Tag Archives: Camping

An Everglades Adventure~Part 3

8 Oct

A Slice of Life

BIll Lites

Bill Lites

 

That evening after supper, we built a campfire and were enjoying “S’mores” when we heard rustling in the brush around our campsite. Now we were all veteran nature lovers, but, we had heard tales of what kind of critters called the Florida Everglades their home, so were extra 1cautious. As it turned out, it was a mama Raccoon and her three little ones looking for a handout. We tried to discourage the children from feeding them, but you know how kids love furry creatures, and they don’t realize how dangerous wild animals can be. We shooed them off, knowing they would surely be back to try their luck again. It was a fretful night for me since it was a strange place (many of the night sounds were different from those we were used to in our woods at home) and I kept waking up, worrying about the raccoons coming back and trying to get into our food.

After breakfast the next morning, the ladies packed a picnic lunch, we all covered ourselves with sunscreen, and insect repellant and headed off with the canoes to see what we could see. It was a beautiful day and birds of all kinds were everywhere. DiVoran was especially thrilled to get to see her first Rosette Spoonbill and we all were excited to see a nest of Pileated Woodpeckers.

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There were egrets and ducks of all kinds, on the water and in the air, and we had a contest to see who could name the most correctly. Of course, being in the land famous for alligators and snakes, we were constantly on the lookout so as not to be surprised by one of them. By the time the sun was high overhead, we were tired of paddling, so we found a small clearing, beached our canoes, and shared our picnic lunch with the ants, flies and mosquitoes. Then it was time for more sunscreen and insect repellant. We found our way back to the boat landing and decided 25 cents was not too much to pay for a shower.

 

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If you have ever done any camping, have you ever noticed how the mosquitoes seem to attack much more after you come out of the shower? I don’t know what it is about a clean body, but for me, the race is on to see if I can get to the insect repellant before they can find me. Earlier we had seen some very unusually shaped old dead trees not too far from our campsites, so we spent some time scouting the area for driftwood.

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That evening, after supper, we sat around the campfire and Dwayne showed our daughter, Charlene, how to play cords on the guitar. We had another visit from the raccoon family, but they didn’t stay long this time, as the boys chased them off.

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So much for our “Everglades Adventure.” We all agreed this sort of “Primitive” camping was not exactly what we had in mind for a relaxing weekend camping trip. The next day we packed up all our equipment, canoes and children, and began the long drive back to Titusville. Other than being long and hot, the return trip was uneventful (if you can ever begin to call 4 adults being cooped up with 5 kids for 6 hours in a hot car, uneventful). We stopped for lunch and potty breaks, but didn’t stop in Melbourne for my car, since we couldn’t pull both the camper and the car. I would have to make that trip another day, and that is a  story in itself that I will have to share with you some other time.

 

 

—–The End—–

An Everglades Adventure~Part 2

1 Oct

A Slice of Life

 Bill Lites

Bill Small Red Plane

 

Well, as it turned out, that engine had died a loud and painful death! Much later, I discovered some of the teeth on the phenolic timing gear had sheared off and left the valves and push rods free to fend for themselves.   Boy, what a scary racket that was! Well, since the car wouldn’t run, Dwayne had to tow our dead car, with us and our camper off the Interstate, to the closest campground. What a mess! Here we were, not an hour into our great Everglades Adventure and we were stuck with a broken car.

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 However, not to be deterred from our original goal, we spent most of the that day setting up for our overnight stay in a nice campground there in Melbourne, after which we had to locate, purchase and install a bolt-on trailer hitch for Dwayne’s car. We arranged with the campground owner to leave my car until I could come get it, and transferred everything from our car to theirs. Now we had 4 adults, 4 children and a baby in Dwayne’s car with two canoes strapped to the top, and also pulling our tent camper. What a site that was when we pulled out of the campground and headed south again the next morning.

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Since I-95 ended north of Miami back then, we had to use county roads for the last 45-50 miles before we made it to the entrance of the Everglades National Park.   Then it was another several miles to the Flamingo camping area. With no A/C in the car, it ended up being a grueling 5-hour trip (counting lunch & several potty stops). Then we had to get checked in at the Everglades campground, and find our campsites in the sprawling camping area.

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The grassy campsites had paved slots, which made camper and tent setups very easy. We had a picnic table for each campsite, which we put together for our meals. After we had eaten, we went exploring to find the closest restrooms. We found them, and also discovered that for a shower we were going to have to drive 3 or 4 miles to the closest bathhouse, and then pay 25 cents for water. We would have to think about that. We were used to swimming in the fresh water springs and didn’t usually need showers.

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—–To Be Continued—–

 

Visits with Ivan & Dora Part 1

29 May

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

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Ivan,father of DiVoran Lites

DiVoran’s dad, Ivan, was an avid fisherman, one of those “Lives to Fish” kind of guys.  During his working years, he spent as much time as his job permitted, fishing within a driving radius of his home.  When he and his wife Dora lived in Livermore, California, it was the San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento River where he did most of his fishing.

At that time, DiVoran and I lived in Los Angeles where I was attending Northrop University, and we made several trips to Livermore so Ivan and Dora could see their grandkids.  Now I’m not really much a fisherman, but I have fond memories of fishing with Ivan on San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento River.  In fact, I caught the biggest fish of my life, a 75 lb. Sturgeon, and Ivan caught a 104 lb. Sturgeon during one of our trips up the Sacramento River.

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On another trip to Livermore to visit Ivan and Dora, Ivan took me fishing on San Francisco bay where together, we caught the most fish (110 total) I can remember.  Of course, of those 110 Striped Bass we caught, we had to release 109 because they measured from 12“ to 15” long, and the limit was 16”, which left us with only one keeper, but boy was that a fun morning!

3Ivan and Dora retired in Vista, California and one of the first trips we made to visit them  there involved Ivan taking me to run his lobster traps.   He had obtained a commercial Pacific Lobster License with the idea of making a fortune selling his catches to the local area  restaurants.

The only trouble with that plan was that poachers were raiding his traps and running off with most of his lobsters.  He had tried everything he could think of to deter the poachers, including enlisting the local sheriff, all to no avail.  The traps were some distance off shore, and no one was able to keep watch on the traps 24/7, and he never knew when the poachers would strike.  But, the lobsters we were able to catch on that trip were delicious!

Bill Lites

Bill Lites

Vista was hot in the summer compared to Livermore, so to beat the heat and be able to fulfill Ivan’s fishing desires, they would pick out a nice “cool” campground at a good fishing location, buy a used 30’ travel trailer and set it up there for the summer.  If the location turned out to meet all Ivan’s “Summer Getaway/Fishing Requirements”, then they would leave the trailer for  the next year.  If not, they would hook up the travel trailer to his truck and move it to another “Better” location the next year.5

There were the memorable summers Ivan and Dora spent in the Puget Sound area.   Dora’s brother Smithy ran a beautiful trailer park and campground on Marrowstone Island.   From Seattle, we had to take two ferryboats to get to the island and then drive several miles to get to Smithy’s Trailer Park, but it was well worth the time and effort.

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Ivan and Dora  parked their travel trailer at Smithy’s for several  summers, and Ivan usually helped Smithy with the campground maintenance, while Dora and  Smithy’s wife Waunita took care of the family Avon business.  DiVoran and I would rent one of Smithy’s permanent travel trailers during our visits with them, which was just like camping in a State Park, which as it happened, was just a few miles north of Smithy’s at the Fort Flagler State Park. 7

A day of fishing for Ivan and me on Marrowstone island was; out early at low tide, to collect tube worms, then set off in Ivan’s boat in search of the best Flounder fishing hole.  By the time DiVoran and I visited  them at Smithy’s the first time, Ivan had scoped out the best places to find bait, and also the most likely places to find good size Flounder.  And boy was that fresh Flounder some good eatin’!

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8a The other neat thing we did with Ivan and Dora while visiting them at Smithy’s was to go digging for clams.  Ivan knew just were to go at low tide for the largest clams.  We would walk along looking for the “waterspout” from the clam, then run over and dig it up.  It was amazing how deep we had to dig sometimes to get to the clam, and how long their siphon (leg, as Ivan called it) was that they used to spurt the water.  If you like clams, it would be hard to find better eating than those Puget Sound clams.

