The winter doldrums usually set in sometime in February. That’s when I typically get really tired of making images filled with snow and ice in Wisconsin, and start to hunger for some nice warmth and color. This year, I had the time to do something about it. I loaded up my little car with camping gear, and pointed it south and east through the USA. I hope you’ll travel along with me for a little while.
Please click any of the images to see a larger version.
My record starts early in the morning of the second day, when I woke up in the Great Smoky Mountains of Kentucky.
Dawn peeks through the morning mist of an early spring day.
A car travels along state highway 15, early in the morning.
According to what I can decipher from my notes and on-line information, this sleepy little village is the unincorporated town of Bethany in Wolf County, Kentucky.
Highway 15 winds its way through the Mountains, early on a clear spring morning in March, 2016.
This highway cut through a mountain ridge, reminds me of a Mayan step pyramid.
This is a view of the grounds of Natural Tunnel State Park in Scott County, Virginia. I didn’t take the tunnel tour though. I was just passing through.
This view is along North Carolina state highway 181, near Jonas Ridge. There is a nice resort at Jonas Ridge, that features “snow tubing”, but I think it’s a little too late in the year for that. This is about where I started to notice green starting to appear in the trees and brush along the roadside as I continued heading south and east into the land of perpetual summer.
This is a view of the Blue Ridge (Appalachian) Mountains from the Brown Mountain overlook near Morganton, North Carolina, on the border of Burke and Caldwell Counties, along state highway 181.
The state tree of North Carolina is Pinus palustris, or longleaf pine. I’m no arborist, but I’m pretty sure this is one. At least I found it in the campground where I spent a night near Charlotte, North Carolina.
This view is near Ridgeland, South Carolina (USA) on state highway 462, as I continued south on my odyssey to find summer. That’s a white rock in the grass, not snow! You can definitely see that the trees are budding. Time to break out the shorts!
It’s pronounced Koo-suh-HATCH-ee, and it’s in Jasper County, South Carolina. This view is just off state highway 462.
The Savannah National Wildlife Refuge is located in Chatham and Effingham counties in Georgia and Jasper County in South Carolina. I had set my GPS navigator to take me to Savannah, Georgia, and the refuge was close by, so I made a little side trip.
The Savanna National Wildlife Refuge is part of the Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex, a group of seven national wildlife refuges, totaling 56,949 acres, located in coastal Georgia and South Carolina.
Wildlife-dependent recreational activities offered year-round at Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, include hiking, bicycling, wildlife viewing and photography.
Managed freshwater impoundments, or pools, in the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, provide wintering habitat for an average of 25,000 ducks annually. The freshwater plant community is extremely diverse, making it ideal habitat for many species of water birds such as egrets, ibis, and rails.
The Savannah National Wildlife Refuge offers archery and gun hunting opportunities for deer, squirrel, waterfowl, turkey, and feral hogs. A refuge hunt permit and State licenses are required for hunters 16 and over.
I spent a night in a really nice little KOA campground, just on the Georgia side of the Florida state line, near Jacksonville, Florida.
I settled in for the night, knowing that tomorrow I would push through from Georgia to the Florida Keys.
After driving most of the day through Florida, I arrived in Key Largo, which is the closest of the Florida Keys to the mainland, on the overseas highway (US highway 1) at about 3 PM. It was crazy. The tourists were swarming like locusts. Not only were there no campsites, hotel rooms or unoccupied refrigerator boxes available for the night on Key Largo, the closest vacancy was 50 or so miles away on Marathon Key, and if I wanted to reserve it, I would need to pay more than double the usual campsite rate by credit card, immediately. It’s safe to say that I was not overjoyed to find out what the “campsite” looked like. It was the smallest and least inviting site that I stayed in during the entire trip. I resolved to spend the next day on the keys, seeing what I could see, and then get the @%!# out.
I thought the National Wildlife Refuge and Key Deer Habitat on Big Pine Key would be interesting. It was, but not quite what I had expected. After driving several miles east of US highway 1, I arrived at the refuge, and found that no admittance is allowed past what you see right here. The refuge is for Key Deer, and they are not to be molested by humans. The deer are free to visit the human habitat if they wish.
Human habitation abuts the Key Deer Habitat on Big Pine Key in a surprisingly uncontrolled manner. Notices abound, urging humans to abstain from feeding and otherwise bothering the deer. This fellow apparently broke an antler while attempting to steal a parked car. The deer have absolutely no fear of humans, as you can see by the way he’s giving me the stink eye.
I was in awe of the tropical foliage. I got used to it later, but I’m a yanqui, so I’m easily impressed, at least for the first little bit.
I had vowed to ride the overseas highway to the end, so here’s the evidence. This is the end of US highway 1 in Key West Florida. It’s something like 20 miles (30 KM) from Cuba. There are no parking meters or anything, but you have to pay some unspecified person in order to park. Apparently you can just empty your wallet on the street. I chose to shoot this through my car windshield without stopping. (See a slight reflection from the windshield in the lower right?) Fortunately for me, the trip back to the mainland was a little more interesting than the trip out.
My first stop on the way back from the insanity of the Key West tourist mecca was Chico’s restaurant, where I had a delicious fish taco dinner in his garden, and recorded some interesting wall decorations. I think if you ever encountered one of these frogs in the wild, you would be unwise to lick it.
There is something exquisitely inviting in the colors of the tropics.
Much of the 90 mile (145 KM) length of the overseas highway (US Highway 1) looks just like this. It’s northern hemisphere March. This is like a beautiful dream.
Between the Florida Keys, there are many navigable channels. This is the Park Channel, between The Saddle Bunch (group of) Keys and Sugar Loaf Key.
This is the bridge between Pigeon Key and Packet Key. See that big hump way out there? It’s a suspension bridge that allows a 65 ft (20 m) clearance for ships. There’s another stretch of bridge on pilings, on the other side of it. The overseas highway is aging, it’s only two lanes wide, but it’s incredible!
There’s also an obsolete railway bridge system that parallels much of the highway. It’s no longer in use, but some of it has been reused for recreational and tourist purposes. This view is from the old railway bridge in the Bridge Historic District.
These ladies are fishing in the Gulf of Mexico below the 7 mile bridge on the Overseas Highway (US Highway 1) in the Florida Keys. Who wouldn’t want to be here?