December 2017 - March 2018
  • Day24

    Gators and manatees [Everglades]

    January 16, 2018 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 16 °C

    Today we began the final push to complete the last few Florida parks we haven't seen before the looming government shutdown Friday night. So today was spent in Everglades NP. Awed with the amazing flocks of birds; wood storks, rosiate spoonbills, great and little herons, egrets, anhangas, black creasted herons, ... just amazing. Also caught 5 manatees lolling in the river.

    Washing dishes this evening was more exciting than usual. The camp community wash basin is about 20 yards from a good-sized lake. As Lorraine washed Hunt held the flashlight but flicked it out to the lake where two glowing gater eyes watched us. We resumed washing with a bit more alacrity. Checked the lake. The eyes were closer to the bank. Rinsed. Checked. The eyes were gone. Needless to say we didn't get up for any midnight bladder relief.
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  • Day25

    Bike to Nature [Everglades]

    January 17, 2018 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 18 °C

    Deployed our folding bikes this morning for a 15-mile ride through the Everglades. This no-autos trail gives a good feel for the Everglades sea of grass. And it is loaded with wildlife. We brought binoculars but didn't need them. Reading glasses would suffice, the wildlife is that close. It's easy to take safety for granted as you bike within several feet of dozing gators.

    After the bike ride in the "northern" Everglades we looped around to the south for a few short boardwalk hikes thru hardwood hammocks, and a lovely walk around this moving sea of grass. Saw a purple gallinule, a funny little bird with long yellow legs that walked over the lily pads squeeking like a rubber toy. A cool night camping in the Everglades. 45 degrees, brrr.
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  • Day27

    Another Fort & Ferry [Dry Tortugas]

    January 19, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    Up early to catch a two-plus hour ferry ride to one of the largest forts on the E coast; Dry Tortuga Nat'l Park. Huge frigate birds gliding over this island reef; at least 100 of them. Pretty impressive. Had a tour of this civil war fort where Dr. Mudd was imprisoned cuz he set John Wilkes Booth's leg after he shot Lincolin. One hot place to be incarcerated! Hard to believe this is one of the longest barrior reefs in the world until you drive to Key West and boat another 70 miles to it's end.Read more

  • Day28

    Turtle Rescue [Florida Keys]

    January 20, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    Having notched the last of the ten Florida National Parks on Friday we headed back to the mainland to visit our friend Krista Eaton in Miami. By chance we passed Florida's first sea turtle rehab center along the way and couldn't resist stopping for a tour.

    The Turtle Hospital started as a motel. The owner became interested in sea turtles decades ago, tossed out the humans and put in sea water tanks. He now rehabs and releases dozens of sea turtles a year. All without government funding.
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  • Day33

    In search of the wild manatee [Ocala]

    January 25, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    Drove up to Crystal Springs, Fla. in search of manatees. The ranger station, empty like the park, had a flyer telling us to go to Homosassa Springs State Park if one wanted to see manatees. We drove back south and discovered we were in a wild life /rehab park! Not what we had in mind, but fascinating nevertheless. There were 4 resident manatees and 3 being fattened up after a cold snap paralyzed them, but soon to be released. Gentle giants. But also saw bright coral pink flamingos, a pair of endangered whooping cranes, a green heron, golden eagles, and spoonbills. Plus a red wolf and a Fla. panther (poor imprisoned things).

    Tons of vultures in this state despite dwindling numbers world wide. Apparently their stomach acid can neutralize anthrax, cholora, and rabies in dead kill. Amazing, go vultures!

    Camped at spring-fed Rainbow Springs State Park with a lovely bike ride thru palm live oak forest. Neato!
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  • Day34

    Yearling [Cross Creek]

    January 26, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 11 °C

    Visited Marjorie K. Rawlings home at Cross Creek, Fla. Just one of my favorite books! (Debra and Krista, this one's for you too!) She captures rural, old Florida; it's quirky neighbors, the hardship of managing an orange grove in the depression after her husband left her, and the ethereal beauty of the hammock and the St. John's river. (And malaria on top of it all). This is where she wrote her Pulitzer prize novel, The Yearling (up there with Ole Yeller for sobbing). Loved peeking into her 30's farmhouse and wandering thru her orange groves, now regrown into a hardwood hammock.Read more

  • Day35

    Fort-Weary McClearys [Pensacola]

    January 27, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☁️ 17 °C

    More coastal forts. Fort Pickens, built by slaves and, briefly, prison-home to the Apache chief, Geronimo. Ft McRee, which we fortunately didn't have to see because it was swept into the ocean decades ago. Fort Barrancas, which seems to have been occupied and modified by everyone from the Spanish in 1800 through little kids in the 1950s. [We joke about the slew of forts but we were lucky to have a personal tour of Ft Barrancas by a very knowledgeable volunteer tour guide.]

    Also got in a couple good bike rides, including one on the Blackwater Heritage State rail-trail. Sixteen miles through semi-rural Florida. And a shorter one on Perdido Key, summer nesting refuge to many sea turtles and winter home of some yellow rumped warblers.
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  • Day36

    Ethnic Cleansing [Auburn]

    January 28, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☁️ 13 °C

    Horseshoe Bend Nat'l Battlefield is one of those parks you want to hurry through. The things that happened there are that horrendous. Andrew Jackson learned the art of ethnic cleansing here where over 800 Creek Indians were encircled and killed at a cost of only 50 Americans. This was the largest massacre of native Americans in US history. His success here in 1814 launched him on a lifelong campaign of killing and later removing every Indian east of the Mississippi River. Some people say he was just a man of his time when colonists wanted land to settle, but hard to fathom the brutality.Read more

  • Day37

    Bama, Tuskegee

    January 29, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    A couple day diversion up to Alabama continues (as New Orleans stuff not open on the weekend). I hate to draw stereotypes, but do see hound and pit bull dogs running loose, heard a hound baying all night, and managed to camp next to a train track with a shrieking whistle and roaring train half a dozen times last night. Oiy!

    Visited Tuskegee Institute and the Tuskegee Airman's monument today. Hard to see the long journey blacks have had to travel to be recognized as intelligent and capable people. Ah, the cruel prejudice of our country. What must foreigners think when they visit our monuments? One airman said, "We served our country but they do not serve us" as they returned from WW 2 to Jim Crow laws.
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  • Day38

    Selma

    January 30, 2018 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 7 °C

    Up to now, every Park we've visited was history, natural or human. Selma is different. This is our living history. The Selma to Montgomery HistoricTrail recounts in pictures, film and audio the struggle of hundreds of African Americans and some whites to gain voting rights in the 60's!

    Courage comes easily from behind a white hooded robe. Real courage is facing snarling dogs and cattle-prod thrusting clansmen dressed as cops. Without flinching, without fighting back.

    You have to wonder, given the governing paralysis today in Washington, if voting rights legislation would even get through Congress.
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