Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Florida - Cedar Key

Lazy day. We decided to take it easy today. We figured we'd had enough sun for a while and we needed to hydrate - we don't drink enough when we are in the car or boat all day. So we stayed around the condo (I worked on genealogy) and took some walks into town. We also scoped out the water levels for paddling tomorrow. The tides make putting in the kayak here impossible except right around high tide, so we'll have to time our paddling carefully. We had a yummy dinner at Tony's Restaurant.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Florida - Cedar Key

After our paddle today we drove on to our last lodging on the trip - Nature's Landing on Cedar Key. We are renting a condo (unit B303) and it is very nice. This is the view from our balcony.

Florida - Chassahowitzka River

This morning we left St Pete Beach and headed north. We stopped for a great paddle on the Chassahowitzka River. The river is fed by a number of springs and we saw many of them on our 8 mile paddle. This photo shows the bluish tinge in the water marking one of the springs. We started at the campground and went up Baird Creek, Salt Creek, and Potter Creek before returning to our starting point.We saw lots of birds - great egret, great blue heron, little blue heron, tricolor heron, green heron, anhinga, cormorant, ibis, pelican, kingfisher, osprey and probably others I've forgotten. There were 4 manatee right at the boat dock that did not seem disturbed by all the traffic. We saw turtles and surprised an alligator which swam under the boat to get away. We saw several raccoons and watched them hunting for food,and saw several river otters. A great day for wildlife.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Florida - Hillsborough River

The sun came out this morning so in the afternoon we did a round-trip paddle on the Hillsborough River, to make up for the aborted one yesterday. We paddled 8 miles round trip from Morris Bridge to Sargeants Park and back again.The river was high due to all the rain so we saw just a few wading birds. But we saw a roseate spoonbill, which was great since we hadn't seen any up to this point. There were quite a few alligators enjoying the sun. And we saw a young raccoon climbing a tree next to the river. It was just as curious about us as we were about it and watched intently as we floated by.

We drove down to Pass-a-Grille for dinner at the Brass Monkey before returning to the hotel. Since we were that far south we drove by the Island's End cottages to see what they were like. We had considered staying there except they had a very strict cancellation policy. We saw dolphins playing in the bay and stopped to watch them. While we were there we met a couple who were staying at Island's End and strongly recommended it. So if we ever come back to St Pete Beach, maybe we'll try it.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Florida -- Friends

This is what the weather looks like at the moment.Needless to say we did not go paddling again today. Instead, Pamela and Rick invited us to their house for lunch and a nice visit. It was great to see them again.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Florida - Fakahatchee Strand Preserve

Today we left Everglades City, heading for St Petersburg Beach. Along the way we stopped at Fakahatchee Strand preserve (on Tamiami Trail 7 miles west of the intersection with the road to Everglades City) to take a 1-mile round trip walk. We didn't see a lot of animal life, but the plants were nice. Here is a cypress that is just leafing out and is full of bromeliads.And a good example of a strangler fig.Another amazing thing that we were too far away from to get a photo (and a good thing too) was a huge bees nest way up in a tree. There were large curtains of honeycombs hanging down from the tree, several at least 2 feet in diameter. And while the ranger confirmed that was what we were seeing and agreed that having them external like that seems strange, she also said they don't know if these are true honeybees or ones that have crossed with African bees. From what we could see through the binoculars, they seemed too large to be what we think of as honeybees.

After our walk we continued on to St Pete Beach. We were surprised at the crowds pulling into the Sirata Beach Resort where we are staying and we had a hard time finding a parking spot. But then we realized it was check-in time on the Saturday before Easter. Not the best time to be arriving. We are also surprised at the building that has gone on since we were in St Pete many years ago. It is very crowded now. Not clear we will come back.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Florida - Everglades City

Stuck inside. It poured last night and has been raining on and off all day, including thunderstorms, so we are staying inside today. But that is okay. Just give me a high-speed internet connection and I'm happy. All the places we've stayed have had good wireless connectivity. I guess they have to these days to be competitive. Given the weather Florida has had this year we came prepared with activities for rainy days. We have been very lucky so far, so we can stand a rainy day. I've been working on genealogy and making some headway. There seems to be more online every day.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Florida - Shark Valley

We packed up this morning and headed for Everglades City, with a stopover at the Miccosukee Restaurant for indian tacos, and then on to Shark Valley. Here are a few of our sightings.

Lots of anhingas, including some swimming under water. We watched one catch a large gar but it had a hard time getting it off its bill and then dropped it in the water and lost it. I wonder what fraction of the time they are successful.
Snowy egret - check out those golden feet, little blue heron, lots of green herons, a couple purple gallinules, and this baby alligator which was about 18" long.

