Monthly Archives: January 2017


'54 Ford Wrecker
1954 Ford F-250 Wrecker

The Schott

Schottenstein Center
Columbus, Ohio

The Schott exterior

I returned to the site of the 2005 Frozen Four, the Value City Arena inside the Jerome Schottenstein Center, at The Ohio State University, in the middle of Columbus, Ohio. Whew! That’s a lot to plug in an opening sentence.

OSU Pep Band

The OSU Pep Band was there to greet me as I came through the front door. Very considerate, as I had driven a long way to attend.

The Golden Bear

There is a lot of sports history at OSU, and all sports are represented on the banner that runs along both sides of the walkway around the rink, or court, depending on who is playing.

Warmups at the Schott

But, we are back to hockey, as the Wisconsin Badgers took on the Ohio State Buckeyes on the ice. The Schott is a nice venue, but I wouldn’t say it’s all that and a bag of chips for hockey. The first eight rows are temporary seating, where the rows rise slowly, putting everyone farther away from the action than should be. It’s a big venue, with over 17,000 seats for hockey, but the upper bowl is blocked off by black sheets, and even the seats at one end of the ice received the black sheet treatment. For all of Ohio State’s rich athletic history, hockey still remains an afterthought on campus.

Badgers during warmups

The Badgers would draw first blood, but they should not have. Ohio State was on the power play, and had a flurry in front of the Wisconsin net, Jack Berry made several saves, but seemed to lose sight of the puck in the melee. Somehow, the Badgers gained control, and Luke Kunin (of course) scored a nice short handed goal at the other end with one second left on the power play.
Matthew Freytag would score before the period was over, only his second goal of the year, for a 2-0 Badger lead.

Ohio State scored the only goal of the second period, with an absolutely beautiful pass out of the corner by Mason Jobst to Matthew Weis, who was right in front of the net. 2-1 Badgers after two.

Ohio State did finally step things up in the third period, but Berry was up to the task and didn’t allow another puck to get past him.
A lot of bad blood out there between the two squads. From early in the first period, the two teams were throwing punches, and there were constant skirmishes, often away from the puck.

Ryan Wagner finished up the scoring with an empty net goal for Wisconsin, which was assisted by Kunin. Giving Kunin a two point night. Berry finished with 26 saves for Wisconsin, and Christian Frey had 22 for OSU.

Most schools have some amusing traditions for the outsider, and OSU was no exception. I did enjoy the rendition of “The Hockey Song” during the second intermission, with the band members leading the way. Nice job. “Do I play hockey?”

Beach hike

St Joseph Peninsula State Park

Saving the best for last…

Beach on Gulf side

On the second test run with the 300, I swung over to Florida’s panhandle, to do some beach side camping. This state park is on a peninsula, which drew me to it in the first place. On one side is the Gulf of Mexico, and on the other St Joseph Bay and mainland Florida.

Camping with the 300
300 camping. Proof that it made it out of the shop.

This may have been my favorite of all of the Florida parks. I absolutely loved the place. I had a nice, relatively secluded campsite, and wonderful weather. It has been several years since I fell to sleep to the sound of the pounding surf.

Swamp & pines

The beach walking was fantastic, and in the first few hours after dawn, it was just the birds and I out on the sand. There is also a great nature trail that runs down the center of the peninsula, that was well worth the hike. It took me most of one day to walk the entire beach on the Gulf side.

Sand dunes

Between the beach and the pines are some beautiful sand dunes. Like the beach, the dunes are constantly changing their form. A boardwalk runs over the dunes, to try to limit the damage done by thousands of feet.

Gull on beach

I saw tons of gulls & terns, a few pelicans, several sleek, black snakes, and one deer. I also heard the raccoon break into another camper’s cooler and steal their fish bait. In the afternoon, there were several people fishing the surf from the beach.

St Joseph Peninsula
St Joseph Peninsula from air. Photo credit: Florida Parks

I had a great time hiking the beach. The waves were really pounding on day 1, and slightly less on day 2. The day prior to my arrival, there were tornadoes and thunderstorms across the entire area. It must have been pretty wild out there when those went across. By the day I left, the Gulf had calmed down considerably. The peninsula is a tad out of the way, but well worth the effort. Plus, it’s a damn nice drive to get there.

Mmmm… Crunchy

This armadillo walked right up to me. It was almost on my boot, when I suddenly moved my foot side to side, startling the little guy. Keen eyesight is not one of his strengths, I would guess. He fled about three feet, and then froze. I walked away, and had not gone 5 feet, when the armadillo was back to scrounging for munchies.


cup gutter system
Resin collection for turpentine in Northern Florida, circa 1936

I found the turpentine industry in Florida to be rather intriguing. They slashed the pine tree’s bark, and installed a metal “trough” that would allow the resin to be collected into buckets. The resin is then processed into turpentine.
In Florida, I assume its the long-leaf pines, that are so prevalent down here, that is their source of turpentine resin.

This brings me to a new question. I’ve seen 40′ trucks loaded with bales of these long-leaf pine needles. What in the world do they use those for? And in such quantity? Mulch? They call it “pine straw”.

Osceola National Forest

Ocean Pond
Ocean Pond in Osceola National Forest

Camping in Florida during the winter, should be reclassified as “Combat Camping”. These retirees are damn competitive when it comes to claiming campsites, and they give no quarter.
The system is not set up for a guy like me, who likes to avoid crowds, fly by the seat of his pants, and pay as little as possible for the opportunity.

