Four nights at The Glades

RX fire burns in a field

RX fire burns in a field

The 81 mile trip from Skunkape HQ in Ochopee to The Glades RV Resort in Moore Haven was my kind of trip; short, easy roads through wide open spaces, no highways and no mistakes- we are getting better at this. We always check the route on our Garmin GPS (Missy), Google Maps on the iPhone and on the spiral bound Rand McNally Deluxe Motor Carriers’ 2015 Road Atlas; at least the day before.

The Garmin can calculate in either car or RV mode and when in RV mode Missy just loves to take us right to a major highway and forget those other scenic routes. So we have begun using car mode, comparing to the all-knowing Google Maps and double checking to the atlas. As long as the roads are highlighted orange, meaning approved for vehicles with STAA- authorized dimensions, we are golden. STAA is the 1982 Surface Transportation Assistance Act that, among other things, established weight and size limits for trucks, etc. So if the road is good for them, it’s good for us and that includes underpass heights too.

Still seeing oodles of birds along the road edges thanks to the frequent gullies or tiny canals that run parallel to the roads. Bird heaven.

Yes another osprey; I liked the background

Yes another osprey; I liked the background

Saw large (tiny by Texas standards) cattle fields and I’m pretty sure cattle egrets were hanging around too.  When we stopped the car and I got out, every single cow turned and looked (just like this one!) with mild interest and a nice pose, then resumed cow activity when we drove off.

I'm sure someone knows what breed this is

I’m sure someone knows what breed this is

Our home for four nights was almost in the middle of nowhere, but you could drive east or west on Rte 80 (we did both) and get to stores, gas stations and such. Every new place – and for us they are all new places- offers a bit of mystery and some level of challenge.  We often check Google Earth to see where to turn in; avoiding an unplanned de-coupling is paramount since backing up with Bonny attached is verboten. The check-in process varies and I’m learning ask the important questions, such as where are the site numbers placed.  Some places lead you to your site but others, such as The Glades, give you a site map and verbal instructions. Always seems simple when I’m standing in the office. Follow the main road in all the way to the tiny marina, turn right and site 10 is the 4th on the left. The site number will be on the short black lamp-post.

Our site. Note the overhanging branches and the small shed to our right

Our site. Note the overhanging branches, the small shed to our right and cactus hiding the lamp-post

Site numbers for 9 and 10 were well hidden and our permanent neighbor in #11 had encroached noticeably onto our site and when they saw us, hurried to move extra tables and chairs that would have been mowed down during the perfectly- executed backing in process. No room to move over to allow the awning to extend ( but that was fine since the wind was up most of the time) and no room to raise the antenna with the branches right there.  No TV all winter so why start now?

Red-bellied woodpecker in that old tree

Red-bellied woodpecker in that old tree

The old tree proved to be visited  often by a pair of woodpeckers who vocally announced their presence. They had me well-trained just like Pavlov’s dumb dog.

A few miles west on Rte 80 is the Ortona Lock, one of several along the Caloosahatchee Canal that links Lake Okeechobee to Ft Myers. The lock is run by the Core of Engineers and includes a 30 site RV park that I couldn’t get into trying two months earlier. All the sites have a view and all are concrete and gravel with a covered picnic table. Full hook-ups too.????????????????????????????????????????

I met Wade, a COE volunteer and we had a nice chat

I met Wade, a COE volunteer and we had a nice chat

Sailboat in Ortona Lock- a COE site with 30 RV sites

Sailboat in Ortona Lock- a COE site with 30 RV sites

The water drops eight feet in the lock for those heading west. While I was bird watching and chatting with new buddy Wade, Russ stood by the lock while the sailboat crew tried mightily to get themselves attached using lines already hanging over the concrete.

Successful exit from the lock

Successful exit from the lock

We survived, but don’t have the T-shirt, the coldest Florida night in three years while here in Moore Haven. Ran two electric heaters all night on medium to keep the inside temp at 65 while the outside dropped to 29. We could run propane heat but it’s noisy and the rig electric heat (A/C reverse cycle) won’t work well in temps much below mid-forties and it’s noisy too.

Everglades City

The Tamiami Trail linked Tampa to Miami (Ta for Tampa and well, you get it), traversing the Florida Everglades; it was considered an engineering marvel at its 1928 opening. Not long after the cars began using it the first roadside attractions began to spring up along the route. Alligator shows, wrestling shows, Indian Villages, gift shops, fishing camps, restaurants and rest stops for weary travelers. Today you can find airboat rides and swamp buggy rides too.

