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Tincan Travels

Winter in the Southeast 2018

This winter we decided to spend most of our time in Florida visiting with family and friends. We will be criss-crossing the state and camping in state and regional parks.

After a short visit with Andrea & Jeff, we picked up the Tincan from where we had parked it at Mike & Donna’s. We drove to the coast and set up camp at Tamoka State Park. It was a little cold temperatures dropping into the mid-20s the first two nights. This didn’t stop us from enjoying the sand and the scrub hardwood forest. Tomoka State park is located on a peninsula between the Halifax and Tamoka Rivers at the site of an ancient village of the Timucau people. Spanish explorers encountered the village in the 1600’s. At that time it was a thriving town on the peninsula between the two rivers. Today you can still see plenty of shell middens that accumulated from that time. It’s a popular spot for kayaking and fishing.In spite of the cold weather we did see some blooms. Plenty of hiking and biking.

Inevitably the Timucuan people were driven away or enslaved. An indigo plantation was established by Richard Oswald in 1766. (Coincidentally Oswald was a preliminary signer and British negotiator of the peace agreement with the colonies after the Revolutionary War.) In the 1950s,after the park was developed, a group of people wanted to pay tribute to the native people who made their home there. They chose to immortalize a mythical chief named Tomoki from a legend of the Timucuan people. It is a kitschy statue in the old Florida tradition. We spent an afternoon wondering around downtown Ormond Beach on the banks of the Halifax River at the Rockefeller Gardens. Lunch was @ Hull’s Seafood, and old-school fish counter-no pictures but definitely worth a stop. Monday afternoon we moved up the coast for a week at Anastasia State Park in Saint Augustine Beach.

We Made It

We’ve had to cancel two previous trips to Hot Springs Arkansas. This was the year to make it happen.

Hot Springs KOA

The healing waters of Hot Springs Arkansas have been drawing people to the area for centuries. The US Congress in 1832 created a 4 mile square reservation to protect the springs for public use. We arrived during Indigenous Day Weekend and the public was out in force.

The Quapaw built in 1922
Some of the amazing tile work found in the bath houses

Bath house row is located along Central Avenue and it was an unmasked mob scene when we arrived. We took refuge behind the bath houses along the Grand Promenade.

Soaking in the baths was not the only reason people came here. The extensive system of hiking trails was seen as a healthful addition to soaking in the hot spring water. Many of the trails are accessible from the Promenade.

One of the trails that lead to Summit Tower

After a hot and sweaty hike we made it to the top.

The observation deck offers 360 degree views of the Hot Springs Reserve.

Central Avenue

The hot springs here have no volcanic component to them. So how do they attain their average temperature of 143 degrees? The spring water begins as snow or rain that trickles into cracks in the brittle mountain rocks (novaculite and chert). As it travels through the earth’s crust it heats up through conduction. The trip takes about 4000 years. That’s not a typo.

Novaculite which was used for centuries by the indigenous residents to create arrowheads

The Park Service provides spigots in several locations around town for filling containers with spring water.

Our friends Tom and Margret told us about a Hot Springs barbecue institution, McClard’s.

We enjoyed a late lunch in the embrace of southern hospitality. A lovely experience. Thanks for suggesting we go there Tom and Margaret!!

We spent most of our time in the area exploring the hiking trails. Our hike to Goat Rock offered a nice view of the mountains around Hot Springs.

An old goat at Goat Rock
The view from Goat Rock (No Fall colors yet)

Our last hike in the area was to Balanced Rock, a short steep 2 mile hike.

Balanced Rock

We left Hot Springs and continued our journey West into Oklahoma. We spent two nights at Lake Eufaula State Park. The lake is the largest within the borders of the state.

The Tincan made a friend at Lake Eufaula

The park has over 15 miles of mountain bike trails but the rain kept the bikes in the truck.

The rain got us into the truck to do a bit of sightseeing. We found ourselves in Honey Springs and the childhood home of Oklahoma blues legend DC Minner.

No one was around but we enjoyed peeking in windows and reading the signage.

Finally we packed up the trailer and headed to Oklahoma City. We’ve driven through twice but had never stopped.

Our campsite came with a storm cellar

We came to see the memorial for the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building which was bombed April 19,1995.

