On our way into St. Augustine a few days ago, we exited I-95 at an interchange that contains what I like to call “Floridiana.” It’s the oversize signs advertising all kinds of goodies to take back home and rot in the cupboard – Tropical Fruit Wine? Probably not. Gator Jerky? Don’t think so. Boiled peanuts? Tried ’em – pass. Also lots of things to tempt the kids and make them sick 20 miles up the road. I thought I would like to know what “Honey Toasted Chocolate Covered Praline Pecans” taste like until Kathy assured me that it is three different kinds and not just one. Oh, well.
The story is that we didn’t stop there on the way in to town, and as often happens I kicked myself for not taking the time (it was late, we were tired and thirsty, etc.). So today we went into town to the fort to get a stamp on Kathy’s National Park Passport, and on the way back took the scenic route by way of this exit. Pretty interesting signage, although it didn’t tempt us enough to go inside.
Oh, and in case you wondered about all those oranges and grapefruits out roasting in the sun? They’re little concrete spheres. Wouldn’t make very good juice. 😉
The full moon is technically today 2/27, although it was fuller at moonrise last night than it will be tonight. The night that the moon rises just before sunset is what I have heard referred to as the “photographer’s moon” because it rises almost-full while there is still sufficient light on the landscape to show detail.
Last night’s moon rose through a band of thick haze on the horizon into a cloudless sky, so there wasn’t a lot to be excited about. But it was still pretty, we had a nice place to watch from and it was cocktail time! I may try again tonight but moonrise coincides with dinner time so I may need to make do with one night’s photos.
White balance may be a little wonky on this but I think it is pretty true to the scene as it was presented.
I treated myself to an early morning and was rewarded with a pretty nice pre-sunrise sky. I credit Monte and his early morning excursions for the motivation to drag myself out of bed at 5:45. It was worth it! I also was able to get a nice cup of coffee in the lobby on my way back to our room. Double nice!
What would it be like to be the letter carrier for a community full of retired letter carriers? That’s a bit of a running joke in Nalcrest, that is a retirement community exclusively for retired mail carriers. Nalcrest was designed by and continues to be operated by the Nalcrest Foundation, Inc., a branch of the National Association of Letter Carriers, the union representing United States Postal Service city letter carriers. It was the brainchild of William Doherty, the first United States Ambassador to Jamaica and NALC President from 1941–1962.
The community consists of 253 acres, 153 acres of which are developed into 500 garden-style apartments. The remaining 100 acres (0.4 km2) are undeveloped and includes a manmade lake of 15 acres around which the community is developed, and that is connected to the 7,500 acre Lake Weohyakapka.
We have friends who spend the winter there, and this is the third year we have visited. It’s an interesting place with many friendly people from all over the US and Canada. But you won’t find any dogs or cats. Evidently the story about dogs and mail carriers not getting along is true. 😉
Kathy & I were tired of the (relative) cold and decided to make a quick escape to warmer climes. We have friends in central Florida who give us a good excuse to head that way, so we left home on Friday for about 10 days. I had found this old feed store on some website or another and had it saved in my map folder. Today we were close enough to make a slight detour and check it out. I found a few other interesting scenes nearby that I’ll share over the next few days or when we get back home.
In the meantime it was a sunny and toasty 70 at one point during the day. Yay for heat! 🙂
I had always thought of the Everglades as a swamp, but it’s not. While there are swamp areas in and around the park, the Everglades per-se is actually a 60-mile wide freshwater river, running from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay, and eventually to the Gulf of Mexico. It is only a few feet deep in most places. Because the water flows across a limestone shelf, there is little or no silt or sediment, so the water is remarkably clear. The flow of water has been greatly impacted over the years by development and diversion of the water to major cities, but recent efforts to stem the loss of wetlands has at least slowed the loss of this ecosystem.
For our visit, we wanted to see as much of the park as possible, so we didn’t really spend a lot of time in any one place. It would be possible to spend weeks in any one area, but to get a good overview we concentrated on three main areas. We stayed in south Miami near Homestead, so we had a good bit of driving to do to get anywhere, especially the second and third areas mentioned below.
The southernmost part of the park starts near Homestead and stretches from the Ernest Coe Visitor Center down SR-9336 to the Flamingo Visitor Center. We spent time on the Anhinga Trail, which is an easy 0.8-mile path and boardwalk through an area that is home of a large number of wildlife.
The section that is probably most familiar to visitors to south Florida is the section that is bisected by US-41, known as the Tamiami Trail. Because the Tamiami Trail only borders the National Park on the south side, and only in a relatively small section, this is the place where all the air boat rides, ‘gator rasslin’ places and trinket shops are located. The Shark Valley visit center is probably the most visited center in the park, and unfortunately has the smallest parking lot. It’s not unusual to have to endure long waits to get into the parking lot, with the alternative of parking on the road and walking about a half mile in to the visitor center. That wouldn’t be bad in February, but I wouldn’t want to do that in August! Then again, I want very little to do with south Florida in August!
We were fortunate to have only a relatively short wait to park, then lucked into a tram tour that left about an hour after we arrived. The “loop road” that goes to an observation tower is a 15-mile round trip. Walking it would be the ideal way to experience the trail and the wildlife, but 15-miles is a long way! It’s also possible to bicycle the trail, and it’s possible to rent bikes there. But the tram tour goes slowly enough and stops whenever wildlife is encountered, so for tourists like us it’s a pretty good way to get around.
The third area, which is probably more a sub-area of the second, is the area around the towns of Everglades City and Chokoloskee. From Chokoloskee we took a boat tour through the Chokoloskee Bay toward the Gulf of Mexico. We opted for a tour in a small motor boat rather than an airboat, since the motor boat is slower and quieter I think we were able to see a lot more wildlife. Airboats are not allowed in the National Park, so any of the airboat companies up along the Tamiami Trail don’t actually take you into the National Park. Not a big deal, but I wanted to experience the park proper, not just the Everglades in general. We lucked out and only had 4 people on our tour plus the guide. Compared to the option of the airboat I think we made the right choice. I’d love to take an airboat ride sometime, but I think of it as more of a thrill ride than a way to see wildlife up close.
I’ve got plans for a few more posts detailing some of the highlights from these various areas. I didn’t want to clutter this post up with too many more words or photos, so those will come later.
When Kathy & I were looking over information about the Everglades, we had noticed several references to a Nike Missile base located within the park. There wasn’t a lot information online, but once we got there we saw signs directing us toward the location and indicating that there were “open house” hours daily. So we decided to check it out.
As it turns out, there had been three Nike sites located within the Everglades as a result of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the close-the-barn-door approach that was taken after the fact. There are several abandoned bunkers that are inaccessible due to asbestos contamination, an unused hanger and one that houses an actual but de-fused Nike missile.
It was an interesting side trip on an otherwise nature-oriented visit, but it was something unexpected in an otherwise natural habitat.
Kathy & I are wrapping up a short week in south Florida, where we spent three days in various parts of Everglades National Park. I’ve got a ton of photos to process when I get home and we’ll be on a cruise ship next week. So my postings may be a little thin over the next week or so. Here are a few photos in the interim.