We’d intended to take an airboat ride but decided not to. A swamp buggy was even more intriguing but four hours was too long for a body jarring jaunt through lord knows where and what if we broke down? Wimps.

The Museum of the Everglades and lunch at the #2 dining spot Camellia Street Grill was more appealing. The “donations only” museum was divine and beautifully restored; located in the laundry building for the 1920s company town it contained enough but not too many well-designed displays and a seating area to view four short videos.????????????????????????

Here we learned how and who built the Tamiami Trail in 5 long, grueling years and the history of the city that began as the village of Everglade. Settled in the 1870s by a Connecticut Yankee living in Key West, his farmlands and house were bought by George Storter, Jr. who had migrated here from Alabama with his family in search of a warmer climate. I can see if you live north of Virginia, but Alabama isn’t warm enough?

Along comes self-made millionaire, the flamboyant advertising mogul, Barron Gift Collier. He took over the Storters’ holdings for his agricultural interests in 1921. He offered to finish the Tamiami Trail from Naples (where it had stalled) to the Dade County line (Miami area). In return he requested that Collier County be created out of the acres he owned and the legislature agreed.

First a town was needed as a base to provide and house workers so Collier built a company town. Grocery, laundry, Post Office, Bank, Inn, Community Center, jail, courthouse, housing and the necessary infrastructure for the engineering center and county seat. Residents had the benefit of telephone service, newspaper and hospital.

From this base 76 miles of road through uncharted swamp was completed between 1923 and 1928, with not a single loss of life. Even though we saw photographs of the machinery and methods, still hard to comprehend an undertaking of this magnitude; just feeding everyone was a monumental effort. Thanks Barron.

Next, lunch time and TripAdvisor came through again.

A long line proved what a great spot this was

A long line proved what a great spot this was

You place your order, find a table and your food, add’l beverages and check are brought out to you. New Zealanders waited in front of us; further proof that Florida’s 60 million annual visitors make it the Numero Uno travel destination in the world.

I think the water is the Barron River

I think the water is the Barron River

 

Oyster Po'Boy and Garlic bread BLT/Greens/Ricotta Salad with Grapefruit dressing.

Oyster Po’Boy and Garlic bread BLT/grown on-site Greens/Ricotta Salad with Grapefruit dressing.

We also learned, no surprise, that the teeny Ochopee Post Office is the smallest in the U.S. The current tiny building replaced a larger one that was destroyed by one of those nasty hurricanes in 1953; an irrigation shed in its former life.

So cute and real too!

So cute and real too!

A stop at the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City was a must and you can look out toward the 10,000 islands. Boat tours and a small info center with displays, booklets reminded us of Flamingo. The 11am ranger-led talk could not have been better and when Mark suggested we walk away with a NPS Bird Checklist booklet for the Everglades, I got two. One for “he who is a man ahead of his time.”  I’d always (not recently though) kept a list of birds we saw in our backyards in Old Saybrook and Essex and Benj had a long list of ones he spotted in the Florida Keys during our first year cruising, but I never considered an official checklist. Oh watch out now as she takes those binoculars and camera everywhere!

A volunteer ranger gives us all an inspiring bird identification talk

A volunteer ranger gives us all an inspiring bird identification talk

 

Skunkapes, eagles and owls, oh my!

Back in December we’d shortened our stay in Florida City so we could make two additional stops before Melbourne. Trail Lakes campground was right on the Tamiami Trail (aka Rte41) in Ochopee, FL near the western boundary of the Big Cypress Preserve and surely a strange land stood before us when we pulled in.

What kind of place did I book us into?

What kind of place did I book us into?

Our site is best described as pull-alongside, the pond that is. The clump of grass blocks the sign that indicates Wi-Fi and it did work with our booster. One brisk 48 degree morning we enjoyed this scene (taken from a side window).

A chilly, misty pond morning

A chilly, misty pond morning

During the day when we were around (not much) I’d sit in a chaise, read and keep eyes and ears open for flitting feathered friends. The bare tree across the pond gave me the best chance for a clear shot.

