Welcome to our Adventure!

Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Homer, Alaska

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Why Keep The Animals?

Sherry posed a very good question about why the state keeps the animals and birds in the park, and being that it is an extremely lousy stormy day outside, I thought I would undertake the project of educating everyone about the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs State Park.

A comprehensive history of the area going back to the civil war can be found here and is interesting reading although I won't reproduce it here :-). To sum it up, the Park's early history included a series of private owners who maintained tourist attractions on this site. The last private owner had plans to sell the land to a developer, but a grassroots effort generated by the county residents succeeded in gathering enough signatures on petitions to block the sale. The county purchased the park, and after running it for a few years, the State of Florida purchased the Park from Citrus County on January 1, 1989. This would preserve the land from any further threats of development.

As per Florida State Park directives, the management of the Park has shifted from entertainment to environmental education, and from the display of exotic animals to the protection and exhibition of native Floridian wildlife and plants. With one exception, which I will detail later.The Park encompasses 200 plus acres of land, and wetlands, hydric hammock areas and spring-fed springs are some examples of the diverse physical features of the Park. The centerpiece of the Park is a deep natural spring of the first magnitude that pumps out over a million gallons of water each hour. The water here is SO clear. To provide the best possible view of the spring, previous owners of the Park installed a floating underwater observatory in the main spring in 1964.
The headsprings

On a visit to the park back in February, I took this picture of Al and Cousin Bill and Cousin Bruce on the upper level of the observatory.

The springs here provided a refuge for the Park's captive-born West Indian Manatees, as well as a half-way house for rehabilitating manatees that are scheduled for release back in the wild. Last year the Park was host to four manatees that had become extremely sick from the red algae bloom that happened south of us. These manatees were successfully nursed back to health and released in the spring. I read a news report that 276 manatees died the winter and spring of 2013 from the red algae, and a total of 769 deaths from all causes This is a significant percentage of the population of approximately 5000. 

The main visitor's center is on Highway 19. Many visitors do like to take the boat ride down Pepper Creek to the Park's entrance. This is the volunteer job that Al does here at the Park on Fridays and Saturdays, driving the boat and chatting to the guests about some of the Park facts. Its important to note here, that along Pepper Creek, any animals or birds that you see are strictly wild and can come and go as they please. There is a resident gator, Waldo, who lives under the boat dock and comes out quite often to sun himself on a small floating platform. If he wants to leave, though, he is free to go! Its funny how many guests ask Al if he's real!

I photographed these wood ducks here along Pepper Creek while taking the boat back to the visitor center. The Park has placed several wood duck boxes along the creek to attract them, but again, they are free to come and go. This time of year Al gets to see the little fluff balls of ducklings tumbling out of the boxes. 

The Park calls itself home to many native animals, which varies as new members are introduced and others are released. Florida Black Bears, Whooping Cranes, Florida Panthers, Key Deer, Red Wolves, a Grey Fox, and American Alligators are some of the animals that present a showcase of past and present native Florida species. Most of the animals housed in the Park have been injured in some way, usually resulting from an encounter with humans.

The mammals are all victims of "human imprinting". This means they have spent their entire lives being cared for by people and/or have abandoned their fear of humans. They would be likely to fall victim to human cruelty, starvation, or cause some menace or danger to humans. 
Maygar, who passed away this winter was an example of this. She was sold as a kitten to a family who wanted to have her as a pet. They had her spayed and declawed. When she became fully grown, and became a danger to the family and neighbors, she was turned into the Fish and Wildlife Service. Being declawed she had no way to feed herself, and being spayed presented a danger to her in that male panthers would not recognize her as a female and would attack her. So Maygar was unable to be rehabilitated into the wild, and found a safe home here at the Park.

