Saturday, February 18, 2017

De Leon Springs State Park ~ Saturday 2/18/17

I didn't sleep very soundly last night and this morning I woke up with a headache. Evidence is showing that Greg might not have slept well either (his door was closed this morning, proof that Tabby Kitten, who showed up in my bedroom at some point) had annoyed him enough to be barred from his bedroom.

So I'm not sure if we're going to proceed with our plans to go to De Leon Springs State Park today. We shall see.

The weather is overcast and is supposed to remain this way, but once again our high will be in the low 80s.  There are several brush fires flaring up all over the place, we've had such a dry winter following a dry summer, I'm not surprised. I just hope we don't get caught in one.

I had promised Bonnie, last night, that I'd start up my diet and exercise and drinking efforts again today but I had forgotten we're supposed to be driving a long distance to a State Park and hike. If that does happen, the "drinking lots of water" part of the equation might not resume today or I'd have to wear Depends!  But I will try to stay on track with the calories, at the very least.

  • Go on a hike with Greg DONE
  • Pack a picnic lunch and snacks DONE
  • Sweep Cat Room
  • Sweep breezeway
  • Sweep exercise room
  • Make my bed  DONE
  • Sort coupons
  • Turn bread heels into bread crumbs
  • Earn Microsoft Rewards credits   DONE
  • Input weight into WHBRHC  DONE
  • Set 15 minute timer and try to accomplish as many chores as possible in that time  
  • Do the dishes by hand, drain/dry in the dishwasher (AFTER DINNER)  
  • Do last night's dishes
  • Fold the laundry (as I watch "Spy in the Wild")
  • Put the laundry away 
  • Clean fridge - cleaned the bottom shelf, cleaned the "main" shelf
  • Sweep the downstairs bathroom
  • Vacuum the upstairs bedrooms
  • Sweep/vacuum the main stairwell
  • Make a dermatologist appointment for Youngest Son (after pediatrician apt)
  • Download all January pictures from my phone and camera to external drive
  • Back up external drive to its own external drive!
  • Start a list of the electric outlets that I want to get replaced
  • Do my foot exercises  1X
  • Exercise at least 35 minutes on my bike  (weekdays only)
  • Give USB drive to Teen librarian to put photos of Youngest Son on it
  • Move missing Music files from External Drive to my Laptop 
  • Move/reinstall missing software on new laptop in progress, moved all the files to the External Drive
  • Trying syncing my phone on new laptop
  • Back-up my phone
  • Reset phone to factory settings
  • Upgrade to newer iOS
  • Clean upstairs litter box  DONE
  • Add Osmocote plant food to rose and hibiscus bushes
  • Put away the clipped articles from Kiplinger's magazine 
  • Read new issue of Kiplinger's in progress
  • Wash kitchen windows
  • Inventory the pantry
  • Reorganize the gardening supplies area in breezeway
  • Purge file cabinet in progress (through "credit cards")
  • Take RaceTrac surveys 
  • Move fonts from external drive and reinstall on new laptop
  • Take my measurements
  • Look into transplanting hyacinths in garden - Moved them outside since Explorer has started to jump on mantelpiece :(
  • Scrub patio pavers with bleach (wear old clothes and shoes, gloves and goggles)
  • Finish decluttering exercise room shelves
  • Try to hit my 1st Daily Goal on Swagbucks  
  • Call my bank to consolidate my IRA accounts
  • Sit down with my daughter and show her how to file her taxes
  • Start on our tax return
  • Schedule an outing to P.E.A.R. Park and ask them about the trees from my backyard
  • Record receipts in my spreadsheets DONE
  • Look up show times of Batman LEGO movie tomorrow DONE

  • We didn't turn the AC back on last night and I'm hoping we can hold on as long as possible before turning it on today.

  • Discover Bank credited us with the $100 promotional "welcome" gift for opening an account with them. It's sooner than I expected.

  • I used a free sample of Truvia sweetener in my coffee this morning.

  • We started a new gallon of whole milk yesterday but I poured 1/2 a cup of whole milk and 1/2 a cup of water in my morning Rice Krispies, both to cut down on the calories and also to stretch the milk.  Once the gallon reaches the half-mark, I will refill it with water.

