How to Know When the Gray Tanks are Full

If you have been following our posts, you may recall me whining about how the gauges on the gray and black tanks don’t always work.  Therefore, you never know when they are full.  Regis tells me that I will know when the gray tank is full if I’m taking a shower and the water starts to puddle at my feet and stop going down the drain.

At the Koreshan campground, we have water and electricity but no sewer.  We were only planning to stay 4 nights, so that should not have been a problem.  On our last morning, prior to leaving, I took my shower and lo and behold, the water began to puddle around my feet.  Thank goodness I was almost done.  There was a dump station in the campground, so we didn’t have far to go to dump the tanks.  Jeezy peezy there has to be a better way!

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This is our shower. The reason you can’t see the drain is because the shower is full of soapy water that will not drain because the tank is full!
While hanging around the campground, Regis made friends with this little anole.

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Anole in Koreshan State Historic Site.

We spent our last full day here going back to J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge.  I love the place and cannot get enough of it.  Since the tide was in, we didn’t see as many birds.  It is easier for them to fish when the tide is out.  Nevertheless, I got some more video of a Reddish Egret fishing.  Click here.

Here are some more bird pictures.

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Birds at J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge.
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Birds at J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

We checked out the Bailey tract at the refuge.  We didn’t see many birds, but we saw this little guy hanging about.

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Alligator at J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

In Search of Florida Panthers

Let me start off by saying we never saw any panthers.  We didn’t expect to see any panthers.  They are very elusive.  But, we camped not too far from the Florida Panther National Wildlife Sanctuary.  There are some trails there, but pets are not allowed on them.  Also, you can’t walk alone and must keep a close eye on your children.  Hmmmm.  We thought a drive through the area would be pretty cool just to see where panthers hang out.

On the way to the refuge, we went to the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.  According to the sanctuary literature, the sanctuary was “established to protect the largest remaining stand of ancient bald cypress left in North America.”  National Audubon had been protecting wading birds nesting in the swamp since 1912.  In 1954, the Corkscrew Cypress Rookery Association was formed and purchased the property and the National Audubon Society manages the area.  There is a visitor center and 2.25 mile boardwalk trail through the sanctuary.

Since pets are not allowed, Regis and Dart went for a walk outside the sanctuary and I went inside the sanctuary.  There were lots of Wood Storks flying overhead, so I think Dart and Regis saw as many birds as I did.  The sanctuary is amazing and the boardwalk makes it possible to visit a swamp that would normally be inaccessible.

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Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
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Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
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Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
I expected to see mostly wading birds, but saw many birds flitting through the forest.  I couldn’t identify most of them but I know I saw an Oriole.  I also walked right under a hawk.  One of the coolest things I saw was a ghost orchid.  This is a very rare orchid that looks like a ghost.  There are people who visit the sanctuary just to see this orchid.

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On the left side of the trunk is a rare ghost orchid.

After visiting the sanctuary, we took a ride by the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.  There are several signs along the road nearby warning of panther crossings.  I regularly get email from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (myfwc.com) on happenings related to panthers, so it was thrilling to see the area where these events take place.

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Nesting Anhingas at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
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Red-shouldered Hawk at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
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Wood Stork outside of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. The Sanctuary has the highest concentration of nesting Wood Storks in the U.S.

Koreshan

It was time to move the motor home to keep every lubricated properly.  We took advantage of that need to head on a short adventure to southwest Florida.  We wanted to visit J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge again and chose Koreshan State Park in Estero as our campsite.  It was considerably less expensive than the local private campgrounds and it was very nice.  It is located on the Estero River, so we brought the kayaks.

The drive to Estero from St. Augustine was awful.  It’s rough getting through the Orlando area and Routes 95, 4, and 75 are always congested.  After we set up camp, we took the dog for a walk and I’m surprised that Dart didn’t wear out his sniffer on the walk.  It wasn’t long but Dart sniffed every square inch.  I was beginning to think we wouldn’t get back to the motorhome until nightfall.

The next morning we went on a hike through the historic site and found the biggest bamboo we have ever seen.  It sounded a little creepy with the wind blowing through the bamboo and causing them to make creaking noises.

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Linda and Dart with large bamboo in Koreshan State Historic Site.