Eastern Bluebirds- not commonly seen in these parts

Eastern Bluebirds- not commonly seen in these parts

From this campground we ended up exploring mostly west into the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve, the Ten Thousand Islands Refuge and down CR29 to Everglades City and Chokoloskee at the road’s end. Don’t you love these Indian-based names? SR/CR 29 forms the eastern boundary of Big Cypress Nat’l Preserve with Tamiami Trail running west to east through the lower third. Everywhere you drive you see wading birds, gators and birds of prey. Rte 41 is filled with places to stop and enjoy whatever floats your boat; sightseeing, adventure, hiking, dining but with the Tamiami Canal running right next to the road many cars would just pull over to take in the scene.

In 1974 Congress created BCNP to protect the fresh water’s natural flow from the Big Cypress Swamp into the Everglades and Ten Thousand Islands. The swamp’s fresh water feeds a mosaic of five distinct habitats in its 729,000 acres: hardwood hammocks, pinelands, prairies, cypress swamps and estuaries. In creating the Preserve, Congress honored the occupancy and customs of the Miccosukee and Seminole peoples. Villages exist in the Preserve today as they have for generations; but we’d have to save a visit for another time.

After a stop at the BCP Welcome Center where we take in a wonderful video, check out the displays and wildlife out back, we decide to drive Jane’s Scenic Drive.

A great egret and great blue heron capture our attention

A great egret and great blue heron capture our attention

 

Not sure what the white stuff is- some sort of mold?

Not sure what the white stuff is- some sort of mold?

 

Our next stop

Our next stop

 

This sign appears at the start of the trail

This sign appears at the start of the trail

 

Now we know why. Russ wouldn't go closer.

Now we know why. Russ wouldn’t go closer.

The Big Cypress Bend (I keep typing j instead of the d in Bend) trail is an interpretive one; signs are posted along the way identifying plant life, birds that could be seen etc. No sign was posted for this. Someone heard from someone else what to look for and the word gets passed along. This nest was quite some distance and many small branches and leaves blocked the view, especially from certain angles. We could sort of see a head pop up – oh it’s a great horned owl we heard and I said Ok but that’s a baby not the adult. So we managed to get a good shot and went happily on our way. Not until I loaded the photos onto the laptop did we see the bonus; that’s mama on the left and baby is in the nest. No one looking at the time realized the adult was sitting on the edge of the nest.

Another surprise. Great horned owls are rarely seen.

Another surprise. Great horned owls are rarely seen.

We liked this walk so much that we came back the next day; nesting birds are changeable we learned. This time we clearly see mama but not so much her chick. Our binoculars made the rounds as most don’t have them and seeing the owls was a big deal.

Who who is this!

Who who is this!

 

Baby horned owl's close-up

Baby horned owl’s close-up

A short ways down the boardwalk is a sign pointing out an eagle nest; the owners have been returning for 22 years. A tripod spot is even available. I did get a shot of mom or dad in the nest with jr, but it wasn’t well focused. The below shot we got on the return visit and even got to see the eagle in flight; assuredly gone hunting.

One of the adults sits on a branch; the nest is to the right

One of the adults sits on a branch; the nest is to the right

 

The only snakes we saw, not counting the deceased one in the road

The only snakes we saw, not counting the deceased one in the road

Our day ended at the Marsh Trail, about a 30 minute drive west from our campground, on Rte 41 in the Ten Thousand Islands Nat’l Wildlife Refuge. At the northern  border with no visibility into the islands, but with a large multi-level viewing platform that was perfectly situated. A side note- during the video we watched earlier Panther Key (one of the 10,000) got a mention and we smiled- we know that place:

Panther Key- a stop in Feb 2011 aboard Ortolan

Panther Key- a stop in Feb 2011 aboard Ortolan

 

Egret and heron in flight. I am always thrilled to get an action shot

Egret and heron in flight. I am always thrilled to get an action shot

 

Sometimes I stop bird watching

Sometimes I stop bird watching

The large viewing platform sat about one-third of the way down the 1.2 mile path. Of couple other spots held promise but none this good. On our way back we checked out the view again and Russ went up ahead of me. As I came up the steps he called me over. This beautiful egret was the subject of a man with a serious camera; long fat lens, camo color, tripod and remote shutter. The owner invited me to take a look; yes I can see the difference between that and mine- like a million miles!!

