Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Not All Who Wander Are Lost
January 17, 2017 - Florida Keys

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Charleston, South Carolina Walking Tour

I found a Groupon for a walking tour with a company called Ashley on the Cooper Walking Tours, a clever name as Charleston is located between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. On Monday we took their two hour 1 pm tour with Kathy.  She was a fantastic guide, teaching us the history of Charleston in a fun and educational way.

We started near the Circular Church which has been on the site since the late 1600s, but has been rebuilt several times due to fires. There are many old grave markers and vaults dating back to the earliest days of the church.


Charleston has many historic churches. The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist was built in 1890 using sandstone from the northeast similar to brownstone homes. It is beautiful from afar, but even more impressive up close. Each block has hand chiseled stars representing the Bible story where God promises Abraham as many children as there are stars in the sky. The stained glass came from Germany.



 St. Michael's Anglican Church was built around 1752 and is the oldest church in the city. In historic times, families purchased their pew boxes. George Washington and Robert E. Lee both worshiped here (not at the same time, of course). The pulpit is the original. The gold chandelier was originally lit with candles. During the Civil War they painted it black to keep it from being stolen, and it worked.



 In addition to many beautiful churches, we also saw blocks and blocks of the most amazing historic homes. I think Charleston is the most beautifully historic restored city I've ever seen. Many other historic cities have some great historic homes mixed in with newer construction, or the homes are in disrepair. Charleston has done am amazing job of keeping the hold homes in excellent condition.

This is due in great part to a fantastic lady named Susan Pringle Frost who founded the preservation society in Charleston in the 1920s. She and her rich lady friends were instrumental in having many homes restored, maybe the original flippers. She was responsible for the famous Rainbow Row on Bay Street where the homes are painted in vibrant pastel colors. She was also the first president of the Equal Suffrage League.


 This blue frame house is supposedly the oldest home in Charleston from 1691 having survived many fires, hurricanes, floods and anything else Mother Nature could throw at it.


 This bed and breakfast is the John Rutledge House who was a governor of South Carolina and a signer of the Constitution.


 Many of the houses have beautiful flower boxes under the windows and amazing gardens behind their fenced yards.


 I loved this blooming tree with red and white blossoms. Our guide said it was a non fruit bearing peach tree.


 After our tour we walked down to Waterfront Park where there is an amazing pineapple fountain. Pineapples were used as a sign of hospitality and are seen all over the city on wrought iron fences and concrete walls.


We continued to Battery Park where there is this statue to honor Confederate defenders of Charleston. There are many cannons on display all around the park.


South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Federal Union on December 20, 1860. The vote was held on this site which is now a bank (on the left). There is a plaque on the wall. The adjoining buildings are much older, both occupied by law firms. Lawyers are second largest industry in Charleston. Tourism is number one.


We've toured several cities on trolley tours which are fun and informative. If we can find a walking tour, we prefer it because there is more time for the guide to give you in-depth information. Charleston does not have trolley tours. Instead, they use horse drawn carriage tours which are much quieter and cause less traffic problems. The horses wear bags to catch their poop. If the horse pees on the street, the driver drops a marker and street cleaners with a water tank spray it down at night so the streets don't small like a stable.


We stopped at the Fort Sumter Visitor Center on the mainland. The fort is actually on an island quite a ways out into the harbor. Ferry rides are available, but at $21 per person, we just weren't that interested. We've been to quite a few old forts in our travels. Fort Sumter is famous for the place where the first shot of the Civil War was fired  on April 12, 1961 by Confederates onto the fort which was occupied by the North. The fort fell quickly to the south giving the Confederates a strategic port. It stayed in southern control until 1865 despite repeated attempts by the north to take siege. It was severely damaged by over 20 months of bombardment.


George Washington visited Charleston in 1791 for a few weeks. He was treated as a hero with many balls given in his honor. Washington Park has a statue of him and a 1/30 scale reproduction of the Washington Monument.


One story is that he so much admired the Charleston County Courthouse, that he asked the architect James Hoban to design the White House.


I took many more pictures, but I'll stop here. I thoroughly enjoyed my day in Charleston, and would highly recommend it as a place for everyone to visit. We just scratched the surface of what there is to do.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Savannah, Georgia Walking Tour

We arrived at Camp Lake Jasper RV Park in Hardeeville, South Carolina on Thursday afternoon. This is another great RV park with huge sites. It looks fairly new and is clean and beautifully maintained. I chose this location because it is conveniently located off I-95, and we can visit Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina from here.

