Cheap Thrills

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“That man is rich whose pleasures are the cheapest”

Henry David Thoreau wrote the above quote 158 years ago and it is as true today as it was then. And there is nothing cheaper than the wonders of nature that you can enjoy by biking through a park, hiking in a forest, or kayaking on a river. It doesn’t require a wilderness trek—Thoreau himself in his famous cabin on Walden Pond was only a couple of miles from Concord.

Nature is also one of our greatest pleasures—we enjoy hiking, biking, and kayaking but, at the end of the day, we want to have indoor plumbing, food in the refrigerator, and air conditioning or heating, as required. We love nature, but we also have bad backs and appreciate the benefits of a comfortable bed.

By the way, a corollary of Thoreau’s quote is “That man whose pleasures are the cheapest can retire the earliest”.

As we mentioned in last week’s blog, we started this week at Bastrop State Park that was almost totally destroyed by fire in 2011. This week we camped at Nails Creek State Park on Lake Somerville, a man-made reservoir east of Austin. Unfortunately, the reservoir was recently drained and the level was still very low—so much for waterfront camping. The good news was that there was almost nobody at the park during the week with only one or two other campers in the 126-campsite park each night. As a result, we had the park mostly to ourselves.

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We have been impressed with the wildflowers of Texas that are everywhere. It is difficult to capture their beauty in a photograph but we have included some that do a pretty good job.

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Patty hiking next to the fields of wildflowers

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Does it look like a pond in front of the trees? It is actually a field of Texas Bluebonnets.

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Texas wildflowers—part 1

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Texas wildflowers—part 2

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A few women bikers from Houston were kind enough to take our photo.

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A view from our campsite just before sunrise

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Early morning mist over the lake

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The boat ramp was closed due to low level but we kayakers could still launch our boats. Here Patty approaches a group of white pelicans.

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There were a lot of white pelicans, which are much prettier than the brown pelicans we typically see in Florida. We tried to avoid disturbing them.

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We did disturb a few pelicans.

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We also went on an 11-mile mountain bike ride, again surrounded by wildflowers.

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Patty takes a break from biking.

By the weekend, the city-dwellers had swarmed to the park and filled up the campgrounds so, like the early settlers of the West, it was time for us to move on.

[Editor’s note: We often include some simple collages in our blog like the flower collages above. To do this we use free software on picmonkey.com, which we recommend.]

 

Deep in the Heart of Texas

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We have realized several things during our travels in Texas:

  • Texas is a big state with wide open spaces. You realize its size immediately when you drive into the state from Louisiana on I-10 and there is a sign for El Paso at the other end of the state—859 miles away.
  • Texas winds blow. We have avoided putting up the awning on our Airstream because it could be damaged by the winds, and we were almost blown off of Enchanted Rock. The winds apparently start out in the western plains of Texas and there is not much to stop them as they sweep across the state.
  • The Texas sun is hot. We are not sure why but the Texas sun on a clear day is almost blinding and really beats down on you—and this is spring. We now understand why wide-brimmed hats are a necessity out here

This week we spent more time in the Hill Country, the heart of the state. We started the week at Pedernales Falls State Park.

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A view of the Pedernales “Falls”—during dry conditions, the falls are a series of pools connected by small falls.

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Patty and other visitors admire the Pedernales. The park no longer allows swimming in this area because the river is subject to flash flooding—a sign indicates the river could reach flood conditions in as little as five minutes. We were curious to see what the falls looked like when it rains so we found the following photo on the Internet.

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This view of the falls includes those areas shown in the first two photos. Flash flooding is apparently common in the hill country with warning signs at many of the road bridges.

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The river has carved out channels like this through the limestone.

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Water rushing downstream

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Local flora and fauna

The next park we visited was Inks Lake State Park which is on a man-made reservoir on the Colorado River (the Texas Colorado River, not the big one through the Grand Canyon). It is one of those relatively remote parks that can be a logistical challenge—we have to ask ourselves questions like: “Do we have enough meals for dinner for several days” and, more importantly, “Do we have enough milk for both our cereal at breakfast and White Russians at happy hour?”