This great egret was a photographer's dream

This great egret was a photographer’s dream

We got to talking; I asked what he did with his photos. Only 10 mins earlier Russ and I were discussing that; who were these people with the super serious cameras and what did they do with the pictures? Personal use? Commercial?

Rick was very obliging as befits a southern gentleman and he gave me his name, FB and other contact info. Said when we were near Charleston (we will be) to contact him and if he could he’d take us to a great spot for fantastic birding. Told us some other good places in Florida and we shared about our owl find.

I snapped this after he’d run across the path to check on a possible better  bird.

Rick Coakley amateur photographer from Charleston

Rick Coakley amateur photographer from Charleston

 

My parting shot- a wood stork in flight

My parting shot- a wood stork in flight

Adventure in the “River of Grass”

Gators lounge about in the sun along the Anhinga Trail

Gators lounge about in the sun along the Anhinga Trail

The Indians who sought sanctuary in the Everglades’ vast wilderness called it Pahayokee, the grassy waters. Conservationist author Marjorie S. Douglas in the 1940s called it the “River of Grass.” The early Spaniards named it the Lake of the Holy Spirit. No matter the name, the subtropical splendor of the Everglades continues to enchant its many visitors; be sure you are one.

However splendid, the Everglades remains threatened and in 1947 was the first national park created to protect a threatened ecological system. No park elevation tops eight feet above sea level and while the river still flows slowly toward bay (Biscayne) and gulf, the threats to it and the entire region moved quickly toward its destruction. Amazingly, the region’s only source of fresh water is the rain that falls on it, which would be enough if people hadn’t intervened. Extensive canal and levee systems now shunt off much live-giving water before it reaches the park.

Water level control canal parallel to Tamiami Trail, northern park boundary

Water level control canal parallel to Tamiami Trail, northern park boundary

Pollutants add to the problem and high mercury levels haunt the entire food web. The Florida panther is so endangered that not even 10 are thought to live in the park.

Fortunately, efforts to save the remaining Everglades and to restore a semblance of their original function are in progress. In 1989 Congress extended the eastern park boundary to protect the Shark River Slough (say, Slew) which is critical to sustain the park’s historical abundance and diversity. Soon after, Congress authorized the world’s largest environmental project which requires 30 years to accomplish and seeks to return water to more natural patterns of quantity, timing and distribution. We heard of one aspect of this being 12 miles of bridge that allows water from the canal alongside Tamiami Trail to flow into the glades and that only one mile so far was complete. We drove over it on our way west after Southern Comfort and yes only a mile and the stretch is more like a raised causeway with large pipes underneath.

We wait at the marina for our turn on the tour boat

We wait at the marina for our turn on the tour boat

Our second day of grassy water adventures began with a nearly two-hour, two-mile backcountry boat tour up Buttonwood Canal, into and across Coot Bay, through short Tarpon Creek then finally peeking out briefly into Whitewater Bay. Darn good thing the camera had a full charge.

Mangroves offer baby gator needed protection

Mangroves offer baby gator needed protection

Captain Steve and his assistant Sedgwick worked well as a team with Sedgwick as spotter. Amazing how he could see this tiny gator tucked into the mangroves. Captain Steve would maneuver the boat close in so we could take our pictures, but first we had to see the darn thing and that took some doing. Mama gator gets no prize for Mother of the Year as she usually doesn’t tend to her young for more than a few months, unlike crocs who take on the challenge for a year.

Osprey was easy to photograph on the edge of the Buttonwood Canal

Osprey was easy to photograph on the edge of the Buttonwood Canal

 

Hurricane Andrew (?) raised water levels up to the bridge

Hurricane Andrew (?) raised water levels up to the bridge

Although we have read, heard and seen plenty about mangroves I still can’t keep them straight. Here we had the rare opportunity to see all three together. The red mangroves are sneaky, the white outer bark covers their distinctive red underneath.

Mangroves 101: black, white and red as you look left to right

Mangroves 101: black, white and red as you look left to right

Back at the marina we checked on the osprey nest. Baby was born at the end of January so was about two weeks old. What a difference a day makes; this chickie was noticeably more active and demanding today.

One day older and eager to eat

One day older and eager to eat

A stop at Paurotis Pond to find wood storks and roseate spoonbills was successful but they hung out in trees on the pond’s far side so my pictures are only so-so. I’m also including a better one taken elsewhere here so you can get a good look.