These three river otters were found as babies when their mom was killed ( I do not know how). They were so small they had to be bottle-fed by hand, and so became accustomed to humans. They are permanent residents of the Park. However, last year older otters were found that did not need to be hand fed, and they were rehabilitated in the Felburn Building behind the park, with no guest interaction or human feeding They were subsequently released into the wild. 
I don't have pictures of the Florida Black Bears, but there are two on exhibit in their habitat that had become accustomed to humans.  The Park has successfully released many cubs back into the wild over the years. Many times we'll receive an email looking for volunteers to collect "natural bear food" and bring it to the Felburn building, to keep the bear cubs accustomed to eating their normal diet.

The birds of prey, many of the white and brown pelicans, shorebirds, the sandhill cranes and the female whooping crane were rendered flightless by wing injuries caused by vehicle collisions, utility wire tangles, fishing line entanglements, or even shot. All of the other birds in the Park, such as the blue herons, egrets, ibis, wood ducks, can fly but have made their home here, due to the abundance of food and security from predators.
There are three beautiful eagles, all with wing damage. Its very sad, as you can almost see it in their eyes how badly they want to be soaring free.

Another good story about our birds concerns the whooping cranes. Whooping cranes are critically endangered, with an all-time low population of only 15 recorded in 1941. They belonged to one flock that migrated between Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Protection efforts succeeded in raising the population to 2014 in 2005. Not wanting all their cranes in one basket, so to speak, a small flock was successfully transplanted in Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. These whooping cranes, however, had absolutely no idea how to migrate, so a plan was hatched to teach them. The International Whooping Crane Recovery Team decided to use an ultralight aircraft as a tool to teach the young cranes the migratory route between Florida and Necedah national Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin. You can read about it here.
Anyway, back to our Park. The Park had a male and a female whooping crane, both injured. The male, however, was mute, therefore unable to initiate mating, and the attempts to have any eggs was failing. A few years ago, the ultralight was guiding the flock down to Chassahowitzka, and flew over the Park. Whooping Crane tag#501 (aka "Levi") took a look down, saw the female, and thought she looked like one hot mamma. he left the flock, flew down into her enclosure, and decided to stay. The FWC came and collected him, taking him back to his flock. Levi promptly flew back to the Park. Again, he was retreived and returned to the flock. Meanwhile, the Park erected a temporary netting over the top of the whooping crane habitat. Not to be deterred, Levi flew back to the Park, stopped short of the netting, and proceeded to walk back to the apparent love of his life. At this point the officials decided it was a lost cause. The mute male was removed to a different park, Levi was allowed to stay, and there have been successful matings, although no hatched chicks yet. Oh, and he is also affectionately called "Romeo" now :-)

I have no pictures, but all of the snakes in the Park could be released and could survive. However, they are important educational ambassadors for their wild relatives. Many people have a great fear of snakes (such as yours truly) and tend to assume that every snake they see is venomous. By exhibiting all native venomous and many common non-venomous species, the Park provides a way for people to learn to identify them and learn how snakes benefit our environment. (Yes, I know all that, still don't like them and still don't want to be anywhere near one!

Lastly, the exception to the native species rule. Most everyone realizes that African Nile Hippopotamus are not native to Florida. Lu came with the Park when the state purchased it, and was one of the area's local movie stars (featured in Daktari and Cowboy in Africa). A grassroots effort again by the community resulted in the Governor of Florida making Lu and honorary Floridian, allowing him to remain in the Park as a permanent resident. Every year at the end of January, the Park holds a birthday party for Lu. Being an herbivore, a cake is made out of bread, and local schoolchildren are invited to attend his party and throw his cake to him. the local paper always covers the occasion, and there are cupcakes and juice served to all the partiers. Lu is 54 years old this year. Lu's birthday was January 26, 1960.

I hope this answered a lot of questions you may have about our beautiful park, and hope it encourages more of our winter visitors to come and see it next time they head over here, to the beautiful Nature Coast of Florida. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

March Madness

No, we don't watch basketball at all, but March does seem to be a month of madness for us! I've taken to carrying around a calendar with me to keep track of my life, Al's doings, my mom and our family here in Homosassa. Old-fashioned, yes, but I just found the calendar in the smart phone wasn't doing it for me. Much easier to reach for the paper calendar and see spread in front of me all the appointments and chores that have been scheduled, in all their glory!