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Patty kayaking on Inks Lake in an area known as the Devil’s Waterhole

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No room on the rocks—it looks like the Jersey Shore on 4th of July weekend.

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A mallard couple in Devil’s Waterhole

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Our camp site where we could launch our kayaks and also watch the sunset—it doesn’t get much better than this.

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Patty hiking above Devil’s Waterhole

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These rock outcroppings are composed of a granite-like rock called gneiss (pronounced “nice”).

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Water falls over the gneiss

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Only the fourth snake we have seen on our trip—we’re not sure what type this little guy is but we didn’t stay around to meet his parents.

From Inks Lake we visited nearby Longhorn Cavern State Park. The cavern is an interesting place that was used in the 1800’s by Native Americans and outlaws. It was also a speakeasy during Prohibition selling illegal booze along with live music and dancing.

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Patty in Longhorn Cavern—this room is the inside of a huge geode with calcite crystals covering the walls.

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Calcite crystals on the cavern wall

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Flowers near Longhorn Cavern—on the left is a yucca plant.

We ended the week at Bastrop State Park. Bastrop is located southeast of Austin and is known as the “most historic small town in Texas”. We’re not sure how they make that claim—maybe because parts of the movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre were filmed there—but Bastrop does have a quaint historic downtown area that is worth visiting.

The state park is located in the Lost Pines Forest, a unique isolated area of tall Loblolly Pines. As you enter the park there is a sign that says “Watch for Falling Trees”. We thought the sign was somewhat silly—until we got to our campsite.

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The view from our campsite—we learned that the Bastrop area was the site of the most destructive wildfire in Texas history in 2011. Over 34,000 acres were burned including 98% of the park. They have replanted about 250,000 trees and plan to replant a total of two million trees. The forest should be back to its original state in 50 to 80 years. On a positive note, the campground rest rooms also burned down and a new rest room recently opened—the nicest facility we have ever seen.

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The week ended on a sad note in a bar in Bastrop. The only ones watching the game were us and another couple that was waiting to root for Wisconsin. However, it was a great season and we enjoyed watching this team all year, especially the four seniors who will all graduate in a few weeks. That includes Patric Young (above), a three-time SEC scholar-athlete of the year. We wish them all best of luck and the following advice courtesy of Henry David Thoreau:

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”

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Enchanted Rock 048 [Editor’s note: The contest to guess the completion date of our Asheville house is now closed. Whatever happened to American optimism? Even Ed, the eternal pessimist, thinks we will be in our house by the end of August but most of the contest entries predict a fall completion--four people picked November dates. Because we can’t guarantee that we will survive that long in our Airstream, please note that the contest will be void if we never make it to Asheville.]  

Last week we started our Spring swing through Texas, beginning in Austin. Austin is a great little city—the state capitol, home of the University of Texas, and one of the live music centers of the U.S. with an eclectic mixture of restaurants, bars and night clubs. One of Austin’s slogans is “Keep Austin Weird” and, as far as we can tell, they have been very successful.

We visited our friends, Tom and Judy, who we know from our three years living in Puerto Rico. We had a great dinner (we owe them one in Asheville) and enjoyed catching up. We all agreed that we won’t allow another 14 years to go by before we get together again.

We also visited the LBJ presidential library which was both interesting and entertaining. (For our younger readers, LBJ stands for Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th president of the U.S.) While LBJ usually brings back memories of the Vietnam War and a turbulent time in our country, there was much more to his presidency and he is one of the more interesting political figures in our history.

[Editor’s notes: For “Breaking Bad” fans, Bryan Cranston is now starring as LBJ in a new play on Broadway. For history buffs, Ed recommends the four LBJ biographies by Robert Caro.]

