Wednesday, February 4, 2015

South Florida

Moving day has come and gone.  We said our goodbyes to the eagles and the new folks we’ve met in the park.  Out onto I75 and pointed our lengthy tan train and it’s mighty blue engine, south, past Ft Myers and even farther south, past Naples and the exit for Marco Island.  Collier Seminole State Park is at the western edge of the Great Cypress National Park and the Everglades National Park; right where Rt 41 turns and heads east across the swamps and Cypress forests.  

Collier Seminole is one of the older state parks and is in need of updating which are thankfully planned for this summer.  Maybe next winter the campsites won’t be snuggled so closely and MAYBE we won’t have a group of too many tenters perched 4ft from our back window and making joyous noises at 7am!  While the kayaks did not make it out of the truck, we did take the time to go explore the park again and hiked the trail out thru the Royal Palm Hammock where majestic trees grow naturally.  Thru the openings to the swamp we could see (and hear) the groups of storks, herons, spoonbills and egrets squawking at us for disturbing their peace!    Out near the entrance to the park, the dark black hulk of the Walking Dredge that was built in Battle Creek Michigan in the early 1920’s still stands guard.  It made it possible for the Tamiami Trail to be dug/built across the bug-infested swamps of the Glades.  Barron Collier bought the land for the county that bares his name and for the state park that still honors him.

Marco Island is how the “other folks” live but as we drove around the “well bred”, wealthy mansion neighborhoods we found some of the original smaller stucco ranch style homes still!   Real estate prices on the island range from the high 20 million, down to a measly 500 thousand.   Behind most of the homes were channels lined with boat docks and lifts with large white boats resting in them.  Each channel led to another and then led out to the gulf.  Public beaches are placed on the ends of the island with parking starting at $8.
Marco Island Cottage
Birds on the beach
On the upscale boulevard that runs past the elegant condos, hotels and mansions we pulled into one of the “resort” hotels and parked at their restaurant/beachside bar called Stilts.  It was Happy Hour and drinks were fairly reasonable!   $6 for two drinks and parking there!  It was way better than $8 at a public parking lot.  And – we were free to walk the white sandy beach!  Shells were to be found and I brought back a pocketful of pretty ones to share with the grandkids!   The soft white sand was dotted with the usual colorful beach umbrellas - each different color designated which resort they belonged to.  Flocks of resting black and white terns and various gulls were not afraid of all the curious folks walking by.

Last year when we stayed at Collier Seminole, we planned on staying at Midway Campground – half way across the Glades, between Naples and Miami.  SPFB – it rained for 3 days from the time we left Collier Seminole to when we left South Bay Campground near Belle Glade. This year, H made reservations at Midway – the only National Park in the Glades with electricity!  We were going to ride our bikes at Shark Valley!    7 1/2 miles – up hill (felt like it!) and into the wind!!  But we did it!   The long, fairly level, one lane black top road led thru open grasslands, swamps and clusters of palms and jungle growth with a narrow grass lined creek that followed right along.   On the way out to the tower and in the waterways that surrounded it, we counted 86 gators!  Some were in the water, some sleeping in the grass on the OTHER side of the creek and SOME right next to the roadway!   

The tall imposing observation tower had a circular approach that wrapped around the entire structure and gave a 360-degree view of the Glades and the narrow ribbon of road that we had to ride back on.  Thankfully the return 7 1/2 miles were a breeze, with the wind being at our backs and helping us along.   According to H’s GPS – we averaged 8mph on the way out and 11mph on the way back!
Speed bumps
When we parked at Midway in the morning, we met our neighbors who were just moving out.  The gentleman was from Waterville Ohio and he said he was the former mayor!!   When we got back from our ride, there was a huge black and gray motorhome from Delaware.  We could hear a strange noise emitting from within – not a bark, not a whine and not quite a howl.  Was it a beagle?  Or maybe a Bloodhound?   The owner arrived shortly and we got to meet Harry, the retired Judge and his Black Russian Terrier!  Now, when one thinks of a “terrier” one thinks of a Jack Russell maybe or Chihuahua.  This HUGE, extremely shaggy, black dog was bigger than an English Sheepdog and as hairy as a Komondor, without the dreadlocks!  Jowls like a Mastiff and as friendly as a Golden!  Strong willed and powerful but as gentle as could be!   I wanted to learn more but it was time for the Super Bowl and we needed to pull out early in the morning. 

Our winter trip is now half over and we’ll be heading north once more.   Two months to get here  - - Two months more to get back home!