Sunrise Sunset 2017: One of 17 in 17

Make it five years in a row! Yes, for the fifth straight year, we awoke on the east coast of Florida to watch the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean and then ended the day by watching the sun sink into the Gulf of Mexico.

This year we began the day at Hillsboro Inlet watching the sunrise only minutes from the house I lived in while in high school.

Boats parading through the channel and a lighthouse were an extra bonus, and the sunrise did not disappoint.

Cooking and eating breakfast on the picnic tables at Hillsboro Inlet Park served as fuel for our cross state road trip.

Next stop: Corkscrew Swamp for a stroll among wild things on the boardwalk cutting through the path of Landmark Cypress.

Then on to the island for a bike ride, walk on the beach

and obligatory sundae at Dairy Queen.

Waiting for sunset included a few casts and even a couple of trout.

With waves washing over our feet, the sky changed from gold to orange and finally pinks and purples as 2017 Sunrise Sunset came to an end.


Where would you suggest we plan this adventure in 2018?

Explore a Different Kind of Corkscrew

In the heart of the Everglades ecosystem, the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is home to the largest old growth Bald Cypress forest in North America making it a worthy stop on a cross Florida road trip.

Located 30 minutes east of Naples, The Sanctuary is home to not only a magnificent cypress forest, but a wide variety of plants and animals. Of course, you’ll see alligators and a wide variety of birds.

But, this is also panther habitat so visitors are encouraged to be on the lookout for prints of the endangered cat as well as prints and scat of bobcats and bears. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any of evidence of these mammals.

The 2.25 mile boardwalk winds through the Bald Cypress forest with trees which reach as high as 130 feet and a circumference of up to 25 feet. Their branches are covered with moss, lichens, bromeliads, ferns and even the elusive ghost orchid.

As part of the Florida Birding Trail, songbirds, wading birds, woodpeckers and raptors are visible throughout the trail.

We were even lucky enough to see two young barred owls.

Of course, the cypress trees are the stars, with the Landmark Cypress marked along the trail. Named for environmental heroes, trees bear the names Muir, Roosevelt, Calusa (home of a ghost orchid) and Hemenway, named for Harriet Hemenway who worked tirelessly to convince women not to wear feathered hats.

Three of the Legend Cypress

It’s hard to call a visit to the Corkscrew Swamp a hike. With the numerous stops to view the flora and fauna, take pictures, and learn about the Landmark Cypress, it’s more likely to be a stroll through the forest.

This Audubon Park is open seven days a week from 7:00am to 5:30pm and is well worth the admission price of $14 per person.

Thanks to John for sharing his pictures.

 

Don’t Worry About the Gators

When Meghan heard we were going to Lakeland to spend some time with three month old Gracie, she sent me a text: Please tell me you’re not taking Gracie to Circle B Bar Reserve.

The Circle B Bar Reserve is the location of one of the most watched videos of the past couple weeks. You know, the one in which a massive alligator crosses the trail with onlookers gawking in the background.

 

Meghan knew we’d recently explored this area on visits to Lakeland and have even said it would be a great place to take Gracie for a walk on a future visit.

The Reserve is a great place for bird watching, and we’ve enjoyed walking on several of the park’s nine trails. It’s also an area with bicycle trails, fishing and picnic facilities so there are many reasons for a return visit; but rest assured, while we’ve been known to wander in swampy areas with gators bellowing in the background, we would NEVER let Gracie or Johnny get too close to a gator. (Close encounters with gators, moose and bison with our children will not be repeated with grandchildren.)

 

 

TBT: 16 in 16 St. Petersburg Daycation

As part of our 16 in 16, we decided we wanted to go on more day trips. Short daycations within a couple hours of home.

The first of these trips took place in St. Petersburg. On a warm and sunny February day we rode the city trails and visited several of the museums, starting on the trail behind the Morean Center for Clay. Since I “don’t do traffic”, I was somewhat reluctant to ride in the city. Fortunately, a concrete barrier divided the trail in the city from the traffic, so it was no problem.

We rode past Tropicana Field, through downtown, to the bay  toward Treasure Island until we reached an end of the 17 mile trail.

