Thursday, March 28, 2013

Shivering Spring Breakers

You'd think that a visit to Florida the last week of March would guarantee beautiful beach weather......but not this year.   It has been so cold this week for Lizzie  ( left )and her friend Jenna on the right.     Freeze warnings every morning and windy, cool , sweatshirt weather during the sunny days.    Key West is cold as well.    The girls seem unfazed by it all considering they left Colorado with a foot of snow on the ground.    
They are old enough to avoid a chaperone in the theme parks.    So we dropped them off at Universal on Tuesday where the avid Harry Potter fans lived out their fantasy.    Then on Thursday, they will spend a long day at Disney World.     
On Wednesday, we headed to Homosassa State Wildlife Park.   I've written about this well run park before.   I think it is a must-see for manatee viewing and native birds and animals.    
The manatees were out and about and altho they don't DO anything, the large blobs are obvious in the crystal clear spring water maintained at a constant 72 degrees.   Manatees cannot tolerate cold water so they congregate near Florida springs.   
 This park was once a wildlife tourist attraction.   The State took it over and moved all of the non-native species out .....except for Lu, the hippo who has lived there since 1964.   He is a popular attraction but there

 are practical warnings around his enclosure.......and that isn't water they are warning about.  !!

The birds are plentiful and this is another anhinga.   I learned that they have no oil in their feathers so after they dive underwater for their food, they need to dry their wings.  

Alligators were popular attractions and to me, they all look stuffed since they rarely move......even in the water but that is their predatory nature.   
For the artist readers of my ramblings, you might be interested in an online class I'm taking called Watercolor Lettering  from Val Webb.   She's very good and came highly recommended.    So far I'm keeping up with the lessons despite working on the tree frogs, traveling, company and assorted lazy periods.  
I follow a few blogs and enjoy one in particular of an artist with a very quirky sense of humor.    She recently bought a Mini Cooper car....................and named it Alice !!     Think about it.............

Friday, March 22, 2013

Among the wild things.....

   After 2 weeks,  900+ miles, 4 campgrounds and assorted bug bites,  we are back at the homestead.   We explored parts of the state that we had never been to and reaffirmed that we like Sanibel Island the best of all..........unless we happened to come across about 20 million, then we would consider Jupiter Island our long as Tiger was my neighbor.   

Altho I didn't get a pic of the Class of 61 reunion, I did manage to capture 3 of the 4 alums the next evening on the beach in Naples.    It was a tad chilly but we stuck it out to see the sunset with Mark and Annette.   (She took the pic so just imagine someone MUCH younger than this trio )  
 We came across many birds on this trip.   Maybe because we were in State Parks with preserves and the campground in Sanibel with an aviary.    Florida has beautiful state campgrounds with outstanding facilities and programs.     We certainly didn't take advantage of all they offered but wouldn't hesitate to go back and explore some more.
 I liked this view of the Blue Heron with the leaf pattern .....
 We saw the skyscraper Osprey nests everywhere.    This one was in a preserve and is a manmade tower but they build their huge nests in the highest trees as well.   And one guide suggested that if we need shelter in a hurricane, we might consider a nest as none of the osprey nests in that area were destroyed in the last storm.
 One day, on Sanibel, this anhinga came to visit our campsite and showed off his plumage and his turquoise eyes.    In the same pond were many ducks in  their varied colors.  
 And another Blue Heron.

 This was our beach on Bahia Honda Key.   That's the real color.    The palm is an endangered silver palm.   The water was 74 and chilly but the kids didn't seem to mind.    You can see the layers of sea grass that wash up and provide good hunting for the birds.