I found a great deal on Groupon for a walking tour with Savannah Belle Tours, so we headed out on Friday morning for a 10:30 am tour. The guide Michelle was very knowledgeable, and we learned many interesting facts about the history of Savannah and Georgia. Georgia was the 13th original colony founded in 1732, and was populated with the poor and prisoners from England. Many of them were in debtor's prison in England, yet they were skilled craftsmen. They were promised a paradise in Georgia. The northern colonies were willing to have Georgia as a new colony to act as a buffer between them and Florida, which was still under Spanish rule.

The city of Savannah was laid out in a grid pattern with squares in the center of neighborhoods. Originally, all homes were built using pine, and the squares were meant to protect the homes from fire. Unfortunately, the squares didn't prevent fires from burning homes, and Savannah had several major fires which wiped out most pine homes. Eventually, in the 1800s, those with the money began building their homes with stone and bricks.

Most squares had a church on one of the corners, so there are many churches in the historic district. The squares are named after political leaders or generals in the Revolutionary War or the Civil War. Many of them have monuments in the center. They have beautiful live oaks growing in them, which is the state tree of Georgia. The squares provide peaceful places for people in this very busy city to come and relax. This is Lafayette Square with a fountain in the center.


This is the Lutheran church in the historic district. They just celebrated their 275th anniversary last year.


The historic district of Savannah is a mix of beautiful old historic homes and newer construction hotels and businesses.  City Hall was built in 1905 and has a 70 foot gold leaf dome.


This house is known as Sherman's Headquarters. It was built in 1854 for Charles Green at a cost of $93,000 which was a small fortune in those days. Green offered the house to Sherman to use as headquarters when Sherman's army conquered Savannah on December 22, 1864. Residents of the city begged Sherman not to burn their city. He wrote a letter to Lincoln offering Savannah as a Christmas gift with its many bales of cotton and location as a port with a railroad.


In January, 1865 Sherman met with leaders of the black churches in Savannah. That meeting resulted in Sherman issuing Special Field Orders No. 15 which encouraged enlistment of freedmen and also gave each freed family 40 acres of coastal land. After Lincoln's death, President Andrew Jackson revoked the order, making it difficult for freed slaves to gain independence.

The founder of the Girl Scouts Juliette Gordon Low was born in Savannah in 1860 and founded the group in 1912. This house is the first headquarters and has a museum. There is also a museum at her birth house where you can buy girl scout cookies all year long.


The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist was built in 1873. It is beautiful inside and out.



Even the police station is historic. We got a kick out of seeing the old police cars parked in front of the station.


Spring arrived early in this part of the country this year. Tulips and daffodils bloomed a month early in February. There were some trees blooming.


Johnny Mercer is a native of Savannah. He penned 1,400 songs, the most famous being Moon River. He was co-founder of Capitol Records and founding president of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He was nominated for 18 Academy Awards for best song and won 4 Oscars.


We had lunch at Moon River Brewing Company. The food was good and Kevin enjoyed a flight with nine samples.

Savannah is a beautiful, historic city along the Savannah River. We walked along River Street with its many shops and restaurants. Tourism is actually the sixth biggest industry. Savannah is the fourth busiest port city in the country and the port is the number one business in the city. Michelle told us that South Carolina has overtaken Georgia as the peach capitol of the country. Free range chickens and pecans are now Georgia's biggest agricultural products.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

On Monday we moved on to Kelly's Countryside RV Park in Callahan, Florida located between Jacksonville and the Okefenokee Swamp. Our friends John and Janie had recommended we visit the swamp, so that's just what we did on Tuesday. It was a great day!

The refuge covers 630 square miles in southeast Georgia. The swamp is even larger with parts in both Georgia and Florida. We paid our $5 daily admission fee and headed to the visitor center. There is an adventure outfitter where you can rent canoes or kayaks or sign up to take a 90 minute guided boat tour. It was pretty hot, so we opted for the guided tour where we wouldn't have to work hard and would hear all about what we were seeing.