So, what did we do to while away our time this past month? Well, doctor appointments for the first thing; dentist, dermatologist, optometrist for us, podiatrist, diabetes eye specialist and kidney doctors for my mom, and a trip down to Orlando for Al's sister Sue for her cardiac surgeon follow-up ( She's doing really well!) The veterinarian for the pups' annual visit rounded out the medical appointments. Whew!

Several items also needed doing for my mother this month as well, besides medical needs. She needs a new walk-in shower installed in her bathroom, so we've been getting that all in place. Not knowing any contractors down here, I decided the safest course of action was to go to Lowes over in Inverness, so after several meetings we've got that set and the work will be completed before we leave on 4/21. The other biggie was getting her legal papers in order, so we've had a meeting with an elder-care lawyer and that should be finished by the end of this coming week. See, real life does not end when you decide to pursue your dreams and take to the open road!

We've had several visits this month as well. We had lunch one day with co-workers from Bar Harbor, Flo Ann and Cliff. We drove over to Rainbow Springs one day and had a nice sit and chat with David and Sherry, after missing each other all winter. Friends from New York showed up on our doorstep as well: Jim and Judy stopped on their way back to Titusville from Dallas and showed of his classic hotrod that he's been working on!
If I have it right, its a 1931 Roadster.

Jim even took Sue for a spin..along with her bypass pillow :-).

The first week of March was Al's golf marathon, when our friend Ed comes down from New York and they spend the week playing golf. There are many many golf courses in the area, and they have a great time. Al doesn't do too badly either, considering it's the only time each year he plays!

Right after Ed left, we planned to take the coach down to Jonathan Dickinson State Park for two nights as our good friend and financial advisor Mark and his family were visiting in Jupiter. However, as we know how plans can go awry, we made it as far as Inverness (20 minutes after we started out) when the truck decided to die on us. As those of you with diesels know, all of a sudden an alarm starts binging, and the engine goes into "limp mode" and says "stop safely". Yeah right, on a state highway in the middle of a town in the left lane and no shoulders. Stop safely my foot! Fortunately one kind soul let us move over to the right, and we just made it onto a side road and pulled over before it shut down irrevocably. Good Sam Roadside Assistance came to the rescue, although we did have to wait about two hours until a towtruck large enough to handle the truck and trailer was available. We were towed to Nick Nicholas Ford in Inverness in short order, and they were able to diagnose and repair the problem while we waited.( a sensor went bad and the computer shuts down the engine to prevent engine damage. Lovely thought, not so nice when towing a 40 foot trailer behind you!). It was 6PM though by this time, and still had a four hour drive ahead of us, so we opted just to go back home for the night. We did still have our visit with Mark and his family, but we made a daytrip out of it instead.

We went to the Lakeland Center one night and saw Bill Cosby. It was an extremely enjoyable night, with good clean family comedy. A refreshing change now-a-days! And Al and I had our first experience dining at The Golden Corral! 

So, you're probably wondering where's some pictures? One of the fun adventures we had this month was participating in some programs with the Nature Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival. They have it each winter at the end of March and have dozens of talks, events and walks to take part in. I thought it sounded fun even though we aren't avid birders, and signed us up for 3 different functions. We did a scrub-jay walk, and got to see the famous Florida scrub jays.
We drove to Half Moon Wildlife Management Area in Inverness, where three families of scrub jays are found. Scrub jays are classified as a threatened species, and their favorite habitat, the scrub oak communities are under continual threat of development.

Our guide coaxed them in, first using bird calls, and when that failed, she blew the car horn! They are bold and curious birds, and come to see who is intruding on their turf.

Peanuts don't hurt either :-). The FWC bands and tracks these birds, which is why they have bands on their legs. They are not prevented from leaving if they wish, though.

