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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Florida Caverns State Park



Have you noticed that I am partial to State Parks yet?


I am.


I couldn't get an RV spot at Florida Caverns State Park, but I still wanted to see it. So I found a nearby park to stay at, and came here for the day. We came to do the cave tour and kayak, but when we got there all boating was shut down due to flooding. 

But that's ok, we can adapt.


So first we went and did the cave tour, which must be every hour...ours was almost right away. The cave tour lasted nearly an hour and it was really a lot of fun. (Aren't caves always fun though?) I feel like every time you go to one it's like you're seeing stalacgtites and stalagmites for the first time...and since I can NEVER remember which is which...it's like learning it new all over.


This time I will remember though, because our tour guide taught us that stalacgtites hold "tight" to the ceiling, and stalagmites just "might" grow up tall. (Anything to help me remember!

We saw different formations, learned about how the CCC dug the whole place out in the 1930s (by hand with pick axes and buckets...for $1 a day!), saw a bat and learned about how oils (from hands) and algae (from lights) destroy the formations. It was just one of those neat fun-ducational tours.



After that we had a picnic, went to check out the visitor center museum (a very cool little museum actually), and went on a hike on the Bluff Trail. This ended up being a huge hit, which is good, cause hiking isn't always a big hit with my kids. BUT, this hike included many sinkholes, partial caves, a tunnel cave you could walk through, and even a cave/overhang that was used by native tribes long before the Spanish came to Florida.





By the end we were hot and a little sweaty...it may be February, but it was warm and the spring flowers were blooming! But we were also muddy, happy and felt like we had really made the right choice by spending the day there.


If you ever get to visit this park, ask about the dinner bowls embedded in the ceiling....those CCC guys were ingenious!



Monday, February 22, 2016

Manatee Springs


I have learned that when RVing in Florida...

do not hesitate. 

If you want to stay at a specific park (particularly the state parks) you better book it right away. With some parks, that's not even possible. The closer you get to the Keys, the more difficult it is to book. But, there are many gems in Florida when it comes to state parks, and they book up as well. Unlike the Keys they are possible to book, but you do have to grab them early. (The Keys really should be on a lottery system, it would be easier than what it is now, and arguably more fair)


I felt like Myakka and Alafia fell in this category, but one of the ones I really wanted to visit was Manatee Springs. So as we were planning our Northward drive through the state, I checked for reservations. Booked. So I started scrolling through availability and found 3 days that we could stay there. It meant changing around our plans and other reservations, but man am I glad that we did!

THIS IS BY FAR THE COOLEST PLACE EVER!


Whew, sorry, I'll regain my composure. (But it REALLY was)





We snorkeled with manatees for two straight days! And when we weren't snorkeling we were kayaking, biking, or eating BBQ sold and smoked right there in the middle of all the action. This was the most laid back, beautiful park with the most awesome pay back ever...crystal blue waters, manatees, and SNAKES! 



Yes, snakes. 

I shouldn't be excited about snakes, cause, you know...they're snakes. But, as we were snorkeling, we saw several snakes swimming at the bottom of the water. I didn't even know snakes could swim at the bottom of the water! Don't get me wrong, I am petrified of snakes. When I looked down and saw the first snake swimming only about two feet below me, I panicked. I didn't want to put my face back in the water because I didn't want to see it, but I didn't want to put my feet down because I didn't want to step on it...so I just skittered across the top of water until I got back to the edge and got out. After I calmed down a little, I convinced my kids how it was a good thing that I saw it, because it made me realize that they really don't want anything to do with you. They'll just leave you alone...AND...it worked! When they saw snakes under water (and they both did) they were calm, and they didn't rush out of the water. However, they did know to tell me calmly so that I didn't freak out. (They know me so well, I only talk a big game!)

Do you see the snake coiled up on the 
log...only one of the many!

And it's like I tell my kids...if nothing bad or scary every happens, the stories are WAY less cool later.

This is AFTER they saw the snakes, 
and yes, they are still snorkeling!




Sunday, February 21, 2016

Space Dreams


As a child my biggest hero was Sally Ride. I collected every Odyssey Magazine (space magazine for kids in the 80s), punched holes in them and kept them in a binder. In case that wasn't space-nerdy enough, I had a mural of a space shuttle on my wall, and dreams of NASA when I was grown.


So obviously, THAT dream never came to be...but my giddy-ness about space never quite went away. I think my excitement, plus my kids own natural interest in space has made this one of the most anticipated places we've visited yet! Rockets, shuttles, IMAX documentaries, a launch...what more could you ask for?

A real live rocket launch!


We did SO much while we were on the Space Coast.

We visited the Kennedy Space Center (twice),

Luke with his hands in John Glenn's handprints.

Space Fountain in Titusville.

Always fun in the gift shop!

Yep, that guy is fake...tee hee.

This was the only place where you had 
to wait in line to take a picture!


the Orlando Science Museum (twice),

We saw the Orion Nebula, the moon, and Jupiter 
from the powerful telescopes in the observatory.

Landing a plane in the museum, it was tricky.

Luke making a friend in the science exhibit.

we kayaked with dolphins at Merrit Island Wildlife Refuge, and played at Cape Canaveral Seashore.


Talk about an amazing two weeks; we kayaked, swam, played, learned and watched SIX documentaries on either IMAX or cinedome screens! (and somehow in the middle of it all we managed to get some school work done and our taxes filed)

We were sad to say goodbye to the Space Coast, it is the strangest mix of the highest technology in the world and beautiful expanses of nature. Not too many places give you both so close together.  I am so glad that we stopped here, originally we hadn't planned to come up the west coast of Florida at all. We ended up staying at a county park (Brevard County), called Manatee Hammock. It was a crowded park, but still very natural (lots of trees, water view)...AND...we could watch the launch right from the park's dock. And, if you want to stay a while, you can actually camp here for 6 months. (While that didn't help us, a lot of people seemed excited about it.)






Friday, February 12, 2016

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