While we waited for the tour, we looked around in the visitor center and watched their movie. The movie had beautiful photography, but very little narration. It would have been much better if they had talked about the refuge. I thought this shirt was pretty clever.


The swamp is the head water of two rivers, the St. Marys which is the border of Florida and Georgia and the Suwannee River, which flows to the Gulf of Mexico (we were at that end over 250 river miles away last week.)

We boarded the boat and headed out into the 11 mile Suwannee Canal which was dug in the 1890s. A developer had the idea to dig the canal to drain the swamp for logging and farming. He ran out of money and abandoned the project, but the canal remains and is used by boaters to get out into the swamp. We saw dozens of alligators all along the canal. This guy was right in front of the boat. As the boat got closer, he just sank out of view.


This one was posing very nicely for us.


There was a large fire in the swamp in 2011. It was quite obvious where the fire ended and we entered this eerie looking area. We learned that Spanish Moss is not from Spain, nor is it a moss. It is an air plant growing on the cypress trees.


Our guide gave us lots of information as we slowly made our way along the canal. Then, he took us into a swamp prairie/pond area. We saw lots of birds, more alligators and many plants. This great blue heron had just caught a snake. Eeewww!



I managed to catch this egret in flight.


The swamp is a peat swamp where huge islands of peat sometimes come to the surface and actually form mounds where plants and even trees begin to grow. The lily pads were just beginning to bloom. There were also interesting looking plants called Golden Club or Never Wets, as the locals call them. The yellow stem is actually the flower. Water just rolls off the leaves; hence the local name.


There were lots of birds in this part of the swamp, egrets and ibis.


We thoroughly enjoyed our boat tour, but our day wasn't done. We drove along Swamp Island Drive. We saw evidence of the Longleaf Pine Restoration Project. These trees once covered 90 million acres in the southeast, fewer than 3 million acres remain.

We stopped at the Chesser Island Homestead. The Chesser family settled on a small island in the swamp in the mid-1800s. The homestead that is open to the public was built in 1927 using yellow pine and cypress wood. They grew sugar cane and processed it right on the property to make money. They also grew their own food, had livestock, and beehives. Electricity was never brought to the island while they lived there, but they had a propane refrigerator and gasoline washing machine. I'm always amazed how industrious people of old were.


Our next stop was the Chesser Island Boardwalk and Owls Roost Tower. The old boardwalk burned during the fire, so a very nice new .75 mile boardwalk has been built. It goes through the swamp to the 40 foot Owls Roost Tower, where you can get a great view of the swamp.


Seagrove Lake was behind the tower.


You can see a small black spot near the bottom center of the picture above. Upon closer inspection, it was an anhinga with some turtles next to it. Just above it was a large alligator.


We really enjoyed our visit to the Okefenokee Swamp. There is a state park with camping available, but we didn't get a chance to check that out.

On Wednesday we drove into Jacksonville to do some exploring. We drove through a historic area called Riverside/Avondale, but weren't all that impressed. The houses were old, but not as grand as we've seen in many other historic cities.

We stopped at Friendship Fountain along the St. Johns River in downtown. The fountain was huge and beautiful. It is lit at night, and I'm sure is even prettier then.


Across the river was a tourist area called Jacksonville Landing with shops and restaurants. There is also a river walk over there. We found the River City Brewing Company so stopped for a sampler for Kevin and a hard cider for me.


We've been in Florida Since December 31st, and today we leave the state. Our winter in Florida was great, but I don't think we'll spend another winter here for several reasons. It was very hard to make reservations at many RV parks in southern Florida, the prices were very high, RV parks were tight and small, sand fleas attacked Kevin a couple of times, and it was hotter and more humid than we like. Temperatures this winter were above average in Florida, so I'm sure other years are not as hot and humid as we experienced.  I know there are many people who love wintering in Florida, and that's great for them. We just prefer Arizona. That doesn't mean we won't be back for shorter visits. That's the nice part of being mobile. Never say never!

Today we head to Jasper, Georgia for a week. We plan to explore Savannah for sure. I'm sure I'll find other places to see as well.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Way Down Upon The Suwannee River

On Friday we drove to the Lower Suwannee River National Wildlife Refuge near Cedar Key. It covers 53,000 acres and was established in 1979 to protect one of the largest river-delta estuarine systems in the United States. The historic Suwannee River passes through the refuge on its way to the Gulf of Mexico.