One of the remaining walls
The Reflecting Pool
Field of Empty Chairs, one for every victim

This was a somber end to our Oklahoma visit. It was an affecting memorial that had us thinking about the lives lost, particularly the children.

Emerging From Limbo

We returned to Buffalo in April of 2020 to take stock of the pandemic and consider our travel options. Vaccines and cautious planning convinced us that our life on the road might be possible again.

The Tincan in storage

In May of 2021 we ventured to Portland OR for a long planned remodel of the kitchen area of the trailer. The idea was to get more storage and living space. We added a storable table, new counters and sinks, upgraded stove, cell booster and stereo. We love our upgrades, particularly the stowaway table.

Our friend Richard fabricated the wood tabletop.

The Southwest has always had a special appeal for us. On October 1st we left Buffalo to make our way south and west. After a weekend visit with our son’s family we headed down the Mississippi River to Hannibal, MO; Mark Twain’s childhood home.

The Mississippi River as seen from Lover’s Leap in Hannibal
Hannibal is all about Mark Twain
The Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse. Just 244 steps and you’re there.

We camped at a private RV park that was home to the cave made famous in Tom Sawyer.

From Hannibal we traveled south and west to Jefferson City, the capital of Missouri.

The interior was even grander.

Our visit was prompted by a desire to ride a section of the Katy Trail. This trail is one of the longest rails to trails in the country.

We started in Portland and rode to Rhineland
This section follows the Missouri River

We stayed in Binder City Park just west of Jefferson City. It’s a small campground near Binder Lake. There are 16 sites and is very quiet. There are several mountain bike trails in the park but we didn’t have time to try them.

After we leave Missouri we’ll be traveling to Arkansas for visit to Hot Springs. We’ve been trying to get there for the last two years. Stay tuned to see if we make it this time!

Stuck Here In Limbo

After pulling the plug on our trip we needed to decide what to do next. Should we head back to Buffalo or postpone our return till the worst of the virus outbreak has moved on. the Tincan is a self contained living space which allows for easy self isolation. We decided to stay on the road for a bit longer and asses our options.

We moved up the Mississippi River to Lake Chicot State Park in Arkansas.

Site 19

We booked two nights at this popular fishing lake. The Tincan sat up on a bluff overlooking the largest oxbow lake in America and the largest natural lake in Arkansas.

Other than fishing and boating there wasn’t a lot to do. The hiking and biking trails were muddy from recent flooding.

After two days we decided to move north and west to Tupelo, Mississippi. We were able secure 18 days of camping with a full hookup at Tombigbee State Park.

Site 6

Just sitting around camp is getting old. We shouldn’t complain with beautiful weather and the ability to stretch our legs hiking or biking in a beautiful woods in spring.

Did we mention that it’s springtime in Mississippi.

Dogwood
May Apple
Christmas Berries

As beautiful as the woods in the area are will still wanted to venture into town to see if this one attraction could be safely visited.

The King’s childhood home

While Tombigbee State Park has been a safe (full hookup) place to land, it has limited cell service and as of today is technically closing down. With conditions on the ground changing so quickly we have decided to pull up stakes and head back home. Since the blog documents our travels which have stopped, this will be the last post for this trip. Rest assured that once we hit the road again the blog will reappear. Thanks for following along and we’ll see you on the other side.

Sunset on Lake Chicot, Arkansas

The Best Laid Plans

The plan was to head to Louisiana after our stay on the panhandle of Florida for a two week stay in Bayou Segnette State Park. The park is located just south of New Orleans and is an excellent base for exploring the wonders of the city.

Site C 1099

We met up with our friend Kim, a fellow traveler who we met in Texas four years ago.

We had planned to attend a number of events- the St. Patrick’s Day parades, Mardi Gras Indian Super Sunday Parades and Second Line Parade as well as the Wednesday in the Square concerts. All of these events were canceled due to the Covid19 outbreak. On top of this we had to vacate the park after one night. The State authorities took over the park for a staging area for first responders who will have to deal with the coming pandemic. Fortunately, we secured a spot northwest of NOLA along the Mississippi River in Vidalia, LA across the River from Natchez, MS.

