Friday, March 28, 2014

Big Cypress National Preserve

   There are only two routes across the southern tip of Florida – I-75 and the Tamiami Trail. The Tamaimi Trail is by far the more interesting as it travels through the main section of the Big Cypress Reserve where the visitor centers and campgrounds are located. We stopped at a couple of places that we missed on our last trip along the road. The Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center was closed for the day but there are many informative signs on the paths outside and also a short boardwalk along the canal where alligators may be spotted. We also stopped at the Kirby Storter Roadside Park which has a boardwalk through a cypress swamp.

  The welcome center is all accessible. The boardwalk at the roadside park is wide and smooth but the railing is at eye level for wheelchair visitors so the only way to see is by peeking though the upright posts.  Out and back is about 1/2 a mile.

  Both locations have parking for RVs.  Preserve
25.85798, -81.01043

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Immokalee Pioneer Museum

   In 1914 Robert Roberts along with his wife and seven children herded 300 cattle 100 miles south from Wauchula to establish this homestead where they ranched and grew oranges and sugar cane. A small part of their cattle ranch, which grew to 160,000 acres,  was donated to the county by the family in the 1970s. A 1916 Baptist Church has been moved to the grounds to serve as a museum. Visitors may tour the grounds on their own but the only way to view the inside of the buildings is by a guided tour which is free.

The church has a ramped entrance but the rest of the site is not accessible due to soft sandy ground and steps at the buildings.

The parking area is small. RVs can be parked across the spaces. Museum
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Monday, March 24, 2014

Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve

   Getting to this boardwalk, that meanders for over a mile through mangrove forest, is a little tricky. The preserve can be accessed from Veterans Memorial Hwy when traveling west but not when traveling east.  When traveling east on Veterans Memorial watch for signs for a left hand turn.  A kiosk with information is located near the beginning of the trail. Several war memorials are located at the preserve including a statue of the Iwo Jima flag raising which was cast from the same molds used for the original in Washington, DC.

  The boardwalk is constructed of recycled plastic so rolling along is quieter than normal. Even so we didn’t spot much wildlife but a baby alligator was sunning himself in the parking lot! The trail is very accessible. Several spurs lead out to docks with views of the Caloosahatchee River. The last section of the trail is surfaced with loose gravel so wheelchair users may want to backtrack along the boardwalk.

   RVs can be parked lengthwise in the lot using two spaces. Preserve
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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Charlotte County Historical Center

  The historical center is preparing to move to a new location so most of this information will soon be outdated. The center is fairly small but uses many artifacts and photographs to tell the stories of  the people of Charlotte County from the early Native Americans to frontier settlers who came to harvest the seafood, raise cattle and fruit, and promote tourism.

  The current center is accessible. A long ADA compliant ramp leads to the entrance where a bell must be pushed for access.

  The parking lot is very small. We parked in a lot at the shoreside park located just east of the center. Larger RVs will not fit in the lots or on the street.  Center
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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Nova Scotia Map

View Nova Scotia attractions in a larger map

   We’re hanging out in Pioneer Park visiting friends so I’ve been taking advantage of the free time to work on more maps. Our plans for the summer include visiting the Canadian Maritimes and hopefully traveling as far as Newfoundland. I haven’t made any maps for eastern Canada so this one is just the beginning. If you have any favorite places or interesting things to see and do that I haven’t marked on the map please let me know!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Highlands Hammock State Park Campground

  During the winter snowbird season many Florida state parks are booked months in advance. The only way to get a site is through a cancelation so we were surprised to find sites available at Highland Hummock. We really enjoyed visiting the park and walking along the bike path and trails but we probably would never stay at the campground for more than a few days because of the extremely crowed campsites. The utility pedestals for many of the sites are shared by four sites which means the sites are clustered close together but you also need to have long hoses and electrical cords.
  A three mile, one way loop road with a dedicated bike lane accesses eight short hiking trails. The wide, smooth bike lane is prefect for wheelchairs or scooters. Most of the trails have roots which makes them unsuitable for wheelchairs but the Cypress Swamp Trail has a short section of boardwalk and the Fern Garden Trail has a slightly longer boardwalk section. The Big Oak Trail is a little rooty but short enough that getting in to view the now dead but very cool big oak is not too hard. The Fern Garden Trail is a good place to look for snakes and alligators sunning themselves on the little hummocks which rise above the swamp. Parking lots are located along the loop road near the trailheads. Most are large enough for RVs.
   We visited this park in 2012 and took the tram tour and went to the CCC museum. To read about that visit click HerePark  069098

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Hardee Lakes Park Campground

    I couldn’t find much information about this park so we decided to check it out in person. We were the only people camping in the entire campground! For good reason as it turned out. The park is only opened Friday through Monday but everything will change by summer because the campground is getting an upgrade. All of the sites will have water and electric hookups. A new restroom/shower building and a dump station are under construction. When all is finished the park will be opened everyday.