After Dart’s walk, we put the kayaks in the Estero River at the campground and headed down river.  There are lots of houses along the river.  The river looks very dirty.  We only had to step in it to launch and then take the kayaks out of the water, but we hated stepping in it.

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Launching kayaks on the Estero River at Koreshan State Historic Site. That’s Linda checking out down river and Mango and Tango in the lower left corner.

It was an okay trip.  We saw someone paddle boarding with a beautiful husky.  We were hoping to kayak all the way to Estero Bay but it turned out to be further than we expected.  I was concerned about having the energy to return up river.  There isn’t much of a current, but you still have to paddle against whatever current there is.  We didn’t see many birds on the way downriver, but saw some on the way back.  The tide was lower on the way back, so it would have been easier for the birds to fish.

After we got back, we ate lunch and then headed to J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge.  It is only 18 miles from our campsite but took an hour to get there.  It was worth it!!  There were lots of birds.  There were also lots of no-see-ums. Those are bugs you can’t see but when they bite you, you can feel it.  I find their bites itch more than mosquito bites.  Since we left the bug spray in the motorhome (of course!), we didn’t do any walking.  My favorite bird to watch was the Reddish Egret.  I love watching them fish.  I got some video (see here) of one fishing.  If you have never seen them fish, you should watch.  I was using my regular camera with the long lens when I saw the Egret and it is hard to handhold and video with that lens so it is a little shaky.  The tripod was with the bug spray back in the motorhome!!

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Birds at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge.
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Gull bathing at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge.
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Ibis at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge.
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White Pelicans at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge.
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Roseatte Spoonbill preening at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. A lot of people mistake them for Flamingos.
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Yellow-crowned Nigh-Heron at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

The Old Man

We drove north along the shore of the St. Lawrence River to visit the Kiskotuk Park.  We passed many farms.  There was a crop growing with yellow flowers and it was stunning to see.  We stopped at several observation platforms that looked out over the marsh and the water.  We saw lots and lots of birds.  Even with binoculars, they were too far away to identify.

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Fields of some type of root crop. if you know comment below!

On our route, we saw a house that had lots of little houses, a little church, and a little lighthouse sitting in the front yard.  I stopped to photograph them and an old man came out of the house to talk to me.  He did not speak any English and I realized during our conversation just how poor my French is.  The old man wanted to talk.  He kept talking and I didn’t understand anything he was saying.  He asked me into his house and showed me a painting on the wall.  He had a lot to say to me about the painting and I understood none of it.  It was very sad.  He had so much to say and I would love to have understood it.  There were probably at least 20 more little houses in his backyard.   (Regis edit: These houses were hand make, probably by the old man. Pretty darn sure I saw that church in town!) Darn I wish my French was better.

The car, RV, and bikes got covered with grime.  They acquired a continent’s worth of dirt in our travels.  I have been on the lookout for a car wash to clean the car but have not seen any.  Campgrounds do not allow you to wash your vehicle on site.  Today, I decided to do something about it.  I got out a bottle of Invisible Glass and a huge roll of paper towels.  I cleaned both bikes and the car.  It would have been a lot easier with a hose and a bucket of water, but it did a pretty good job and I feel so much better.  Even though it is not surprising to see Jeeps dirty, it bothered me.

In the evening, we went down to the water to watch the sunset.  A lot of people do that.  They all started to gather to enjoy the show.  As soon as the sun dipped below the horizon, most people left.  But, the best colors for a sunset show up after the sun sets.  You should hang around for about a half hour after sunset to enjoy them.

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Sun down down

 

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Sun gone, but not forgotten with colors like this

Post script:  As were leaving our campsite this morning, we saw a car wash.  It was less than ½ mile from our site.  I could have coasted from our campsite into the car wash without starting the engine.  Regis says I might have lost some momentum going into the bay, but could succeed if I set out to do it with reckless abandon.  We drove by this place multiple times and the sign says Lave-Auto and it looks like multiple service bays.  I forgot that Lave means wash.  There are some service bays but a few of them are for washing your car.  Encroyable!

Francais

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View of Quebec from St Lawrence River

We left St. John to head toward Quebec.  Oh my.  My six years of French is not adequate for this.  Once we got to Quebec, all the signs were in French.  In the other provinces, the signs are in both languages so I was practicing by reading French first and then reading the English if I couldn’t understand it.  Now, I have no English translation to fall back on.