They are very pretty, and I was glad I had the opportunity to see them and take pictures. It was also very interesting and informative to go out with guides and serious birders. Wow, the binoculars and scopes they had were amazing.

Two other events we did was a talk about bats at the Chinsegut Conservation Center in Brooksville. They have several bat boxes on property and after the talk they led us out to watch the bats fly out as the sun set. It was really neat, but not good for picture taking. I did find pictures and a video of it here if you'd like to take a look. A bat box that size will hold about 1100-1200 of the Brazilion Freestyle Bats that are found here. That's a lot of bats!

I have no pictures, but we went on an early morning walk to find Burrowing Owls. We found one sitting on a post, but my camera equipment was completely unable to pick up anything distinguishable Again, looking through the ranger's spotting scopes was amazing. I swear you could see a flea on the bird, it was so powerful! We also saw many many life birds, which for us is easy, as we really don't know anything :-). They all seemed excited about seeing the Grasshopper Sparrow, so I guess that was a big deal :-). the most interesting spot we went to was the Brooksville Wastewater Management Facility; there were all kinds of migrating shorebirds in the outdoor ponds. People driving by were slowing down, probably wondering what the crazy people were looking at through the chain fence :-).

My last event I participated in was a photo shoot at the Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park. Al was working, so I thought I would go and gather some tips on taking photos of the birds. It was fun and I had a good time talking to more experienced photographers. Even though the birds were pretty much a captive audience, I think I took some good pictures, and here they are for your viewing pleasure.

Juvenile blue herons

The alligators were quite active that morning and were doing their croc roars!

The river otters were playful also

I love wood ducks

For some reason this egret liked showing off his armpit :-)

juvenile pelican stretching his wings

a very crabby night heron...he was squabbling with an osprey that is out of the picture

caracaras..what personality!

I don't remember what type of owls these are, but they are a pair of cuties.

So, that was March. A lot of real life, and we manged to find some fun in between as well. We have a little more than three weeks left before setting out on our trek west to our summer positions, and I've spent much time working on that as well. this is getting pretty long, though, so I'll leave the travel plans for next time!

Morning Stretches

You really didn't think I would post pictures of myself exercising, did you???

Just something fun to look at while I catch up writing about the past couple of weeks.

Monday, March 10, 2014

GeoTour Part Two

Our second day of working on the Taking Flight GeoTour was bright and sunny; now that's what Florida weather is supposed to be! It was absolutely wonderful to wake up to sunlight streaming through the shades. Speaking of shades, one of the upgrades we have done to the new coach was to order MCD shades for the bedroom. There are four windows in the bedroom, and when we're working the night shift at Amazon, we really need the bedroom nice and dark during the day. We only had one installed at the time we took this trip, as the factory had forgotten to send the mounting clips for three of the shades. So only one was installed, but we could tell just from that one that it will make a world of difference in how dark the bedroom will be. We had taken the Gold series day/night shades, and we really noticed how much heat is blocked by the day shades, while still being able to see ouside, and how well the night shades blocked the light. I think it will be a very good upgrade in the days to come :-). They look very nice, too :-). All four are now installed, and we are leaving Wednesday for a quick trip to Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Hobe Sound, to visit our friends from New York, Mark and Kiera Poitras (featured in our blog back in 2012 in Colorado where they came to visit us!). So we will see how good they work soon.