Ivan and DiVoran

Ivan and DiVoran

—–To Be Continued—–

We love Florida Springs

20 Feb

A Slice of Life
Bill Lites

BillAfter we moved to Titusville for my job in the mid 1965, some close friends introduced us to the wonderful life of camping at the many natural springs located down the center of the Florida peninsula. This became one of our favorite adventures; selecting and exploring a new spring as often as we could. In fact, one year, instead of taking my regular two-week vacation all at one time, I would take a vacation day Monday or Friday, and we would make it a three day camping trip to a Florida spring we hadn’t been to before.

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Our first camping trip with our friends was to Alexander Springs where we discovered that millions of gallons of beautiful clear cool spring water gushing out of the ground from an underground aquifer every day. What a wonderful place to rest and relax while staying cool on a hot Florida summer day.

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That overnight stay was made in a two-man pup tent, you know, the ones with no floor and only a tie string to keep the door flap closed. Well, it didn’t take long to find out the mosquitoe netting we put over our sleeping bags wouldn’t do the trick.

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As I remember, our next outing was to Rock Springs, near Apopka, Florida. At the time it was a day park, but floating or walking down the spring run was great fun as we searched for shark’s teeth (of all things) on the bottom. On one occasion, one of DiVoran’s contact lenses popped out of her eye into the clear water of the run. Luckily, the contact lense was light green and I could see it being carried down the run before me as I grabbed for it. Finally after chasing it for nearly 100 yards, I caught it. We would take a watermelon with us and let the water cool it until we were ready to eat it.

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Another of our favorite Florida springs was Juniper Springs located in the Ocala National Forest. It was famous for its 7-mile canoe run, and what a beautiful experience that was. By this time we had upgraded from tents to a small tent camper, which made overnight camping much more enjoyable, keeping us up off the ground.

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Then there was Blue Springs near Deland, Florida where the Manatees migrate in the Winter. Because the water temperature is a constant 72 degrees, surprisingly, the spring water is sometimes much warmer, during the Winter season, than the river water they usually inhabit.

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Further north, just North of Gainesville, Florida is Ichetucknee Springs State Park I believe it was there, as we canoed down that crystalline spring, that we thought about pulling over to the bank for lunch. As the canoe glided toward an overhanging tree branch, I saw a snake sunning itself on that very branch we would pass under, and started back paddling like a motor boat. We didn’t bother it, and thank goodness, it didn’t fall in the boat or bother us.

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—–To Be Continued—–

 

Our Trip Across America- Part 10

12 Dec

A Slice of Life

   Bill Lites

                            Bill

The next major attraction we visited was the Great Salt Lake.  As we neared Salt Lake City, Utah we discovered the city is skirted by some of the most formidable looking mountains we had ever seen.  We swam (or I should say floated) in the super salty water of the lake, bought a package of freeze-dried brine shrimp, and took pictures of the famous Mormon temple.  That night at the campground, we were surprised to be entertained with, of all things, an outdoor movie, and even popcorn.

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The next day we headed Southeast, through the Southern Utah and into Western Colorado mountains.   After an overnight stay in Grand Junction, we headed East, on US-50, which runs along the Arkansas River.  This was familiar territory for DiVoran as she and her parents had made many trips along this route.  This leg of the trip took us through Montrose, Gunnison and Salida to Canon City, Colorado to visit some of DiVoran’s relatives. This was where she spent a lot of her growing up years with her grandmother and her grandfather who had worked as a guard at what was originally the Colorado State Territorial Prison.

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It became a Colorado State Prison in 1876 and operated as such until it was closed in 1988. At that time, it was converted into a very interesting museum, showing conditions at the prison during those early days.

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An aunt and three cousins and their families were still living there. We had some great visits with them, and enjoyed a wonderful walk along the Arkansas River that runs through town.

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Canon City is well-known for the America’s highest suspension bridge, which spans the Royal Gorge.  Amazingly, we discovered the total cost of building the bridge in 1929 was $60,000 and only took 5 months to complete.