We're spending tonight and tomorrow night at Ivey House in Everglades City. It is a nice place we have stayed at before. We hope the weather holds so we can do a nice long paddle tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Florida - Big Pine Key

We did another 7-mile paddle today, this time around Big Pine Key. We put in off Koehn Road on Big Pine Key and headed for Howe Key. We tried to get through a channel in the mangroves as described in Route 16 in Bill Keogh's book, but we only made it into the interior pond and then couldn't find another way out, so we had to retrace our steps. The mangroves have obviously grown a lot since he was last there. So we just headed towards Annette Key and then back to the landing. Lots of the water was very shallow so we got a good view of all the vegetation on the bottom and had to change our route several times to avoid the shallowest parts. We saw lots of cormorants and some other birds, but not many. We did see a couple of small rays.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Florida - Paddling from Garden Cove

We took a leisurely 7-mile paddle through the mangrove channels north of Pennekamp State Park this afternoon. We put in off Garden Cove Road at a spot recommended in Bill Keogh's "The Florida Keys Paddling Guide" and paddled in and around North Sound Creek. About the only wildlife we saw was large fish in some of the deeper channels. The water was too deep for wading birds. But we enjoyed the explore.

We drove down to Islamorada to have dinner at the Islamorada Fish Company. Since I haven't gotten any pictures of pelicans, I took advantage of the large numbers that hang out on the docks near the restaurant and fish market. (Note for next time. The setting of the Islamorada Fish Company is as nice as we remembered, but I actually preferred the fish sandwich I got at Sundowners in Key Largo.)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Florida - Anhinga Trail cont'd

Here are some more pictures W got with his telephoto. A moorhen.A wood stork.

Florida - Anhinga Trail

This morning was rainy so we stayed in. But it started to clear in the afternoon, so we headed for the Everglades, with the requisite stop at "Robert Is Here" fruit stand for a key lime milkshake. Yum. We walked the Anhinga Trail and of course saw lots of anhingas and lots of alligators. In addition we saw several green herons, a couple tri-color herons,and I even saw a bittern, but didn't get a photo. And the bromeliads were blooming to add some color to the scene.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Florida - Key Largo

We had a fairly lazy morning and spent some time sitting down by the water, where 2 manatees appeared right off the bulkhead. It is not easy to get a picture of a manatee since it is mostly a blob beneath the surface. But W managed to catch one when it came up for air. Bet you've never seen a photo of a manatee nostril before.This afternoon we headed out into Tarpon Basin in the kayak. We had a great time exploring the mangrove tunnels around Dusenberry Creek.And coming back we nearly paddled over top of 2 manatees, possibly the ones we had seen earlier.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Florida - New Smyrna Beach

We explored New Smyrna Beach a bit this morning. We went up to the inlet and walked around, then we drove by the house that used to be W's grandparent's and took some pictures.Then we headed south to Key Largo where we will spend several days, staying at the Hamilton Inn.

Florida - Silver River - cont'd

We enjoyed the scenery on the river, basically a cypress swamp. And here are more animal sightings.
LOTS of turtlesand Rhesus monkeys
There are several theories as to their origin, but the prevalent one seems to be that there was a jungle cruise boat ride at the Silver Springs theme park in the 1930's and the monkeys were placed on an island in the river as part of the scenery. And they simply swam off and disappeared into the forest. We saw plenty of evidence of their swimming ability as many of the young ones played around in the trees and belly-flopped into the water while this matriarch looked on.

Florida - Silver River

We had a great paddle today on the Silver River. We drove about 1 1/2 hours northwest to the Ray Wayside Park on Route 40. We put in the kayak there and floated down a short canal to the river. We then paddled 10 miles round trip to the springs and back, seeing all sorts of birds and animals along the way. The springs themselves were impressive - deep blue holes under the boat.

We saw the following birds:

Limpkin, which was a new one for us
Great Egret
Little Blue HeronWe also saw a black-crowned night heron, great blue heron, moorhens, snowy egret, lots of white ibis, and belted kingfisher.
More to come in the next post.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Road Trip

Yesterday we started our road trip to Florida. We spent 10 hours on the road, including stops, and stopped at Fairfield Inn in Lumberton, NC for the night. Today we finished the drive to New Smyrna Beach, FL where we're staying in the Ocean Trillium Suites. This is the view from our suite. This evening we walked up the beach, stopping to take a look at the cottage belonging to Rose and Kay (our NY neighbors who unfortunately are currently at their home in CA), and ended up at Boston's Seafood restaurant for a yummy meal.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Next Step

It has been gorgeous weather for our stay at camp. We've had mostly blue sky and warmish temperatures. It's been perfect weather for maple syruping - maybe next year. The snow is melting, but it has a LONG way to go.Of course we spent most of this visit in the basement. We finished the drywall today and drive back to NJ tomorrow. Next month is spackling. Can't wait :(

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Strange-Looking Life-Saver

Can you guess what this is? It is a drywall lifter. We drove to camp yesterday to start the next stage in the construction project - installing drywall. W and Eric put 2 pieces on the ceiling when they were here skiing last week. But there were several more sheets to go and after a couple of attempts today we gave up trying to install a heavy 4x8 sheet on the ceiling without help. We rented this lifter, and what a difference. We will easily finish the ceiling tomorrow - hurray.