We've all heard the famous song by Stephen Foster about this river. In fact, it's the official Florida state song. I always thought of Georgia when I heard the song. However, it is the second longest river in Florida flowing for 265 miles to the Gulf. The start of the river is in the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge in Georgia which we will be visiting today.

We hiked the River Trail over some boardwalks to the river. The refuge is home to 232 species of birds, 72 species of reptiles and 42 species of mammals. We didn't see any of them :)


Our next stop was Shell Mound Park. This is an archaeological site. Thousands of years ago Native Americans lived here and built up this mound with shells, animal bones and other refuse. The elevation helped them take advantage of breezes off the water. Now it just looks like a hill covered in trees. While we were walking on the trail to the fishing pier, we did see lots of oyster shells on the ground.


We met an interesting local man on the fishing pier. He told us that the shells we were seeing in the Cedar Key area on the little mounds in the water are oyster shells. Lots of the ones above water are dried out, but he explained how to cook them if we found some fresh ones. I think we'll pass. We love lots of different kinds of seafood, but oysters if not one of our favorites.

We spent the rest of the weekend relaxing at the RV park, even playing a little pickle ball. This was the first park we've been at all winter that had a court. The weather has gotten warmer again and is fantastic. The only downside has been that Kevin is getting bitten while outside. We think they are sand fleas. It happens mostly when he is setting up or taking down and is on the grass. His arms and legs are full of red spots. Benadryl anti-itch cream, ibuprofen and bug spray are helping. He says they itch a lot.

Monday we left Cedar Key and headed to Callahan, Florida, about 20 miles north of Jacksonville. We're staying here for three nights so we can visit the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia and Jacksonville.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Exploring Cedar Key, Florida

On Monday we arrived at Cedar Key RV Resort in Cedar Key, Florida. We're about two hours south of the panhandle, so definitely heading north.  The resort is one of the nicest we've seen. Sites are large with concrete pads and patios. Everything is beautifully maintained. You can see the pride taken in caring for this park. There is a pool, one shuffleboard and one pickle ball court, and some limited activities. A beautiful place to relax.

A cold spell hit Florida the day after we got here. We actually had a freeze warning one night, and highs have been around 60 degrees. We've been chilling out, but on Wednesday we did take some time to explore the small town of Cedar Key. This area has lots of small keys or islands with Cedar Key being the largest and most populated. It's one of the oldest towns in Florida, and has that old town feel. We walked along Dock Street where there are several restaurants and a marina.

We arrived two hours after low tide, and the boats in the inner marina weren't going anywhere. Two hours later, things were looking much better.



The town is home to a number of local artists, so we wandered through a few art galleries. This large and whimsical mosaic statue was outside one of them.


Many of the homes have historic registry markers on them. One of them had an awesome tree stump carving. I like how the artist carved images into the stump, rather than carving the whole stump into something.


The islands in this area don't have any natural beaches, everything is very rocky. The main industry is clam and oyster harvesting and tourism. At one time pencils were manufactured here using the cedar trees that grow in abundance. There is a small man-made beach in town. With the low tide, it didn't look very inviting.


I liked the drinking fountain they had in the park. A place to fill your water bottle, get an immediate drink, and even a dish for your dog. Great idea!


We had lunch at Tony's in downtown. I had read multiple reviews about the excellent award winning clam chowder they serve. In fact, they won the award for best clam chowder at the national contest in Vermont three years in a row. I ordered a cup, and I have to say it was delicious. They actually sell it in the grocery stores around here, so I'm going to see if I can find some to take home.


After lunch, we went to Cemetery Point Park and walked along the boardwalk. This whole area consists of many salt marshes and mud flats.


There were lots of these mounds with what looks like oysters growing on top. Not sure what that was all about.


In 1867 at the age of 29, John Muir set out on a 1,000 mile journey, walking from Indiana to the Gulf. He arrived in Cedar Key in October suffering from malaria. The townspeople took him in and helped him recover. He left Cedar Key in 1868 and headed to California where he was eventually instrumental in establishing Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Club.


At the RV park, I've been seeing a lot of Woody Woodpecker. I discovered its actually a pileated woodpecker. He really does look a lot like Woody!


Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!