Lake Okechobee, Palm Beach And Old Friends

West Palm Beach

West Palm Beach Panorama

RV, South Bay

Lake Okeechobee and South Bay RV Campground

Next stop on the Florida Snowbird Express was South Bay County Park at the southeast corner of Lake Okeechobee. As with most of the country, winter has been cooler than normal this year. Here we were in south Florida but many mornings were still in the 30s. however daytime temperatures were a pleasant 60-70 degrees. Florida has a network of County Parks and these can be an alternative to staying in the all too popular state parks plus most allow stays longer than two weeks.

South Bay was a very well kept park with large well spaced sites and offers full hookups. Just across the street is a levee for Lake Okechobee with a walking/biking trail at the top. During our stay the weather was too windy and cool for kayaking on the open water. We’d hoped to see if the bass were really as large as they say but that will have to wait for another time. The surrounding area is primarily agricultural (sugar cane growing and refining) so the downside is you must drive an hour or more to sights and attractions.

We did use the biking trail twice for 10-11 mile trips. On the second trip we were on our way home and enjoying seeing pelicans and ibis roosting in trees along the lake. All of a sudden I heard Steve call out “whoa!” and swerve to the right into the grass. Right on the path in front of him was a snake. I past by on the left about three feet away. Steve missed the critter by inches and as he went by it lifted its head six inches, opened its mouth to show fangs and the classic white roof of its mouth. It was a cottonmouth. Way to close for comfort. Neither of us had a cell phone and it made us think a bit about carrying one.  How would we have gotten help if he had been bitten? So from now on we’ll be more prepared. 

We’d come here primarily to see friends recently relocated from Seattle. They have found many activities here and keep very busy. One place they spend a lot of time is the Life Long Learning Center at Florida Atlantic University. They were taking a four week course on the War of 1812 from Dr. Robert Watson. They invited us to come along and we were able to attend as guests for a small fee. Dr. Watson is a most knowledgeable and dynamic teacher. If we lived there we’d be regulars for his classes. In fact we enjoyed the first week so much we returned for the following week. Steve told him the story about his brother and the USS Constitution and was able to send him a copy of the inscription in the Java Bible. In turn when he learned we were going to Key West he told us to see if a friend of his who was the Director at the Truman Little White House would give us a tour.

Florida, sightseeing, Palm Beach

Flagler Museum in
Palm Beach, Florida

Having seen what Henry Flagler built for other people we planned a visit to his Palm Beach estate, Whitehall. This 75 room, 100,000 square foot mansion was built for his third wife in 1902. We strolled the grounds and main floor while waiting for the next docent led tour. If you go definitely take one of the free tours. You will learn so much more than touring on your own. After Henry Flagler died in 1913 his wife moved back to St. Augustine. Upon her death the property was owned by a niece until the mid 1920s when it was sold and converted into a 300 room hotel with a second building  consisting of ten floors attached to the rear.  The original home was used for dining, bar and card rooms. The hotel operated until 1959. By then the once gracious mansion was in severe disrepair and threatened with demolition. Henry Flagler’s granddaughter organized a non-profit corporation to restore the property and opened it to the public in 1960. Through her efforts 90% of the original furnishings and artwork have been recovered. With rooms copied from the Vatican and Versailles this museum is a must see for anyone visiting south Florida. If you visit on a Sunday afternoon you may hear the largest pipe organ ever installed in a private home being played. During the winter “season” the museum also holds classical music performances in the grand ballroom for an addition fee. Enjoy a tour via our photos until you have a chance to visit yourself.

Flagler, Whitehall, Palm Beach

Entrance Hall At Whitehall

Grand Staircase To Second Floor

Grand Staircase To Second Floor

architecture

Whitehall Architecture

One Of The 75 Bedrooms

One Of The 75 Bedrooms

Grand Ballroom At Whitehall Copied From Versailles

Grand Ballroom At Whitehall Copied From Versailles

Grand Ballroom In Use c. early 1900s

Grand Ballroom In Use c. early 1900s

Tiffany

Tiffany Lamp At Whitehall

sculpture

Delicate Sculpture Called Lady In A Veil

railroad

Flagler’s Private Railroad Car

Palm Beach, Florida

Oldest Home In Palm Beach Where The Flagler’s Stayed While Whitehall Was Built.

Tropical Plant In Bloom At Whitehall Gardens

Tropical Plant In Bloom At Whitehall Gardens

We also spent time enjoying two locations along the Florida Birding Trail: Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach and Loxahatchee NWR in Boynton Beach. We visited the later on twice, once walking the boardwalk and another taking the volunteer narrated tram tour. Here we spoke to two volunteers who encouraged us to pursue workcamping at NWR sites.