Site 24 at Riverside RV Park
The View

The park offers a paved walking/bike path along the River and is a great place to watch the barge traffic.

The bridge to Nachez
Social distancing along the Mississippi River

We booked ten days at this park while we tried to figure out what to do, continue on or return back to Buffalo. After going back and forth and agonizing over our decision we decided to pull the plug on the rest of the trip and slowly work our way north.

The weather was accommodating which allowed us to take in some sights while keeping our distance from potential infection. 

We took a drive on a short section of the Natchez Trace.

The southern terminus of the Trace

One stop on the Trace is the second largest Mississippian mound north of Mexico. Construction of the mound began in 1350 AD. It covers about 8 acres.

The Emerald Mound

We also took to the woods to explore the St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge. We saw no one.

It’s spring in Mississippi

On the way back to camp we passed Mammy’s Cupboard. Not really sure what to say about this.

In antebellum Mississippi, Natchez was home to one of the largest slave markets in the United States. The spot is marked by a slab of concrete with slave shackles embedded.

The Tincan doing some social distancing

Other than these short forays away from camp, we spent most of the week like everyone else: reading, binge watching streaming services and walking or biking the River pathway.

Gulf Coast…Goodbye Florida

We left the Atlantic Coast and drove to the Florida Panhandle. As we headed west the temperature dropped and the clouds moved in with intermittent rain. Our destination was Henderson Beach State Park . The park has a smallish campground and on previous attempts we failed to secure a site. The park is situated along the “Emerald Coast “ of the Gulf of Mexico in the town of Destin. We were happy to finally have the opportunity to check it out.

Site 41

The draw here is about 2 miles of unspoiled white sand beaches. The weather was iffy but we were ready to check out those crystal sands.

A boardwalk leads you over the sand dunes to the water.

Windy and cloudy skies made for some dramatic gulf views.

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Fortunately the weather broke and the sun returned.

This is not a remote beach. On either side of the State beach are high rise resorts.

However, this didn’t prevent us from enjoying the beach and having some quiet moments.

This beach has very few shells but the rough seas did serve up some interesting sea life.

Sea Cucumbers
Damaged Starfish
And clear emerald water
The dune boardwalk as sunset approaches

All too soon we were packing up and getting ready to move to Biloxi for a quick visit with our Mississippi relatives. (Sorry -we had so much fun we forgot to take pictures.)

North by Northeast

We left the Gulf Coast of Florida and headed diagonally north and east across the peninsula. Anastasia State Park is one of our favorites. The camp sites have good separation and easy access to 5 miles of undeveloped ocean beach.

Pat biking the campground road
Angel Wing Loop site 102

The beach at Anastasia State Park is a beautiful section of Atlanta coastline, no high rises or other commercial development to spoil the view.

Our stop allowed us to visit with more family members. We hung out with Jeff and Mary who were on their way to the Keys.

Pat’s sister Mary and her husband Jeff
Our nieces Amy, Nancy Beth and Kerry after eating lunch at the Floridian in St. Augustine.

Shelly’s sister Andrea and her husband Jeff recently purchased a house about a 1/2 hour from the State Park.

It’s a short walk from the house to the ocean.

The weather during our stay was not always warm and sunny. We experienced some windy and wild ocean conditions. When you have a lot of wave action you get a lot of sea foam which blows up on the beaches. This is not caused by pollutants but is actually dissolved phytoplankton ~ organic material that has been agitated by wave action creating the foam. The “scientific” name for this foam is splume (an apt description in our option)

We took a break from our Florida wanderings to visit our son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren.

Spending time with these little buggers was worth the shock of colder temperatures.

We also hooked up with our friends Al and Anne who were spending a few weeks in St. Augustine. It’s always nice to find ourselves among old friends when traveling.

We’ve enjoyed our stay in St. Augustine but it’s time to start heading West.

Hot, Hot, Hot

We moved south along the Gulf Coast to Marcos Island. This part of our trip was a late add on. As a result we were closed out of the State Parks. The Marcos Island/Naples KOA had one spot left. We booked it.

Site L24

The empty sites filled up by the end of the day. As you can see the sites are small and close together. Certainly not the most scenic campground you’ll ever see. What it lacks in beauty and solitude it makes up for in its proximity to a number of Gulf beaches and to the Everglades.