Wood storks and one roseate spoonbill

Wood storks and one roseate spoonbill

Wood stork- in a tree

Wood stork- in a tree

The endangered wood stork is considered an indicator species. This dramatic wading bird, its plunging population decline and painfully gradual rise as restoration efforts prove successful, is noteworthy. How it feeds explains why. Wood storks feed not by sight, but by touch or tacto-location, in shallow, muddy water full of plants where the fish can’t be seen.

Walking slowly forward, the stork sweeps its submerged bill from side to side. Touching its prey, mostly small fish, the bill snaps shut with a 25-millisecond reflex action, the fastest reflex known for vertebrate species. Only seasonally drying wetlands concentrate (winter is the dry season) enough fish to provide the 440 pounds that a wood stork pair requires in a breeding season. When human water management upsets the natural wetlands cycles, wood storks fail to nest successfully.

A Louisiana Heron or Tricolor as its commonly known

A Louisiana Heron or Tricolor as its commonly known

We ended our day with the gem of the park (IMO), the Anhinga Trail, which is mostly boardwalk. We’d read about the vultures attacking car tires and wiper blades and sure enough, here we found the first warning sign.

Bring wet towels or tarps to cover up if you are worried

Bring wet towels or tarps to cover up if you are worried

So what do you want to do today?  Chew tires?

So what do you want to do today? Chew tires?

Located at Royal Palm about two miles from the park entrance and HQ, the half-mile Anhinga Loop Trail and its sister trail, Gumbo Limbo are worth the price of admission alone. They offer the best opportunity to view wildlife up very close. Royal Palm is fully equipped with ample parking, restrooms, several info kiosks and souvenir shop you can also join one of the several ranger-led talks throughout the day. We joined one near the end and highly recommend it if you have the time.

Immediately as you walk to the area right behind the buildings, where to look first is the question. Pond, marsh-lined narrow and shallow water areas next to the wide walking path, trees, shrubs, palms and more grassy water as the boardwalk begins and leads you out into the very much alive marsh.

The eye just cracks open- I see you

The eye just cracks open- I see you

This guy above rested about 3 ft off the trail with only a tiny wall separating us. A 20-something girl approached with her BF, looked intently and stated that no way he was real. But then he opened his eye. Kids need to get out of Disney, video games and into real life!

I didn’t realize when I took this photograph that the adult anhinga was in her nest with young ‘uns.  Acting hungry I’d say. So where is dad?

Mama anhinga and her kids

Mama anhinga and her kids

The anhinga is similar to the cormorant but the neck is snakier, the bill pointed, the tail much longer and the very large silvery wing patches make it easy to tell it apart from the more pesky, unattractive cormorant. The female has a buffy neck and breast. Not sure if we’d ever seen one before our Everglades visit.

Dad strikes the usual drying-out pose

Dad strikes the usual drying-out pose

 

This great blue heron was putting on quite the show. Throat pulsating too.

This great blue heron was putting on quite the show. Throat pulsating too.

 

This warbler was the smallest bird we saw in the park

This warbler was the smallest bird we saw in the park

 

Oh don't move, I'll just crawl over you

Oh don’t move, I’ll just crawl over you

 

Purple gallinule- duck like swimmer, lily pad walker

Purple gallinule- duck like swimmer, lily pad walker

Look at those feet; just perfect for walking on water. He also did a great job of using his bill to lift up the edges looking for a snack. Superficially duck-like except for smaller heads, forehead shields and rather hen-like bills, gallinules swim, wade and climb bushes.

This gives you a good view of the beauty along the boardwalk

This gives you a good view of the beauty along the boardwalk

 

The cormorant has awesome blue eyes; beauty here after all

The cormorant has awesome blue eyes; beauty here after all

 

This got to be a common sight especially when the subject kept still

This became a common sight especially when the subject kept still

 

The photographers' subject- a great blue heron showing off

The photographers’ subject- a great blue heron showing off

I hope you liked the Everglades tour, liked as in “like” it if you did and wouldn’t mind tossing your camera toting, stiff-necked tour guide a bone for all her efforts- the most difficult being choosing the photos to include here.

Our next stop after leaving SoCo RV park in Florida City will be Trail Lakes Campground, an even more rustic park on Tamiami Trail where we had a spot on a small pond…. more birds!!  We explore Big Cypress Preserve and others. Stay tuned for a rare sighting as we get lucky with so many large birds nesting.