Florida State Forests require campers to get a permit two weeks prior to camping. They are automatically ruled out due to my schedule. National Forests are wonderful, but they are located across the northern part of the state. After picking up my car, I finally had the opportunity to visit one.

Located north of Orlando, Osceola is an absolute gem. A beautiful park, with a ton of trails, and no shortage of camping possibilities. The official sites have competition to stay overnight, but some seem to go almost unnoticed too.

Olustee Depot
Olustee Depot

I started at the historic Olustee Depot, to get the lay of the forest. The depot has a huge history, although firm dates seem to be a tad evasive. Officially, the freight depot was built in 1888. Although part of the structure, or possibly a predecessor was in use during the Civil War. The waiting rooms were added on in the 1920’s.
Inside, one gets some great information of the area’s two main exports: timber and turpentine. At one point, Florida supplied 20% of the world’s turpentine.
The depot is a great place to start, the staff was wonderful and full of information. Plus, I loved the old building and its construction.

Highlands Hammock

Orange Grove
The Hammock’s Grove

The grove in the photo above, is where this park historically got its start, in a way. A Florida pioneer back in the 1800’s cleared this grove with an axe, building a small log home and planting orange trees. It would be a beautiful place for a cabin.
In the 1920’s, Margaret Roebling, the widow of John Roebling, who designed the Brooklyn Bridge, bought the land around the grove, after being introduced to its beauty. It was opened to the public in 1931, and became one of Florida’s first of four state parks that opened in 1935.

Grove 1948
The Orange Grove in 1948

Due to a mix up, which I may vent about in a later post, I was stuck in the middle of RV Central. My little tent looked lost among the massive land yachts. Grudgingly, I succumbed to my fate, threw up my tent as fast as possible, and headed for the trails.

Out on the trails, it was pretty rare for me to run into anyone, other than wildlife, and that made my day. I headed back at dusk, thinking that I had a better chance avoiding the neighbors while under the cover of darkness. Off to my right, I heard a deep, guttural grunt, followed by a scattering of feet. I moved towards the trees, and peered into the woods, but could make out nothing through the thick underbrush. I heard what I determined to be a mock charge, followed again by this unknown grunt, but still no visual evidence of what was making it. Seemed highly unlikely to be a gator, since I have only heard them hiss. Doubtful that it was a black bear, since the “happy feet” I heard did not fit with the black ghost of the forest.

When I made it back to “camp”, my neighbors were waiting for me. It seems that they were thrilled to see a tent next door to them, rather than another RV. Who would have thought? I actually improved the neighborhood. They thought that tent camping was novel, but they certainly had no interest in partaking. We had a nice conversation, but dinner awaited all of us, and we parted company for our respective stoves.

I hit the trails again the following morning, and within an hour, I heard that same deep guttural grunt from the night before, and turned to see a group of feral hogs. Hogs! That made sense. They are not considered native wildlife, so they are not mentioned in official channels around here. Also, I don’t have a whole lot of experience with feral hogs. There are not many rooting around Interior Alaska, although if they were, the wolves and bears would, no doubt, be thrilled.


These little buggers were all over the place, and I have seen a few of these, but those were in Texas. It was the largest concentration of armadillos I have seen. They were constantly skittering about.

One of the many egrets I saw while hiking the Cypress Swamp Trail

Lake Manatee State Park

Lake Manatee
Lake Manatee

Lake Manatee was formed in the 1960’s by the damming of the Manatee River. I spent one night camped here, as I made my way back towards the Tampa area.

Manatee trail

A good fishing “lake” from what I heard. There were a few boats out there, when I walked along its shoreline, but certainly not in great numbers.

The trails were mostly through Florida scrub, which made for some soft, sandy hikes.

Deep Hole

Trail to Deep Hole
The trail out to Deep Hole

One of gems of Myakka River State Park is Deep Hole. A 140′ deep sinkhole that draws alligators like a white trash bag draws ravens. The volunteer at Oscar Scherer was the first to put Deep Hole on my radar.

Deep Hole

It’s a 2 mile hike out to Deep Hole, and you need one of the thirty permits issued each day to venture out there. The hike is a relatively easy one, a bit sandy in spots, but flat terrain. I was at the ranger station by 8:15am to get the permit, then drove to the trailhead.

Alligators at Deep Hole

As many as 200 alligators can be seen out at Deep Hole, at any one time. I have no idea how many were there for my visit. There were a dozen sunning themselves on shore, and another 50 or so in the water. The number in the water was tough to estimate, as they kept submersing and rising again.

Every black bump on the water is an alligator

At first, I had one bank of the ‘Gator Hole to myself, but eventually other hikers clambered through the hammock to join me. Still, the entire time I was out there, the gators far outnumbered the dozen or so hikers.

Alligators at Myakka

One can also kayak or canoe out to Deep Hole, although I’m not sure if actually kayaking into the Hole would be a great idea, or even if it is allowed. I talked to a father/son team that morning who were planning on canoeing out there later that day. There is a nice beach to land at on the lake which Deep Hole connects to.

I don’t know what time of year, or even what time of day, is best to hike out there to catch a glimpse of the most alligators. I was there, so I went, and I was glad that I did. Deep Hole for gators is like McNeil River for brown bears, and a place well worth the trek out to visit.