Sunday, February 26, 2017

Hiking at Hillsborough River State Park ~ Sunday 2/26/17

Those darn kittens... I need to get better and darkening drapes for my bedroom. Now that it's brighter earlier, Explorer just won't let me sleep past 6 a.m.  He's trying to open the blinds, jumping everywhere, meowing... mind you he has food and water and the bedroom door is wide open so he could go downstairs where there are only curtains in the living room (no blinds) or in the Cat Room where there aren't even any curtains at all and 3 different windows!

But no, he just wants to bug me, I guess. And then he wakes up Princess who gets restless to and then Tabby Kitten shows up in my bedroom and they all start playing. Arrrgh!

So I got up at 6:45 a.m. today and I'm not a happy camper.  I'm PMS'ing (again!).  Also, I weighed myself while I was half asleep at about 5:45 a.m. and I'm not good with numbers so in my half awake state, I convinced myself that I had lost over one pound this week and I was ecstatic.  Only when I woke up for good, my brain kicked on and I realized that I had lost... 0.6 lbs only.  Well, it's really better than nothing since once again I was lousy with my diet and didn't exercise save for the walk I took on Friday with Middle Son, but it was a disappointment nonetheless. Stupid brain.

Also, after being up for less than an hour, this happened:

She went back to sleep!  And she has her little paw on my forearm as if to say:
"Shhh, Nathalie, don't type! You're making noise and I'm trying to sleep!"
Today Greg and I are supposed to go visit a new state park and I have picked Hillsborough River State Park in Hillsborough County. Once again, it's about an hour away from our house.  I hope it's nice!  The weather is only supposed to get up to 72F/22.2C, which should be quite enjoyable.  Our son has homework to do and doesn't want to tag along today, so he will stay home and provide support to our cat unit :)

I'll post my To Do List for continuity and hope that maybe I'll accomplish a couple of tasks before we leave...

  • Start dinner in crockpot DONE
  • Pack picnic lunch DONE
  • Inventory fridge first
  • THEN draft a menu for the week
  • Make check-off list for hikes/fishing trips on phone DONE
  • Give a driving lesson to my son with the stick shift (next week) 
  • Cook, purée and freeze 1 pumpkin
  • Mop bathroom
  • Clean bathroom ceiling
  • Vacuum living room
  • Make my bed DONE
  • Turn bread heels into bread crumbs
  • Earn Microsoft Rewards credits DONE
  • Input weight into WHBRHC  DONE
  • Print coupons DONE
  • Clip coupons DONE
  • Sort coupons
  • 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) 
  • Watch "Spy in the Wild"
  • Clean fridge - cleaned the bottom shelf, cleaned the "main" shelf
  • Sweep the downstairs bathroom
  • Vacuum the upstairs bedrooms
  • Make a dermatologist appointment for Youngest Son (after pediatrician apt)
  • 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 2x
  • Exercise at least 35 minutes on my bike  (weekdays only) Went on a hike
  • Finish moving/reinstalling missing software on new laptop 
  • Read one of the library books
  • Clean upstairs litter box  
  • 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
  • Vacuum the fridge's coils
  • Inventory the pantry
  • Inventory the freezers
  • 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
  • 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 or look at the Audubon site that Pixel shared.
  • Write letter to my great aunt, with pictures
  • Plant and water the tree 

  • I weighed myself and have lost 0.6 lbs this week for a total of 11.4 lbs total since January 1st and 2.6 lbs for the month of February. Well short of my 5-lb goal for February though, but a loss nonetheless and considering that I didn't really "diet", drink water, track my food, or exercise regularly in February, I'll definitely take it.  I'm going to do a reboot in March though.

  • I remembered to write a checklist of what to bring when we go hiking/fishing, because I always end up forgetting something.

  • I also printed a copy of a picture guide to animal tracks in Florida. I have a copy on my phone but sometimes it's hard to look at it in the sun.  I'm fold this one and put it in my fanny pack.

  • I realized that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission puts out a digital magazine called "Florida Wildlife Magazine" so I subscribed to their updates via email and plan on reading the back issues... one of these days!  It's free :)

  • I'm running Swagbucks videos to earn a few SB this morning (1st goal 87SB and I'm ignoring it!)

  • I earned the daily Microsoft Rewards and should be able to request a new $5 Amazon gift card tomorrow. Woo!