Barefoot Beach
A group of Royal Terns on Barefoot Beach
Barefoot Beach
Marco Island South Beach

We arrived at Marco Island during a record setting heatwave. With temperatures in the high 80’s and low 90’s, the beach or poolside at the KOA was the place to be.

When in this part of Florida we enjoy visiting the Corkscrew Swamp Preserve. The 2 mile boardwalk provides an intimate walk through this cypress swamp without getting your feet wet!

A boardwalk view

The Bald Cypress found in this swamp are some of the largest trees found east of the Mississippi River. In spite of the hurricane that came through in 2017 which downed several of the large trees, it’s still an impressive stand.

This is the Muir Cypress and is 15 feet around

The large branches of these trees host a variety of other plants; resurrection ferns and epiphytes among them.

Many bromeliads (air plants) are found along the boardwalk.

The swamp is also home to a wide variety of bird life.

Great White Egret

We saw Ergrets, Herons, Black and White warblers, Palm Warblers, a Red Shoulder Hawk and a Pileated Woodpecker. The Audubon volunteers were most helpful in helping us identify the warblers.

The Everglades NP spans 1.5 million acres making it the third largest National Park. We entered the park by way of the Tamiami Trail (Rt. 41) and drove along the 24 mile Loop Rd Scenic Drive. The road takes you into the Big Cypress National Preserve for some excellent wildlife viewing.

These Bald Cypress were loaded with Bromeliads

In addition to the numerous alligators, we saw lots of birds.

Black Vulture
Great White Egret

At the western side of the Everglades you access the Ten Thousand Islands section of the park. The Gulf Coast Visitor Center is a jumping off place for canoeists, kayakers and sport fisher people. You can also get a ticket for a one hour tour of the area on a catamaran.

The only requirement for island status is enough ground (usually some limestone rocks) for one tree to grow (usually Red Mangrove).

The highlight of the boat tour was our encounter with a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins.

Naples is a very busy area with lots of traffic without many opportunities for biking. We biked along the Gordon River Greenway which meanders through a suburban neighborhood. The draw for us was the 3 mile trail through a mangrove swamp~ out and back made an easy six mile ride.

We also managed to find a local brewery that was producing some fine beer.

Naples has a large city beach that is popular with visitors and locals. It’s the place to be at sunset.

Sand drawings
Shelly on Naples City Beach
Naples City Beach sunset, a fine end to our week in Southwest Florida.

Forts, Family and Feathered Friends

We left our inland camp and set up shop near the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. Fort Desoto County Park is a favorite of ours. It offers miles of biking trails as well as Bayside and Gulf beaches.

Site 165

We’ve stayed in this park before but this site is the best we’ve had here. It is reasonably secluded with a water view. The park is very popular so we feel quite lucky to have nabbed this spot for two weeks.

This Great Egret visited most mornings
Another visitor-a Little Blue Heron

Speaking of visitors, Pat’s brother Mike and his wife Donna camped at a site near us and Shelly’s sister Ellen and her husband Rory booked a condo on St. Pete’s Beach for a sibling meet up.

The Tampa-Saint Pete area has a plethora of small breweries. Of course we needed to check a few of them out.

Part of the fun of camping at Fort Desoto is the bird watching. Most of the birds are common to Florida but are uncommon to northerners. We did get to see a bird uncommon to the area, a Reddish Egret. It’s the first time we’ve seen one. We didn’t get a good picture but enjoyed watching it foraging in the shallows.

Osprey reside throughout the park.

While out viewing some Osprey nests we ran into some other bird nerds who told us about an upcoming birding event, Raptor Fest. The event took place at a bird rescue facility with lots of birds on view.

Barn Owl
A pair of rescued Screech Owls

Most of our time was spent biking and walking on the beaches.

Our family visits overlapped which made for a fun family stroll along the water on a windy and overcast day.

Mike and Donna
Rory, Shelly and Ellen

After Mike and Donna returned home the rest of us ventured over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to Sarasota for a matinee performance of Circus Sarasota.

