We took a break and went to the Animal Kingdom at Disney World to make use of our annual passes. Our parking space was within easy walking distance of the entrance so we were lucky in that regard. We walked along the shady paths toward Africa.
After stopping at Starbucks for some snacks to refuel our energy, we headed onto the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. No wait in the line, which we also saw later at Expedition Everest. The park is so spread out that it didn’t seem terribly crowded. We got front row seats in our safari vehicle.
The animals were strolling about or lazing in the heat. We viewed quite a few as you can see from these photos.
We lunched in Dinoland at a fast food place where we could sit indoors and enjoy the air-conditioning. On our way out, we browsed in the shops and then headed home tired but happy.
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We enjoyed the trails at Wekiwa Springs State Park in Central Florida where you can picnic on the grass, eat at the concession stand, rent boats, hike along twenty-five miles of wooded paths or swim in the seventy-two degree natural springs.
Forty-two million gallons of water flow each day from Wekiwa Springs into Wekiwa Springs Run. The run joins with Rock Springs Run to form the upper Wekiva River. Since its discovery in the 1860s, Wekiwa Springs has attracted visitors. It had a hotel and bathhouse in the 1890s. The Apopka Sportsman Club bought the land in 1941 from the Wilson Cypress Company, which had logged the area. In 1969, the club sold the land to the state of Florida to become Wekiwa Springs State Park.
Near the main parking area, a grassy slope leads down to the crystal-clear water where the natural springs provide a swimming hole. Further along are boat rentals. The scenic beauty makes you pause to absorb the sights. It’s a popular place to visit with limited capacity, so get here early.
After viewing the springs, we followed a wet-to-dry trail through the tropical hammock and fortunately came out at a place we recognized. This was a lovely walk through the forest. It was an easy trail to follow.
We grabbed lunch at the concession stand and sat on the elevated deck overlooking the woods. It was a delightful setting for a meal while soaking in the scenery. Leafy trees provided shade and there weren’t many insects around this time of year before the summer humidity sets in.
The landscape here is very different from our former home in South Florida. The natural attractions of Central Florida have their own beauty with hills, tall trees with Spanish moss, lakes and fresh-water springs. It brings home how diverse Florida is with so many varied regions, from the sunny, sea-kissed Keys to the subterranean caves in the northern part of the state. Each area should be appreciated on its own. Look beyond the theme parks and come visit the natural springs and numerous lakes that grace the central part of this state.
Lake Lotus Park in Altamonte Springs, Florida has 120 acres of woods and wetlands. In the late 1800s, settlers arrived to buy land and to enjoy the desirable climate. The railway spurred development. In 1972, the City of Altamonte Springs purchased the property to preserve its unique ecosystem. The nature preserve has a one-mile-long raised boardwalk, picnic tables, walking trails, playground, restrooms, and a fishing pier on a lake.
The park has limited hours and parking is not always available on site, so check the times before you come. This nature preserve has no concessions so don’t expect a snack bar. You’re pretty much on your own. We were hoping for an office where we could get a map but that was nonexistent as well. We tromped around on our own, fortunately ending up on several loops that took us back where we started.
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Kelly Park is a 355-acre site in Apopka, Florida originally donated by Dr. Howard A. Kelly in 1927. It holds picnic pavilions, a playground, walking trails, a concession stand, volleyball courts, and the famous Rock Springs Run that is approximately three-quarters of a mile long. If you’re looking for a campsite, that’s available, too. There was a $3.00 fee for us to enter.
We started out meandering from the parking lot to find our bearings. Gentle slopes are graced by tall oaks with Spanish moss and other shrubbery to provide an oasis from civilization. Trails appear to be numerous, although we didn’t venture too far. Even with a map, I was afraid we’d get lost.
We followed people holding tube floats toward a breathtaking grotto. The natural spring flows at an average of 26,000 gallons per minute with a temperature around 68 degrees. This chilly prospect didn’t deter the crowds of people splashing in the water. The spring in this spot was shallow and crystal clear. It travels nine miles to join the Wekiva River.
At the other end in this park is a beach area with a deeper pool that’s even more popular.
We completed our exploration by getting ice cream sandwiches at the concession building that also houses restrooms. You can get lunch here with burgers and hot dogs on the menu along with other goodies. Picnic tables provide outdoor seating on the deck.
If you’re looking for peace and tranquility, to commune with nature, or to admire the magnificent natural springs in a lush green setting, this is the place to go. Kelly Park is located at 400 East Kelly Park Rd in Apopka, FL.
Recently we visited a trio of parks all within walking distance of each other in Maitland, Florida. Our excursion began at Minnehaha Park. This seven and a half acre facility overlooks a lake with a scenic boardwalk through a wetland forest. A playground, exercise stations and picnic tables dot the open landscape. Restrooms are available.
A side path takes you to a tunnel that dives under the road and crosses to Covered Bridge Park. Here is the tunnel view from the Minnehaha side.