  • The Sunday paper was already waiting for me in the driveway when I got up at 6:45 a.m. and there are 3 coupon inserts today plus a couple  Publix store coupon inserts too. It's like Christmas :)

  • I uploaded digital coupons to my Publix and CVS apps.

  • I printed a few coupons, including some via Swagbucks (very few, which is great as it won't take me long to clip and sort them!).

  • I entered my weight into Walgreens' Balance Rewards for Healthy Choices and earned another 20 BR points.

  • I got lazy for dinner and just threw the pork loin roast (after cutting off the fat) into the crockpot with a bottle of BBQ sauce and set the crockpot for low, 8 hours.  We'll have pulled pork sandwiches and rice or potatoes, depending on how tired I am tonight.

  • I packed a picnic to take on our hike as we really enjoy eating lunch outside before we start walking.  I also packed a whole bag of grapes from Aldi so we could enjoy them as snack afterwards as well. It was nice and refreshing!

  • I remembered to wear sunscreen today and put it on before leaving the house. It's a good thing that I did that because I would have forgotten to do it again otherwise!

  • There were no tolls to drive to the Hillsborough State Park and we enjoyed discovering a part of Florida (driving through Pasco County into Hillsborough County) that we don't know well at all.  We used our annual State Parks pass to gain entrance ($6) to the state park.

  • After our hike, we also visited the Interpretive Center of the park, for an informative exhibit about the 2nd Seminole War.

  • On our way home, we stopped by McDonald's. I grabbed a medium Diet Coke (instead of the chicken nuggets I was really craving!) and Greg got a Shamrock Shake, which was free with my app ("free McCafé item with any purchase" coupon that expired today). He loves the Shamrock Shakes so he was really happy!

  • We also stopped by RaceTrac right before getting home so Greg could refuel his truck for this week's commute. He earned loyalty points on his RaceTrac app, paid with Discover for 5% back in Rewards, and we gained another receipt with which we will earn a freebie.

  • Meanwhile our son said he was able to do a lot of schoolwork this morning, folded his laundry, and then did some research on LARPing. He ordered himself 2 foam swords from Amazon so we can better spar without hurting one another (!) and waited for us to come home to get some guidance on the shipping since he was confused by the options.  I showed him which one to get so he wouldn't have to pay for shipping OR a trial of Amazon Prime and he paid for the swords with one of his many Amazon gift cards. Family members have been sending him those gift cards for Christmas or his birthday but he rarely buys anything so he has quite a balance accumulated!

  • For dinner, I decided to serve the leftover beans and rice that I had cooked earlier in the week, along with the pulled pork. It actually went pretty well together!

  • Gas:
    • to drive to Hillsborough River State Park and back

  • A Diet Coke for me

  • None

  • McDonald's: $1.59 (Diet Coke)
  • RaceTrac: $34.59 (gas for truck)

  • Florida Wildlife Magazine is available for free online 
  • A medium Shamrock Shake from McDonald's (with any purchase) with coupon from my app

  • Weighed myself
  • Fed the cats
  • Retrieved the paper from the driveway 
  • Worked on Rewards programs
  • Created a checklist for hikes/fishing trips
  • Located and printed animal track guide
  • Subscribed to Florida Wildlife Magazine
  • Read one issue of the magazine
  • Printed and uploaded coupons
  • Cuddled with Youngest Son
  • Cuddled with a kitten
  • Clipped coupons
  • Packed a picnic
  • Packed my fanny pack for our hike
  • Went on a hike with Greg
  • Texted my Daughter
  • Helped our son place an Amazon order
  • Served everyone dinner
  • Watched "Bob's Burgers" with Greg and then "Columbo" on my own

  • For a beautiful day in another state park with my honey!
  • For the smell of BBQ Pulled Pork cooking when we got home!

FIELD TRIP: Hillsborough River State Park, Hillsborough County

I wasn't super happy with my pictures today, a lot of them ended up being blurry when I looked at them on my laptop. I'm not sure why I didn't notice that "in the wild", but maybe it was due to the dappled sunlight?  It was disappointing, though.  Then at the end of our hike, several pictures have a smudge in the same place. I believe I touched a flower with the lens as I was trying to take a macro picture :(

Hillsborough River County State Park is located just south of Zephyrhills, off SR 301.  To get there, we had to drive through parts of Sumter County, Pasco County and then Hillsborough County, so it felt much farther than it was. It's about an hour away from our house.

