Trip Start Nov 19, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Fort DeSoto County Park

Flag of United States  , Florida
Friday, January 1, 2010

January 2010

Andy and I are out riding our Club Car making camp sites perfect for the next camper coming in.  Andy looks over and shows me where I have missed a sippy straw clear plastic wrapper....easy to miss unless the sun hits it just right.  Andy wants our sites to be looking good!  I show Andy where there are some ashes in the woods between sites....a total "no no" for us by now.  We have this drive to make our sites perfect!!  We wonder at this new drive having come in feeling relaxed and now feeling a touch of anxiety it dawns on us we want Ranger Mike to ask us back!  We want him to tell us what a great job we are doing!!  For free!!  Picking up sippy straw wrappers!!!  We fall into each other's arms laughing.  We have actually gone from being our own bosses to hoping Ranger Mike wants us to work for free picking up trash and cleaning up other people's ashes.  That is quite a leap!  We have become the leading characters in a children's book.

But....actually..... we are thrilled that we have been OKayed to come back next winter for another stint here at Fort DeSoto.  Our finger print background checks came out clean (imagine that?) and we went through our orientation session with three different County Personnel with flying colors, Andy's hair and all!.  We are officially Volunteers for Pinellas County now.  Our badges...yes we get "stinking badges" didn't come through in time for this year but will be waiting for us upon our return.

We all know it is the people that always make the difference and in this case it really stands out.  The relationship with the other hosts has been one hundred percent a joy.  Great people with loads of fun and enthusiasm and friendliness.  We had a ball, fishing, eating, watching movies, exchanging books, doing craft projects, and talking for hours with the folks you will see in the photos.  We will be all back together here at the park next winter and are really looking forward to our time here!!  Hosting has opened up a whole new aspect of RV living in Crazy Fish.  We can be useful and still be living the simple, nature oriented lifestyle we have come to adore.

I must explain how in some of the pictures you will see the results of the "fish kill".  This happened due to unusually cold weather for an extended period of time.  The tropicals could not withstand the cold for so long.  This weather front lasted long enough to kill Mullet, Catfish, Spade Fish, Cowfish, Grouper, Pompano, Snook, Ladyfish and Kingfish.  There were probably more varietes that we were not aware of.   There were thousands upon thousands of dead fish all along the Florida coasts and down into the Keys.  The Rangers raked them up and dumped them into huge open pits away from the campers so the Vultures, our nature cleaner uppers, could come and eat their fill.  There was an initial kill but it didn't stop there.  The fish sank to the bottom, then filled with gas as they decomposed and rose again to be pushed to the shorelines by winds and waves.  As the cold snap just didn't stop for a couple of weeks the fish kept dying.  It was horrible.  

The Rangers did a fantastic job and we got to help a little bit.  It was so devastating to the Snook and Grouper populations that the season on Snook and Grouper for 2010 has been canceled to fishermen.  Snook and Grouper are two of Florida's treasures.  What a shame!!  But...Ranger Jim was quick to point out that this is Mother Nature doing what she does best.  Just because we don't understand how it balances out yet, doesn't mean it isn't just what the oceans needed.  Not fair but somehow balanced.  He said that next year will be a boon for crabs and other bottom feeders and that is good.  It was difficult to see the good in such a tragedy.

Throughout our time here we have become close with many of the Rangers and have grown a great respect for all they do for the Park, the campers and day use visitors as well as what they do for the environment.  They organize how this 1700 acre park is kept clean, trimmed, planted, two piers maintained, 7 miles of beach maintained, enormous amounts of waterfront bayous kept clean and healthy with rebuilding the oyster shoals....all of that while they take reservations keeping the 298 campsites filled.  They keep the campers from being rowdy and they keep all of the 5 hosting couples doing their jobs and happy.  That is a lot!!  Oh did I mention that they also keep a museum and a Fort manned and clean and happening for the thousands of visitors every year.  Kudos to all the Rangers at Fort DeSoto!!

The fishing became almost non-existent for Andy and Mary and Jeanine due to the cold front.  They had been catching like crazy and we had been eating fresh or smoking Mullet, bluefish, black drum, and flounder.  We were so looking forward to Sea Trout, Grouper and Snook....once the season opened for Sea Trout the fishing had become nil and the Snook and Grouper will now be off limits for at least this year and maybe more.  Before the fish kill Andy had brought in enough fish for us to be eating it every day and now have a freezer full of fish ready for eating and sharing with friends and family.

Many animals were affected by the cold front.  The Manatees are a mamal that needs warm waters and the plants that grow in warm waters for their survival.  During the winter months they search out warm spots and congregate.  Coal run power plants release warm water back into the ocean after using the colder waters to cool the plant.  So many Manatees winter over at the power plant that some Plants have created a tourist attraction out of it.  New friends and fellow hosts, Mary Kathryn and Bill invited me to go along with them to see the Manatees.  My pictures do not show the hundreds of Manatees congregated and playing in the waters at the coal plant.  Please use you imagination to see them....every shadow in the water is a Manatee!!

Our friends, Dave and Claudia Pesino came on down from Hernando, Florida in their gorgeous new Toy Hauler!  Great camper!!  We had a grand time entertaining each other and swapping stories around campfires.  Jeanine's Mom and Dad came to visit with her and Mike for a week so we got to host a dinner party for them and Dave and Claudia.  We enjoyed starters of smoked fish and Hot pepper pickled green beans from Mary, Jeanine's Mom.  She grew the beans and jarred the pickles.  They were crunchy, flavorful and hot!!  They were terrific!!  Our entree included grilled chicken and pork loin, Waldorf salad, green salad, and Jeanine's famous rice and cheese casserole.  We finished off with apple no sugar pie and a full sugar pumpkin pie.  A few days later we were having dinner at Dave and Claudia's enjoying Dave's expert burgers, three bean salad, green salad, potato salad and all the fixings that make burgers great.  Claudia had a super duper three layer cake with fruit topping.  YUM!  Then Jeanine had her farewell dinner for us all and Mary and John who came back from their next hosting gig to be with us before we left. 

Louise and Sass from our years at Whaley Lake, now living comfortably in the Georgia mountains came down for ribs at Mr.Bones.  They stayed at St.Pete's Beach and went for long walks even though it was still a bit nippy.  We ate our usual 5 types of Mr.Bones ribs with all the sides.  Another fabulous feast at Mr. Bones!!!  We spent time checking out the Fort and the wonderful stretches of beach at the Park.  It was so heartwarming to have two sets of New York friends visit us.  It made it feel like it was our home.

Jeanine and Mike's and our time as hosts at the park was up.  It made us sad as we took apart our site and returned the tables and mats and grill we had used during our two months.  It had become "home" and we felt the tug of wanting to stay.  It was our first time to really get connected to a park in such a deep way.  We believe it was because of the great people we were with while at this wonderful park. 
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mike vod on

HEY-cool traveling you all are doing.MON.i will be 45!!!!MARCH 12 years -wow weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Bill Oakley on

Glad to see the new post. Been wondering about you two. It sure looks like you guys are finding great adventures to share in. Now that you're done at the camp site, where are you heading off to?
Keep having all that fun!

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