This is a one ring circus that takes place under the “Big Top”. The performances include many outstanding international acts. Circus Sarasota comes highly recommended.

Some of the monkeys at the circus

We spent a couple of afternoons wandering around Saint Petersburg.

Florida humor?

We love being able to see all the flowers and greenery during the winter months.

We always enjoy meeting new people when we travel.

Saint Petersburg is home to the Dali Museum. An interesting building housing interesting art.

It’s always fun to meet family on the road and it sure makes time fly by. Our two weeks went by in an instant. Time to move on.

State Forest or State Park ?

Finding a place to camp in Florida is an exercise in planning and persistence. Myakka River State Park near Sarasota is one of our favorites. When booking spots for our current road trip we thought we snagged a spot at this popular state park. Turned out we booked a spot at Myakka River Forest Preserve. The Forest Preserve provides beautiful secluded spots with no power or water while the State Park has electric and water. Whoops.

Our confusion gave us an opportunity to put our new solar panel into service. It worked great. The campground only has 10 camp spots and is very quiet. Our location gave us access to many miles of hiking and biking trails.

Our stay offered lots of opportunities to observe the wildlife. We saw baby feral pigs, Sandhill Cranes and a Bobcat.

In addition to wildlife and birding opportunities we got a chance to checkout the surrounding towns of Englewood and Punta Gorda.

Englewood Beach
On the Espalade in Punta Gorda

As nice as the State Forest turned out to be we really wanted to spend some time at the State Park. This is where persistence pays off. After checking back with the park a spot turned up as a result of a cancellation. We were able to get a spot for two days.

Site 1 in the Big Flats Loop

The reason to be here is the easy acces to birding and biking.

Little Blue Heron
Roseate Spoonbills, Limpkins, Black Vultures and Cormorants
White Ibis feeding at sunset

We also saw a large group of white pelicans (rare to us) , raccoons, red shouldered hawks, wild turkeys, more wild hogs and of course, lots of alligators. With all that wildlife viewing our two day stay just flew by.

Here We Go Again

It’s been awhile since we added anything to our blog. We decided to spend more time at home in Buffalo this year. However, we did drag the Tincan down to Florida in October to avoid winterizing or driving through a blizzard.

We’ll start this years travels in Florida before we head West. We are always looking for new spots to checkout as we travel so we began our tour of Florida at a spot new to us-Wekiwa Springs State Park in central Florida north of Orlando.

Of course the main draw here is the crystal clear spring.

A lovely boardwalk takes you through a swampy area to the Springs.

The campground is nestled into a sand pine woods with lots of hiking and biking trails.

Pat’s sister Carolyn and her husband Ed drove over to the campground for a bit of a ramble through the woods.

We didn’t know what to expect at Wekiwa Springs but we’re pleasantly surprised by what the park had to offer. Next time we’ll stay longer.

We left Central Florida and headed East to the Melbourne Beach area to Long Point County Park, another new destination for us.

The neighbors (Wood Stork and Brown Pelican)

The park is on a spit of land that juts into the Indian River and is surrounded by mangroves. The park is a good base from which to explore the surrounding area, Sebastian Inlet and the towns of Vero Beach and Sebastian. Plus it is only a mile from the Atlantic Ocean.

Long Point is a short drive to Sebastian Inlet where surfers come to test their skills.

The area is also home to numerous micro breweries. We’re always up for tipping a few pints.

The Walking Tree Brewers specialize in Strong Ales which are aged in whiskey barrels.

The real purpose of this stop was to check out a portion of the Florida Coast we’ve never seen.

From here we moved further down the coast for a short stay at Jonathan Dickson State Park in Jupiter. We’ve been to this park in the past and it’s a favorite. It has good mountain biking and hiking trails. The stop also gets us a visit with one of Pat’s high school friends Lynne.

It rained and was chilly during our stay but we still made the effort to check out the beach at nearby Hobe Sound.

We had an unexpected bonus during our stay in Jupiter. Earlier in the month we made contact with our roommate Jim from the early 1970’s. We spent an afternoon in West Palm Beach catching up on the last 45 years.

The weather wasn’t the best but hey nothing froze and we didn’t have to deal with the snow back home.

We’ll be leaving the East Coast for fun along the Myakka River.