A first for us, the ranger actually asked us for ID when we presented the pass.  Good for them!  The park impressed right from the entrance because you could tell it was well maintained and the ranger was organized.  It doesn't take much to impress me, lol.  She asked whether we'd been there before and whether we would be hiking, and gave us a map of the hiking trails (incidentally the same map that I had printed earlier this week at home and forgotten to bring along!) and also told us where to park. There are actually 4 parking lots at that very popular park!

And it was popular. It wasn't crowded by a long shot, but if felt like we said "hi" to people non-stop!  Even on the trail itself, I think the longest stretch of time we didn't cross another hiking party was about 10 minutes.  As I have mentioned before, I really like it better when we don't see anybody so it was a little annoying but the beauty of the park kind of mitigated my annoyance (plus I'm PMS'ing so I get annoyed easily!).

You see, the Hillsborough River runs through the park and we hike alongside it for quite a while.  Its water is very clear, just like a spring and the banks are high so the terrain was super interesting, for Florida!

We were very excited to see so many fish!  They were mainly catfish, but they were large and you could see them very well and fishing is allowed at the park.  I was convinced that Greg would want to fish after our hike, but he was tired and decided we should come back early next weekend and fish then. Well, OK but he rarely gets up early on the weekends and there's an hour drive so I doubt we'll get there any earlier than we did today, LOL!

We parked at parking lot #3.  There was a nice bathroom right off the parking lot, and several pavilions, along with many picnic tables and barbecue grills. There was a nice playground too and everything is nestled under tall trees so it was shady.

Before hiking, we ate our picnic.  I had pictures of the picnic table but I don't know what happened and a few of my pictures turned out blurry even though I had the camera on the automatic setting. Huh.  As soon as we unpacked our cooler, fat squirrels started coming down the trees and towards our table!  They weren't afraid of us at all so I guess people have been feeding them, despite the warnings not to feed the wildlife.

"Excuse me, sir, could you spare a little bit of food for a hungry little squirrel?"

To get to the trails, we crossed a suspension bridge over the Hillsborough River, that had been built in the 1930's. The park itself was built in the 30's by the CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corps, that had been established by FDR after the Great Depression to provide jobs and whose mission was, among other things, to replant forests, fight forest fires, and build campsites, roads and lodges for national and state parks. About 800 state parks were developed by over 3 million CCC "enrollees" from 1933 to 1942.

We are so going to use our kayaks here once we have them!  This gentleman was coming up the river.  There are rocks here, that make that a little tricky.  Further up the river, there are category 2 rapids, but we didn't see them. I want to go look at them next time.

The first trail we hiked was a short one, the Baynard Trail, that was only 1.1 mile.  It was nice and easy to walk, but very narrow.  It did have several nice boardwalks (unless the very rudimentary "boardwalks" from De Leon Springs State Park last week) and you could tell where there would be several creeks during the rainy season.

Greg looking at the river down below...
To give you an idea: the riverbank on the other side of the river.


Resurrection ferns growing on a huge oak tree

Screenshot of a zoom on the resurrection ferns

All the boardwalks and bridges were really well made and maintained!

I spotted a lone, white flower...

It's an Atamasco Lily (Zephyranthes atamasca). According to my "Wildflowers of Florida Field Guide",  it is listed by the state of Florida as threatened. It also states "all parts of the plant are poisonous, one reason why it shouldn't be transplanted from the wild."  This was the only flower of its kind that we saw today.
Then we hiked the "Florida" trail, which is identified on newer maps as the Seminole trail.  It was 3.4 miles but felt much longer, for some reason.  The first part of it had just walk alongside the river, so we were able to observe many more fishes, most of them being catfish.

Yes this is my reflection in the glass cover of the map. No, I'm NOT that that large or pregnant, I was just carrying my large
fanny pack on my belly, LOL.

There are several spots alongside the river with stone steps where people fish from.  We couldn't figure out why they weren't
fishing from the trail side, as there were several suitable sites and the fish were just sitting there in shallow water right near the river bank.

Like this! I think this is a brown bullhead catfish

And another one... we saw many of those and also a couple of basses.

Walking alongside the river. We walked the trail in the order designated by the map, but everyone we
met was walking the other way!  We never caught up to anyone else walking the same way we
were nor did anyone else ever caught up to us.  There were many people walking their dogs on
that trail.

