Everglades National Park

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Everglades National Park is the third largest NP in the country exceeded only Death Valley and Yellowstone (we visited both this year). Most of it is only accessible via water and most of the water is not navigable. This unique landscape is created from lake Okeechobee overflowing its banks and slowly flowing to the Florida bay. The fresh water of the lake and salt water of the bay create a unique ecosystem, the only place in the world where alligators and crocodile comingle.

We were fortunate enough to see a crocodile, but did not see any alligators which are more prevalent.

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The “sea of grass” as they call the “rivers” that flow thru the everglades is very slow moving at approximately two feet per minute. I believe I have seen ants that move faster than that!!!  The picture shows the main flow area, but everywhere is covered in shallow water.

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The park and river rest on a layer of limestone which is very porous but in many places low in nutrients. Many of these places are covered in dwarf cypress forests. These trees are mature, but not great in stature.

The fauna in the park is quite varied apparently it is not all low in nutrients. Not only cypress which would be expected in a swampish area, but three different kinds of mangrove thrive. The most prevalent are the red mangroves, the red is from the red “roots” or branches that grow downwards and eventually connect with the underlaying soil to create spider like root system.

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Note the scummy stuff covering the water surface is periphyton a necessary algae like substance.  It protects small marine life feeds larger life and is a general necessity.  Although it gets really gross in some more shallow less traveled areas.  it is about an inch thick and pretty spongy, no smell.   Around the mangroves as above it was not as weird as in the grass lands where it became cigar shaped, see below.

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The black mangroves have an interesting feature. They have snorkels. These roots grow up from the surrounding soil to allow the plants to breath.

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Another beautiful fauna in the park are the air plants and bromeliads. These plants attach themselves to hosts trees/plants and are fed from the rain and humidity in the park. They hold water in their cup shaped bases and can go a long time without rain during the dry winter season. Insects and sometimes small reptiles (snakes/lizards) also live in their watery cups. These plants do not harm their host plant they simply find a home in the branches.  A lot are much smaller than these.

There was not as much wildlife as I was expecting. I was hoping for more birds visiting for the winter. Big Cypress National Wildlife Preserve we passed thru on the way from the west coast was teaming with birds and we may go back that way this week? But as mentioned before we did spot a crocodile, had lunch next to an osprey net, saw a swimming turtle and a softshell sea turtle crossing the road. Luckily a vehicle behind us stopped and helped the turtle off the road cause it was gone when we turned around and they were stopped near where we saw it.

We used the kayaks again, twice in two weeks, (more than in several months out west…) on nine-mile lake. The trip was approximately 3.5 miles and wound thru both mangrove forests and grassy lands. The water was so clear and really showed off the underwater fauna life of the park. Luckily the path was well marked by the park service or we would still be trying to find our way back. It was a beautiful paddle but a little long on my tush!!! Practice makes perfect and we anticipate practicing a lot in the keys.

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Other random thoughts, you know the land is flat if they mark a pass at 3 feet, you know the land is flat if a change in elevation of inches creates a “hammock” or wooded island, you know the land is flat if the river flows at two feet per minute.

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I would be amiss to not mention the recent hurricanes and damage the area incurred. There was a lot of downed trees, sea grass washed up into areas where it did not belong, trees just beginning to regain their leaves and most obviously this dock. Not sure if a mini tornado hit or just massive winds.

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Either way our visit shortly after the storms reminds me that no matter how devastating an event (natural or manmade) is in the life of a tree, ecosystem, planet, person etc. we can overcome and carry on. This sentiment applies to random events, terrorism events, life struggles, life failures, hurricanes, ice storms, life and death.

Peace and love…

 

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The Moores

A final post from Fort Myers or should we say Estero, FL. We had the honor and privilege to have Christmas dinner with Paul, Fran, Kathy and Jimmy Moore. What a long time it has been since spending time the Paul and family, it is amazing the things and people you take for granted in our everyday life. We are trying to not repeat this mistake in coming years. They were the most gracious hosts. We truly enjoyed the fellowship and the opportunity to be with Jimmy on Christmas. The Pickle Ball lesson was also enjoyable and informative, we may use this in the future.

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Peace and Love

Sanibel Island, FL

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So, we did finally go to Sanibel Island even with the $6 entrance fee. The highlight was the JN Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge which would have been an additional fee except for our National Park Pass!!! We also enjoyed a picnic at Turner Beach and of course the mansions were impressive, what you could see of them.

