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.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Fenway South!

With a desire to get some pictures of the Red Sox spring training facility for Jacob, we headed to Jet Blue park, which is only half an hour from Naples.

There were only 6 or 8 cars in the parking lot when we arrived, so we assumed the park was closed.  Walking around, looking for the best spots to take pictures, resulted in checking out some of the great logo art on the building.

We found the Team Store, but it was closed on Saturday.  Looks like another trip on Monday!

The outside grounds featured many tributes to famous Red Sox players.  This statue of Ted Williams was very impressive

Stylized numbers, from some of the well know alumni, were scattered along the walkway.

After wandering around the outside for awhile, we found an open gate and went into the park.  There was a game in progress.  The players looked a bit older than usual, and a bit out of shape for professionals, so we were not sure what that was about.

We must have looked confused because a park employee stopped and talked to us.  The "what" was the final game at the end of Fantasy Baseball Camp. The link provides information about the camp, including the cost and the names of the Red Sox alumni who make up the coaching staff.


The game this day was the final game of the camp, where the attendees played the Pros from the coaching staff.  Over the public address system Marlin heard several names of Pro players that he remembered, such as Oil Can Boyd, Butch Hobson, Rick Miller, Troy O'Leary.  There is a list of coaching staff/pro players on the website.

Rules for attending this Fantasy camp do not include requirements for skill, or physical condition.  If you are over 30 and have $5,000 plus, you can be part of this week long camp.  They get a full week of coaching from the professional players, complete Red Sox uniforms, accomodations, and  transportation to and from hotels.  Quite a dream for someone who loves baseball.

As we stood and watched the game, a foul ball was hit into the stands near where we stood.  There were no other spectators near by, so, after chasing it down,  I got to keep the ball.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Naples Highlights

The community of Bay Forest in Naples is the winter home of our dear friend John Miles.  We manage to get in a couple of weeks staying with him at his condo.   Our camper goes into storage and we enjoy the amenities available at the Bermuda Bay 1 section of the complex.

The community is surrounded by a 2 1/2 mile paved walking/biking path, right outside the door.  Lots of wildlife along these few miles.  That stick-looking object on the left is a snake.  I was trying to stop my bike and get out the camera fast enough to get a picture of  him.  He didn't waste any time crawling into the bushes.

Flowering shrubs in January, just to make northerners envious.

These endangered gopher tortoise dig burrows on either side of the bike path.  Some recent research has shown that more than 20 different species share the burrows for safe places to hide or to make their own home.

Marlin got a good close-up of this fellow.

One lucky shot.  We were riding our bikes on the path and stopped to talk to some friends when this eagle landed on a branch right in front of us.  He had caught this fish in the pond on the opposite side of the path.  Looks like it was too big to carry it very far.

He was enjoying the meal.

When the fish wiggled out of his grasp and fell to the ground.  He looks surprised!  We watched for awhile to see if he would try to pick the fish up from the ground.  He stayed for about five minutes, but when a large dog came along, the eagle flew off.

Boccie is very popular here.  John signed up as an alternate and got to play twice today.

He has pretty good form and great accuracy.

His team lost but no hard feelings.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Visiting Friends in Florida

Coming to Florida always allows us to visit the many people we know who have located here in the warm winter climate.  We usually plan our stopping points in order to see as many old friends as possible while we are in the State.

Our first Florida State Park visit was at Fort Clinch on Fernandina Island, just outside Jacksonville.  A great ocean-front park with miles of beaches, an old fort, and nice campground.  One quick walk on the beach was all we could fit in at this beautiful park, even though we were here for three days. Since we were so close to Palm Coast we choose to use the time to visit  Audrey McGregor, her daughter Cheri, and the sweetest little dog, Jenny B.

Our friendship with Audrey goes back to the 1980's when Marlin began working for Farm Family and Gerry McGregor was the head of the claims department.  Whenever we were in Florida we always stopped to touch bases with him and Audrey.  Gerry passed away several years ago but it is always a pleasure to visit Audrey and her daughter, Cheri.  Cheri has started an on-line business selling antiques, so she and Audrey spend many hours and miles checking out Estate Sales and finding places to store inventory.   Our visit included lunch at the Funky Pelican in Foley Beach, where I had (believe it or not) the best New England Clam chowder I have ever had.  Maybe I was just extra hungry!.

