Sunday, March 2, 2014

Mangroves

On our last morning in the Everglades we grabbed some breakfast at the diner in Everglades City. After our third meal of the trip at that particular establishment, we headed to Captain Doug's to buy tickets for an air boat ride.

With a short ride over the bridge, we grabbed hearing protection and jumped on the boat which took us through the mangrove swamp. We were up close and personal with pelicans and raccoons but did not see any alligators. There were points that we had to hang on to our hats while we scooted around the waterways.


We waved goodbye to the Everglades and headed north. We took a detour through some of the islands and beaches near Clearwater. For the rest of our trip, we lounged around Mary Ellen and Karen's condo. We read our books, went for walks, and swam in the pool. Sadly, the road trip portion of our trip is over since we fly back to the cold tomorrow.


Friday, February 28, 2014

Flamingo

Since we woke up in Florida City, we started our day near the western entrance to Everglades National Park. We scarfed down some corn flakes and started the long road into the park. Our first hike was the Pine Lands boardwalk, which wandered from a pine forest into a hammock (a thick stand of trees) and back into the pines.


After easing on down the road, we pulled into the Pa-hay-okee trail, which was a short boardwalk with a gentle incline. The trail ended with an overlook of the "prairie" grasses with thick islands of trees. In many ways the Everglades have not been the swampy marshland that we were expecting to see.


Our last hike of the day was at the Mahagony Hammock trail which led through a thick stand of old-growth mahogany trees. Other than seeing the gangly trees vying for sunlight, the highlight of this hike was a barred owl who posed for us right above the trail.


The end of the road was Flamingo, a ghost town that is now run as a National Park Service headquarters. Lisa and I rented a canoe and headed north on Buttonwood Canal. We were lucky to see American Crocodiles on the paddle. They are an endangered species and the southern Everglades is their only habitat in the United States.


We didn't paddle hard and had a nice five mile float, admiring the birds along the way. It was slightly disconcerting to see fish flying over our heads. Of course, they were being carried by an Osprey.


On the way back to Everglades City for the night, we stopped at Robert's fruit stand for key lime milkshakes and spicy boiled peanuts. They were delicious and turned out to be dinner for the night - yum!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Shark Valley Slough

The day started off with an unsuccessful search for a diner so we ended up eating at the same joint where we had lunch the previous day. After we filled ourselves with fried food and grits, we headed to Big Cypress National Preserve where we meandered on a twenty-four mile dirt road. Naturally we stopped to gawk at almost every bird and gator that we saw along the way. Since we were moving so slowly, we could hear birdsong throughout most of the drive.


Our next stop was Shark Valley, apparently a popular destination. We waited for a parking spot before Lisa and I rented bicycles and Mary-Ellen and Karen hopped on the tram. It was the first time that I had been on a bike with foot brakes in many years! On the loop road, we found plenty of alligators (including babies) on the way in and a great selection of birds on the way out.


Halfway through, there was a tower that we climbed to get a panoramic view of the swampy grasslands around us. It reminded us of Nebraska...with alligators.


We are spending the night in Florida City, intending to explore the more popular parts of Everglades National Park tomorrow.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Everglades City

--> We awoke early and departed from Clearwater, heading south through rush hour traffic. Our first stop was for a breakfast picnic overlooking the water at the Skyway Bridge Fishing Pier. It was hard boiled eggs and homemade muffins in the morning sun for us.


We continued south, snoozing in the backseat until we arrived in Everglades City – a town that would later be described to us as a “drinking town with a fishing problem.” After a bite to eat at a diner that also offered real-estate, we headed to the nearby visitor center for Everglades National Park.


The breeze was blowing steadily within the Ten Thousand Islands area and we weren’t sure what to do. After inquiring about options in the Ranger Station, we soon found ourselves on a boat, headed around the many mangrove islands that make up this area of southern Florida. We saw osprey, terns, pelicans, sandpipers and many other avian creatures. The highlight of the trip was the dolphins that played in the waves behind our boat on the return trip.


In the late afternoon, we joined a group for a ranger-led nature walk around the Visitor Center. After we had gained a better understanding of the ecosystem in this part of the Everglades, we headed to our motel for the evening. We rounded up some grocery store dinner and lounged in the evening. Tomorrow, we will be heading to the eastern side of the park!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Manatee

After a relaxing first night in Clearwater, we jumped aboard Mary & Karen's Prius and took a tour of the Tampa area with a stop at the pier in Safety Harbor. We looked into the water and only saw a few minnows until we got towards the end of the pier. At that point we heard a hearty snort coming from below us. There was a family of manatees hanging out just below us and we watched them for a solid half hour. They didn't seem to be a terribly industrious species, and we decided that we wanted to resemble them on this trip!


We left the protection of Safety Harbor, we headed towards Tarpon Springs which we learned was the Greek capital of Florida and a center of sponge fishing. We found a Greek restaurant and scarfed down enormous gyros before wandering down the boulevard, admiring the fishing ships. With no need for sea sponges, t-shirts or key chains we jumped back in the car and headed south.


The afternoon was spent at Howard Park, a beautiful (and not too crowded) beach on the Gulf of Mexico. We wandered through the water and napped in the shade of the palm trees. When I woke up, I was still in half of the shade that I started in.



Tonight, we are planning our trip ahead to the Everglades. We leave tomorrow morning and Lisa is a little nervous about getting eaten by a crocodile.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Clearwater

Can a road-trip start with a plane trip? Either way, we are trying it! With a little more than a week to explore, we are headed to Everglades National Park. By car, the timing would be impossible so we are using air travel as a shortcut.

We started our day in Wadhams with Kevin, Elizabeth and their beautiful baby boy Sam. After a fairly sleepless night of feedings and diapers, they were nice enough to bring us to the airport in Plattsburgh. We boarded the plane with no problems and realized that our pilot had a sense of humor when he announced to the cabin that we were "first in line for takeoff." That seemed self-evident since we were the only plane on the runway.

Keeping the GPS in the window, we passed the time playing pinochle, cribbage and making silly faces at the kid next to us. We arrived in Clearwater, Florida to the smiling faces of Mary-Ellen and Karen who have generously offered to host us for the week and join us for the trip to the Everglades.


They have palm trees here!!!


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Adirontreks

For anyone interested...

We will be keeping a record of the rest of our summer adventures, which always seem to be in the Adirondacks, at a brand new blog:

http://adirontreks.blogspot.com/

Happy Summer!
 


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Back to my Champlain Valley Home...

Upon leaving Chicago, we drove south through Indiana which had marginally fewer tolls than Illinois. Continuing east, we were glad not to hit traffic in Cleavland at rush hour and we grabbed some Mexican cuisine outside of Erie, Pennsylvania. We stayed the night, just outside of Fredonia, New York at Lake Erie State Park.

After a muggy night in the car, we packed up and headed to New Hartford, New York where we would visit my Great Aunt Ruth, who is ninety-six and never seems to age! After chatting for a while, we went to visit my cousin Leslie and her cute son Jacob in Canastota. We had a great time, ate some fantastic food and noticed that Jacob is ready for a road-trip:


We drove to North Lake and spent the next two nights at camp with my parents. We enjoyed sailing, canoeing, reading and eating a S'morgasbord (that would be a smorgasbord of S'mores) around the campfire. It felt nice to relax in a familiar place again, and we got to catch up with my folks!


Our trip home wouldn't have been complete without one more stop: Wadhams! We went to the Dogwood Bakery for lunch, where I consumed a Peanut Butter, Jelly and Cheddar sandwich. The rest of the afternoon was filled with music as we got to reunite with Kevin and Elizabeth. After a feast in Plattsburgh, we boarded the ferry and arrived home where we were greeted by a mouthy cat.

We're home for a day, but looking at the weather it looks like a kayak trip may be in order. It's going to be hot and muggy and we can hear the lake calling! 

Just after returning home, we jotted our trip onto the same map that included our 2010 trip. There is some overlap, but Colorado certainly looks much better explored...and that was our goal!


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

My Kind of Town...

No sooner had we arrived in Chicago when our friend Maria (who's apartment we would crash) decided that instead of lunch, we should go out for ice cream. She knows us well! We fought through brain freeze together and then went our separate ways for the afternoon.


Lisa and I headed over Wrigley Field for what turned out to be the ultimate old-time baseball experience. As we arrived at the ticket office, we were greeted by a five-piece dixieland band dressed in Cub's uniforms. From our seats, located just behind the right fielder, we enjoyed the clever interlude choices of the organist. While admiring the ivy covered backstop and manual scoreboard, we ate Chicago style hot dogs, with all the fixins. The game went into the eleventh inning before the home team won. If they hadn't, it would have been a shame...


For dinner, we wandered over to Dagostino's Pizza for some deep dish deliciousness before strolling back to Maria's apartment. We enjoyed seeing the fine neighborhoods just north of Wrigleyville.


The next day, we lounged around for most of the morning and headed towards downtown Chicago. We disembarked at the Field Museum of Natural History and were greeted by Sue, the largest and most complete T-Rex fossil ever found. We got to tour Lascaux Cave, a reproduction of the famous prehistoric art cave in France which has been masterfully recreated with laser technology. John (Maria's boyfriend) met up with us to see mummies of ancient Egypt, and mammals of Asia and Africa.


After we had our fill of natural history, we wandered down the boardwalk on the shore of Lake Michigan while admiring the skyline. John gave us a great tour of the parks that lined downtown Chicago and we took an apparently obligatory photo into "the bean:"

We don't have these things at home...

The Windy City

For dinner, it was back to Maria's for a buffet; she claims that she likes to have options. With bellies full, we went for a walk and found baby bunnies that must have been born earlier that day. We moved them off of the sidewalk with frisbees, hoping that their mother would come get them. SO FUZZY!

We've certainly been spoiled by our stay with Maria and John but will be heading east tomorrow! Until next time, go Cubs!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Iowa

We awoke  in Grand Island, Nebraska and began driving east and soon found ourselves in Iowa. Despite our best hopes, the landscape of Iowa had not become more interesting since our last visit:


Our destination for the day (don't laugh please...) was the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site. It surpassed our wildest dreams for the location, although we didn't expect much after seeing cornfields for eight straight hours. Many of the original buildings remain, including his childhood cottage, his father's blacksmith shop and his schoolhouse. The national park service has yet to let us down. Even the sites that sound completely bland have been set up well and include interesting historical tidbits.



We are spending the night in Walcott, Iowa intending to make Chicago by tomorrow evening!