  The campsites are fairly close together. Better planning would have resulted in roomier sites and nicer views of the water. Half of the sites are close to the shoreline of the second lake in a group of four little lakes formed from reclaimed phosphate mining pits. The other sites are located across a meadow under the trees. Some of the sites are large enough for any RV. Since the campsites are not leveled yet and do not have tables and fire rings accessibility is hard to judge.
  The park website lists amenities including horse trails, a hiking trail, a handicap-accessible hiking trail, a bike trail, picnic areas, a picnic pavilion, a playground, and a boardwalk. We found the boardwalk at the south end of the second lake near the picnic pavilion. We didn’t find any of the other trails but the roads around the lakes make nice walking paths although a little bumpy for wheelchairs. Campground
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Monday, March 10, 2014

Solomon's Castle

  Howard Solomon is an sculptor, woodworker and creative recycler. His castle house, which he built himself, is covered in discarded offset aluminum printing plates. Take a guided tour of the inside to see many of his pieces made from old machinery, beer cans, oil drums and coat hangers. Be prepared for some very corny puns. Visitors may also take a walk on the road past the castle to see a perfect, small scale replica of the Alamo. A short nature trail starts from the RV parking lot. If you’re hungry (we’ve heard that the food is very good) walk up the gangplank to the 60’ replica of the Santa Maria that Solomon built to house his restaurant.
   The main display rooms of the castle are accessible but the tour continues through part of the living quarters which isn’t accessible due to steps. Visitors in wheelchairs are escorted to the front entrance and may rejoin the tour again for the outside section which includes a small garden and the Santa Maria. The gangplank to the Santa Maria is very steep and wheelchair users may need to have some help. The nature trail is not accessible due to steps and a narrow bridge. The road to the Alamo has a short, steep hill.
  A RV parking lot is located before the car parking lot. It may be necessary to back in because there isn’t room to turn around when other RVs are parked in the lot.  Castle
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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Herrmanns' Royal Lipizzan Stallions Training Grounds

  The Lippizan breed was developed during the 16th century when the royal family of the Hapsburg Empire wanted a strong but agile horse for military use and riding. When WWII broke out the breeding stock was captured by the Nazis and moved to Czechoslovakia. For safe keeping the Austrians evacuated the stallions of the Spanish Riding School from Vienna to St. Martins, Austria. Both groups of horses were in danger of being destroyed during the bombing and advancement of the Russian army. The stallions were put under the protection of General Patton. The mares were smuggled to safely by Austrian Colonel  Podhajsky and soldiers under the command of General Patton with help from Colonel Herrmann Sr. and Colonel Herrmann Jr. 
  The Herrmann family had been breeding and training Lippizans in Austria for more than 300 hundred years at the time of WWII. They eventually immigrated to the United States where they continue to breed and train Lippizans. Visitors are welcome to attend practice shows on Thursdays and Fridays at 3pm, Saturdays at 10am – December through early May. Arrive early to get a good seat and visit the horses in the stable. Seating is in bleachers or you may bring your own chair and sit close to the ring. A donation (at least $5.00) is appreciated. Bring carrots or buy a bag to feed the horses before or after the show.
   A special paved area with a good view of the ring is reserved for visitors who have difficulty walking or use wheelchairs. Bring your own seating. Park as close to the entry gate as possible because the ground is sandy and soft in spots.

  The parking area is large enough for RVs.  Show
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Friday, March 7, 2014

Mote Marine Laboratory Aquarium

  Mote’s main mission is marine research focusing on sharks, red tide and other environmental toxins, marine mammals, sea turtles, coral reefs and fisheries. They also care for and rehabilitate sick and injured whales, dolphins and sea turtles. Admission tickets include the aquarium, the research and rehabilitation center and the theater. The theater shows with interactive touch screens are a bit outdated and hokey. Skip them if you don’t have a lot of time.
  All of the buildings are accessible. We visited on a cool, rainy day and the aquarium was very crowded making it difficult to get close to the displays. The second level viewing area for the shark tank has two sets of steps but no ramp or elevator. The theater has movable seating. The location of the elevator to access the second floor of the research building is not marked on the map and there aren’t any signs pointing the way. Look for it on the outside of the building, to the left of the admissions booth. The sidewalk from the aquarium to the research center is in good condition with good curb cuts. Follow the turtles and manatees painted on the concrete.

  The parking lot is large enough for RVs.   Mote
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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Historic Spanish Point

   5,000 years ago Native Americans lived on the shores of this little finger of land which extends out into Sarasota Bay. Clamshells, fish bones, broken pottery and other discarded refuse eventually piled up to make large hills that served as burial and ceremonial grounds. The site was abandoned after 4,000 years with no sign of human habitation until the Webb family arrived from New York in 1867. The Webbs operated a citrus farm and built their own boats to get the fruit to markets in the Keys. In 1910 Bertha Palmer, widow of Chicago dry goods magnate, Potter Palmer, bought the point for a winter retreat. The property stayed in the Palmer family until 1980 when it was donated to the Gulf Coast Heritage Center. The shell mounds have not been disturbed very much and many of the buildings from the Webbs farm were used also by the Palmers. A mile long walking tour allows visitors a glimpse of what life was like for each of these very different inhabitants along this quiet slice of an otherwise very developed part of the Gulf coast.

  The visitor center and theater are accessible. The walking path is mostly hard packed sand with some sections of bumpy pavement and a short section of boardwalk. Wheelchair users may need some help due to the grades on the shell middens and a few sections of the path where the sand is loose. White Cottage, Point Cottage and the fruit packing house all have good ramps and are accessible. Guptill House is accessible on the first floor. A Window to the Past, the small museum inside the shell midden, is accessible. Mary’s Chapel, the fern walk and the jungle walk are not accessible due to steps. Neither the trams or the boat are accessible.
  The parking lot at the visitor center has a gravel section where RVs can be parked. A second lot is located about 1/3 of a mile from the visitor center. This lot accesses the walking path. RVs can be parked along the side of the road. We chose to stay in the visitor center lot and walk/roll to the path. Be aware that the road is very bumpy and watch for traffic.  Spanish Point
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