Our second day here was also a test; we wanted to see how Casey and Honey would do in the coach by themselves. Casey has always been together with Chelsea all his life, and he has had a difficult time adjusting to life as a single dog. He did ok while we were working in Amazon, but we were still in the Cougar at that time. Our two week reunion trip at Fort Wilderness in the new coach, however, did not work well at all for him. If we left him in the coach alone, he cried, barked and carried on quite loudly. This is not acceptable behavior for campground life, and we ended up boarding him at the Best Friends kennel at Disney whenever we left for the day. He finally seemed to be getting used to the new coach by the end of the trip. So this trip, after we finished breakfast, we acted like we were leaving for awhile, and drove off in the truck. We dropped the truck at the day use area, and walked back to the campground. We wanted to hear if there was any barking going on, so we crept up to the campsite and listened. We didn't hear anything, so we kept walking, going around to the other sections of the campground, and then came back past again. Still no noise, so we walked back to get the truck and drove back to the campsite. Of course, we told them what good puppies they were, and then we headed off to finish our GeoTour. We were very pleased with this, as it could have easily gone the other way, and then we'd have TWO barking dogs when we left :-). That would be bad!

Our first stop of the day was close to the campground, Rye Preserve. This preserve is noted for the presence of three of Florida's five species of owls: eastern screech, great horned and barred owls. We did not see any, and chose not to walk any of the trails here at this time in order to conserve time and make sure we find the six caches we needed to find today. It was a really nice preserve, with several miles of trails, and a canoe/kayak launch on the Rye River.

Our second stop was at a very interesting and beautiful spot, Jiggs Landing. Jiggs Landing is located on the Braden River Evers Reservoir, the source of Bradenton's water supply. It was originally private property owned by Al (Jiggs) and Agnes Metcalf. In the 1940's they cleared the property along the lake and built cabins for a fishing camp. Manatee County now owns the property, has restored the grounds and the cabins, and it remains a very popular spot for fishermen to this day.
A boardwalk goes along the riverside of the property, and there were hundreds of songbirds, mostly yellow-rumped warblers; I believe it was flycatchers of some kind that I saw zooming around the water, and it was probably the presence of millions of insects that attracted the birds to the area. Another interesting bird sighting we had here was a pair of osprey chasing off a bald eagle down the river; they had a nest close by the area and I assume they didn't want the eagle anywhere near it!

These are the fishing cabins that have been restored by the county.

The view from the porch of the cabins...isn't it awesome?

Another stop was at a different boat launch area, where we spotted this beautiful hawk; I guess the boat trailer was as good a perch as any!

We had two caches now in one preserve, but we had to cross a bridge over to Palmetto Florida (across the river from Bradenton) to get to Emerson Point Preserve. This is another popular area, with many hikers, joggers and bikers enjoying the 365 acre preserve at the tip of Snead Island. It was just beautiful, and we did take the time here to enjoy walking some trails.

Supposedly this pond is the site of frequent roseate spoonbill sightings; not this day!

Some good sniffin' spots along the nicely paved trails.

Pretty flowers along the way also...morning glories I think?

Calm kayaking trails in the preserve

Mangroves lined the trails along the waterfront.

Enjoying waterfront life!

After our hike, we continued down the road to the very tip, and had lunch on the beach. 

The sunflowers echoed my thoughts...bright and sunny!

A nice trail along the beachfront

and a cache among the seagrapes.

Emerson Point Preserve is a really nice spot, and we highly recommend a visit there if you're in the area. And be sure to bring beach chairs and a picnic :-). So, we now had five of the six caches we needed to complete our GeoTour, and we headed back to find the last one. Upon completion, we received our reward:

A trackable geo tag. Awesome!

We had a great time, and celebrated with some frozen custard from Sweetberries. It was really good, and their menu of sandwiches and wraps looked mighty tasty as well. We did have dinner set back at Lake Manatee, however, so we held our willpower in place and just had the custard :-). We saw some really pretty places, and several recreational areas that we had never known about. Except for the traffic, Bradenton and Anna Maria Island were really neat places to spend a few days, and we will be returning in the future.

Monday, March 3, 2014


Last week we took the coach out for a few days of camping down at Lake Manatee State Park in Bradenton. We've been wanting to stay in the coach a few times before taking it down to Lazydays in April to have any warranty issues dealt with before we leave for our travels out west. It also seems like a good idea to get Honey accustomed to staying in it, along with Casey, and see if we could get him more comfortable in the coach when we we need to leave them by themselves.

