Still chasing warm weather, the Astrals headed down to the gulf coast of Florida just south of Naples to Collier-Seminole State Park for a four night stay. Pretty nice little park with some hiking trails and lots of press about Florida panthers. It is actually very rare to see a panther in the wild since they are mostly nocturnal but just knowing that they are there adds some excitement to any hike where the trail borders are comprised of waist high grass. Yikes! The standing advice: If attacked, fight back! Right. I have a knife and a walking stick but I figure a giant cat is just going to bite your neck and that will be that. It's still pretty cool to pretend you're on safari though.
They have this big old block house right inside the park entrance that looked cool but which was devoid of anything interesting inside and, worst of all, the second floor was closed for renovation. I really wanted to go up there and get my Davy Crockett vibe on. There's also a huge walking dredge on display at this park (We'll post a picture in the next post), which is basically like a stream shovel that walks on stilts and was used to build the main road through the south Florida swampland. It kind of looked like the giant mechanical spider used by Dr. Loveless in the Wild, Wild West movie. (Which sucked compared to the television series in my opinion)
Wendy's brother Eric made us a huge batch of the most excellent Bolognese sauce to take with us and we put it to good use for two night's dinner with some nice whole wheat angel hair pasta. Here's the sauce and noodles cooking up on our little two-burner propane stove. The stove works great and seems to use propane rather sparingly. It's the first appliance used each morning: we have a camping French press coffee maker that I got from L.L. Bean that makes a righteous cup of Joe.
Camp sunset. Time for the fire ring.
This was the first time we used the screen netting on our SwissGear canopy. The mosquitoes, even though it's somewhat off-season, were enough of a nuisance to require it. I say nuisance because I only got about 2-3 bites. Wendy offered up her ankles like a crown roast and was treated to 19 bites, making an attractive, if itchy, ankle bracelet. Otis, lounging in comfort on his indoor-outdoor carpet under the canopy, was completely non-plussed. Today, some old codger was walking some dog he claimed was a cattle herding dog and he asked if the dog could say hello to Otis. I said sure, because Otis was safe in his portable pen. The dog came over to sniff and Otis, being his ornery self, went full ninja. Funny because the dog was about five times Otis' size but Otis was like "let me at 'em". Luckliy the dog was not super-aggressive so Otis was able to remain proud instead of dead.
Wendy doing some chores. Camping is a lot
But when the rain comes, nothing to do but relaxify.
I'm reading Don Quixote. What day is it again?
It was mostly sunny, but still colder than the Astrals like, especially
the third day (65F high/45F low)
Just to prove we're eatin' good, here's a ham, pepper jack,
and pickle sandwich, sprinkled on the inside with Tabasco.
Our gravity chairs are super comfy. I bought two in size
X-large, forgetting that Wendy is a lot smaller than me
so she really has a lot of room in hers.
Otis is still loves a good petting.
After the Bolognese ran out, we made some beans and rice with
diced ham and some green peppers that Wendy roasted on the campfire.
That, and a salad of mixed greens, apples, red peppers
make for a perfectly rounded meal.
Here's a secret peak at the Astral's royal sleeping quarters. We use two Coleman 10-30 degree sleeping bags opened up (one on top and one on the bottom) with two top sheets in between. When it gets really cold, we throw our Pendleton wool blanket over the top of it all. Very toasty. I sleep with my feet out regardless of the temperature. We always leave our coffee making stuff on the counter so we can make coffee stat in the morning. Since there's only two of us, we use the upper berth for storage and sometimes we put Otis up there for the night in his pet carrier. Mostly Otis sleeps in his carrier on the kitchen table, though, so if I get up for cookies in the middle of the night, I can sneak him a couple of pieces.
Morning of day three was cold. How far south do we need
Here's a wide shot of our campsite. I had the Eurovan
nestled up against the woods so you could see the leaves
through the pop-top side screen panels. Jungle habitat.
Wendy getting set up to shoot the eclipse.
As it turned out, the eclipse started later then we
had reckoned and the full view we had of the moon
from our campsite would be obscured by trees at the peak of the eclpise.
It was cold and we bagged the effort about 2am when the
firewood ran out.
More to follow.....Happy Solstice everybody!
-The usual suspects