A large oak tree growing over the river.

Can you spot it? Another hiker told us he had seen it and then took us to the exact spot.  I'm not sure we would have noticed
him because he was in a bend...

I was puzzled by several of those holes in the forest, as if they were placeholder for trees!

Later on I realized that they showed where palm trees used to be. The wood must be really soft and decompose very well, hence only leaving the hole in the ground that is lined with bark.

Once again, there were many roots growing across the trail and we tripped several times.
Luckily, we never fell.  There were also several trees that had fallen across the trail but you
could go around or over them. It was that that made us so tired after only walking 4.75 miles today,
I think, because we had to constantly focus on the ground in front of us and couldn't really look
around or we would trip immediately.  

I could have sworn that at one point I had been able to identify this plant but it's not in any of my books that I can see `1and I
can't find it online either. So I shall continue to call it the "limp penis flower". Sorry.

Southern Dewberry

Wild Petunia

Creeping Wood Sorrel/Yellow Wood Sorrel

I think this is Yellow Star Grass

Some kind of bracket fungus.  I like its deep orange color!

When I first spotted this on the forest floor, I thought it was a Coke bottle cap, lol.  But it was the cap of a Lactarius indigo, or blue milk mushroom.  Apparently they're edible.  You couldn't pay me enough to eat a blue, slimy mushroom!

Another kind of bracket fungi
After the end of our walk, we drove all the way around the park back to Parking Lot #1 to visit the Interpretive Center, where we learned more about the Second Seminole War.

We had a good time trying to find the Clermont area on this old map of Florida (print date of 1839) showing the location of all the forts in Florida and several battles with the Seminoles.  We love old maps.

I hope you had a nice weekend, whatever you did!  Mine ended up being way busier than I had planned but I had a great time :)


  1. Oh, those squirrel pictures are priceless! Is it the same squirrel or two different ones? The first one looked like he was trying to bully you into giving him food, but the second one definitely knows it's how he's supposed to act. You can even see a sly little smile around the corner of his mouth! Both look quite well fed for a starving squirrel!

    That's quite a hike you went on! At first, when I saw the picture of the oak tree across the river, I thought it was a bridge, and thought to myself, that's where I'd turn around and go back the way I came! LOL. The trail seems treacherous enough with all those roots growing across it!

    Glad you lost some weight. Maybe not as much as you would have liked, but that might be due to the time of the month. Just keep at it and it will eventually come off. :)

    1. I think it was 2 different squirrels, but honestly, I don't remember! There were lots of them and I took more pictures but they ended up blurry.

      I would NOT have gone on a bridge like that either! I don't like heights so I was a little shaky on the suspended bridge, which really wasn't all that high. My fear of heights is getting worse with age, I think.

  2. That is such a beautiful park! I love the graded steps by the river and the trails look nicely taken care of. I'm always happy when people make use of our city, state and national parks, but sometimes I wish they'd do it on days when I'm not there. ;)

    1. It was very beautiful indeed, my pictures don't pay it full justice. The river is gorgeous. But I would have liked it better with fewer people :)

  3. I found your flower! I actually googled "limp penis flower"! LOL
    It is a peony daisy according the this acticle:

    ~ Rosie

    1. Hi Rosie! It sure does look like it! Thanks for finding this for me :) I wonder where they got their info for the article, though, because I can't find any mention of a peony daisy anywhere else. I see those flowers all the time so it's annoying that they don't seem to be in my guidebooks.

  4. Great squirrel pictures! They seem to have such distinct personalities. LOL at "limp penis flower" - that's exactly what it looks like. What was nature thinking?

    Can you believe I can't remember if we've ever been to Hillsborough State Park? My husband seems to think we have, but I'm not sure. If you go again, maybe that would be a good time to get together (if you feel like it...if not, that's OK, too). We could talk cameras and stuff while we walk.

    1. We passed Lakeland on our way to Alafia River State Park yesterday and I was thinking about you and about getting together! Yes, we definitely should go to Hillsborough River State Park together! Greg is going to be out of town the 1st weekend in April, do you want to shoot for that? Send me an email :)

    2. Email sent. You may have to check your junk mail folder since it's coming from a Hotmail address.

    3. Got it, just replied :) Woohoo!


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