Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Beauty Everywhere

Manatee Springs State Park, Site #29
Chiefland, Florida

One of the reasons I had chosen Manatee Springs, other than the springs itself, was that I could not find any campgrounds closer to Cedar Key and the Gulf Coast which I really wanted to visit.  So today we set off on the 30 mile drive to check out Cedar Key.   First stop as always, if possible, the Chamber of commerce

The women at the desk were full of information, very knowledge and the most helpful of any Chamber folks we’ve visited yet.  The more questions I had, and those of you who know me will be laughing, the more answers they supplied.  We left excited about all the possibilities for the things we love to do in this area and a couple of ideas for where we might stay just down the road.

Cedar Key is an aspiring Key West and  looks like a great place to be discovered by some entrepeneurs.  Here are some shots of the newly renovated main drag, 2nd Street,

Nice mosaic work on the retaining wall, the fisherman and his fish.  VERY impressive.

Some great buildings just lookin’ for love.  If you know anyone wanting to relocate to a sweet beach town on the gulf and start a business, this looks like the place.

After walking the length of the commercial district from cross Streets creatively named A through E, we wandered down Dock Street which appears to be the first area pretty fully renovated.  Our information ladies told us that after the ban on net fishing, most of the commercial fishermen turned to clams for which the area is now famous.  Its Dock Side buildings became restaurants, bars and shops.

We had lunch upstairs here at the Pickled Pelican.  The only local clam dish they had was one $10 appetizer.  That seemed like a bit too much.  We did have a very good cuban sandwich which they charged us what I thought was an unnecessary $2 to split.  It was a huge sandwich and we'd been advised not to attempt one each.

We neglected to get pictures of the cute restaurant and its great Gulf overlooking deck but did get some shots of the walls and floor of the restrooms which get our vote for the best restrooms ever.  I’ll only include one shot of the quotes, to read the rest you’ll have to check it out yourself.

I prefer shouters to pouters  but I've known some and this made me laugh.  As did many of the others painted on the walls.

The floor is a map of the town and the Gulf.  What a hoot!  Painted on the floor of both restrooms.  The men's has more "manly" quotes on its walls  :-)

We walked on down Dock Street after lunch.

 The Rusty Rim appears to be the  local bar hangout with the requisite music going inside and out.

Around the corner and across the canal, a group of pastel ladies stood overlooking the gulf

 Cedar Key is a quaint low key water town that has serious devotees and I could definitely become one of them.

We had planned to spend the day biking around the entire town and out to the beach and to a couple of other spots our advisors had recommended but we discovered we had locked the bikes on the car as usual and neither of us had the key.   Ok then………..on to plan two.

So we took the car to check out the potential campsites closer to town.  Just across what is known as 4th bridge is Sunset Isle RV Park and Motel which they claim is “1.3 miles from Downtown Cedar Key”.  It has waterfront sites and a great sunset we were told.   There are 54 sites  all 20’ wide so that gives you an idea.  But waterfront sites there are and some were available.  In Season, which is from October 1st to May 31st,  waterfront sites are $39 a night or $210 a week  Stay for a month for $500 which brings the cost down to about $17 a night for “water, sewer, electric cable, 2 people, 1 vehicle”.   Given all there is to do in this area, I could manage a month here I’m sure.

Among the things in the area is the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge whose headquarters was our next stop.

There we met Pam who was thrilled to see us as apparently not many people come by for information and she’s a former National Park Ranger who really enjoys interaction with the public.  She told us all about the hiking and kayaking possibilities in the refuge and a 3rd camping option in a very secluded out of the way area.   Checking that one out will have to be another day.   But again we were very impressed with the friendly helpfulness of the information folks in this area.

Leaving the headquarters we came upon the largest Bat house I have ever seen. 

If full, this house would hold up to 100,000 bats.   Boy would I like to be around here at dusk and see them flying out to do their insect eating work.  Speaking of which,  did you know that there are 1000 species of bats which is a quarter of all mammal species?  Or that one bat can eat up to 4500 insects per night.  A 100 pound person would need to eat 6 extra-large pizzas a day to eat like a bat.   Don’t think I’d recommend that but if you have mosquitoes, you definitely need bats.