I feel a little isolated.  Everyone around us is speaking fluent French.  (One exception I will describe later.)  I think most folks know we speak English and avoid us.  The professional tourist people are very kind, but everyone else ignores us.  It’s a weird feeling.  Dart is wearing his USA bandana, but I suspect people know we are from the US without us understanding why.

This turns out to be a decent campsite that is a short walk away from the coast.  It is an amazing view.  We can watch Beluga whales from the beach.

I immediately took a whale watch tour leaving at 9:30 am the day after we arrived.  While I was doing that Regis set about fixing our newly broken table.  This is another one of those situations where there was a lack of quality in manufacturing.  Our dining table collapsed and was no longer usable.  While fixing it, Regis determined it was not adequately glued in the first place.  Apparently, someone noticed that in manufacturing and caulked it which was a temporary solution.  This is our second season in the motor home and it was time for the caulking to fail.

While he was working, I was enjoying a 3 ½ hour boat tour on the St. Lawrence River.  The guide spoke fluent French and then gave us an English translation.  His French accent was strong enough, along with the wind, sound of the motor, and other people talking, that I had a hard time understanding what he was saying even when he spoke English.  Nevertheless, I understood some of it.

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View of port from Rivier. yes all those boats are sitting in mud
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View of port in Riviere-de-loop after whale watch tour.

Not long after leaving the dock, we saw Beluga whales.  Click here for a short video.  (It’s not great but look for the white whales.  Belugas are white.  We continued to see them.  We arrived at the whale hot spot, which I think is where the water from the Gulf of St. Lawrence meets the freshwater of the St. Lawrence River.  We saw LOTS of seabirds.  So far, on this trip, we haven’t seen that many seabirds.  I think that’s because they are all here.  My goodness.  I saw thousands of cormorants.  It was amazing.  We saw several Minke whales where the water mixes.

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Lighthouse on St Lawrence River.

On the way back, we encountered a gazillion seals.  Okay, I don’t know how many seals there were but I have never seen that many seals swimming in the water at the same time.  The amount of sea mammals and birds is astonishing.

On the way back, I felt my fingers getting numb.  I was cold.  As I was trying to get circulation back in my fingers, I saw a young boy and girl come up on the top deck with me.  The young boy was wearing a short-sleeved Toronto Blue Jays shirt.  The young girl was wearing a sun dress.  They showed no indication that the cold breeze on the top deck was anything more than lovely.  I was wearing five layers – a shirt, a polartech top, a wool sweater, a sweatshirt, and a gore-tex rain jacket.  And, I was cold.  Jeez.

There were lots of people on our whale tour that probably spoke neither French or English.  When they gave the safety instructions, they gave them in French, English, and another language.  After that, it was all French and English with an accent.  I am exhausted trying to figure out what the guide was saying!!!

I have to tell you what happened after we arrived at our campsite.  After setting up, the skies opened up and it poured.  After it stopped, Regis decided to do a bike ride through town to check things out.  Dart and I stayed behind keeping each other company.  About 45 minutes after Regis left, it started pouring again.  Dart and I looked at each other.  Should we try to rescue Regis?  We don’t know where he is.  Dart and I decided to give it a try.  We took off trying to figure out where Regis might have gone.  Miracle of miracles!!!!  We found him.  He was wet and bedraggled, but we picked him up and brought him home.  Dart was happy to get everyone back together again.

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Dart and I took a walk after dinner along the St. Lawrence River.
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Sunset over the St. Lawrence River.

Dart – The Attractor

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St. John, New Brunswick

We are camped in St. John, so we spent the day mostly in the city.  I wanted to get my hair cut.  I tried to get it cut in Nova Scotia, but the only local hair salon said they didn’t take walk-ins and couldn’t fit me in.  I looked up local hair salons in St. John and we went to the city so I could give it a try as soon as they opened.  The first salon said they don’t take walk-ins and couldn’t fit me in.  If I hadn’t already had similar problems in the US, I would have take it personally.

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Volley ball on the beach in St. John, New Brunswick.

We started off to the second choice but had no idea  where Union street was. Regis noticed a WIFI antenna on a street pole. Out came the cell phone, open the WIFI hot spot finder app, and boom found an open WIFI. Good job city of Saint John! Free WIFI in the down town area. Next was a talk with google maps and we were off to the next hair salon place. A block this way, two that way another block to the right and ta-da! BUT looks like the hair salon has been over run by the BREW PUB next door! Not a bad use of the space, but no hair cutting getting done there.