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The railroad that runs alongside the Arkansas River, at the bottom of the gorge, was originally used by the Denver & Rio Grande Western (D&RGW) Railroad in the 1870s & 1880s as the transcontinental bridge between Denver, Colorado  and Salt Lake City, Utah.  Use of the Royal Gorge portion of the track system was ended in 1997.  Then a couple of years later it was purchased by a private corporation and reopened by the Royal Gorge Route Railroad to provide daily scenic excursion trips from Canon City to Parkdale and return.  On one of our many trips back to Canon City, DiVoran and I took that “Scenic Excursion Trip” and it was an outstandingly beautiful experience.  We can highly recommend it.

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Another less known attraction in Canon City is the Skyline Drive, located on the western edge of the city.  This is a 3-mile long road that runs, one way, along the top of a 800 ft. high ridge overlooking the city.  Skyline Drive was a prison project started in 1903, and was built entirely by hand by the prisoners.  The road has been improved over the years, and offers a glorious view of the city below.

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—-To Be Continued—-

 

Our trip across America-Part 1

10 Oct

A Slice of Life

   Bill Lites

                              

In 1974, I was between jobs and decided it would be a good time to take the cross-country family camping trip I had always wanted to do, to show my family the wonders of America while visiting friends and relatives along the way.  The planned route was from Florida through the Southern states visiting relatives in Louisiana and New Mexico.  Then it would be on to Southern California to show the kids where they were born, visit my wife’s brother and some friends. We would then head up the California coast to Fort Bragg about halfway to the Oregon border, to visit my wife’s folks.  We planned to come back across the middle of the U.S. visiting relatives in Colorado and see the wonders of America’s heartland.

As a little background, we had started our Florida camping experiences years before with friends at the Alexander Springs Campground using two-man pup tents.  As you may know, most pup tents have no floors, and only a drawstring to close the entry flaps.  It didn’t take us long to discover that mosquito netting over our sleeping bags was not the answer to keep from being eaten up by all those many pesky insects.

Then we tried using the 9’x9’ canvas tent and equipment my family had used, to go hunting in New Mexico. (That was when I was a teenager, and in a desert climate where things seem to last forever).  My folks had not used the tent or camping equipment for years and had shipped them to us for our use.

 

Well, after our first camping trip with that equipment, I guess the humidity got to everything, because all the tent stitching rotted, the tent fell apart, and the stove and lantern rusted beyond repair.

So we upgraded to a newer 9’x12’ tent that worked for a while, until after one cold rainy night in the North Carolina mountains, we woke up with the whole tent floor was covered in about 2” of water.  We were up off the ground and dry in our not so comfortable army cots, but nothing else was.  It was not long after that trip, that we decided to buy our first tent camper.

 

Summer Exploring

26 Jul

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis

This summer it has been an absolute joy to spend time with our grandchildren, taking them to many of the places we explored with our own kids.  Yesterday, though we went on a new adventure, and took the grandchildren to Black Rock Mountain State Park in Georgia. We have passed the entrance hundreds of times on our way to Florida and on our way to Wal-Mart. Years ago we tried to visit the park but the road was too steep for our van and we didn’t make it to the top. The park is less than twenty miles from our mountain home and we have missed out on it for years. After that failed first attempt we overlooked it because it is practically in town and the signs were so familiar we just tuned it out.

Our first stop in the park was the visitor information center to get a park pass. Outside the building is an overlook and like all mountain overlooks, the scene was beautiful, but what made it really cool for the kids was they could see Wal-Mart.

We had a great time exploring the park, grilling hot dogs and we even saw a baby bear, the first bear sighting for our grandchildren.  After leaving the park we went to Wal-Mart. Our grandson was fascinated to be able to locate the park while standing in the parking lot. You see, for years he had seen that rough brown spot on the side of the mountain but thought it was just construction. How many opportunities and relationships do we overlook because the first time we tried was too hard or we just weren’t seeing what was there all the time?

How to Feed a Squirrel

6 Jun

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

 

After moving to Florida, one of our favorite family pastimes was camping.  We started with a small four-person tent and over the years upgraded several times ending up with a very nice pop-up tent camper.  We especially enjoyed the many Florida natural spring camping areas.  The flora, fauna and wildlife was truly a wonderful learning experience for our whole family.