Here is the view from the Covered Bridge side looking back at the other park. This park doesn’t have much except a walking path in a viewable loop and the bridge. But if you cross this bridge, you come to the Jim Houser Azalea Garden.
This oasis offers bushes in full bloom during season, which unfortunately we’d just missed. Still, the winding path made from recycled tires was pleasantly relaxing.
We’d also visited Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs on another excursion. This offers a nature walk through forested land, also with picnic pavilions, a playground and restrooms.
We took a break from isolation to visit Oak Haven Farms & Winery to pick our own strawberries and roast hot dogs over a fire. It was a fun excursion, about a forty-minute ride from our new house. We parked in the dirt field then poked our heads inside the gift shop, café and wine tasting room. A staff member told us to go out in the field and someone would give us a crate to fill with fresh picked berries.
We stooped to pluck the strawberries off the stems. When tired of bending, we gave up and headed into the shop to have our bounty weighed so we could pay.
Then we bought hot dogs that came with rolls and a forked tool. We wove the meats onto the tines and went outdoors to cook the hot dogs in an open fire. I loved the charred taste.
Then we went back inside to order a strawberry shortcake with whipped cream for dessert. It was a treat and enough for two to split.
We skipped the wine tasting that cost extra as we are not fond of fruit wines or the Florida grape varietal. But if you’re interested, you can indulge.
If you wish to visit, check online to see their schedule first. Strawberry season is limited.
Oak Haven Farms, 32430 Avington Rd, Sorrento, FL 32776 or http://www.berriesandwines.com/
We returned to Scottsdale via a scenic route, staying overnight at Flagstaff again. Along the way, we admired the fall foliage in the higher altitudes.
We stopped for lunch at Lake Powell. It was just as startling as the first time to see this stretch of water in the middle of the desert.
On Thursday, we headed back to Scottsdale. We stopped at Forscher German Bakery to buy pastries, The Honey Stand and Timeless Antiques in Pine, AZ where I purchased some Thanksgiving decorations.
Then I got a text message from our daughter that made my pulse race. “You have get an earlier flight,” she wrote. “The doctor said I’ll need to have a C-Section within 24 hours.” We knew she’d been scheduled for a C-Section as her baby was breech. But it had been scheduled for Oct. 22. This was Oct. 10.
Once back at my cousin’s house, I changed our flight from Sunday to Friday. Early the next morning, I got a message on my phone. Our daughter was at the hospital waiting for surgery. Hours later, our beautiful grandson was born. And so began our new journey as grandparents.
Nothing can prepare visitors for the majesty of Bryce Canyon in Utah. The power of speech escapes you at the sight stretching to the horizon. Words can’t describe the sense of awe. Although the visitor center offers an explanation for how the canyon was formed, it’s as though the hand of God carved the rocks into these magnificent formations.
Some of them looked like people, making us wonder if a civilization had sinned and God had turned the citizens into stone. Certainly nature alone couldn’t have worked these wonders.
We drove from one viewpoint to the next, each with magnificent vistas.
Our final spot to visit was this Natural Bridge. I loved the trees with golden yellow leaves that sparkled in the sunlight.
An unusual sight was the number of vintage vehicles we met along the way.
We ate lunch at Bryce Canyon Lodge, stopped at the Visitor’s Center, and then returned to Ruby’s Inn to spend the night.
We drove to Bryce Canyon City on Monday. It took us most of the day to get there. Our views along the way were one spectacle after another.
Lots of hotels, gas stations, and eateries populate this town that borders on Bryce Canyon. We stayed at historic Ruby’s Inn and ate dinner our first night in the lodge restaurant. The gift shop at Ruby’s Inn has about every souvenir you could want plus a fully stocked food market for campers.
The next evening, we attended Ebenezer’s Barn & Grill for a country music dinner show. It was a fun evening with better food than the night before.
On Sunday morning, we began our road trip from Fountain Hills to Flagstaff, Arizona. My cousin drove, while her friend Carol accompanied us. We were excited to see parts of Arizona we’d never visited before. The scenic drive took us through curvy mountain roads and evergreen-lined forests as we reached higher elevations.
Flagstaff sits almost 7000 feet above sea level. It’s a historic town, and we toured the downtown district. Here you’ll find a bounty of restaurants and cafes mixed among gift shops and boutiques. You might have to walk slower if you’re not used to the altitude and get short of breath. The area has many things to do if you’re able to stay. We were passing through, so we couldn’t take advantage. This was merely our overnight stop on the way to Bryce Canyon.
We crossed into Utah the next day at the Glen Canyon Bridge. Unaccustomed to seeing any waterways in the dry desert, we marveled at Lake Powell glistening below our vantage point. Inside the Carl Hayden Visitor Center, we read the history of the region and stared through big glass windows at the dam below. Like the Hoover Dam in Nevada, the Glen Canyon Dam was a sight we wouldn’t forget.