Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Naples Area

Collier Seminole State Park is one of Florida’s oldest state parks and is home to the last “Walking Dredge”.  It was built in Michigan and was used to dig the ditches that provided the rocks and dirt to build the Tamiami Trail (route 41) from Tampa to Miami Florida. SPFB!!  The park has been closed for the last year for renovations.  Some campsites have been eliminated, some enlarged, and some still should be enlarged.  The old relic of a bathhouse has been torn down and rebuilt but has to be closed again to make the MANY repairs needed!  Our site gets full sun all day so we’re grateful for the awning and the sunscreen that provides some respite from the heat.  The back of the trailer faces a shaded area where a resident hawk resides!  The early mornings are full of her raucous calls as she swoops after the small gray squirrels!  The lights on the bathhouse do a great job of attracting the many types of moths, including one large Sphinx moth.  It was docile enough to climb on my fingers and allow me to carry it home for some pictures!  The next day it was back in it’s spot on the bathhouse wall!

The weather has been HOT, HUMID and FULL of small black hungry mosquitoes.   The air conditioner has been on every day – and the one in the truck works great too!  LOTS of day trips!  One was to Everglade City with a stop at the National Park Visitor Center and more stops to watch the resting pelicans on top of the pylons along the many bayous lined with moored boats. A “scenic” route on our way home was supposed to be an 11-mile side-trip but ended up being 4 hours of heat, dust and monster potholes!

Another early morning jaunt was to retrace our path to the beach in Naples. Our day’s exercise was to walk along the crashing waves to the pier and back.  Marco Island was another favorite destination!  Their new museum was a refreshing cool stop!  Parking lots near the beaches were $8 but we found the perfect spot down the road to park the truck in the shade.   Our little bikes were unfolded and we rode up the multi use sidewalk to one of the narrow public accesses between the tall resorts lining the beach dunes.   While not the snow-white sand of the upper Gulf Beaches – these beaches were still wide and clean - and sprinkled with millions of small beautifully perfect shells! 
Bright sun umbrellas and tall brilliantly colored sails made for a great picture!  We were on the beaches early and off before noon!

One morning H got to go shoot some skeet at a gun club farther down Rt 41.   From there we went exploring a subdivision and marina across the highway.  The dark water of the marina was full of all kinds of things – motor boats, sailing ships, manatee tour boats and a long dark gnarly looking sleuth of a gator!  On the edge of one of the retention ponds in the housing section there was another large black creature sleeping on the bank – within 30 feet or so from the lovely home next to the pond!  Yipes!

Our new Illinois friends, J&A, who we met in Trimble Park and again at WP Franklin, arrived the weekend after we did.   Their stay was only 2 days as they are on their way back north.  She graciously invited me to join her in visiting the Naples Botanical Garden.   The wonderfully colorful gardens at the Toledo Zoo are something to see and the fantastic Thomas Kincaid like gardens at the Butchart Gardens on Victoria Island, Canada is out of this world!  This spacious botanical paradise took us from tropical Florida to the floral jungles of South America and then transported us to Oriental paths in the Japanese section!  There were exotic trees and shrubs with strange names and equally strange blooms in vibrant shades of reds, oranges, yellows and purple!  There were deep dark calming reflection pools, splashing fountains and relaxing waterfalls! Luckily, there was lots of shade and a soothing breeze!  The amazing conclusion of our visit was the orchid collection, hidden in a dappled sunlit nook of trees, slabs of bark and bubbling collections of water.  Orchids of every size and every color hung in wooden baskets or clung to branches in the small trees!  After 2 hours in the heat we were both beginning to melt and our 2 heroes soon rescued us and took us out for a seafood lunch!

Naples has several interesting and unique museums. The first we toured was the Collier County Museum.  It shows the development of Florida’s “last frontier”.  It is a 5-acre historical park, which includes a 1910 Steam Engine, a 1920’s swamp buggy, a WWII Sherman tank and a Seminole Indian Village replica.    The Naples Depot Museum is set in Naples’ first passenger train station.  It focuses on how generations of Floridians used transportation and technology to conquer the vast wilderness that was Florida.  Plus - sitting out front was one of H’s favorite old cars a Studebaker Avanti!  There were several railroad cars outside for touring, too.

Our two weeks are up.  The temps have been in the high 80’s for the last 2 weeks but now a cold front has come thru and the temp today was ONLY 79 degrees but VERY windy.   All of our neighbors have moved out and new ones have moved in.  The sunscreen is down and the awning is rolled up.  The road NORTH is beckoning us and we can’t resist its call.