 

 

 

Everglades National Park- Part 1

Our first stop but we didn't see much bird life

Our first stop but we didn’t see much bird life

The most unique national park in the country, the only one created to preserve the environment rather than scenery, the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles can be seen together… and we nearly missed it. As we traipsed out of Castellow, we met a man with a serious camera- the first of many we’d see over the next 10 days- and he shared about visiting Flamingo and Mahogany Hammock. We thanked him, smiled, checked Google and learned about Everglades Nat’l Park and that the main southern entrance was only three miles from our campground. Flamingo lay at the end of the road, 41 miles away. If you could see that far you’d be looking at the Keys.

My vocabulary lacks the words to describe the magnificence of an area that is pure Florida, stunningly Mother Nature in all her glory and should be your next vacation destination! Forget the theme parks, the animal parks, the fancy stores; get down to the Everglades. Sure you have some airboat rides, gator stuff, but once you get into the park and experience it and learn, you will be amazed. Trust me.

A $10 entrance fee allows you to return for another six days; we returned a second day. This tells about our first day. Photo selection was extremely difficult so I may have to create a new photo album page soon.

Once again our brains shifted to overload with all the info poured in and since I am way behind on posting and with so many photos at my disposal, you get the “more photos” posting. :-)???????????????????????

flamingo town

The residents had to go; but they fought hard to stay

?????????????????????????????Hunters would shoot thousands of beautiful birds just for their plumes. The current bird population in the Everglades and Big Cypress is a mere 10% of what it was years ago

One of eight who reside in the marina basin

One of eight who reside in the marina basin

Flamingo has a marina, visitor center with the Buttonwood Café, large multi-sectioned campground with limited electric sites, offers large pontoon boat tours into the Bay or Backcountry, canoe and kayak rentals, launching ramp and several trails. You can also camp out on several of the tiny islands as well as canoe/kayak your heart out along any number of water trails.

Croc-zilla sunbathes by the dam at the marina

Croc-zilla sunbathes by the dam at the marina

Getting up close and personal is no problem in the park; the birds and other wildlife seem to be habituated to people and generally ignore us. When we drove in to Flamingo the familiar osprey cry filled the air. One nest was less than 20 ft up and you could see the female standing on the edge of her huge nest. Later on we returned to get boat tour info and were treated to this sight.

Mama feeds her chick  fresh fish caught and cleaned by Dad

Mama feeds her chick fresh fish caught and cleaned by Dad

The male catches the fish, beheads it, rinses it, delivers it to the female then rinses his talons in the water. He usually hangs out nearby while mom feeds the chick.  She has to shred off pieces her chick can eat or else he won’t take them.

Red shouldered hawk- the paler south Florida version

Red shouldered hawk- the paler south Florida version

We drove through the campground which wasn’t even half full, except for the section with electric for the lucky ones. This hawk was enjoying an open air moment on the garbage cans.

Surprise! Sea Beans in their pods and on the ground!

Surprise! Sea Beans in their pods and on the ground!

At the very end of the campground and not well-marked was a trail; too long to tackle today but it had a small loop trail offshoot and I was thrilled to find Nickar Beans aka Sea Pearls. Not all sea beans float in from exotic lands; some are local.roots

All along the 38 mile road through the park you will find trails and places to stop and photograph various wading birds, etc. We quickly decided that another day was a must and even at that, we still wouldn’t see it all. Got an interesting small world, cruiser meet-up story occurred today, but I’ll save it for a more appropriate time.

This Great Egret is not behaving for the photograhers

This Great Egret is not behaving for the photographers

On our way back to home sweet motorhome, we stopped at the famous “Robert is Here” market and fruit milkshake destination. When Robert was six his Dad put him by the roadside with a bushel of cucumbers to sell; and no one even stopped.

Since 1959, Robert is here

Since 1959, Robert is here

So Dad made a large sign that read, you can guess, “Robert is Here.” Within 5 years Robert had hired a woman to run his fruit stand and the rest is history. Russ wanted a Key Lime Milkshake and boy it was excellent- and I am not crazy about fruit drinks.

That's Robert in the red shirt behind the counter

That’s Robert in the red shirt behind the counter

Robert is a very active, involved owner and more than once  heard him on the loudspeaker calling for help up front and making sure all bins were full.