But we did more than go for a ride, we stopped at the Chihuly Collection at another of the Morean Arts Centers located on the city’s waterfront. A 20 foot sculpture located outside the center ushers guests into the building that was specifically designed to display the glasswork.

Our bundled ticket included a visit to the Morean Galleries as well as to the Glass Studio and Hot Shop which turned out to be an especially enjoyable part of the day.

A day of bicycling and art…just one of many successful daycations of 2016.

And a visit to St. Petersburg made our list for 17 in 17. This year it’s a visit to the Dali Museum. Who knows? It may turn into another daycation.

16 in 16:

  • Jackson Browne Concert
  • St. Petersburg Daycation

Keep an eye on Matthew

I hoped this year would be the one year I wouldn’t write a post about hurricane preparation, but as the path of Hurricane Matthew moves the storm closer to Florida and the southeast United States, it’s time for another reminder to watch the news and make some preparations. So here’s a quick list:

1) Fill your cars with gas.
2) Make sure you have plenty of water. You might want to freeze some bottles in case you lose power.
3) Charge your electronics.
4) Check propane tanks for your grill and/or camp stove.
5) Check the batteries in flashlights and radio.
6) Go to the ATM and get some cash.
7) Stock your shelves with enough food requiring little preparation. (Enough for about three days.)
8) Watch the weather forecast daily to determine if additional preparation is needed, especially in securing your home and planning for pets.

The effects of Hurricane Matthew are only a couple of days away so it’s time to plan (see It’s Hurricane Season…It’s Time to Prepare from 2013 or the website of American Red Cross for more tips).

Stay safe and keep an eye on Matthew!

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Mom

TBT: Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall

Last year the Disabled American Veterans sponsored the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall in Lady Lake for three days. The purpose of the traveling exhibit is to allow people to pay tribute to those who sacrificed their lives during the Vietnam War in locations near their home. With over 20,000 veterans living nearby in The Villages, Lady Lake is a popular location for this exhibit.

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The Traveling Wall is a 3/5 scale of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., standing six feet tall at the midpoint and stretching almost 300 feet from end to end. We were among the thousands of people who took time to visit during its stay in Lady Lake last November. Just as in D.C., volunteers assisted visitors in locating the names of family and friends listed on the panels of the wall so they could pay their respects.

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Flags, flowers, pictures, letters, and other mementos lined the base of the wall by the third day when we visited, many providing stories of those lost so many years ago.

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The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall is making another stop in north central Florida this weekend, this time in Dunnellon. It will be located at Ernie Mills Park, 11899 Bostick Street, arriving today and on display until October 2nd. Don’t miss it!

Weeki Wachee: Minus the Mermaids

In the summer of 2014, we set out to visit as many of Florida’s springs as possible. So of course, we took a trip to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. We planned to canoe down the river starting at the park, but we found that even on a weekday, it wasn’t possible to rent a boat for a paddle without a very early start.

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Since all canoes and kayaks were rented when we arrived (at about 10:00), we decided to do the next best thing and go in the park to see what the mermaid show was all about. Our verdict: not much! The bubbles between performances were more entertaining than the mermaids, not only for us, but for the children in the audience as well.

We walked around the park, watched the peacocks wandering, and took a few pictures. We decided to pass on the water park…too crowded and not really our idea of a good time anyhow. However, we decided we would definitely return so we could paddle down the river.

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So last month, a couple of weeks after school started, we got up at sunrise and drove to the park. We were certainly there early enough renting one of the first canoes of the day, and I’m so glad we were turned away on our first trip.

Without a doubt, this paddle qualifies as my favorite of all time. The water was absolutely beautiful. The color, the clarity, the fish, the quiet…perfect. There’s no way we would have had the same experience on that July day two years ago paddling and dodging other boats.

Upon our return to the rental facility, we were asked if we saw any manatee in the run. Apparently, they had been making regular appearances. No, manatee. Only otters. This brought oohs and aahs from the staff since it’s unusual to spot otters on the river. We not only spotted them, but watched them dart in and out of the brush along the bank between their sliding through the crystal clear water.