We previously mentioned that our kayaks have been on the roof of our car since last June. This is not quite true—we sometimes remove our kayaks when we visit cities because: 1) kayaking is popular in the big city and someone may decide they like our kayaks too much, and 2) most parking garages do not accommodate cars with kayaks. In Austin, we decided to leave our kayaks at our campsite but not our kayak racks with the following consequences.

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Left: We removed our kayaks but left the racks that stick up about a foot above our car roof.

Middle: The entrance to the parking garage indicated 8’-2” clearance—no problem so we pulled in.

Right: After driving into the garage, we found another barrier with only 6’-11” clearance—a problem. Ed had to jump out of the car and remove the racks to avoid getting stuck in the garage. Shouldn’t they warn you that the clearance will be less before you get into the garage?

Here are some additional photos of our visit to Austin.

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The Texas State Capitol—as Texans like to point out, it is taller than the U.S. Capitol.

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The Capitol rotunda of the Lone Star State includes portraits and statues of many of Texas’s heroes, including Sam Houston. Houston is the only person to be the Governor of two states, Tennessee and Texas, and he was also a U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator and the President of the Republic of Texas. Along the way he was the commander of the ragtag Texas Army that defeated Santa Anna and won independence for Texas from Mexico. On the other hand, he was allegedly an alcoholic (he lived with the Cherokee Indians for some time and was known by them as the “big drunk”) and was convicted of beating a Congressman with his hickory cane on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. (and you thought current politics were rough).

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There are many monuments and statues on the Texas Capitol grounds but Ed could not pass up taking a photo of this one. It is a plaque commemorating a monument that was constructed in 1976 and removed in 1996. If this plaque has to be removed in the future will they install a new plaque commemorating the old plaque that commemorated the monument? Where does this madness end?

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Patty next to the Stevie Ray Vaughn memorial across the Colorado River from Austin—we are fans of blues music (probably the number one choice for those of us living in a trailer) and he was one of the greatest blues guitarists.

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We wanted to hear some live blues so we went to the Continental Club where Stevie Ray Vaughn played many times. Ed got into the spirit by having a couple of Lone Stars (embarrassingly, Patty drank Blue Moon). We saw the Peterson Brothers from Bastrop, TX, ages seventeen and fifteen, who were great. We wish them luck but it is tough making a living playing the blues.

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Lower McKinney Falls on Onion Creek—we stayed at McKinney Falls State Park, south of Austin. Central Texas has been experiencing a drought so the falls were not very impressive but we understand that, after it rains, people have been swept down the river due to flash flooding.

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Wildflowers in McKinney Falls State Park—in the bottom left photo are Texas Bluebonnets, the state flower. They are everywhere in Texas.

Leaving Austin, we headed west to Pedernales Falls State Park and entered the hill country of central Texas. Once you enter the hill country, it is clear that you are now in the West with scenic vistas that remind you of every Western movie you have ever seen.

We visited the LBJ ranch near Johnson City, a national historic site, which is definitely worth a visit. However, our primary reason for visiting this part of Texas was to attend the wedding of the son of our Gainesville friends, Rick and Kristin, in Fredericksburg, TX. The rehearsal dinner and wedding were both great, but the most exciting aspect of the weekend was two nights in a Holiday Inn Express. Living in a trailer for nine months definitely affects your perspective—a room four times the size of our Airstream, two queen-size beds, and a washer and dryer right down the hall, made us feel like millionaires. Congratulations to the newlyweds, Henry and Jillie, and best of luck in the future.

Have you ever wondered why Mexican and Tex-Mex bands play waltzes and polkas and, inevitably, include an accordion player? It is because many Germans immigrated to south central Texas and Mexico in the 1800’s and brought their music with them. Fredericksburg is one those original German settlements and it is a popular tourist area, surrounded by wineries. Here are some photos from our visit.

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A statue in Fredericksburg commemorating the treaty between the original German settlers and the Comanche Nation–it is the only known peace treaty with Native Americans in U.S. history thought never to have been broken.

