Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Moving On

The past seven weeks have been spent in Bradenton and Brooksville, Florida.  Our very close friend Chuck Burwell had serious fall, causing a fractured skull, which kept him in the hospital for seven weeks.  We wanted to stay in the area to assist in any way we could.  We are glad to report he is out of the hospital, and on his way to a miraculous recovery, so we are beginning to travel toward home.

While we were in this part of central Florida, we were camped at a State Forrest adjacent to  Silver Lake on the Withlacoochee River   This is one of our favorite campsites, partly because of the hiking trails, the easy access to the  50+ mile paved (flat) bike trail, and the low camper density.

Breakfast in the sun

Many trips on the long, flat, bike path.

Silver Lake, with access from the campground

Beautiful trails

even when the water is high

We have seen this trail when there is high water.  Not this year.

Marlin got a great shot of this black vulture.  He was not about to move off the trail since it was dusk and almost time to roost for the night.

Did some birding.

Caught this immature red shouldered eating a mouse.

This beautiful adult red shouldered hawk posed on this sign post for at least 10 minutes.

American white pelicans in a pond near our campsite

Sand hill cranes were plentiful throughout the area near the campground. We often saw them beside the bike path.

A local attraction in Brooksville is the Chinsegut Hill estate.  It is the oldest house in Hernando county, built in 1840 by Bird Pearson.  Purchased in 1905 by Raymond Robins and  his sister Elizabeth. The siblings named the property Chinsegut , meaning "a place where lost things are found".  Elizabeth was a well known actress, writer and suffragette.  After the Great Depression, the Robins family donated the estate to Federal Government.  It is currently owned by the University of South Florida and used as a conference and reception center.  A beautiful place to have a wedding or other event.

We spent the afternoon roaming the grounds and having a tour of the house.

A day trip took us to Cedar Key and the Suwannee River Wild Life Refuge.
Cedar Key is a  small, eclectic village that specializes in oysters and clams.

Main Street along the water front.

The welcome center where the docent recommended Tony's Restaurant. Tony's serves "Award Winning" clam chowder.  The designation came from winning the Newport, Rhode Island chowder competition three years in a row.  She was right, the chowder was fantastic.  We even took two cans home.

Local street Art

What to do with a dead tree!

This cement pot was in a large community garden.

The gardens were all on these raised bed platforms.  Great on the back!

Ever present brown pelicans.

Unfortunately we spent so much time on Cedar Key, by the time we got to the Suwannee River WLR the visitors center was closed.  We drove several of the roads overlooking marsh land and inland ponds,  but did not get to experience all the Refuge had to offer.  Next time.

Pleasant boardwalks and viewing platforms

Miles of quiet marsh land

Little Blue heron was seen on our last stop in the Refuge.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Jiggs Landing and Fish Camp

Jiggs Landing, Bradenton, FL.

In 1940 Al "Jiggs" Metcalf and his wife started a fish camp on 7 acres of land along the Braden River.  For 40 years the camp was a local icon and vacation spot, selling bait for fisherman and renting small cabins to families.  Many years after the hay-day of the fish camp, Manatee County purchased the property and turned it into a preserve, along with a fresh set of cabins that are for rent again.

The first thing you see when you enter the grounds is an osprey nest, high up in a tall, long needle pine tree.  The nest is enormous and a white head can usually be seen peeking over the edge.  If you are lucky, one of the pair will pose for a picture on a near by branch.

The boardwalks, grounds and boat launch are all free public facilities.  A small cafe  that serves excellent fresh prepared food is located between the boat launch and the cabins.  This peaceful paradise is located only a few blocks off the traffic nightmare of Rte 70 in Bradenton.  A gem.

The new cabins are a real treat.  Painted in the same colors loved by Agnes Metcalf, the eight structures vary between bunk beds, full size or queen beds.  All are simple dwellings with just one room.

We were lucky enough to spend a night in the queen bed camp.