We had caught the geocaching bug out in Colorado, when we were working at Chalk Creek Campground. Our co-workers Joe and Sandi we very involved in the activity, and we thought we would like to try it. Once we found our first few caches, and found the awesome, out-of-the-way spots some of the caches were hidden in, we were hooked as well.

I've been asked many times by people what geocaching is, how it works, and what gps device we use. Well, first Sandi had me sign up at the official geocaching site, creating an account and setting up my geocache name (we are "moseycat", so if you see that in a log book, we've been there!). You can click on the "learn" tab, and go to "geocaching 101" and learn all about this hobby. Basically, it's like a scavenger hunt where you have gps co-ordinates to guide you to "ground zero (gz)", where you find a cache, log your find in the logbook and online, and possibly trade for some "swag" (small items left in the cache by others, that you trade for with something of your own. Swag can be anything, I like to find small keychains and magnets from places we've visited to leave behind. There are also items called "travel bugs",(otherwise known as trackables) that are numerically coded items that are moved from cache to cache and tracked online by their id number. Some travelbugs have specific missions, set by their creator, to travel to a specific area. Others just want to be moved around anywhere. These are the very basics of caching, and you can get the complete discussion back on the website.

Oh, and we don't use any fancy gps device, we just use the Geocaching app for the iphone. I usually use the maps online to pick out caches in the area we're going to, then create a list in the app and download the co-ordinates for the selected caches. If I haven't thought that far ahead :-), you can also use the "find nearby geocaches" function in the app, and so long as you have cell service, it will show you all the caches within a certain radius of your current location. We have found that it uses a lot of battery power, so we do have an extra battery case that we carry with us when we're caching.

Last summer I had been chatting with Sandi and she was telling me about a GeoTour that she was working on. GeoTours are series of caches with a common theme, quite often showcasing a particular area, history, or scenery. Sandi was working on completing the Colorado South Park GeoTour, as she was working at Chalk Creek again that summer. It sounded interesting, so I looked it up to see if there was one close to us in Bar Harbor Maine. There is one called the State Parks of Maine, but the caches were spread all over the entire state, and as anyone who's been to Maine, you know its a pretty big state :-). So I looked and saw there is one in Florida, called Taking Flight, and was located in the Bradenton area. Cool! I thought it would be fun to do, and decided to take a few days during the winter, set up camp and go caching. Luckily I found a site in Manatee Lake State Park that was open for a few days, and I pounced on it...anyone trying to get winter reservations in a Florida State Park knows you have to pounce!

So, last Wednesday we packed up some food, clothes and the dogs, and headed down to Bradenton. Of course, being us :-), nothing goes that easily! the weather was not great, and storms were rolling in for the afternoon. We had hoped to get a jump on them, and headed out just after lunch to pick up the coach from the storage facility (we have nowhere on our property to store the coach for the winter months, so it's in a storage lot just about five minutes from the house). It just started to sprinkle as we arrived, punched our code into the access gate, the gate started to open, and then came to a grinding halt. Apparently, the chain had jumped the tracks and the gate was stuck closed. And it started to rain heavily. All I could do was shake my head. The manager did everything he could to get it going (in the deluge) but eventually had to give up and wait for the gate company to come and repair it. It took about an hour and a half before we could get in, but I do believe things happen for a reason, and during that time it stormed quite heavily and then passed inland. It actually saved us from driving through such bad weather, and we managed to get down to Lake Manatee, checked in and set up in our site, before the storms moved into the area. So all's well that ends well!

Lake Manatee State Park is really nice. The sites are quite spacious, with plenty of native vegetation providing a good amount of privacy. It was a bit tight getting into our site, with some low hanging branches on the driver side, and those lovely palmettos on the passenger side, but with some zigging and zagging he slipped it right in. Utilities are 30amp electric and water, with a dump station in between the two 30 site loops. 

