Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Please join us for an awesome event!!

                  Hike & Seek in Highlands Hammock State Park!

Hi Friends!  I wanted to share an upcoming geocaching event with you.  If y'all remember, last year we attended the inaugural Hike & Seek in Highlands Hammock State Park.  It was our first trip to Highlands Hammock, and we've been back a few times since.  This event was amazing!  The organizer, Sarah (geocaching handle: rabid_duck), put out around 100 geocaches of all types and skill levels.  The scenery was gorgeous and we had a super weekend.  You can find my blog entry on the event HERE.
The Hike & Seek event coincides with the annual Civilian Conservation Corps Festival. The CCC workers created our first state parks, including Highlands Hammock, and the museum dedicated to them is a humbling experience to look through. 
Okay, here's the skinny:  You can find the official Geocaching event publication HERE.
You can find the Highlands Hammock State Park webpage HERE.
You can reserve a campsite...the BEST!!... way to experience this event (my opinion, of course, but it's true!)....HERE.
So, that's it.  Highlands Hammock State Park, November 3rd.  9am at the Rec Hall.  If you have any questions about geocaching, have been curious to try it out, or want to meet new friends, COME.  Feel free to leave me a comment and ask any questions, too.  Or, you can contact Sarah, too:  DTISarah@gmail.com
Okay, one last thing.  We met and made many new friends at this event last year.  I can't say enough how much I loved attending!  But to make it even sweeter, we got to know Sarah.  She worked her ass off putting this event together, and I really love her for it.  You can tell she's dedicated to this park, and I'm so glad we've gotten to know her better.  She is a true friend, and I know she...and I...and Rob...would love it if you'd attend with us this year!
Okay, that's the end, for real.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Tallahassee Day 1: Letchworth-Love Mounds, Lake Jackson Mounds, and Lake Talquin State Forest

State Parks visited: 57

Since Olivia and Rob were out of school and work for Labor Day, I decided to take the day off as well.  With 3 whole days off together, of course we took a road trip!  Tallahassee was our destination, since there are so many park possibilities in the surrounding areas.  We packed up as much as we could Friday night and hit the road bright and early Saturday morning.  The drive is only about 4 hours, and we took our time.  First destination?  The Letchworth-Love Mounds Archaeological State Park.  A name that gives us the giggles, sure, but an important place nonetheless.
We drove through a quiet residential area in our search for the park.  Eventually we found the right driveway and parked the car.  The pathway led to a small educational pavilion, and we spent a few minutes looking around at the exhibits.
I'm not sure whether to be proud or hang my head in shame. ;)
Eventually we made our way down the path and up the ramp to an observation area.  Along the way we disturbed a black racer (snake), but it lived up to its name and I couldn't get a picture.
This is a picture of the main ceremonial mound from the side:
If you were just hiking along through the woods and came across the site, you wouldn't think much of it, right?  Except that maybe Florida terrain usually doesn't lend itself to hill-like structures like this.  The significant thing, though, is that this is the largest temple mound in the state, standing 46 feet tall.  And, it's somewhere between 1100-1800 years old.  I am awestruck that it has withstood the test of time.
Thankfully, the people who created this park included this sign.  It's extremely helpful when figuring out what you're looking at!
There is a short interpretive trail near the mound, but we decided to skip it.  Mosquitoes were pretty fierce, and we had other things to see.  So, we headed back to the car.  Along the way, some interesting mushrooms caught our attention.  Rob was very sure he had located the 'mounds' in the park name....
Yep, they even made it onto Instagram:
And I wonder where Olivia gets it.  ;)
We drove a little while longer and came to our second park of the day,
Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park.  This one is another set of ceremonial mounds, the largest a little shorter than the last one (36 feet tall), and not quite as old (only about 800 years old).  Before looking around at the park, though, we decided to eat lunch:
Once that was taken care of, we made our way over to one of the two ceremonial mounds open for the public.
And, since the interpretive trail is nearby, we went for a short hike (and did some geocaching as well):
We eventually found the geocache we were looking for and made our way back to the main ceremonial mound.  And here began the long climb to the top:

I love how they love to spend time together.
Okay, so, two state parks down, and one stop left!  Thanks for hanging in this long!  We left Lake Jackson and drove a little further still, ending up at the Lake Talquin State Forest:
It was the nearest state forest that had a trail we could hike that qualified for our Trailwalker log.  And, let me tell you, they completely embrace the Trailwalker program in this part of the state!  I'm not sure if it's the proximity to the capitol or if we just have so-so land management where we live, but we found ourselves in the middle of a well-marked trail with excellent facilities nearby.
One thing we thought was kind of cool were the squawk boxes positioned along a portion of the trail:
You'd press the button and hear someone tell the history of the area and other significant facts.  The problem we found was that they were in poor shape, most of them playing at half speed.  It sounded like the speakers were all drunk! 
Here are a few pictures from our hike:

If I could be any berry in the world...