  • My 1st Daily Goal in Swagbucks went back down to 77 SB, a relief!  I hope I can reach it.  I had 2,508 SB as of this morning so I ordered a $25 Walmart gift card.  I was credited the 10 SB Swag Up rebate that my team earned this week during the Team Challenge. Better than nothing, I suppose...

  • I just opened the windows at 8:30 a.m. so the cats can enjoy nature.  I'm not hearing any birds singing :( Maybe they're taking the weekend off too. A bird started squeaking at 8:45 a.m.. I think it might be a cardinal. Princess is hearing it too as she just showed up and sat in the window... and then she spotted a squirrel.

  • I earned the daily credits on Microsoft Rewards.

  • I entered my weight into Walgreens' Balance Rewards for Healthy Choices and earned 20 BR points.
  • I upcycled an empty bread bag to carry and dispose of the contents of the upstairs litter box (did the same last night, btw)

  • Greg finished a box of Grape Nuts and set it aside for me so I recycled the box and kept the inner bag to reuse as a freezer bag. I also reminded him to give me a heads-up once he's about to run out of the real stuff so I can bake him a new batch of the homemade Grape Nuts :)

  • I packed a picnic, drinks and snacks to take with us to the state park. We are planning to do the same thing as last week, which is to get there around lunch time, eat lunch, and then go hiking.

  • I have planned on making pasta and meatballs for dinner tonight, which is super easy since I use frozen meatballs, so I don't need to worry about defrosting anything.

  • We are taking the back roads to the state park, thus avoiding tolls and discovering new-to-us areas of our county and Florida. It'll take longer to get there (about 10 minutes longer) so maybe the savings won't be there at all, but I love "adventuring" and toll roads don't exactly fit that description :)  Update: well, the way up there ended up being mostly a route that I had taken before and wasn't all that scenic, so we came home a different way, which also wasn't super scenic but allowed us to spot an egret on top of a cow, something that I had been wanting to photograph for several months so a great success indeed-a-roo!

  • I really needed to pee (because of the coffee that I had drank) on our way up so Greg pulled into a gas station. I always feel bad using the facilities without buying anything so I always end up buying something. In this case, I grabbed a bag of sour worms to bring back for our son, but there was only 1 cashier and the woman in front of me talked to him about something, swiped her credit card, and then proceeded to make a phone call because apparently she needed to ask someone something (maybe the debit card code?) but that person wasn't replying... Greg was giving me a shake of the head, so I put the candy back and we left. I tried.

  • We again used our annual pass to get into the state park so we didn't incur any expense. The ranger warned us that the line for getting into the pancake restaurant (which is very popular) was three hours long!  Well, we had brought our own picnic, thankfully!  So we found a bench facing the spring and ate our lunch while enjoying nature. However, a young girl using the spring pool behind us found it fit to play music on a bluetooth speaker very loud, and it was rap and the kind that used "motherf*****" several times, it was infuriating.  Luckily we finished eating our lunch as she was playing that song and left to go hiking.
Our view as we ate. It was nicer than it looks in the picture. It was so cloudy that a lot of my pictures turned out pretty drab, even if I did tweak the saturation a little on them.
  • We hiked for 4:45 miles (1:41).

  • Afterwards, we partook in the snacks that I had packed: Swiss rolls for Greg who's found a passion for those recently, carrot sticks and pretzel sticks for myself (and his string cheese since he didn't want it!) on our way home.

  • When we got home, I checked the mail and found the latest issue of Popular Photography magazine that comes here for Middle Son. I had signed him up for a free subscription, last year.

  • Greg wanted to go out to eat for dinner at the local Mexican restaurant but I said no.  He is going out tomorrow, I'll probably take our son out to lunch after we go to the movies. So I'm making pasta and meatballs.

  • My ex invited my daughter to join him, his wife and presumably his step-daughter on a 3-day cruise to the Bahamas over Spring Break! She's mulling it over.

  • Gas:
    • to drive to De Leon Springs State Park and back

  • I didn't meet my Swagbucks goal, even though it was only 77 SB. I was disqualified from all the surveys and I wasn't home for most of the day to babysit the videos.