A beautiful evening spent watching birds, big and small

More boardwalk, looking toward the boat launch

As dusk approached, flock after flock of white ibis, turkey vultures, and herons began to roost in a group of trees on the other side of the river.  It looked like snow on the foliage.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Naples Zoo with Sean and Becky

OOPS, This has been in my draft box, not published by mistake.  Better late than never.

John's Daughter Becky and her son Sean came for a quick four day visit.  Sean is a delightful, talkative, four year old.  Having a little one around gave us an excuse to visit the Naples Zoo. Past reports  had been very positive and all were correct.  Fun day, great small zoo, perfect for a pre-school tot.

Becky and Sean

Marlin and John helping Sean find the anteater

Very graceful, but looking like something out of Star Wars

Zebra's were Sean's favorite

The boat ride circled several monkey islands.

The zoo makes a practice of hiding the food in unusual places to simulate a more natural habitat and realistic environment for the monkeys.

Kids were welcome to feed lettuce to these gentle Graffias.  The animals leaned their long necks over the fence and scooped up the romaine leaves with their tongues.

Tigers and lions and bears, oh my!  Mr. tiger was the only one out roaming around today.

End of a fun Zoo day.  Maybe we will get an ice cream.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Odds and Ends

Still in Naples, hanging out with John Miles.  Wanted to spend Superbowl Sunday with friends instead of cheering by ourselves in the camper.  Spending lots of time at the pool, walking and biking.  A few highlights needed recording though.

Last week John, Jackie and Dick LeCompte returned to New Hampshire to be with a friend who lost her husband to cancer.  Marlin and I filled in as dog sitters for the LaCompte's dog, Journey.  Easy duty for a sweet dog that got me out walking even more.

On the evening they returned home, supper was ready.   John and Mary Cole and their visiting friends also came, making for a full table and an enjoyable evening.

Kim & Garth Getchell, Dick LeCompte, John Miles, Marlin, Jackie LeCompte, John Cole & Mary Cole.  John's new table sat all nine of us comfortably.

One day Marlin and I went to Corkscrew Swamp Audubon Preserve.  The storks are nesting this year and a flock of them were using the natural thermals to assist them on their distance hunt for food.

There was a scope to view where they nest, which is a great distance from the viewing platform.
A docent said they travel as far as Lake Okeechobee to fish, more than 80 miles.  We were also told the storks only come here to nest when the water is at a specific level.  To high or to low and they nest elsewhere.

Lots of ibis.

Many great white Egrets

A young Roseate Spoonbill flew in close by where we were standing.

At Corkscrew your ticket is good for a two day entry.  Mary Cole had never been to the preserve so she came with me the second day.  She can't wait to go back with her John.

Strangler fig (Ficus aurea) vines cover many of the giant cypress trees.  Florida strangler fig begins its life as a epiphyte or air plant, living in the branches of the trees.  It sends its roots down toward the ground and when it reaches soil begins to grow, eventually wrapping around the host and becoming a tree itself, sometime killing the host tree.

Pig frog posed nicely for me.  It is a Florida frog named for its croak that sounds like a pig grunt.

A green night heron we saw on both days.  This must be his usual day time resting spot after he has hunted all night.

On January 31 we went to Bradenton to celebrate Julie's birthday.  

Didn't think her camper would hold 70 balloons, so the balloon banner filled in as a substitute.  Not as much fun as real balloons, but it's the thought that counts.

Lemon cake with cream cheese frosting.  Happy 70th Julie!

John brought Julie a book about what life was like in 1947, the year she was born.  Tough duty relaxing in the sun.

We did manage a couple of balloons.  Great shot of Julie and Chuck

Another day I went to Barefoot beach with Estelle Saunders.  Marlin and her husband Chuck went fishing at Lovers Key.

I got to use these frog clips to attach my beach towel to the chair.  A gift from my dear friend Ruth Bringardner.  She knew we would spend some time at the beach this winter.  Also loved her tip about using baby powder to remove sand from my feet before getting in the car.  Great tip.

Lots of laid back fun in the sun.