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Enchanted Rock north of Fredericksburg—it’s a large outcropping of red granite. Where else in this blog have you seen red granite? If you answered the Capitol building, you are correct.

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Turkey Peak as seen from Enchanted Rock

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View of Little Rock from Enchanted Rock—note the slabs of rock that have slid down the mountain, exposing the granite beneath.

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View from the top of Enchanted Rock—this week’s tribute by Ed to Ansel Adams.

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Patty begins her descent.

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Ed among the rocks

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Patty posting her photos of Enchanted Rock on Facebook—you can’t have a wilderness adventure without letting everybody else know about it.

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Patty hiking among the Bluebonnets

“None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.” –Henry David Thoreau

 

Go West Young Man

 

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Crossing the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge

[Editors’s Note: In last week’s blog we announced a contest to guess the construction completion date of our house in Asheville, NC.  We later realized that the contest can’t go on indefinitely so we will not accept any more entries after March 30.  The easiest way to enter is by commenting on our blog or by e-mailing us.]

It’s been a hectic week.  Five days ago we were in southern Georgia at Stephen Foster State Park in Okefenokee Swamp.  Over one thousand miles later, we arrived yesterday at McKinney Falls State Park just south of Austin, Texas.

Texas was not part of our original trip itinerary but we added it for several reasons:

  • We were invited to the wedding of our friends’ son in Fredericksburg, Texas.
  • We discovered that some friends from Puerto Rico are now living in Austin.
  • With the delay in our house construction, we had to go somewhere.

Stephen Foster State Park is named after the American songwriter who wrote “Oh! Susanna” and “Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair”.  When he was writing “Old Folks at Home”, Foster looked on a map for a southern river to include in the first line: “Way down upon the _____ river”.  He considered the Yazoo River in Mississippi and the Pee Dee in South Carolina but he chose the Suwannee River, which begins in Okefenokee Swamp and flows through northern Florida to the Gulf of Mexico.  However, Foster changed Suwannee to Swanee so it would fit his music.

In addition to Stephen Foster State Park, we stopped at Blackwater River State Park near Pensacola, FL and Sam Houston Jones State Park near Lake Charles, LA on the way to Texas.  Much of the week we were on the road but here are some photos from our stops along the way.

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It was rainy and cold in Okefenokee Swamp but it really is a beautiful place to visit.  This photo is from the last time we were there in 2008.

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Another view of the swamp from 2008

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Some wildlife from our recent visit to Okefenokee—on the left, a frog that was in Ed’s shower with him and, on the right, a spider that ran across the floor as he got out of the shower.

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The first day of spring at Blackwater River State Park—we are looking forward to many more spring wildflowers.

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The Blackwater River was flooding while we were there.  It is a popular river for kayaking and tubing.

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A swamp at Sam Houston Jones State Park—we may be biased but the Florida swamps we have visited were much prettier.

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Another spring wildflower

We end this blog with an observation from our nine months on the road—take a look at the following photo of the back of our Airstream.

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Can you tell the number of our license plate or even what state we are from?  We have  driven through 17 states on our trip and have never been stopped by the police for any reason.  Now we’re not condoning any illegal activity but if you do want to avoid having your license plate identified, put a bike rack and bikes on the back of your vehicle. Towing an Airstream is not necessary but it would give you a convenient place to hold up if you are on the run.

And the Winner Is…

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We have been on the road now for nine months.  When we started this trip we thought we might be moving into our new house in Asheville, NC by next month—it ain’t gonna happen.  Here’s a photo of our house as of March 7th.

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We asked our builder this week for an estimated completion date and he sent us this email message: “Estimated 6 months from February but there were some weather delays during the foundation construction.”  Keep in mind that we were originally told that they would start construction of our house in the fall and it would take about six months.