  • No Spend Day!

  • I ordered a $25 Walmart gift card from Swagbucks (I haven't received it yet)

  • Fed the cats
  • Worked on my Rewards programs
  • Aired out the house
  • Commented on blogs
  • Replied to blog comments
  • Refilled toilet paper dispensers in both bathrooms
  • Made my bed
  • Cleaned the upstairs litter box
  • Packed a picnic, drinks and snacks for our outing
  • Went on a hike with Greg
  • Saw an egret on a cow and took a picture thanks to my awesome hubby!
  • Cuddled with kittens
  • Replied to blog comments
  • Cooked dinner
  • Sleep was uncomfortable.
  • Breakfast was a bowl of Rice Krispies with fresh strawberries and 1 cup of ~2% milk
  • Lunch was an egg salad sandwich, half a can of lentil and chickpea soup, a portion of applesauce, a piece of string cheese
  • Afternoon snack was some pretzels and carrot sticks, a piece of string cheese, a Diet Coke.
  • Dinner was pasta with pesto and meatballs.
  • Exercise was a 4.5 mile walk.
  • Foot exercises were performed.
  • For a lovely day with my hubby
  • For being the first at getting a picture of an egret on a cow, lol!
  • For seeing manatees frolicking in the spring


Another state park that we had never visited.  Actually, we were meant to visit it during our "honeymoon" as I had always heard of the Old Spanish Sugar Mill restaurant where you cook your own pancakes back when I was a student at Stetson University in nearby DeLand (back then it sounded fun, now I can't imagine paying a restaurant to cook my own food!), but on the day that we were supposed to go, there were terrible forest fires around the Orlando area and we couldn't even make it out of Greg's apartment complex because we couldn't see past the front of the car! So, almost 16 years later, we finally made it to De Leon Springs State Park.
    De Leon Springs is another property that used to be a private attraction in the early part of the 20th century, but that was eventually bought by the state of Florida and converted into a state park.

    The line to get a table into The Old Spanish Sugarmill Pancake House was THREE hours long
    at noon. That's crazy!

    There were beautiful masses of azaleas at the entrance of the park and in the parking lot.

    Unfortunately a combination of bad light due to the sky being very overcast and the 40X digital zoom necessary to take this picture from across the spring resulted in pretty drab and unfocused pictures :( Here is a Great Egret and a blue heron trying to catch some lunch, I'm guessing :)

    And a couple of white ibises sleeping in a tree over the water,

    You can rent canoes or presumably pay a launch fee and bring your own kayak or canoe, but today everyone seemed to be renting only.

    We were there to walk, but I wouldn't have minded taking a trip down the spring too!  The state park is very close to the much larger Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge and you can paddle down to the wildlife refuge from the state park.

    The building is the Old Spanish Mill Pancake House.  To the left of the bridge, is the head of the spring, which actually forms a large pool with underground caverns. Diving in the caves and caverns is strictly prohibited, but you can dive and snorkel in the pool as there were several people suited up to go just that. I think Middle Son has been diving there before.
    To the right of the bridge is the spring "river" that flows towards the wildlife refuge.
    Here is the pool area, with the Old Spanish Mill in the background.  The depth of the water varies from 3 ft to 30 ft!

    I know, it's a bad picture, but I was excited to have, for once, captured a bird in flight (the blue heron)!

    I saw this tree, and as I turned to Greg to say "I've never seen a tree with orange fruit like that?!", I realized that they were bobbers stuck in the tree, as it was located near a fishing dock, hahaha.  Shall I call it the Bobber Tree?

    Anhinga swimming and fishing in the spring, thus earning its nickname of "snake bird".

     Can you guess what those are?!

    After enjoying the playful manatees (and wishing we could see them better!), we headed to the nature trail.  We looked at the map, and decided to walk the short Nature Trail and the longer Wild Persimmon Hiking Trail.

    The hiking trail was very easy: paved and short.  A few people were walking there too.

    There were several flowers, and for once they were all blue or purple (I'd been saying in the past that all the flowers I seemed to spot this winter were yellow!).
    I'm thinking this might be Carolina Wild Petunia but I'm not sure...

    Common Blue Violet

    Azure Blue Sage

    As we approached the Wild Persimmon Hiking Trail, we came about this warning.

    And then these!

    It is to be noted that:

    1. We didn't register at the ranger station. We didn't know until we were already there that we had to!  We did ask them for a map, which they had given us, but they never asked if we intended to hike, only if we meant to go to the restaurant because they warned us about the very long line!
    2. They say to allow at least 3 hours to walk the loop. It took us only 90 minutes.
    3. I had forgotten to put my hiking boots on, and I only had my walking sneakers and low-cut socks, black walking capris and a tank top!
    4. We did have water and cell phones, but no insect repellent.
    Well, thankfully the dry winter and overcast weather resulted in a dry trail with very few mosquitoes (I think I heard a mosquito once, only!) and we didn't spot any kind of wildlife, dangerous or not. OK, ok, Greg claims he saw a deer, we did see a couple of vultures, I saw 2 lizzards,  several butterflies and tiny birds, and at the end of our trek we saw a squirrel. But we didn't see any bears, snakes or encounter any dangerous conditions, apart from...

    these roots that were all over the first part of the trail and did make walking on it a little treacherous. 

    You had to keep your eyes on the ground at all times, and I kept on thinking that I was probably
    missing out on a lot of stuff all around me, but no. There wasn't much to look at, just a lot of trees.

    The map warned that we would come across a bridge. This was the bridge, Seriously.

    There were a lot of trees with these huge leaves all over the first part of the trail and Greg was asking me what they were but I wasn't sure. At first, I thought maybe they were persimmon trees because there were so many of them and the trail is named Wild Persimmon, but on the way back, I had an epiphany and told him they looked like magnolia tree leaves to me, although the ones I usually see in yard have leaves of darker green. However, we soon passed a sign that identified one of those trees as a Southern Magnolia so I was right!  Woohoo!  None of the ones we saw had any magnolia blossoms on them, which is why it wasn't that easy to identify (and also because I don't know much about trees!)

    A carpet of fluffy moss!

    Later on, the map said we would come across a boardwalk.  Well, it literally was a board walk.

    There were several benches along the trail, but unlike at Fort Cooper State Park, these benches were tall and very narrow and looked completely uncomfortable. I wonder why they were designed this way.  The trail was very well marked, though, and the map was helpful, unlike at Fort Cooper State Park!

    I guess we weren't done with the board walk....

    More?!  We couldn't understand why those were there anyway. On the way home I just walked next to them.

    Then the map warned of "a series of four bridges". So this was the first bridge of the series. Again, why, we're not sure.

    And the 2nd one, that went over a very dry creek.

    The creek bed.  I suppose it might be full in the summer when it does rain?!  

    We laughed at that because in the middle of nowhere was this post with a blue carving of what looked
    like a raccoon paw print.  It looked like one of those biometric things that you see in movies so we joked that
    maybe it was the site of the Raccoon CIA or something... Well, you know, when you walk in the woods and there's really
    not much to see, you amuse yourself with the things that you DO see!

    Several trees were in poor condition, such as this one, but you could also tell where maintenance
    had been performed as there were freshly cut logs and smaller saplings left on the side of the trail
    in several spots.

    There were quite a few large trees that had been uprooted and a few that had broken in half. We wondered if that had taken place during Hurricane Matthew last fall.

    This made me laugh as it looks like the tree has a wig on. I thought they should have painted a face on the cut side of the log, and was temped to draw one on with the Sharpie that I happened to have in my fanny pack, but that would be vandalism and I don't do that :)  So we'll just imagine a face on that log.

    Detail of the Air Plant's blossoms.

    Soon the trail went from a very narrow trail in dense woods with roots peeking from the leaf-and pine-needle-covered ground, to this larger, sandy trail. It was a nice change, to be able to walk next to one another, but we didn't see many more interesting things!

    A couple of turkey vultures were startled by our approach and startled me because they made a lot of noise as they were trying to fly up in the tree and I couldn't see what was making the noise and was imagining a bear charging at us.

    The pretty uninteresting trail. It was good exercise, though!