 

On one occasion, after a morning of swimming and playing, my wife headed off to the bathhouse for a shower.  On the way back to the camper, she noticed that a squirrel was following her.  She thought that was so cute and kept encouraging it to follow her.  Well, it didn’t need much encouraging, and followed her all the way back to our camper where I was shelling and eating some salted peanuts.  As you might know, my activity immediately got the squirrel’s attention and I was instantly it’s friend.  I threw a peanut on the ground out in front of me to see what it would do.  It snapped up the peanut and had it shelled and eaten in no time.  I held another peanut to see how close it would come and then dropped it close to my feet.  It didn’t take it long to come right up to me for the next treat.  So, I decided to see if it would take a peanut from my hand.  I held one between my fingers and held it out.  the squirrel came right up to me, stood up on it’s back legs, put one front paw on each of my fingers, I thought to steady the procedure, and calmly bit one of my fingers.  I couldn’t believe it!  Here that squirrel was biting the hand that was feeding it.  What kind of gratitude was that?  You can be sure that squirrel didn’t get any more of my salted peanuts.

I’ve recently learned that scrub jays like to take peanuts out of your hand. Maybe I’ll try that next time and see what happens.

 

 

Death Valley Run

23 May

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

The first year we lived in Los Angeles my wife and I were  living on a tight budget and I was riding my 1955 Harley Davidson motorcycle most of the time.  I was going to college full-time and working part-time while my wife was working full-time as a hairstylist at a fancy salon. By the time I graduated, she had earned her PHT (Putting Hubby Thru) degree. I made some friends in the local motorcycle club, and one weekend they invited us to go on the annual Death Valley Run .   It was summer and hot in LA, so we figured it would be super hot on the desert.  Early that Saturday morning after borrowing a buddy seat, we rolled what few things we thought we would need in an old army blanket, and set off to meet our group at the starting place.

It was a spectacular sight. The line of motorcycles went on for miles.  I had never seen so many in my life. Over 1500 motorcycles of every possible description and 2500 people were all going to the same place on the same two-lane road.  We rode in groups stopping only at the checkpoints for lunch or gas.

We arrived at the Furnace Creek Ranch area (elevation 79’ below sea level) to find everything organized for us riders to have a BBQ meal and a night’s entertainment. Unfortunately, we had spent our money on gas and lunch and couldn’t afford the BBQ. Also, we hadn’t known to bring camping gear. We went into the camp store and bought a can of chicken ala king, asked the clerk to open it for us, and went off to eat it with a stick we found lying on the desert.

When we went back to the big campfire, we joined in the entertainment. They had a “Most Beautiful Leg Contest” (for men only), and my wife talked me into entering because she said I had good-looking legs.  Well, guess what?  The object of the contest really was who had the ugliest legs.  I didn’t win.

As the sun went down it started to cool off,  by 10:00 pm it was downright cold.  Most everyone slept in tents or on the ground but we only had  one blanket and no air mattress under us.  That was a rough night.  We tossed and turned trying to stay warm, all the while shifting from one position to another to find some softer rocks to lie on.

The next morning as we headed back toward L.A. the group was much smaller and spread out.  After an hour or so, our buddy seat was really bothering us, so I decided to change positions and let my wife drive for a while.  We were cruising along on this gently curving two-lane road trying to keep up with our small group.  Everything went well for about 20 minutes, until we topped a rise and the road curved sharply off to the left.  As we neared the curve, the motorcycle kept going straight.  The curve was getting closer by the second.  I reached up to take my wife’s hands off the grips, but she was frozen with fear.  I threw all my weight forward and to the left as I tried to twist the throttle closed under her hand.  It was close!  It was very close!  We almost went off the road.   If we had, at that speed, we would have probably flown a hundred feet in the air before hitting the ground.  I don’t want to think about what we would have looked like after such a fall.

After we were stopped and got our breath back, I asked my wife what happened.  She said, “I don’t know.  Every time we came to a curve I just thought to myself, turn, and we turned.”  Then it hit me.  I had been sitting there on the back unconsciously leaning whenever we came to a gentle curve, and my position and extra weight had taken us around the curves.  When we came to that not-so-gentle curve, my position and extra weight weren’t enough to overcome our speed and we were almost toast.  There is no question in my mind that Someone up there was watching over us that day.

Needless to say, I drove the rest of the way home, and my wife decided she didn’t want to drive my motorcycle any more after that.

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