Ding Darling was a very nice park. A loop drive of about 8 miles with loads of mangroves and birds. The roseate spoonbill, cranes, herons and white pelicans were just amazing in number and beauty.

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We also walked thru a mangrove forest and saw these cute little mangrove crabs.

Turner beach and the Sanibel light house were also highlights of our visit.

 

Peace and Love

Lee County Manatee Park, Ft Myers, FL

 

P1150086 (2)Mom and Hailey made sure that we had kayaks, paddles and lifejackets before leaving for our Amazing Journey. Last year there were times we wondered why and were the laughing stock of the desert west since there is very little water much less navigable water. Florida on the other hand will give us many opportunities to use them and so far, it was very rewarding!!!

We went to the Lee County Manatee Park in Fort Myers which is on the Orange River near where it intersects with a cooling canal for a power plant. Interesting that this warmth attracts the manatee in the winter.   At the park entrance there were a lot of kayakers and a lot of manatee. We mostly saw their snouts surfacing to breath and some (Randy only) rubbing on the bottom of the boat scratching themselves.

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But we ventured a mile or so up river to find beautiful scenery.

 

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And came across three more manatee with out the crowd of people. They were very friendly and sweet on Randy!!! They are as fondly referred to as the “sea cow”. What a gentle massive animal. Wow just Wow!!!

Peace and Love…..

Fort Myers Beach

We for various reasons decided to spend Christmas in Fort Myers, FL. Not knowing anything about the area we of course were immediately drawn to the beach. Heading to Sanibel since Rick and Bobbie had spent a week there a couple of years ago and it is well known for their shells. First detractor was the $6.00 toll to just enter the island. So, we headed to Ft Myers Beach instead.

Interestingly the landscape was dramatically different. Sanibel to the north was wooded with no structures over 3 or 4 floors, and Ft Myers Beach to the South were high rise hotels and condos for many, many miles.  In trying to find parking we found a great little farmers market and parking right across the street.

The beach was great for walking and was dog friendly. Little if any waves and warm water in December. There were beautiful birds, lots of small shells and interesting Christmas decorations.

 

 

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Peace and Love

Oak Island, NC

After spending almost a year away from NC (first time ever for both of us) and seeing the amazing places and sights we have seen, we can honestly say that Southeastern NC is a beautiful and amazing part of this country. A place we called home for over 50 years is more beautiful thru my eyes now. I’m not sure if it is due to new circumstances in our life, having learned to slow down and enjoy my surroundings or if it was just especially stunning on this visit.

We had the best camp site on all of Oak Island, NC with the best shower house we have seen. Mom and Jimmy’s driveway made for a quite nice boondocking site for a couple of weeks. The views over the marsh and GV Barbee, Sr Bridge (named after my grandfather) early morning show the extreme of the tide with the full moon hightide.

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Also saw one of the best sunrises in the back yard during an early morning Nellie walk.

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And always a special “claim to fame” sunsets over the ocean. Interesting fact about Oak Island, during part of the winter you can watch the sunrise and set over the ocean on the same island. This is due to the island facing south running east and west (instead of north south like most of the east coast) and the sun being so far south in the winter.

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Peace and Love

San Antonio the Second Time

We had the great honor and privilege to visit with Aunt Gail, Uncle Leonard and Cain again in San Antonio. But this time we also had the opportunity to spend some quality time with Millie Ma!!! This was such a wonderful and special time for us. The life we have chosen for the next couple of years, fulltime RV traveling, is kind of isolating and really makes you appreciate family. Don’t misunderstand we are having a wonderful time and seeing some amazing things, but the small pleasure of having breakfast (with homemade biscuits) with mom is and event we are eternally grateful for.

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May ma was admitted to the hospital while we were in San Antonio with a severe infection but all indications were that she would recover and resume her life. She was almost finished with her radiation and was finished with the chemo from her bout with cancer. This was just a small hiccup in her recovery, but things did not go as planned and when she was transferred to NHRMC we decided it was time to go home. We were fortunate to spend some quality time with her in the hospital, and she was fortunate to be in charge of her treatment and eventual death until the end. Lesson to be learned – be grateful for every moment of everyday and take nothing for granted!!!

Peace and Love!!!

Peace and love