the same site in East Fork Park where we spent last summer. Our hosts at Lavon Lake were kind enough to ask us to make this our base of operations when in this area, in return for a few days a week of help. We generally are asked for 20 hours per week, from the two of us. I will be doing mostly maintenance and Pam will be helping in the lake HQ office a couple of days each week.
Matt Faulkner, park ranger and the volunteer coordinator for this lake has provem to be a great frined and contact for the lake. The lake manager is in process of being replaced so we are hoping that the new one is as positive toward volunteer workers as was James Murphy, the previous one. We wish James the very best as he goes into his new position., All of the other staff members are the same as when we left for Florida last fall.
We stopped for a night at Rainbow Plantation, not far from Mobile, AL for a night. While there Darrell & Judy Patterson were kind enough to have us over to their RV for dinner and drinks. We really enjoyed our visit, but time did not allow for us to spend longer, due to our late departure from Everglades NP.
We spent two more days on the road, mostly uneventful but with about two hours of really hard rain to drive through. We arrived back at East Fork Park on Lavon Lake at about 1pm on Monday, April 13. We expect to be here for a month or so, before heading to Escapade and then Swan Lake NWR.
On April 9 we spent about a half day getting our Big Foot jacks reconditioned by the Qudra Mfg. shop in Lakeland, then traveled north about 150 miles to Crystal River to visit friends at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge and to do a bit of Florida sightseeing. We spent two nights at Crystal Isles RV Park, by Encore. Fortunately it was a Passport America park as this has to be the most over priced RV park that we have ever seen!
Since the park was very near the refuge HQ, we did spend two nights here, but at full price of $54 this park was probably 3/4 full by Friday evening! About the only thing special that we could see was that it does have access to the river, but it was a very average park. We would have happily paid $30, but $50+, never! The beach a few miles away was nice and the river was beautiful. While here we also visited Rainbow Springs and Homossas Wildlife state parks and both were very much woth the time and cost to visit. While at Homossas we got some really close looks at manatee.
We got to spend time with Keith & Tabatha from our days at Sam Bernard NWR and to meet the son that was born since they moved to Florida. The two days have flown past and it is time to get back on the road to Texas. Tomorrow night, Rainbow Plantation.
We are back on the road again. We pulled out of Everglades National Park about 8:30 this morning and traveled about 250 miles. We stopped in Lakeland for an appointment at the Qudra shop here to have our leveling jacks rebuiilt. Since they are now ten years old and we have had a few minor difficulties, we thought that this was too good an opportunity to pass, since it was only about 40 miles out of our way. We will probably be here most of the day tomorrow and then head on up to Crystal River to visit friends there before we head on toward Texas. We will probably do a little looking around this area tomorrow.
On Sunday we chose to go to work early, just to have time to take one last trip around the tour route of 15 miles, to have those sights to remember. We went in almost an hour early, jumped into the park van and headed out into the tour before anyone else arrived in the park. What a way to be greeted on our last trip! We had not gone far until we saw a family of otters, crossing the road, no doubt in search of water, since the park is now so dry.
Not far down the road, a young alligator waited on the side of the road, as though to say "goodbye." Farther along a pair of anhingas were too intent upon romance for them to take any notice of us at all, and as we returned to the visitor center to start our work day, a young alligator was riding on the back of a small turtle, as though the two were intent upon play, unaware that one day the alligator might well make a meal of the turtle! What a morning it was!
Will we ever see this area again? Probably not, but it will never be forgotten.
Sunday, April 5 was our final work day in Everglades National Park. It has been a winter of both great and "not so great" experiences. We arrived here on Nov. 29 and the past four months have flown past. We have had some experiences which would be difficult to believe for one who has not worked in a national park or in the Everglades environment. The story of Pam's injury is not yet over and probably could have been if not for a really bad park employee, but we also worked with some of the finest people that we have ever known. We did feel that we were asked for more than is really fair in return for just an RV site in a location that was not really all that great, but we experienced things which could never have been if we had not been working long hours as seasonal park rangers. Over all, this has been one more truly memorable experience and it will be difficult to drive away, even though we are getting anxious to see the grandchildren again. Will we ever be back? Who knows? In life, nothing is absolute until after it has happened. Probably not, but............
At this point we have a doctor visit to make today, finsih packing up and check in our ranger equipment tomorrow, and on Wednesday we hit the road once more. The wheels are itching to turn, but we will leave with a great deal of feeling for this place and for the people we have come to know! As long as life's experiences hand you more that is good than what is bad, it seems to me that you are a clear winner and this experience has been a victory.
On Tuesday, we took a trip up to visit the Corkscrew Swamp Autobahn Sanctuary, just outside of Naples, FL. They have a 2 1/2 mile boardwalk that is well worth the time and cost to visit, even at this late time in the season. We got to see several things which we had not seen before and Pam was able to walk all of the way, in spite of her bad foot from the work injury.One highlight for us was the sighting of a ruby-throat hummingbird on it's nest.
Another was the viewing of a colony of nesting woodstorks through a spotting scope and another was the pools of water in the swamp which were feeding grounds for many different varieties of birds. The one shown had woodstorks, spoonbills, snowy egrats, great egrats, anhingas, ibis, great blue herons, and several other birds. It did make for a very special day for our winter here in Florida.
From time to time there is some reason to close one of our walking trails or perhaps the boardwalk. When that need arises, we have guards to stop traffic.
This has proven to be effective with all but a few visitors. Of course, there are always a few who question all authority!