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My first impression of Weeki Wachi Springs State Park: This isn’t anything. My impression this time: We’ll return so we can spend more time paddling on the river. I much prefer the otters to the mermaids!

#BikeYourParkDay

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Happy National Public Lands Day! As a way to explore our parks and other public lands, Adventure Cycling Association encouraged cyclists to get outdoors and go for a ride. Cyclists were encourage to ride in a national or state park, monument, or historic site, river, seashore, recreation area, preserve, forest, wildlife refuge, or parkway.
Last year on this date we were riding on the carriage roads in Acadia National Park, but this year we’re staying close to home (actually close to Orlando) as we await the arrival of Grace, our first granddaughter.

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This didn’t stop us from participating in the Bike Your Park Event. We just rode the West Orange Trail, one of our favorites. And since we were riding on a Saturday, something we rarely do, we were able to enjoy Winter Garden’s Farmer’s Market.

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We also enjoyed stopping in their Visitor’s Center where we purchased some orange juicers like the ones we enjoyed as children and picked up information on Winter Garden’s upcoming music festival. Looks like we may be able to take advantage of this event the weekend of October 7-9 on a future visit with Grace. (I’m sure she’ll be here by then…right?)

What’s Happening in March?

There are so many special events taking place in the month of March. It’s time to add one or more to your calendar.

March 5th Ocala

3rd Annual Habitat for Humanity Strawberry Festival – The 3rd Annual Strawberry Festival is the place for everything strawberry…shortcake, ice cream, pancakes and of course, flats of strawberries for sale.

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March 5th-6th Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park (about 15 miles south of Tallahassee

151st Battle of Natural Bridge (re-enactment) – Military camp, artillery demonstrations, Civil War Dance with the highlight of the weekend, the 39th Annual Re-enactment of the Battle of Natural Bridge taking place on Sunday at 2:30.

March 11th-13th St. Augustine

St. Augustine Celtic Music and Heritage Festival – Irish Tenors, The Celtic Ladies, Whiskey Tasting and a Parade are only a few of the events scheduled to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day. (Discount tickets available until 2/29…so hurry and get yours now!)

March 11th-13th St. Pete

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – Located along the waterfront in St. Petersburg, street racing, music, food and exhibits will entertain for the weekend.

March 13th Miami Little Havana

39th Annual Calle Ocho – The internationally known block party celebrates Hispanic cultures on Miami’s Calle Ocho (8th Street). Latin music, street dancers and food booths will bring the 19 block strip to life.

March 18th-20th Marco Island

Marco Island Seafood and Music Festival – A weekend celebration of music and your favorite seafood including: grouper, crab cakes, stone crabs, shrimp and chowder.

March 18th-20th Safety Harbor

Bloom N Chalk N Art Festival – For those who can’t wait for the the Venice 3D Chalk Festival to return, here’s your chance to stroll along Main Street in Safety Harbor the sidewalk chalk creations by international artists.

March 25th-27th Amelia Island

Florida International Dog Surfing Championship – A chance for dogs to show their stuff on the waves of northeast Florida. Billed as a dog lover’s dream.

 

 

Urban Camping

It’s not cheap to stay in Miami in February. What with all the snowbirds and events like the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. But we were determined to cheer on the Canes baseball team the final weekend in February as they hosted the Gators, without spending a fortune.

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With no state park campgrounds in south Dade, John found a county park, Penny and Larry Thompson Campground. The reviews looked good and he remembered his aunt and uncle camping there in the ’60s and ’70s so we decided to give it a try.

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For $17 a night (tent site), we paid less for our two night stay at Penny & Larry Thompson Campground than the daily $35 parking fee in Coconut Grove where we usually stay. And with nearly 300 sites, a community center, pool, showers and a laundry, it provided more facilities than we needed.

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We set up in the area designated for tents in less than thirty minutes and then we were ready to hit the road for a night of baseball.

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The campground is carved out in a residential area, and while it’s a little farther west than we’d like, at such low rates, how can you complain? We won’t be camping here in the summer months, but we’ve already scheduled another three days at Penny & Larry Thompson Park in April.