Saturday, February 28, 2009

A River Runs Through It!

Hi all -- Roger here...  We are now located at the Ortona Locks Army Corps of Engineers Campground between Labelle, Florida and Lake Okeechobee - still on the Caloosahatchee River.    At our previous campsites we were always pretty close to civilization.  I must say that this place is the perfect place to get away from the world.  The nearest population center is still Ft. Myers, but now we are about forty to fifty miles away.  The campground is a couple of miles from highway 80.  When you turn off the highway, there is nothing to see, other than grassland and cattle.  This is a great place to chill, read, watch the river traffic, watch the wildlife, and even watch Dianne relax (though it is hard for her to do).

I am quickly becoming a fan of Army Corps of Engineer campgrounds.  We have a great view from all of our windows (but not the view we had at Franklin).  The site is huge and has the same amenities as Franklin (concrete pad, LARGE loose rock patio area, permanent picnic table with a roof, grill stand, and fire ring.  (Unfortunately, there will be no campfires here due to a fire ban.  South Florida has received virtually no rainfall for more than two months.  As dry as it is, a single spark could cause a major problem).  The campsite next to us

 was empty for a couple of hours yesterday, so we took a picture from our motor home to give you an idea of the size and privacy.

The views from our site vary, depending on which window you look through. From the front, the view is pastoral - endless acres of grass land, cattle, and (oh, yes) palm trees.  The first morning the fields were covered with fog. 

 From the driver's (dining area) side, we look out onto the excellent landscaping that the Corps of Engineers have constructed (and maintained). 

 From the passenger (door) side, we see the Caloosahatchee River that is actually about thirty feet below us.  Right now I am sitting on a lounge chair in the HUGE "patio" area.  I can see three kildeer hopping around four large palm trees (surrounded with red mulch), in front of a thirty-foot footbridge that spans a rock-covered creek that flows into the river. 

 My dad would have loved the babbling brook sounds that we can hear from the stream.  The Ortona Dam and Locks are in the background. 

A lot of the interesting wildlife live right next to our site - easily viewed from the footbridge.  We included photos of a Louisiana Heron 

and a few of the daily conglomerate of turtles.  The turtles are called sliders,

 because they quickly "slide" into the water whenever you get too close.  

A family of otters also lives under the bridge.  The first day we were here,  I watched one playing in the water, then sunning itself.  By the time I got the camera, the otter was scampering into the den.  The next morning, I went down to the fishing bridge (also next to our site) and watched him swimming and playing in the water.  He actually stopped to look at me.  I ran back to get the camera just in time to see him and his mate jump into the river and leave for the day.  I still do not have a picture of them.  I think I will walk over right now to see if he is there.....  Nope, still not there.  I will try again later.

One day I walked over to the dam and across the lock.  I included a couple of shots of the river and the turbulent water below the dam. 

 The water level in the upper river is 7 and 1/2 feet higher than the lower river here.  Just like at Franklin, we have a full view of all the river traffic going through the locks.

Before we left the Ft. Myers area, we stopped by Camping World to get a ladder that folds up into next to nothing.  I need the ladder to reach the upper part of the windshield that I have not been able to clean well since we left Indiana.  Yesterday, Dianne got up and announced that she intended to use the ladder to clean the outside windows and screens.  I was a little disappointed to not be the first person to use the ladder, but trooper that I am, I got the ladder out and set it up.  I then sat down for a while to read.  Within thirty minutes I gained the reputation of the campground slacker from our neighbors and even the campground staff as they sympathetically talked to Dianne about her ambition and her lazy husband.  I got up to offer to help move the ladder, but Dianne told me that I was pressuring her (sheesh).  I did redeem myself later by doing a thorough job cleaning the windshield (never looked better).  Unfortunately, none of the other campers or staff seemed to be around while I was doing this.  As edification I am including a photo of Dianne reading at the campsite as documentation that I am not the only slacker.

Not a lot to do here, but relax, and catch up on chores (thanks to Dianne).  BUT, what a scenic and interesting place to do so.   

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