Loxahatchee NWR, lichen

Loxahatchee Air Plant With Baton Rouge Lichen

butterflies

Butterfly At Loxahatchee

birds

Loxahatchee Great White Egret

Flowering Plant Along Loxahatchee Boardwalk

Flowering Plant Along Loxahatchee Boardwalk

fern

Young Fern Unfolding

We learned about the Wakodahatchee Wetlands from another passenger on the Loxahatchee NWR tram ride. Not having anything planned for the afternoon, we decided to visit. What a wonderful surprise! This wetland is created by the county water authority from the discharge of treated sewage.  A mile plus boardwalk has been built through the wetlands allowing birders, photographers and nature lovers to be up close and personal with hundreds of shore and wading birds. Here are some photos from our visit.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands, birds, photography

Wakodahatchee Wetlands Boardwalk

Wood Stork

Wood Stork

anhinga, nest

Female Anhinga On Nest

Great Blue Heron With Reflection

Great Blue Heron With Reflection

Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

photography

Anhinga Chicks Sibling Rivalry

Very Patient Green Heron

Very Patient Green Heron

Mottled Duck

Mottled Duck

Common Gallinule aka Moorhen

Common Gallinule aka Moorhen

Anhinga Feeding Two New Chicks

Anhinga Feeding Two New Chicks

Peace And Quiet In Disney’s Backyard

state park, citrus, Orlando

Citrus Gone Wild

Sorry for the disappearing act over the last month. Between being busy, computer problems, RV problems and poor or no internet connection we had to put the blog on hold. So much for our New Year’s Resolution to catch up and stay caught up. Now that we will have a few days of waiting for some RV repairs and free wifi be prepared for a flood of posts.

From Sebastian Inlet on Florida’s east coast we drove to the Orlando area and stayed at Lake Louisa State Park about 25 miles west of the city. Just what part of “busiest week of the year”, “all kids out of school” and/or “everyone goes to Disney at Christmas” did I not grasp when I scheduled us to be in the area the week between Christmas and New Years? OK, now on to Plan B. We knew we didn’t want to tackle any of the parks and battle the crowds. So what to do? 

Lake Louisa is one of Florida’s newest state parks and situated in an old citrus orchard. Having made reservations as early as we could secured a full hookup site that was very private. We had room to put up our screen tent and took a few days to just relax. What a concept? We need to take more time like this but normally every time we say we’ll relax we find something to do and off we go. The old citrus grove still has fruit bearing trees. We found a few grapefruit still within reach and loads of tangerines or lemons free for the picking. We had so many we even made “care” packages to send north to family who were in the freezing temperature of a severe winter. The lemons were bigger than Chari’s fist and very bumpy. At first we thought maybe they were reverting to a wild strain but then learned it was a variety called a Ponderosa lemon. We made chicken piccata and lemon and orange meringue pies from scratch.

state park, Florida

Kayaking At Lake Louisa SP

kayaking

Along The Canal Between The Lakes

We took time to ride our bikes around the park for about ten miles on two different days. Other times we kayaked on one of the lakes. Our favorite was a wooded canal that ran between Lake Louisa and Lake Minnehaha. While paddling there we met a couple from the Cape Canaveral area and visited with them later that night around a campfire. The old citrus groves had several good trails for walking Opal each morning.

Christmas, Florida

Christmas At Leu Gardens

garden, holiday decorations

On Tour At Leu Gardens

We did take in two sights in the area, Leu Gardens and the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum. At Leu Gardens we joined the garden and this membership gave us  reciprocal free entry for a year to gardens that are participating members of the American Horticultural Society. The original home on the Leu Garden grounds was open for a guided tour. We caught it at the tail end of the Christmas season so it was still decorated. Each year interior design students from a local junior college decorate the rooms based on a theme chosen by the park. This year it was Christmas songs. A very creative group of young designers. Our favorite were the “swans a-swimming” in the bathtub.

Holiday Decorations

Holiday Decorations

The day we visited was a cool and windy day but seeing the texture in the bare trees along with tropical looking plants blooming in mid-winter was a treat.

trees

A Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow Tree

Fothergilla Blossom

Fothergilla Blossom

flowers

Spider Lily

A Study In Texture

A Study In Texture

garden

Orb From Coleus

trees

A Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow Tree

Canna Blooming In January

Canna Blooming In January

Canna In HDR Vintage Colors

Canna In HDR Vintage Colors

rose

This Is Called A Green Rose

Green Rose As A Pencil Drawing

Green Rose As A Pencil Drawing

Rose "Calico"

Rose “Calico”

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum is a not to be missed attraction in Winter Haven, Florida. The museum was begun to display the art work and Tiffany works owned by its namesake. Later his granddaughter and her husband increased the Tiffany collection. When the former Louis C. Tiffany estate on Long Island burned in the 1950s his priceless works were simply lying scattered. Through personal connections the museum rescued them and now houses the world’s largest collection of Tiffany artwork including the chapel designed for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. I am seldom speechless but this collection defies description. Be sure to put it on your “must see” list. there is a strict NO PHOTOS policy. The pictures used in this blog are copied from the museum’s website. The colors, the delicate way light is transmitted and the craftsmanship are amazing.

tiffany lamp

Dragonfly Lamp

A Transom Panel circa 1910-1920

A Transom Panel circa 1910-1920

Autumn From The Seasons

Autumn From The Seasons

Daffodil Column From Tiffany Estate

Daffodil Column From Tiffany Estate

Summer Panel From The Seasons

Summer Panel From The Seasons

Spring Panel From The Seasons

Spring Panel From The Seasons

One Of The Windows From A Church

One Of The Windows From A Church

Window Titled 'Feeding The Flamingos'

Window Titled ‘Feeding The Flamingos’

Another Tiffany Lamp

Another Tiffany Lamp

An Unusually Shaped Lamp

An Unusually Shaped Lamp

The Tiffany Chapel

The Tiffany Chapel