For the next couple of days, we camped at Withlacoochee State Forest near Brooksville.  One of our favorite Florida campgrounds, due to its adjacent 47 mile flat bicycle trail.

We got in a couple of days riding the trail, as well as a visit with Sheila Hartt in Zephyr Hills.  It was sad without Delmont there but Sheila seemed in fairly good spirits.  She is feeling good, after a change in medications and making headway on adjusting to Del's passing in November.

Our next stop was to spend a couple of days with Chuck and Julie Burwell.  They are staying in Avon Park for the month of January.  We were able to book three days at Highland Hammocks State Park, which is about 10 miles from the RV park they are staying at.

They arrived at our site, toting a complete chicken dinner to share with us.  First things first tho, Julie had to get a picture of the four of us. She is an expert using the self timer so she can also be in the picture.  I have got to learn how to do that with my camera.

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people sitting and outdoor

Here is Julie's picture she took with the timer.  Thanks Jul!

The next afternoon we all took the park tram tour.  This boardwalk was a shortcut to the CCC  Museum where the tour began.

 Back in the 1920's local citizens, especially a woman named Margret Shippen Roebling, began a citizens campaign to save this unique habitat from being turned into farmland.  Money donated by Ms Roebling, as well as matched donations from the public, was used to purchase the original 2,100 plus acres for a Park. The original idea was to turn it into a National Park.  However, the size was determined to be too small for that purpose.  It turned out to be the beginning of the Florida State Park system.

Highland Hammock State Park is one of the original eight Florida State Parks where the CCC established trails, cleared forests, built boardwalks and constructed buildings that are still used today.  Highland Hammock became a 1,280 acre park in 1931 and was the first Florida State Park project for the CCC.

 The museum, which opened in 1994, houses extensive artifacts and information about the CCC in Florida,  It is located in a building that was built by these men and used for housing while they worked there.

This building was the mess hall used by the crews who worked here and is located across the drive from the museum building and currently used as an Inn.

The museum building

After a visit inside the museum, our tram tour began at 1:00

Our tour guide has been volunteering here for 20 years.  His extensive knowledge of the park was evident.

Our first stop was at a cleared area where several orange trees were growing.  Oranges are not native to Florida and usually non-native species are removed.  The grove with the orange trees remain as a historical and culturally significant part of the park because one of the original settlers here cleared the land by hand, planted and tended this grove many years before it became a Park.  The tour guide pointed out the difference between clearing this size plot with today's equipment in a day, as compared to hand cutting the thick vegetation, digging out roots, planting trees, and keeping out other vegetation.  Probably an entire season of work.

This live oak is reported to be over 900 years old.  Much of the tree is dead, however, there is one large branch, jutting out of the old broken top that is alive and thriving.  They are hoping to get another couple of hundred years out of the tree!

This section is called the  Pine Flatwoods.  Apparently much of Florida was covered with this type of habitat.  The sandy soil supported a couple of dozen pine per acre, and frequent lightning started fires kept other vegetation from becoming established.  Today prescribed burns help to maintain this natural ecosystem.

There were multiple live bird and reptile exhibits as we traveled along Charlie Bowlegs Creek

Black Crowned Night Heron

Many Red Bellied Slider Turtles

An American Bittern gave us a great view of his beautifully striped chest.

Mamma alligator catching some sun

This old alligator nest was active last season.  You can see by the isle chain on the tram how close to the road she built her nest.

Another day we biked the three mile paved loop road, which has nine, 30 minute walking trails scattered at different points along the road.  We took the time to hike two of these trails.  This Young Hammock trail allowed a look at how the habitat changes when the normal cycles of fire are prevented.

Pine is being overgrown by palm and other scrub species.

Another beautiful cypress swamp boardwalk.  I never get tired of seeing these trees.

Cypress throughout the swamp have the classic "knees" which lend support to the giant trees.  I have never seen a "knee" incorporating the boardwalk into its habitat.

This central Florida park should be on everyone's must see list.

The next day we visited Chuck and Julie at their RV site.

Marlin and Julie relaxing (and later napping) in the lounge chairs.

Another great dinner served by Julie.  We will stop to see them again after we visit Naples.