    We liked this tree because it was so green!

    We did see a lot of Carolina Jessamine. The floor of the trail in the woods was littered with their blossoms.  Here we came upon a lot of them in one spot and it smelled very good!

    This Eastern Tiger Swallowtail seemed to enjoy the blossoms as well!

    Ah, finally a nice crisp and focused picture!

    Another kind of moss. I think it's pretty!

    Walking back towards the parking lot, along side the Nature Trail, once again, we took this short
    (and real!) boardwalk to go see...

    Old Methuselah

    Actually, it wasn't all that impressive and didn't have much of a canopy. I guess I wasn't impressed because I did visit the redwood forest in Northern California!

    Greg had to stop to get something out of his boot and this squirrel got really mad at him and was screaming pretty loudly!  I took this picture for my friend Bless who always enjoys the squirrels so much! I guess he was keeping the intruders out there too, Bless!

    One last look at the spring, after we visited the tiny "gift store" area of the restaurant to see if there were any nice postcards for me to send to my great aunts (they weren't nice, I'll just print her some pictures!), and I spotted something completely unexpected!
    I didn't know sting rays lived in springs! Apparently neither did Middle Son who is a diver and tells me if has never seen one
    in a spring!

    I did find this article that discussed "freshwater" stingrays in the St John's River.

    All in all we like De Leon Springs just fine.  I would like to come back and canoe or kayak down the Spring and also visit the Nature Preserve next door.  There is another state park in the area so maybe we'll be back sooner than later :)

    On the way home, we saw several ospreys nesting atop power poles, but I didn't even try to take pictures as we were traveling 55 mph.

    How was your Saturday?


    1. Your day was VERY productive - an egret on top of a cow and a manatee! I hope you bought a lottery ticket, too!

      1. LOL it's scary how we think alike! I was thinking, typing this post, "I should be in a good spot to win the lottery tonight!" as I have a ticket good for several advance drawings :) I haven't checked the news yet but somehow I don't think there'll be a "Woman from South Lake County wins the jackpot!" headline. But if I do, I'm taking you out to lunch!

    2. Ha, ha, the squirrel was probably sounding the alarm: "Unregistered hikers on the trail! Unregistered hikers!"

      By the way, I particularly liked Greg's balancing act on the bridge! And that log did look like it had a face! I saw at least one dark "eye" and a smile-like line. :)

      Glad you had a nice hike, Nathalie. You are accomplishing that goal!

      1. Yes, I saw the line and eye you are talking about too :) Greg was much more graceful than I was on those planks. And I'm laughing that the reason you detected was the true reason why the squirrel was mad. I'm a rule follower so I was telling Greg, before we went on the trail, that we should go back and tell the rangers that we were on the trail and he was the one telling me "bah! I should you wanted to go on a an adventure!" Granted, it was February in a Florida state park, not summertime at the Grand Canyon, but I had episodes of the TV show "I Shouldn't Be Alive..." running through my head... hahaha.

    3. I was impressed with the manatee because the only place I've seen one is in a zoo. Are they common there?

      1. Oh yes! The manatee is one of our state mammals, as a matter of fact. They are very commonly found in the springs in winter because the water temperature is constant at about 70-72F all year. However, a lot of them are injured or die because of boaters running over with their propellers, hence my comment in the video that one of them had a big scar on its back. They tend to float near the surface of the water so if you go too fast, it's easy to run over them. For this reason, the speed limit on a lot of lakes, canals and springs is very very slow. It's also a federal offense to harass manatees, although it is possible to go swimming with them. Back in 2009 my BFF and I took our kids on a camping trip with other friends who owned boats and they took us down Homossassa Springs and we were able to swim among manatees. It was very cool. I'll post a picture of a group of manatees we saw back then in my post today. The kids were back in the boat at that time, I don't think I did get a picture of them swimming near the manatees, come to think of it. Oh well. This reminds me that I need to take Greg there, he's never been.

    4. Looks like the park is nice. I've been wanting to go there to swim, canoe and eat at the restaurant but my husband balked at having to cook his own meal (like he does at home? ha-ha, right). But no way would I wait 3 hours for a pancake meal, lol. Hopefully, we'll get there this summer.