This was such a lovely walk in the woods.  It felt like the perfect end to our first day in Tallahassee, and we all left there feeling complete.  Day One down, two to go!


Monday, October 1, 2012

Meanwhile this summer....

I wanted to catch everyone up on a few small activities we've taken part in this summer, and I couldn't help but start off with the Great American Pie Festival!  We did things a little differently this year.  Before the festival began on Sunday, we met up with some new friends, Ray and Melissa, for a little geocaching.  I don't remember how many caches we found...less than 10...but we had a great time walking around the beautiful city of Celebration.
As is my luck, I won tickets to the Never Ending Pie Buffet again!  The nice folks at AMPlified Culture hooked me up with the tickets in a contest on their website, even though I...like a complete dummy...missed the deadline to respond as the winner.  Please, go check out their website and see what's going on in Central Florida's arts, entertainment, and foodie scenes! 
We've watched the little Pie Girls grow up, it seems!
And now...the bad news.  If you've known me long enough, you know how much I look forward to going to the Pie Fest every year.  I start a countdown as soon as we're driving home, and I take part in every contest possible to win buffet tickets.  This year, though...well, it feels like it may have been our last.  I've come to realize that the fest really is the same thing, year after year.  It's so stinking hot, the crowd is like nothing you've ever seen (unless you've been on the Champs-Élysées in Paris for New Year with 250,000 of your closest friends), and the food and entertainment doesn't change.  The heat really played a big part in how we all felt, along with the fact that I was fighting a severe sinus infection.  But...we left knowing we probably wouldn't be going back.  And you know what?  That's okay.  The Great American Pie Festival is an amazing celebration that has added much joy to our lives the past few years, and I will always...*always*...look upon it with happy memories.
National Pauladay was celebrated this year with a return to a favorite spot, Ichetucknee Springs State Park.  We hadn't been tubing in awhile, and I decided that's what I really wanted to do on my birthday.  Thankfully we had taken vacation from work and could hit the park during the middle of the week. It gets too busy on weekends.  Chris joined us, and we had also 'borrowed' one of Olivia's daycare friends, Drake, so she had a playmate.
Drake gave me a walking stick and a keychain for my birthday.  He spends quality time with his Papa, making things like this, and it was a very sweet gesture.  And honestly...I had been wanting a walking stick!  I was very blessed and honored.
As we pushed off from the launch, it seemed like we were chasing mist down the river.  It felt like we were in some magical place on the Amazon, or in an Indiana Jones movie. But no, we were in another beautiful Florida State Park...how did we get so lucky?
Olivia tried floating along on her own, but she ended up terrified.  Once we got hold of her tube, things calmed down.  Chris taught us a valuable lesson, and one of the day's highlights: Just trust the river.  He never paddled himself out of debris or back into the current.  He just trusted the river and floated along peacefully.  Once, though, he and Olivia got hooked together.  We had all been repeating the trust-the-river mantra when they bumped into a fallen tree and got separated.  Olivia yelled for him, but Chris came back with, "Olivia, the river wants us to be apart! Just trust the river!"  It was hilarious, and yet it was really quite true.
Eventually we finished our float and left the river behind.  A brief tram ride led us to our picnic lunch, and a little while later we decided to go swimming in the headspring.  I'm not always very comfortable in swimming places like this, but something about this beautiful area set my mind at ease.
Do you know what happens a week after National Pauladay?  Why, Robby's Tag, of course!  Robby had a milestone birthday this year...$39.95+tax...and wanted to celebrate in style.  He picked Sanibel Island as our destination, and we went all out...by our standards, at least!  We stayed at the Island Inn Sanibel, sharing a cottage with Chris and Xandra.  The only thing between our rooms and the ocean was the pool!
We spent our time on the island doing the things we do best...eating, swimming, drinking, playing, geocaching, having fun, and spending time with our favorite people.  Oh, the eating.  I honestly thing we all gained weight on this trip, and I learned that next time we'll pack food.  Our cottage had a kitchenette and every possible dish and kitchen tool you could possibly need.
One great thing about being on Florida's West Coast is the sunset.  There's something about the setting of the sun that calls people out in droves, and on Sanibel Island it's no different than, say, Key West.  The sunset means something different to everyone, and for me it's about being thankful for another day with my family in this beautiful state I refuse to take for granted.  Enjoy...

All good things must indeed come to an end, both our Sanibel trip and our summer in general.  Olivia began third grade, and Girl Scouts started up for another year.  Our travel time has become that much more precious since we have other priorities for the time being.  We are making the most of it, however, and I'll be updating soon.
So tell me...what did you do this summer?