As I had written above, I downloaded the caches for the Taking Flight GeoTour into our iphone. There are 15 caches, and to claim the "reward" you need to find 12 out of the 15 caches. One cache we wouldn't be able to find, as it's only accessible via kayak, and we have the dogs with us for this event. Another one is in a preserve that is only open on Saturdays, so we wouldn't be able to get that one either. So that leaves us with 13 possible finds over the two days. 

The Taking Flight GeoTour was created by Manatee County Natural Parks and Natural Resources Department, and highlights Manatee County's natural spaces and bird life. The 15 caches are all in preserves or county property such as boat landings. You have to download a "passport" from the County website, and there's a specific task to be done or questions to be answered at each cache, and logged onto the passport. Once 12 of the 15 caches are completed on the passport, you can have it validated at the offices in bradenton to receive your reward. 

After a hearty breakfast Thursday morning, we packed our lunch bags and headed out. It was cloudy, but not too cool and not raining! Our first stop was to be at the Robinson Preserve. We could see as we entered the parking area that it was a popular area, with many cars and people in the area. We would have never realized this spot was here, either, if we hadn't had gps co-ordinates to get us there :-).

We headed off on one of the trails towards ground zero. There are several miles of trails in the preserve, as well as 5 miles of kayaking, bicycle trails, wildlife viewing, and a small tent camping area.

The vegetation along the trail was beautiful.

The co-ordinates led us to the observation tower, where we had our first task: on the passport we had to log the date and time of our visit, and use the tide charts to determine what level the tide was and whether it was incoming or outgoing.

After climbing the tower and seeing the awesome boardwalks heading further into the preserve, we decided to circumnavigate the preserve, even though we had already found the cache :-).

This fellow was posing very nicely for a picture. Someone said he was a night heron, but I don't know??

The preserve is a salt marsh, as well as mangrove forests and coastal uplands habitats.

We made it to the beach area

Sherry, here's a big tree for you to hug!

Calm kayaking areas

I also saw these guys, but don't know what they are either. I'm hopeless with bird identification.

I think this little guy peeking at us is a juvenile great blue heron.

The sun started to peek out at us here.

Salt marsh

Honey was enjoying her walk immensely. We're so pleased that she is fitting right into the family.

At this point it had started to sprinkle again, after we had enjoyed our lunch at the screened gazebo in the preserve. We continued on searching for caches. There was a second one here at Robinson Preserve, then we moved down the road to a different preserve, Riverview Point Preserve. This is where I took the picture of Honey. This cache involved two different set of co-ordinates, where we found clues for the second cache site at the first site. This cache was about the prescribed burns that are done down here in Florida, and how it revitalizes growth in the habitat. A side bar here, in this same area is DeSoto National Memorial. I did not know about this park, and did not have my National Parks Passport book with me to collect a stamp; so, we will have to return one day :-)!

The next two stops were in preserves that are currently being restored, so you can't actually go into the preserves. The caches are hidden outside by the entrance however, and it was nice to see active evidence of the county working so hard to preserve it's natural areas.

The next cache on the list was on Anna Maria Island. It was getting pretty cool and drizzly at this point, but we persevered on with our quest. If you've never been over to Anna Maria Island, be warned of lots of traffic and little tiny streets! It was one of those areas that was making my head spin in all directions, just like our drive through Pigeon Forge Tennessee did :-). Lots of touristy souvenir shops, beachy restaurants, beach motels and tons of beach house rentals. It was SO touristy it was cute, if you know what I mean. We didn't stop anywhere except to collect the cache, as there simply wasn't anywhere we COULD stop with the dually!

Once we successfully traversed the island and its incredible traffic, we headed for our last catch of the day before heading back to the campground. This was sadly an unsuccessful find for us, as we couldn't find the catch anywhere. This left us with no margin of error for the second day of caching; we would have to find all six of the  remaining caches in order to claim our reward. And as this post is a bit long at this point, I'll leave the second day of our Taking Flight Geotour for another day!