Black Sapote and Canistel on right- soft egg custard flavor

Black Sapote and Canistel on right- soft egg custard flavor

 

Trek to Ft. Lauderdale

The historic Elbo Room- the Bryant College meet up spot during spring break

The historic Elbo Room- the Bryant College meet up spot during spring break 1980

We experienced a Ft Lauderdale connection during early February. First, our cruiser/RV friends John and Katy drove down from their Lauderdale RV park to hang out for a few hours and thanks to FB was able to help them connect with our mutual friends on Traveling Soul who happened to be in a Lauderdale marina for a few days. Then we had the chance to drive up there when our (chilled to the bone) CT friends, Linda and Thom flew to West Palm for a much-needed R&R break. They wanted to spend time in Lauderdale, so we agreed to meet on Beach Blvd.

I’ll spare you the details of some stops we wanted/needed to make along the way; but the best was Mojo Donuts. Thanks again Eva!! The cool retro box reads, “You deserve a Donut” and yes, we did.

Our donut six pack

Our donut six-pack

Two down, four to go. That's a Cronut on the right.

Two down, four to go. That’s a Cronut on the right.

We were curious about Ft Lauderdale; Russ had never been and my Spring Break 1980 visit was memorable but so very long ago. We always sailed offshore past this area for several reasons, so no boating visits either.

The parking lot we were headed to (how DID we ever survive without GPS and Google Maps?) was just off S. Lauderdale Beach Blvd and we turned at the corner where the Elbo Room sat holding its own among so many new tall buildings and missing hangout bars. Yes, I can confirm that Ft Lauderdale is no longer the wild college spring break destination of years past.

Awesome Happy Hour and Dinner at Coconuts with our friends

Awesome Happy Hour and Dinner at Coconuts with our friends

 

Linda and I- happy ladies at Coconuts

Linda and I- happy ladies at Coconuts

 

 

Biscayne Nat’l Park & Castellow Hammock

Once we recovered from our first crazy drive out, nature called and we opted to head east to the edge of Biscayne Bay and the very small (and free) National Park located next to Homestead Bayfront Park. About eight miles east of SoCo, we passed the Homestead Miami Speedway- go NASCAR!!, several schools, gated communities and many nurseries.

Headed to a garden center or luxury estate?

Headed to a garden center or luxury estate?

Biscayne

 

Remains of old causeway at Convoy Point in Biscayne Nat'l Park

Remains of old causeway at Convoy Point in Biscayne Nat’l Park

 

Everything is in two languages down here- too bad I only know le petit Francais!

Everything is in two languages down here- too bad I only know le petit Francais!

Castellow Hammock Nature Trails was the perfect “short trail with info”  aka, Interpretive trail walk with a butterfly and hummingbird garden out front. Google maps took us close, but we had to engage our brains and go over one block to the entrance. With all the roads crisscrossing and who can tell SW 162nd street from SE 126th street, each with names and probably another number, listening to Missy jr. rattle off directions like, “turn right on SW 344th, NE 344th, Getlost Drive” is almost comical if you weren’t panicked at trying to figure out where to turn while not getting rear-ended as you slow to 40mph! But enough of the driving dangers in one of the top ten high crime small cities in the country!! Sorry honey, I had no idea!

 

Who cares about getting lost when such beauty lines the roadside!

Who cares about getting lost when such beauty lines the roadside!

 

We found the trail

We found the trail

 

Bet the path went purposely under this- duck!

Bet the path went purposely under this- duck!

The Strangler Fig shown below is huge and it has covered nearly the entire tree it chose for its host. The word “fig” is deceptive as you think “small”, but the Strangler is determined to live and it grows around and up whichever tree it chooses. This pair had begun growing in the normal “up” mode but then the host tree fell and still the fig continued to grow up toward the sun.

A humungous Strangler Fig covers a fallen host tree

A humongous Strangler Fig covers a fallen host tree

The 7ft deep hole was probably a tidal pool back when the sea covered much of south Florida. The Gumbo Limbo Tree is also known as the Tourist Tree because its red, peeling bark is like those who bake too long in the sun.

Solution hole dating back 150,000 years

Solution hole dating back 150,000 years

Gumbo Limbo tree

Gumbo Limbo tree