This is our first visit to Alafia River State Park about 40 minutes east of Tampa. It’s a small quiet campground with an abundance of bird life and miles of mountain bike trails. Site 25
The river and ponds support a wide variety of water birds. Every evening a couple hundred egrets gather in the reeds across this pond. It’s quite a sight to see them arrive and leave each day.
Florida is basically a flat state but it has a surprisingly challenging trail system. This park is a former phosphate mine that created new landforms when they excavated the phosphate. A branch of the Alafia River runs through it and several small ponds developed after the mine disrupted the area. The trails are built and maintained by volunteers from the Swamp Mountain Bike Club.
So far we have mostly stuck to the easy trails but Shelly tried a more challenging one today and will try a few more.
A familiar reminder that we’re in Florida.
A day in Ybor City
Ybor City is a section of Tampa known for it’s cigar producing past. Today it draws people to the area for its restaurants and cigar cafes.
In its heyday, worker social clubs dominated the city’s social and political life.
A wonderful Cuban bakery. Highly recommended.
The area around Centennial Park supports a large population of feral roosters and hens.
A pretender to the throne of the Plant City Strawberry King.
This park is named for a Florida folk singer who was camping at Flagler Beach and lost his life there while attempting to save a drowning man. In honor of his heroism they renamed the park for him. Site 42
The park has two camping areas, ocean side or riverside. We were set to stay ocean side but the cold and wind had us moving to the larger more sheltered river side campground.
The park’s location allowed for more time with family and a chance to explore the marine scrub forest.
The curiously twisted trees are Sand Live Oak which are surrounded by Saw Palmetto.
While it was REALLY WINDY– we did walk the beach to enjoy the many shore birds as well as the surf and sun.
The river side campground had lots of bird watching opportunities. Without binoculars we had a hard time identifying what we were looking at. A quick trip to Daytona Beach solved that problem.
On one of our hikes we ran into this guy.
We also also came across this unusual fern like plant called a Coontie. Early settlers in Florida made arrowroot starch from the root of the plant. At the center of the plant a cobb like structure develops that produces a bright orange seed.
We saw a fungus growing under one the same color as the seeds.
After a few days at the beach we where ready to move on to Alafia River State Park with it’s 17 miles of mountain bike trails.
We’ve been here before but it’s always fun to come back. Anastasia State Park, just south of Saint Augustine, has four miles of undeveloped beach teaming with wildlife. The campground is tucked into a live oak hammock not far from the beach.Sea Urchin, Site 76
The first few days were a wintry mix of fog, wind and rain. We took a short walk on the beach but couldn’t see much of anything. We were guided by the sound of the waves.
On the plus side of inclement weather, we had a chance to catch up on the movies we’ve missed as well as check out some local restaurants.
A fabulous gumbo from Catch 27 in Old Saint Augustine.
While this may look like soap suds we’ve been assured they are not. This is the result of the wind and waves pulverizing zooplankton and phytoplankton.
The sun eventually arrived with moderate temperatures that allowed us the opportunity to ride and hike the beach.
We met up with Shelly’s sister Andrea and her family, Jeff, Jack and Emily, for a walk on the beach.
Monday we pack up and move down the coast.