Take a look at their skeleton.  I mentioned earlier how amazed I was that a Manatees “hands” in skeleton looked like ours.  I had the same sense with the bat.  4 fingers and a thumb.

We decided at this point to take the River Walk trail and see the Suwannee from yet another spot this time down river.  Lovely path these rangers have constructed.

Walking along I glanced at this bird house and then several feet down the path had to turn around and go back.  Another biggest.  Is Florida trying to outdo Texas in the "big" house department?  This is the biggest bird house I’ve ever seen.  Too bad I couldn’t ask Pam who in the world they were hoping would live there or was living there.  Resident not in sight when we went by.

Very nice boardwalks over the swamps as we got closer to the river

And here we are…way down upon the Suwannee River……no groaning….you don’t have to listen to me sing, a blessing for sure.

The trail took a fork as we headed back and I was very glad to have my trusty pointer along to make sure I didn’t lose my way.

Doing some trail sweeping with available equipment.  At least he's not using a leaf blower as in "some" parks we've visited.

Further along the trail it became tall pines and palmetto understory.  Multiple habitats on one trail.  Nice!

By this time it was getting into the later afternoon and we’d been out since mid morning so, should take in the Shell Mound?  Go  Home to Manatee Springs in Chiefland or do the Nature Drive??   Decisions, Decisions….it’s a very hard life

We were tired but figured we could do a 9 mile nature drive.  That’s just sitting right?  But then we kept stopping to get out and look at the wildflowers along the road side.

Blue Porterweed

Black-eyed Susan and White Swamp Milkweed

And these strange grasses growing in?? on?? the trunks of the swamp trees

David noticed a newly built, as in not quite finished, boardwalk to a viewing area so we stopped for it too.  I don’t have a picture of this great boardwalk since it said  "construction keep out" and had a come along chain tied around from side to side blocking entrance half way up the ramp. Only a rule disobeying aging hippie would have proceeded.

Apparently they weren’t successful in keeping this guy out either.  Although I guess it was just us they wanted to keep out.

At this point it started to get silly when further on down the road David had to get out and check this black grasshopper.  Neither of us has ever seen one and we couldn’t find it in any of the identification books we have with us.  After looking on the web, we are more confused than ever.  Maybe some of our readers native to Florida can help us.

We finished the 9 mile drive and decided to go on down the road to Shell Mound and check out the campground.  This is the view of the estuary the campground overlooks.  There are 25 sites with water and electric, no sewer or dump so we’d have to pay to dump somewhere else.  That would take some looking into since I have seen a “you can pay to dump here” sign in a long time.   The sites are very close together but with this view, that can be overlooked.  Finding one level enough might be the problem.   $15.00  per night.  It’s a definite maybe.  Not as close to Cedar Key as Sunset Isle but half the cost even at the weekly rate.

The path from the campground  along the canal ended with a great view and has terrific sunset potential

After that we drove on to Shell Mound itself.  The signage described it as 6000 years old and the largest remaining shell mound (midden) on the Gulf coast.  5 acres and 28 feet high.  Now that’s A LOT of shells.  As before, we had the whole place to ourselves.  Talk about a nice parking spot.

As we got to the small rise you can see at the path’s beginning, we noticed a small wren taking a dust bath.  She was just darling as she twirled and turned around and upside down, spreading her wings in and out.  She dug a pretty substantial hole in the sand and shells.

We walked further along the path.

and had a great view of  the side of the mound.  It certainly is made of shells.  How has this not totally eroded away in 6000 years??

After our 28 foot climb we reach this lovely site at the top.  You can tell from this picture that it was almost sunset when we arrived at about 6:40pm.  PERFECT timing!

And so we watch the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico from Shell Mound in the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge

And if that wasn't enough, when we climbed down and went out on the pier, this was what we saw.  Well almost.  The moon was huge which, even with a moderate zoom, we were not able to capture.  You just had to be there.  J

Beauty everywhere we looked.   Hoping your life is just as beautiful.

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