March 26, 2009

Ortona Locks & on to Flamingo

In our travels, we are always looking for unique places to camp for a few days at a bargain price. We've learned through experience that the Corps of Engineers CGs are often some of the nicest, and always economical for what they offer. Ortona Locks is one of those interesting jewels of the Corps.

Located along the Okeechobee Waterway, stretching out from both directions, the waterway extends westward to the Gulf of Mexico using the Caloosahatchee River and eastward to the Atlantic Ocean, a tremendous timesaver for boaters crossing the State!

As we pull in, we are greeted by a pristinely clean grounds and stunningly tall palms.

Later in the day, Dave and Sam have fun watching a couple of sailboats cycle through the locks, pretty interesting process which takes about 30 minutes.

Once the boats are in and tied up to the walls, we enjoy a "waterfall" to our right as the "uphill" lock doors are opened.

Meanwhile I found numerous Eastern Meadowlarks on the site that appear to be tame, and pose for this nice pix.

The following day, we take this opportunity to try the 2hp Honda outboard on a long straight run up & down the waterway to determine fuel milage before attempting the Everglades Waterway.

Sam is really pleased to calculate roughly 40mpg! Quite efficient for moving our big canoe along at almost 6mph.

After a nice stay, we move southward. If you're in this area, be sure to try the Ortona.

After leaving Ortona Locks, we head to Flamingo. Just the name itself brings to mind a couple of different things. Either you're thinking of that gorgeous, leggy, pink bird that is seen mostly in zoos or you're thinking of those plastic ornaments that are sometimes seen on front lawns. You'd be surprised to find out that the real Flamingo is nowhere near that tacky 0r a place that you'd likely see the real thing.

We never saw a single Flamingo while we were in Flamingo. The most common bird we saw was the Black Vulture.

I learned a few things about vultures. One thing is that this species is very intelligent. We watched a few of these clever feathered creatures try to remove a bag of bread that our neighbors left in the barbecue pit. Evidently it was left there so that it wouldn't be shredded to pieces.

The next thing I learned was that vultures don't eat just dead bodies of creatures. These guys looked like they were trying to figure out how to get the charcoal out of the bag.

A face only a mother could love...

We did see a few other birds while we camped in this area. Migrating shorebirds lined the beaches and the mangrove ponds. Osprey were everywhere by the handfuls.

The oak trees and the moss survive after several hurricanes even though several of the buildings in the area had not.

Although there were not large amounts of flowers blooming, we did find patches of color in a few places.

It never failed - every evening was a spectacular sunset.

March 22, 2009

Peace River - Lettuce Lake

A few years back Sam and I did some fossil hunting on the Peace River. We were anxious to get back to see what we could find. We also wanted to paddle our canoes down this river.

Finding inexpensive campging space in FL is not easy but we found a Passport America park near the area we wanted to be - at least I thought so. At least it was right on the banks of the river!

We found out that the section of the Peace River that was good for fossil hunting was a good 30 or 40 miles up river.

We decided to paddle this section of the river to see what we could see. Dave and Sam would go in the tandem canoe and I would paddle in my solo canoe. It was a wonderful day for being out on the River....we launced right at the Park, making everthing easy. There were numerous fishing rigs leaving to try their luck in the crystal clear waters.

The river was adorned with many different types of trees and shrubs, including numerous forms of colorful epiphytes. Another unusal surprise came early in the paddle when Sam spotted a whole family of feral hogs. They seemed to be rooting clams along the muddy shoreline. At any rate, they didn't care as we glided slowly by!

They certainly looked like they had been eating well!

We saw a few unusual birds such as this black crowned night heron.

We saw evidence that this area was popular with the locals. There were quite a few river camps as we glided along the banks.

As we came back to the launchsite, Dave & Sam enjoyed the various airboats that were also returning.....and in particular the sign that was on the truck of one of the boat's owners!
Hey, I guess that's one way to write off your airboat...
Althought we forgot to take pictures of the campground, we really enjoyed our stay there. If we ever get back that way we would more than likely spend more than a few days than we did this time.

March 18, 2009

Bok Tower & Gardens

Edward William Bok (1863-1930), American editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, was born in Den Helder, Netherlands, on October 9, 1863. He came to the United States at the age of six. Educated in the Brooklyn Public Schools, he went on to become a great business success. The Tower and Gardens were his tribute to the great opportunity America had presented him, and to what was thought to be the highest point in Florida at the time of construction. To learn more on his history see ttp://

Since there is ample discussion about the man, the tower and the gardens on this website, I'll just let the pictures do the talking and leave by saying we had a great afternoon strolling through this beautiful place!