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Fish and chips and local brews at a restaurant in St. John, New Brunswick.

We started walking around the city and came upon another hair salon.  They said they could accommodate me in an hour and a half.  I was happy with that.  But, we walked around the block and I was able to find someone willing to take me right away.  I went to get my haircut and Regis let the other salon know I wasn’t coming back.  Then, he went across the street to sit out of the sun waiting for me.  He noticed someone on an electric wheelchair at the back end of a parking lot. After giving Dart some water, he noticed she had crossed the parking lot, maybe to get a closer look at Dart. Regis crossed back to the parking lot and started chatting with Donna.

After several minutes of chit chat, a second wheel chair person arrived, Brian. Soon there were three “scooter”  people, Donna, Brian, and Barb approached and Regis began a lively conversation, while I was getting my hair cut.  When I came out, I found Regis and Dart camped out with a lady in an electric wheel chair in a deep political conversation.  Others joined before I left.  They were an entertaining and delightful group who gave us some good information on what streets to visit to see good architecture.

Regis is a great fan of what I call “creepy” architecture.  It isn’t always dark and gloomy, but often is.  Anyway, he was happy to see it.

We went to the downtown area with lots of restaurants with outside dining and found they are pet friendly.  We were able to have lunch outside with Dart at the table.  They provide a bowl and water.  We had the bowl, so we just needed the water.  The weather was astonishing and the food was wonderful.  So were the local brews!

After we left, we visited the “reversing falls”.  The St. Johns River flows into the Bay of Fundy here.  The St. Johns river maintains it’s height, but the tidal Bay of Fundy waters change by at least 24 feet between tides.  We arrived about two hours before the lowest tide.  Click here for a short video.  High tide was at dark, so we couldn’t get back to see how it works when the tide is higher than the river.

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Reversing falls in S.t John, New Brunswick.

Regis has been fascinated with watching the ship activity in St. John from the overlook at our campground.  Tonight, we both grabbed a glass of wine to go sit at the overlook and watch tugboats, ships, etc.  There was also a local ball game visible from the overlook.  When Regis took to cheering at the game, Dart was not pleased.  I left with Dart to go back to the quiet of the RV.  Regis says the red team was decimating the black team.

 

Encounter with a Groundhog (Marmot)

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Groundhog in New Brunswick, Canada.  This doesn’t look like the groundhogs I am familiar with but my research on the internet indicates this is a groundhog and groundhogs are in the marmot family.  

I wish I hadn’t said anything negative about our Halifax area campground.  We arrived in our new campground this afternoon.  Although the park is nice, the campground is not very nice.  The bad news is that this is the worst campsite we have ever had.  The good news is that it has decent WIFI access that we can get inside the RV.  This is a first on this trip!!  The other good news is that there is an overlook a short distance from our campsite with views of St. John.  The bad news is that it is so foggy, I can’t see anything.

We had some nice wildlife encounters today.  As we were leaving our campsite this morning, we came across a doe with her two fawns.  When we arrived in our new campground, we took a walk through the park in which it is located.  We saw a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers.  We haven’t see Hairy Woodpeckers in years.  We saw a couple of bucks.  And we encountered a groundhog on the trail.  Dart went nuts because he thought it was a squirrel.  The groundhog paid him no mind.

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Doe and two fawns in the woods in Nova Scotia.
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Hairy Woodpecker in New Brunswick, Canada.
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Buck in New Brunswick, Canada.
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Buck in New Brunswick, Canada.

Dart is one of those dogs that doesn’t bother with most animals.  When we encounter rabbits or chipmunks, he doesn’t care.  For the first 5 years of Dart’s life, Regis encouraged him to chase squirrels.  (There was never a danger of him catching one even though he is very fast.)  Dart loves to chase squirrels.  We encountered lots of these little reddish squirrels that are not much bigger than chipmunks at many of the campgrounds.  In fact, a pair of them may have been stashing things in the RV at the last campsite.  Dart does not consider them squirrels and pays no attention to them.  At our current campsite, we encountered a gray squirrel at the beginning of our walk and that got Dart going.  He was on high alert.  Then, when he saw the groundhog, he was convinced it was a squirrel and wanted desperately to be freed for the chase.