      1. Like you, I'd been wanting to go there for years... to make my own pancakes, lol. I had always heard it was "the" thing to do in the DeLand area. We looked at the menu and it costs $5.95 per person for unlimited pancakes. I could see where, after a long day of kayaking down the spring or swimming in the pool, you'd be famished and pancakes would sound delicious. But paying for making my own food? Nah. Even my 15 year old son was incredulous when I told him about the restaurant. I loved your comment about your husband not even cooking his own at home, hahaha, sounds just like Greg! When he wanted to go eat at the Mexican restaurant last night and he was trying to use the excuse that *I* looked too tired to cook, I said "So you're going to cook us dinner for a change?!" and his answer was "Heck no!". I had played with the idea of making a pancake dinner but then I thought "he's right, it's too much work!" and I stuck to the menu.

        Also, we stepped inside the restaurant looking for the gift store and it was kind of dark and not all that nice inside, at least it's the impression I got. And I don't think you even got great views of the Spring. So I'm not understanding the 3-hour wait. The ranger said people had been lining up to make a reservation when he opened the park in the morning! Huh.

    5. I'm impressed with your hiking adventures. I played several games of poker and Yatze with my grandsons heehee. I also took them to lunch at a Chinese buffet ($28) and bought 3 donuts each and an iced coffee each $13) so it was definitely not a cheap Friday/Saturday. Today I skipped church and went to Winn Dixie, WalMart and Publix. Aldi's wasn't open yet but I might still go there. I didn't buy anything exciting but I'm on a fish/salad/veggie diet so I loaded up and am going to really try to just eat these foods besides a cup or two of coffee. I scrambled 2 eggs for breakfast so those are on the diet too- my own low carbing. Now to get off the 'hiney' and walk! BTW I love Stetson- I had a client in Deland who I used to visit monthly. Stetson is really expensive now- our church secretary's daughter got a scholarship there a few years ago but even with that didn't last.

      1. Sounds like you had a very enjoyable date with your grandsons! It's so nice that you have a close relationship with them. My best childhood memories are of moments spent with my darling maternal grandmother. I miss her very much.

        Way to go on your diet! I admire your drive to cut the carbs. I need to cut the carbs too but... I don't. I love carbs. My qualify of life would be severely limited if I didn't have carbs, I think.

        The Stetson campus on DeLand is pretty, isn't it? I really enjoyed my year there. I was lucky enough to earn a one-year fellowship from them so all my expenses were paid for, except for my travel over here and back to France and I also was on my own over holidays when the campus was closed. Thankfully Americans are, on the whole, a friendly bunch, and I always had friends who welcomed me for the holidays. Oldest Son applied and was accepted there when he was looking at colleges and even offered a quite substantial scholarship (plus a small legacy scholarship as both I and his dad attended a year there) but the cost was still way too much so he ended up going to UCF. I was disappointed as I thought the small campus would be perfect for him but the Jazz Studies program at UCF is very good so that's what he chose.

    6. DeLeon Springs in on our list as well. Your photos are really pretty and I think it would be fun to do some snorkeling and kayaking. I really loved your photos of the boardwalks and bridges. :) I imagine the ground gets pretty sticky during the rainy season, but Michael and I have come across these and had the same reaction.

      It is so cool that you saw both manatees and a stingray. It's been a while since we've made a point of doing any manatee spotting, we should rectify that. I think anhingas are so wonderfully weird. They look so odd when they are swimming!

      1. Greg and I were thinking that those planks would be awfully slippery when wet... there must be something we're missing! Anyway, it made us laugh and kind of broke the monotony for a while :)

        I hope you make it to De Leon Springs soon! Greg and I are mulling over buying a kayak but I want a 2-person kayak. I might surprise him with one for Father's Day. I think it's more likely that we would go kayaking if we owned our own than if we have to rent one, because we're cheap that way, lol.

    7. The swimming area looks nice though!

      1. Yes it was fairly large and I would imagine that if you like swimming under water, it would be entertaining.

        Wekiwa Springs State Park also has a swimming area that the kids and I enjoyed a few years back. The water always feels freezing cold when you get in there, though!


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