Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

From Circus to Citrus!

After we left the gulf coast town of Sarasota, we headed inland towards Orlando. It didn’t take long for us brainiacs to see why Florida is the citrus capital of the United States claiming the prize of being the nation’s leader in orange and grapefruit production. Maybe it was the miles and miles of orange groves that gave it away, or the thousands of citrus trees that were growing in the state park where we were camped, or was it the u-pick citrus farm down the road that had a packed parking lot. We were surprised at just how many acres are dotted with bushy green trees covered with flecks of orange and yellow.

On our way from the coast to our campground at Lake Louisa State Park we passed a very appealing u-pick citrus farm. To be honest, it was the fake dead shark hanging from its tail and the 20-foot alligator in the pond that caught our attention and made us pledge to come back. Our plans were simple – stop at the farm and buy a few already picked tangerines, oranges, and grapefruits. But soon we got caught up in the excitement of a u-pick farm, grabbed a “picker,” a bushel bag, and headed out  into the maze of citrus. Luckily, our bushel bag had a map to guide us through the hundreds of  acres  and 50 varieties of citrus. We had no idea there were so many varieties of oranges and tangerines and had never tasted many of the varieties. At a previous citrus farm stand, Betsy fell in love with the sweet flavor of the honeybell. The honeybell which is a hybrid cross between a tangerine and grapefruit turns out to be one of the sweetest and most popular oranges (thanks also to a major marketing effort).

How could we pass up this place?

Our loot!  Much more fun to pick it ourselves.
The citrus industry in Florida has changed in the past few years due to falling land prices and disease. Citrus groves that were once gobbled up for development now lay fallow and undeveloped. Many growers sold their groves to ambitious developers for top dollar; however, the recent post-housing boom forced a change in plans and left groves abandoned. Abandoned groves exacerbate the disease problem as fungus and insects spread from infected trees to nearby healthy groves. To manage the two primary diseases – canker and citrus greening – nearly constant spraying and monitoring is required. Abandoned groves make the problem harder to control and fungus and insects from diseased trees quickly migrate to nearby healthy groves.

Citrus plants were protected from the freezing weather by ice.
Betsy teasing the alligator with our bag full of citrus.
Lake Louisa State Park was a great find for us! The park is characterized by rolling hills, freshwater lakes, and wide vistas. All of which provided us with ample opportunities to hike, kayak, fish, and bike. With eleven distinct natural communities, the park is diverse and interesting. What is now parkland was once part of the Seminole Reservation. Later it became a cattle ranch and orange grove which is still evident today. The park opened to the public in 1977 and has become very popular. It was a wonderful place for us to camp and we enjoyed many great walks through orange groves and pine forests.
Lake Louisa State Park is a stark contrast from our last campground at Myakka River State Park.
We loved the upland piney woods habitat.
The campsites are fairly well spaced with trees and shrubs in between sites.
Hammond Lake which was a perfect size for paddling the kayaks and fishing.

Beautiful sunrise!  We love that we are seeing fall colors in January.
Lilly pads in the lake.
Spirit and I took in some beautiful sunrises....mostly because she wakes me up at 5:30am.
Happy dog.
Old pasture land that has been planted with native pine trees.
Lake with fishing pier.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We love hearing from you, so please drop us a comment