 We did go into Key West for another few hours one afternoon.   Again it was filled with the college crowd on Break.......they seemed pretty clean cut and well behaved and sunburned.   The senior population was also very well represented .... not as attractive however.
And so, we moved up the coast to Jonathan Dickinson SP, near Jupiter on the east coast.    This park is located next to the Loxahatchee River  and the opposite of Bahia Honda.   No tropical plants and flowers here.    Very scrubby coarse landscape with no trees in the CG.   But again, facilities are excellent and spacing is generous.      We took a guided boat trip on the river.    We chose the early morning trip hoping the wildlife would be more active and we were rewarded with some good viewing.
 This alligator was much too relaxed.    I have pictures of herons, osprey, turtles and more turtles,  and even more alligators.   The manatees were plentiful but the water is dark and murky and it is hard to capture them.  
We came across this very large gator, the guide estimated over 10 feet and as I pressed the shutter, a fish jumped right in front of it.    It's not a great pic but it sure was a surprise when I looked at the image.    I'll put this one up with the eagle with the prey in his claws from last summer.......maybe now, National Geographic will call................And, just had to share this find.     I love Merrill shoes and have been looking for a pair of slip-on types to replace a very old pair. In Key West, I wandered into a cluttered shoe store and found these Merrills.   They are part of the Barefoot selection.   They are a soft sueded leather with quite thin soles.   If I said that you could feel the surface of the floor/ground, you probably would think that wouldn't be comfortable.    I am barefoot most of the time and these are very similar (hence the name ! ).....  I've worn them every day since and they are perfect.    I bought them in black with tan sole and will definitely go back for another color.    The young man said they are washable in the dishwasher ???    
And so, we're off the highway for a week or so and looking forward to having Lizzie and her friend join us on their Spring Break.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Beach life

We are in Bahia Honda State Park on the Keys.  About 45 min from Key West.   We have no Internet so I am using the data plan on the iPad mini and Blogger does not work very well....thus no pics and just one- fingered typing. ( left the keyboard at home).    
We gathered for a mini- Class of 61 HS reunion in Naples.    AND I didn't get a single picture !!    So just imagine 3 couples who are still very young in spirit and look pretty darn good.    Naples is where the money is and the winter crowds.  Went to Costco and it had the best dressed shoppers and top of the line cars to take those 24 rolls of TP home.  
All of Florida's State Parks are very well done....or at least the few we've been to.  But the ones on the beach are very hard to get into " during the season".  Paul made reservations 11 months ago.  And then it's like getting a seat on have to press send at exactly the right time to get a spot.  The alternative is private campgrounds where they pack them in like sardines and charge a fortune.  
Bahia has nice private sites, you can walk to the beach (best beach in US in 1992 the sign says) and trails for exploring.     We spent a few hours on the beach.   No shells, little surf but beautiful white , soft sand.  And not very busy.  
We did go to KW.    VERY busy with a cruise ship in and the young Spring Break crowd.    We did the tour of the Hemingway House and walked all over, has good Mexican food, bought some clothes and came home.   Probably don't need to go back.

We'll  do more exploring, more beach lounging, more reading good books and more drawing of the sea grape leaves (a favorite of mine) and lots of relaxing.        Pictures later.    

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Heading south..........

First, I made the chili.....  A large pot of my version that will give us a couple of quick meals on the road and then I will freeze it into meal sized portions for later (I used to use ground turkey but now use the meat substitute which we actually like better and can't tell the difference from ground beef)   Then we packed up the MH.....forgetting assorted odds and ends.    And then we drove for about 5 hours on Saturday.   It's not really that far, about 230 miles but we stopped at rest stops along the way to make sure the CALIPERS were behaving.      And then we drove into Periwinkle Park on Sanibel Island.   It's not the red dot on the map, it's right after the causeway from the mainland.    We are on the west coast of Florida, near Ft Myers.    

 We've been here once before and the area is lovely with wide shell- filled beaches and bike trails that go on and on.    
The campground is very old and has narrow sites but we are next to a pond with ducks and swans and egrets.    There is also an aviary with more exotic birds.    And we can walk or bike to the beach.  

I have pictures in my camera but forgot the transfer cord to the computer so its iPhone pics or nothing.
We'll be here until Tues before we move on down to Naples and then the Keys.    
Unfortunately, we have arrived along with the Red Tide.    This is a toxic algae bloom that kills fish and manatees (149 so far this year).    It is also hazardous to humans , causing rashes and severe respiratory issues.   We've been told that it is better this week and there aren't as many dead fish on the beaches.    It fluctuates with the winds and currents.    So, before you make those reservations for this area, check the local news for the latest conditions.