Into the Woods! Exploring Florida’s National and State Forests


savannas preserveNot many residents know that Florida has 37 State Forests. Visitors to north, west, and central Florida will find many diverse woodlands waiting to be discovered.

Start with a map of The Florida Natural Scenic Trail which spans 1000 miles of our often under explored outdoors. The trail offers hikers quiet paths from roadside trails to remote wilderness.

In addition, Florida has four National Forests!

It’s recommended that children spend 30 minutes outside, 3 days a week. I would certainly say that’s good advice for adults as well. Take some time this weekend wandering into the woods. It’s sure to be a day well spent.

Read Me a Story

My Dad read to me a lot while I was growing up. First, he read me children’s books and then as I grew, we would take turns reading chapter books aloud in our living room. I remember many nights spent reading Roald Dahl books –  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox.  We read Tolkien together too in addition to the armfuls of chapter books I devoured on my own each month.

Then, when I was nine years old, I wrote on my Christmas list that I would like a baby brother. As luck would have it, Santa obliged! Soon my baby brother Eric arrived and in turn, a second round of children’s stories were read aloud in our home. I can’t tell you how comforting it was to return to the sound of those stories while in the mire of my middle school days. I didn’t realize how much I had missed them.

When it came time for me to read Canterbury Tales in my high school English class, my Dad and I read some of that aloud at home together too. I can still remember my Dad’s deep voice wrapping around Chaucer’s famous prologue…”Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote the droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote.”

I soon went on to college and, to no one’s surprise, I declared myself an English major. I’ve paged through an enormous amount of literature in my life and layering my life with stories was the best thing my Dad ever did for me. I am now grown, married to a wonderful husband, and we have raised two sweet daughters of our own who my Dad spent many hours reading to as well.

Today, I find the calendar will soon arrive upon the first anniversary of my father’s death. He spent the last years of his life struggling from severe illness. He spent the last few days of his life in ICU and then finally Hospice. His last conscious night was spent in ICU with me sitting beside him, quietly praying, trying to be strong but not really knowing what to do. Our ICU nurse asked my Dad if he would like to listen to music, and yes, he thought that would be nice. So she graciously let her phone play by request through the night as my Dad drifted away.

I just now realized he might have liked to hear a story.

It’s good to enter life with a story, it’s good to go through life with a story, and it’s good to leave life with a story too. – Holly Hinckle Flint

In memory of Craig D. Hinckle, born into this world in Rutherford, New Jersey, November of 1940, departed this world in Kennesaw, Georgia, March of 2014.

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My Dad and I outside our home on Prospect Place, Rutherford, NJ in 1968

New Year’s Day Kayak Trip Down the Loxahatchee

Our first day of 2015 was spent on a group kayak adventure down the Loxahatchee River, one of the most scenic of south Florida waterways.

IMG_1554South Florida has such great winters! I think these creatures would agree.

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IMG_0010IMG_0012 IMG_0003Jonathan Dickinson State Park, located in Hobe Sound, Fl, offers a variety of outdoor activities. Our group rented kayaks and canoes, while other park visitors filled the seats of a sunset river cruise. 
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The general store handles all rentals and boat tickets as well as hosts a concession stand and umbrella tables to eat riverside. A pavilion with picnic tables stands nearby with extra seating and also convenient restrooms. IMG_1690 IMG_1652

Can’t think of a better way to spend a day with family and friends

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than floating along the Loxahatchee, on a sunny south Florida new year’s day.IMG_1610 IMG_1608 IMG_1601 IMG_1585 IMG_1580 IMG_1509 IMG_1501

Hello, 2015! Day 1 – A Day Well Spent.IMG_1498

Tellus Science Museum, GA

A trip to visit family over Thanksgiving brought us to north Georgia and a day at the Tellus Science Muesum.

IMG_0210As with most science museums, they had a nice balance of hands-on exhibits as well as  visually interesting but not fully interactive. Mining for gems was a hit as well as walking through the dinosaur exhibit.

IMG_0128Our little guys even sat through the planetarium show!IMG_0160 IMG_0167

I have found that it works well to balance a trip by alternating the time the kids are able to play. After the planetarium show we went to the My Big Backyard exhibit so they could run and explore. Here kids can play with light, rainbows, mirrors and more in the greenhouse. The shed is filled with sound experiments, and the garage is a great place to discover the properties of magnets and work with electricity.
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Meeting Peter Pan!

Peter Pan!So come with me where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of happy things and your heart will fly on wings, forever, in Never Never Land. – Peter Pan

A long awaited photo op with Peter Pan! and then their favorite ride Peter Pan’s Flight made for a day well spent at Disney World.

Food Truck Invasion

IMG_8159.JPG Food Truck Invasion in Tradition Square, Port Saint Lucie will switch to 1st and 3rd Fridays starting in September 2014. Bring a few lawn chairs and your dog if you like.  Event runs from 5 – 9 p.m. and trucks take credit/debit cards. Watch the sunset over the church steeple or the lake, visit with neighbors and friends from town, enjoy a large buffet of dinner choices. It’s a local favorite, and a great way to start your weekend.

Remembering Graceland

It’s hard to believe the world lost Elvis Presley 37 years ago today. In memory, I saw fit to throw back a bit to a trip to Graceland our family took a few years back.

My mother-in-law, Jean had always loved Elvis Presley. My husband remembers her singing along to Elvis many a night from his childhood. We made plans and put the trip on our calendars, but she said she would believe it when she got there.

graceland entrance sign

Well we made it! We had church friends who had family in Memphis and they graciously got us all tickets to Graceland. We were also welcomed with a gift bag full of everything you could ask for from the gift shop. Mom was so surprised.

Graceland Jean excited goodie bag

It was as if Elvis had left the gift for her himself.

Graceland Jean with t shirt

Once through the ticket line, we put our headphones on for the audio tour and lined up for the bus to take us across the street to Graceland. Here it is! It didn’t seen so big from the front but the grounds went on forever.

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Here’s Mom at Elvis’s front door ringing the doorbell.

graceland better shot of mom by front door

We went inside and found everything decorated for the holidays!

graceland dining roomIt’s a trip we will always cherish. Mom passed away a year after our trip from colon cancer. She is now in her heavenly home and we hope she has had the chance to see Elvis “in person.” Miss you mom, say hi to Elvis for us.

graceland mom looking at elvis's head stone graceland mom pink cadillac

Savannas Preserve State Park

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We decided to step out a few times a week and go on some day hikes instead of just around the block on our daily walks.

This past sunny Saturday morning, Penny and I took a look around the trails at the Savannas Preserve State Park on Walton Road in Port Saint Lucie.

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You can pick up a map at the entrance and get an overview of the trails at the park. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the markings for the trails you choose to follow.

savannastrailsignsSavannas

Savannas are an endangered natural system of freshwater marshes. This preserve is the largest and most intact remnant of Florida east coast savannas. The park stretches 10 miles from Fort Pierce to Jensen and hosts 8 miles of trails and is open from 8 a.m. to sundown.

Guided walks as well as canoe and kayak tours are available on weekends with reservations required. The park also hosts an environmental center, but I didn’t think I could bring Penny inside for a tour. ; )

You can find more detailed information about navigating the Savannas Preserve online at Florida Hikes.  Happy hiking!

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Driving Through Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain Wildlife
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Breathtaking vistas, wildlife roaming the frontier, stunning sights to behold at every twist and turn. Rocky Mountain National Park is truly one of Americas unsung treasures.Situated about 2 hours north of Denver, these hills provide travelers an experience found in few places that are easily accessible to the public. Add this park to the top of your bucket list.

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Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep