A Trip to Canaveral National Seashore

Nature in harmony with science make Florida’s Space Coast an adventure not to be missed. I have been to the Space Coast twice, the first time in 2012 and again last week with Steve. There are several components making up the coast, you have the Canaveral National Seashore, consisting of 57,662 acres, the Merritt Island NWR, consisting of 140,000 acres which includes NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

On both occasions, my main objective was to visit Merritt Island NWR, specifically the Black Point Wildlife Drive. Both of my visits were in late March and I was surprised by the differences. The water levels were much higher in 2012 and my visit coincided with a prescribed burn.

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It’s natural for the water levels to fluctuate and we haven’t had a lot of rain this winter.

Merritt Island NWR is home to over 1500 species of plants and animals, including 15 federally listed species. It is also an important stop on the Atlantic Flyway. You never know what you might come across during a visit.

The wildlife drive is a 7 mile, one-way road through various habitats, from shallow marsh impoundments to pine flatwoods…

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With spring in the air, wildflowers are blooming, attracting lots of butterflies…

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In 2012, I was lucky enough to be visiting when a large flock of white pelicans were resting in the marsh…

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This year, we saw quite a few northern shovelers which are in the spoonbill family…

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While we were photographing them, a grackle made his presence known. He was finding a meal in the fallen palm fronds. When I got too close, he retreated to my spare tire.

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We saw flocks of blue billed ducks. I haven’t quite identified them yet…

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And tons of coots…

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The one animal you are almost guaranteed to see is alligators…

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After we finished the drive, we decided to head over to Canaveral National Seashore. On the way, we were lucky enough to see a sandhill crane with its chick…

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Using our America the Beautiful Pass, we entered our first national park of the year. I don’t think we will visit as many parks this year as last (15 in total), but we love not having to pay the entrance fees.

Our first wildlife encounter was with an armadillo. I’m fairly sure this little guy was completely blind. He was unfazed by my presence and at one point nearly walked into me…

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We also saw what I think was a box turtle on the side of the road…

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Only one of our encounters came with its own warning sign…

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I have to admit, we were a bit surprised. The seashore has 5 areas with beach access and apparently clothing is optional at beach 5. Who knew?!?!?

The one area we haven’t visited yet is the Kennedy Space Center. I’ve heard you can spend the better part of a day there, so it will have to wait until next time.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

My World Is Upside Down

Back in December, I was stalking checking on my Facebook friends when I saw a really neat picture. It was the Eiffel Tower, but it was upside down and appeared to be inside a glass sphere. What is this devilry? I immediately reached out to my best friend Google and, in no time, learned this sorcery comes from a contraption brand named Lensball. Now, we all know, I’m not much for brand names. Come to find out, lots of companies produce crystal glass spheres for photography (or meditation or sorcery). I had to have one!! I mentioned it to Steve, in passing, asking his thoughts. “Wouldn’t it be fun to play with?”

A few days went by and I couldn’t stand it any longer, I HAD to have one! So, I ordered one off of Amazon. Little did I know, my most thoughtful husband also ordered me one. Well, now they’ve arrived. What can I do with them?

First, I took it into the back yard at my dad’s house, looked around and thought, “Gee, what can I take a picture of?” Oh, I know…daddy’s neighbor’s house…

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Or, maybe just the landscape…

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These pictures were “ok” but nothing like the ones I’d seen on the internet. It must just take practice. So…I’ve been practicing!

First I drove to a local beach at sunrise to try and capture the moment…

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I edited this, rotating the sphere image, so both appear right side up

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Shameless brand awareness

 

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I rotated the entire image 180 degrees

 

Then, I took it with us on a long weekend. We went to Ponce Inlet Lighthouse…

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I took it to the park with my friend Dawn from Random Bits of Trial and Error

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Then, back to the beach…

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I certainly haven’t mastered it yet, but it sure is fun playing with it!

TheWanderingRver is an Amazon affiliate. Anything you purchase through our link earns us a small percentage and costs you nothing additional. Please consider using our link for all your Amazon purchases.

What do you think? Should I keep experimenting? Do you prefer when I rotate the sphere image or leave it upside down? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Out With The Old

Almost all of the bloggers I know do a special post to mark the end of the year. I always enjoy reading them. Inevitably, it makes me reflect on our own travels, trials and triumphs.

2018 held lots of promise for us as we began our first full year of RV living and working. We knew we’d be starting in Florida, but had no way of knowing for sure December 2018 would find us back there. Hell, there were times when we were broken down, I didn’t think we’d ever make it back to Florida. But we did. We met so many wonderful people along the way. People who changed our lives, possibly without ever knowing so.

I count us a dang lucky…our adventures have been many and our trials have been relatively few, given our lifestyle.

I thought long and hard about how I was going to commemorate 2018. Usually I end up trying to pick a favorite picture from each month – a top 12, if you will. 12? Who was I kidding? We took pictures in at least 13 states, visited 15 national parks/monuments/preserves and drove through western Canada. I couldn’t possibly narrow it down to 12!

My solution was a collage made from every state we spent any real time in (and Canada will just  have to forgive my exclusion of them in this post). The following collages are in alphabetical order, not the order we visited. So without further ado, here is 2018 in review…

Arizona

Alaska Collage

California

Florida

idaho

Louisiana

Nevada

New Mexica

Texas

Washington

Wyoming

I don’t know for sure what is in store for us for the next year. We have some tentative plans and lots of hopes.

I sincerely hope 2019 brings health and happiness to you and yours! Thank you for wandering along with us.

Rockin’ Round the Christmas Tree

My last post had us leaving Midland, Tx heading for Florida. We made it in near record time and rested at Daddy’s house for about a 10 days before we were off to Parkland, Florida for our next job. I have to admit, I did have a few doubts about selling Christmas trees. What in the world were we getting ourselves into? We had no experience with managing a Christmas tree lot.

We arrived in Parkland on Nov. 16th and met Jeremy (owner of Hayes Farms Christmas Trees) for the first time. We liked him immediately and knew we had made the right choice. Jeremy led us to our “home” for the next 30-45 days, a beautiful spot behind Mary of Help Christians Church. Despite the certainty of several of my long time friends, I did not spontaneously combust upon reaching church grounds!

img_6983  The main tent was already up, but the trees hadn’t arrived yet…

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Our first sale was made even before the trees were setup in the tent. I was so excited. The guy must have thought I was daft when I asked if I could take a picture of the tree on his car. Note his hat, he is a New England Patriots fan. I took that as a sign all would be well.

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We spent the next couple days getting the trees and sales area just the way we wanted it.

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Jeremy stopped by to give us a crash course in Christmas tree selling. His most obvious suggestion was to be nice and have fun. He did warn us we would encounter a jerk or two, it just comes with any type of sales. Looking back over the last 30 days, I think we were dang lucky to only have one customer who was a problem (enough so, I turned it over to Jeremy). It turned out fine in the end, but I’m grateful we didn’t have more customers like him! Jeremy’s other warning wouldn’t truly sink in until 2 1/2 weeks later. “The hours were going to be long and fatigue WILL get to you. The lot is open Mon-Thurs, 9am to 9pm and Fri-Sun, 7:30am to 10pm.” The early hours didn’t concern me since I’m usually always up by 4:30am or so, but the late nights scared me, to be honest. I’m usually in bed and asleep by 8pm. With the help of an extra B complex vitamin, I survived.

At this point, I felt pretty confident we had a handle on it. And we did! The only part of our job we found to be challenging, was the hiring and retaining of lot workers. Most of them were high schoolers with a want for some cash in their pockets. They are the folks who drag your perfect tree out of the tent, wrap it up and tie it to your car for tips. Steve and I couldn’t do our jobs without them. I often felt frustrated by their lack of a strong work ethic but we got by. One of our lot workers was a superstar. If we had two more of him, we wouldn’t have needed anyone else. The other saving grace was on weekends we knew it was going to be non-stop, Jeremy would “loan” us a couple of workers from his other business. Despite the language barrier, these guys worked like there was no tomorrow!

Enough of the challenges, on to the fun!

Here are 2 of my favorite customers…

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Soooo, there were some ways I could make money, other than wages and tips. One of those was was tree flocking. Yes, I said flocking.

 

 

Flocking is a way of making the tree look snow covered. By the end of our time here, I had nearly become a pro…See for yourself…

One family drove all the way up from Miami for me to flock their tree.

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The review they gave us on Facebook made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside…

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When I wasn’t “flocking around”, I made wreaths from the tree trimmings. As you might have guessed, I learned how to do time lapse videos with my phone…

Oh ya, I flocked them too…

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One of our best sellers, were these reindeer and snowmen made out of tree cut-offs. They came in 3 sizes. I called them Babies (small), Teenagers(medium) and Adults (large). I couldn’t keep them in stock. Every time I had a herd of them ready, they would sell out by the end of the day…

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Some people were really attached to them…

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We were about 2 1/2 weeks into it and were running out of trees. Jeremy made the decision to have more brought down from North Carolina. I got to film/supervise the unloading of the truck…

Finally, more trees! That was just a week and a half ago and they are all gone. With 9 days until Christmas, we are sold out, with the exception of a few table top trees. For the last 2 days, I’ve had to tell countless families there were no more trees coming. And by the way, we open the weekend before Thanksgiving, come earlier next year. Since I’ve had time on my hands, I painted some of the things laying around…

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Rudolph, the red nosed palm boot

 

 

 

 

 

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And the farm logo on a cut-off from one of our 13′ trees

We’ve never had the desire to return to a location for work before. Part of the draw of this lifestyle is the constant change in scenery. With that being said, we are already making plans to come back next year. Yes, the hours are long and yes, we were exhausted, but it has been worth it. One of my favorite things about this job was Jeremy’s hands-off approach. This was our tree lot to manage. He was always available to answer questions or offer advice if I asked but he trusted us to make it work. I guess we did pretty darn well, because we made his top tier bonus for beating last years sales by more than 10%. Actually, we were closer to 20%. My organizational and craft skills, along with Steve’s “Let’s get to work” attitude, really made us ‘Rock around the Christmas tree!’

We are going to take a few weeks off to recuperate before heading to our next job. May the joy of the season be with you!

 

I’ve Had A Ball

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Diesel. This is a picture of me when I was just a young pup. It was taken a long time ago, 14 years to be exact. Wasn’t I cute? Back then I had boundless energy, but I loved to nap too.

I started out life in New Hampshire and life was good! I loved to go out and play with my dad…

I was about a year old when I got to go to the beach for the first time…

I have to say, I wasn’t a big fan of the salt water! Yuck! When I was a few years old, mom and dad got me a little brother. Look how sweet we were posing…

You must know, it’s only because mom was holding a cookie and we wanted it! My brother’s name was Turbo. Mom and dad thought they were so clever, now they had Turbo Diesel. Hahaha. Turbo didn’t hang around too long. But that was ok, I really liked being an only child!

When mom started her other blog, TouringNH I got to go to lots of places. It was my first experience in that thing the call Waldo.

As you can see, I took right to this camping life! They always took me swimming when we went camping. You know, swimming is one of my favorite things to do…

Laying on my couch is pretty good too…

But not near as good as getting on mom’s lap…

Mom loved making me sit nice and pose for her…

I loved winter in New Hampshire.

I would pester mom until she let me outside. I would pretend I needed to pee, but really I just wanted to eat some snow…

Because I’m a lab, I shed a lot! I mean a real lot! But mom helps me to my shedding outside. Can you tell I REALLY enjoy it?

When I was about 10 years, I got to go to Florida then on to Arizona. Before we left, mom bought these silly booties for me. She thought my feet would get hurt out in the desert, but I fooled her, I wouldn’t wear them…

Weren’t they silly looking? While we were in Arizona, I got to play with my grandpa’s dog Molly. She sure likes to play tug of war!

She sounds all vicious when she tugs, but it’s all an act…

Last year, mom and dad decided we were going to move into Waldo full time. They had a lot of things to do to the house before we could leave, here’s me helping…

Ok, maybe I wasn’t helping that much. At first I was a little sad we were leaving, but I got over it…

We spent some time in Florida, then we got to go to Texas. Woohoo, a new place to swim. Did I mention I love swimming?

And I got to go for rides on the golf cart…

So, now we are back in Florida. I’m getting old and tired. When we went to see the nice vet lady, she said I have bulging discs in my neck, I guess that explains why things hurt more than they used to. Getting old ain’t for sissies! Next week, mom and dad are going to start their trip to Alaska, I won’t be going with them. My story ends here, in Florida. But don’t be sad cause I’ve had a ball!

The End of the Road

In the middle of our Big Cypress adventure, we decided to take a road trip. Yes, we were already on a road trip, but this time we wouldn’t be taking Waldo. According to the map, Key West was only about 4 1/2 hours south. A little long for a day trip, but not quite long enough to make it worth packing up Waldo for an overnight. It had been about 25 years since I had been there and Steve hadn’t ever been there. I didn’t really give much thought to how much thing change in 25 years. Mistake number 1!

With Waldo safely tucked in at Burns Lake Campground, we set off early in the Jeep for our trip south. Key West, here we come!

Once we got south of Homestead, traffic began to back up. We crawled along as the scenery changed from mangrove swamps to views of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. We stopped at a pull off and saw the remains of the old bridge to the Keys…

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Many of the old bridges have been converted into fishing piers

There are over 1700 islands in what is collectively known as “The Keys”. The road through the Keys is called The Overseas Highway, also known as US Route 1. Seven Mile Bridge being the longest of the 43 bridges along the way. If you glance towards the Gulf of Mexico while you are on Seven Mile Bridge, you will see Pigeon Key. Notice the gaping hole in the old bridge. Pigeon Key is now a marine research facility and only accessible by ferry.

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There was still plenty of evidence of the destruction caused by hurricane Irma, travel trailers on the side of the road and boats yet to be recovered.

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Finally, we made it…Welcome to Key West!

 

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We spent the first hour or so just driving around. We drove by the marker for the southern most point in the continental United States. I snapped a quick picture with my phone, thinking we would come back to it later for a proper picture. It’s a good thing I did because when we drove by the following day and the line to get a picture was huge.

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Since we had been driving for hours, we decided to find a place to park and walk around. We found a spot in Old Town near the Waterfront Brewery.  I loved the murals on the building…

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The wall of the Cuban Coffee Queen building offered tourists a neat place for a photo op.

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The waterfront was packed with shops and eateries. So much to see…

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And all types of boats line the docks at the marina…

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Instead of thinking about where we were going to spent the night, we headed over to Duval Street, probably the most famous street in Key West. It runs north/south and stretches from the gulf to the ocean. Stretches may not be the right word since it is only 1 1/4 miles long, but what makes it so famous is the fact it is lined with bars. Both sides of the street, for its entire length – bar after bar after bar! Every kind of bar you can think of, from an upscale piano bar to a gentleman’s club. Duval Street has it all.

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If you had one beverage at every establishment, 43 drinks later, you would have completed what is known as the Duval Crawl. We didn’t crawl!

With sunset coming quickly, we walked through Mallory Square and found a place to enjoy it…

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After sunset, we began to think about a place to spend the night. 25 years ago, there were lots of, how should I put this, hole-in-the-wall places. You know, the kind that line every beachfront everywhere. Well…not anymore…not in Key West! A quick internet search told us the average price for a room in the cheapest of hotels was going to run us about $400 for ONE NIGHT. I almost choked on my beer! We talked about driving north until the prices dropped some. Another internet search told us that wouldn’t happen until we were off the Keys. It was getting late, we were tired and I was getting a little cranky. This all brings us back to that mistake number 1. After 25 years, things change! Finally, with the help of my Hotels Tonight app, we pried $300 out of out wallet and got a room at the Margaritaville Resort. It was a nice room, not $300 nice but that was better than the regular price of nearly $600.

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The view from our room

Wanting to make the most of our last day, we booked a trip with Fury Water Adventures and it didn’t go out until noon and the resort was nice enough to let us leave the Jeep there. We walked around Mallory Square and killed time until the trip went out. Pride of Key West is the name of the glass bottom boat and we found it at the dock…

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After we boarded, Steve and I split up. He stayed on the upper patio and I was lucky enough to get a spot at the bow. This lady held the other great spot on the bow…

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As we were going out, we passed another Fury boat heading in…

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Once we reached the coral garden, the captain did a great job of drifting us over the sea floor and the presentation given was excellent…

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On the way back to shore, Steve and I posed for this picture before relinquishing out spot on the bow…

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Although we still had over a 4 hour drive ahead of us, there were a couple places we wanted to hit before we left the island…

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Is it the end of the road?
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Or the beginning?

I guess it all depends on if you are going north or south. The other place we wanted to get a picture of was the lighthouse…

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Our Key West adventure was over and it was time to head back to Big Cypress. Here is where we made mistake number 2. We hadn’t listened to any local news. If we had, we would have been forewarned about the wildfires. The traffic came to a complete stop when we got to Key Largo and we had no idea why. Up ahead, we could see flashing lights and detour signs. Route 1 was closed – completely! But we still didn’t know why. We followed the traffic and found ourselves on Sound Card Road, the only other way off the Keys. We soon discovered the source of the problem, a wildfire…

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I sincerely hope it is the only wildfire we ever drive through! It was more than a little scary since the top was off the Jeep, as were the doors. Smoke blanketed the road. We could feel the heat and hear the crackle of the flames. I read later, there were actually 2 separate fires and we lucked out because both Route 1 and Sound Card Road had been closed earlier. Had we checked the news, we would have known.

It was late when we finally made it back to Waldo, but we made it. We really had a good time in Key West, but learned a little planning goes a long way and nothing stays the same for 25 years!

Have you ever been to the end of the road? Or done the Duval Crawl?

 

 

 

Exploring Big Cypress National Preserve, part 2

If you missed part 1, you can find it here. Big Cypress encompasses several different environments, and they each require a specific mode of transportation. Many places are accessible with your own vehicle, despite any warning signs you might see…

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Many of the roads are hard packed sand and are easy to navigate…

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They offer a stunning array of scenery and wildlife opportunities…

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Other areas can only be reached via hiking trails. We started out on the Gator Hook Trail. At the start, it looked something like this…

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With scenery like this…

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Then it became a bit muddier…

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As you can see, Steve is having second thoughts about this hike. And with good reason, the rest of the trail looked like this…

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We hadn’t really planned for a wet hike, so we decided to head back and check out some of the other trails. One of the neat things about Big Cypress is they have several boardwalk hikes. Most are less than a mile and are wheelchair accessible. You can see almost all of the same scenery, but with dry feet.

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What do you think of this in black and white?

The boardwalk at the Kirby Storter Roadside Park has a chickee near the beginning of the trail…

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As the boardwalk meanders through the forest/swamp, you can’t help but notice the changes in the landscape. Cypress knees begin cluttering the forest floor…

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Most of the cypress trees were logged out during the late 1800’s. But every now and then, you can find one that has been around a while. I have no idea how old this tree is, but the plastic water bottle near the base of it gives something for scale. (There was actually very little litter in the preserve)

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The boardwalk ends at a large viewing platform with several benches…

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While Steve was talking with another visitor, I watched the anhinga looking for its lunch…

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Another day, Steve and I hiked out to Deep Lake. Since we were there during the dry season, the path was pretty easy to walk. There were a few places where getting wet was the only option. At least we were prepared this time…

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Deep Lake is a naturally occurring sinkhole lake and is over 90 feet deep.

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How many alligators do you see? Hint, there are more than 5

One of the benefits of hiking versus driving, is you can just stop and check things out. You will see things you would have otherwise missed. Like the neat pattern the fungus made on this tree…

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Or the blooms of the bromeliads…

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Or the lizards,

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A strangle fig with its victim,

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A squirrel hiding in a tree,

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Or a liguus tree snail…

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For me, kayaking is probably the next “slowest” way to take in the sights.

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I imagine during the wet season, all of this is underwater.

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Other ways to get into the “back country” are airboats…

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And my personal favorite – swamp buggies…

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There are lots of places you can take airboat or swamp buggy eco tours, but we opted not to on this trip. Maybe next time!

Until then…

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We say “Thanks for coming along!” and we always love reading your comments!