Now, we are enjoying our trip (and our marriage is surviving) but five or six more months living in an 8-foot by 21-foot tin can may be a challenge.  However, rather than dwelling on the negative, we are making this delay a positive (for you) by announcing a contest.  Guess the date our house will be completed and the person closest to the date will win dinner for two in Asheville.  We will accompany you and your companion to the Nine Mile restaurant and we will pick up the check.  It is one of Asheville’s top-rated restaurants–here’s their web site: http://ninemileasheville.com

This contest is open to all readers of our blog, whether you are a relative, friend or complete stranger.  Obviously, you will have to travel to Asheville to receive your prize but people are constantly telling us what a great place it is to visit (we hope to discover this ourselves some day).

This week we completed our winter swing through Florida that started in December.  We had to modify our itinerary to make another trip to Gainesville, primarily for doctor’s appointments. Life is pretty simple when we are on the road and our only difficult daily decision is whether to kayak, bike, or hike.  Many days we don’t even know what the date is.  However, meeting with your cardiologist quickly brings you back to reality.  The good news is that our health issues are being successfully addressed and these occasional doses of reality only reaffirm our desire to lead full and enjoyable lives.

After Gainesville we camped at Fort Clinch State Park in Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, the northernmost barrier island on the Atlantic coast of Florida. When we were deciding where to live after retirement, Fernandina Beach was one place we seriously considered until Ed decided he couldn’t take the prolonged summer heat of Florida any longer.  It’s still a great area to visit and Fort Clinch is a great park with the fort, beach, kayaking, and biking.  Here are some photos from the  three days so we were there.

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Patty walking on the beach—it was  cool when we arrived as the northeast U.S. got another cold winter blast.  We complained but it was in the 60’s during the day.

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Driftwood on the beach—across the inlet is Cumberland Island National Seashore.  We once kayaked from Fernandina Beach to Cumberland Island but, after almost being swept out to sea by the outgoing tide, Patty refuses to go again.

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Tidal pools on the beach

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View of a tidal pool

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There was no one around to photograph us so we took this “shadow selfie”.

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Ed flying one of his stunt kites on the beach—when our kids were young they would chase the tail of this kite along the beach.  Now he’s just a strange old man who likes to fly kites.

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When Patty took over the kite flying, some beachgoers scrambled for safety.

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Fort Clinch—another of the many forts built on the east coast in the 1800’s that were quickly obsolescent as artillery technology improved.

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Fort Clinch never participated in a battle so these big guns were never fired.

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The weekend we were at Fort Clinch they had Confederate “reenactors” manning the fort.  We talked to one soldier who participates in reenactments of the Revolutionary War, Seminole Wars, and the Civil War.

Ed got up early one morning to take photographs of the sunrise.  He would like to thank the inventor of Daylight Savings Time who made the sunrise one hour later, and also the readers of our blog for whom Ed took the photographs. Because of them, Ed enjoyed a beautiful sunrise.

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When Ed saw these cloud formations he jumped out of bed, knowing that the sunrise would be a pretty one.

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The water on the beach reflects the sky.

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The sun makes its appearance.

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Someone else enjoying the sunrise

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Is there any man-made work of art more beautiful than this?

Last week’s blog included a photo of an unidentified object and we asked our readers to identify it and its purpose.  Here is the photo and another close-up photo of the object.

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Congratulations to Clay Mottley who correctly identified the object as a blimp used to prevent drug trafficking.  The blimp, known locally as “Fat Albert”, is tethered to the ground and contains radar that allows it to detect low-flying aircraft.

Have Kayaks, Will Travel

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Remember those yellow balls that people put on their car radio antennas (when cars had antennas) so they could find their cars in the parking lot? Because cars no longer have antennas we have a new, improved approach—put two kayaks on top of your car, preferably different colors.  We have had two kayaks, one green and one orange, on top of our car since last June and we have had no problem finding it anywhere.  This approach has the added benefit that you are always ready to kayak at a moment’s notice when you pass an attractive body of water.

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Having kayaks on top of your car is also a good conversation starter—we receive a lot of compliments.  For the record, our kayaks are manufactured by Hurricane in North Carolina. We like them because they are lightweight, fast, and they do look very nice.  [Editor’s Note: If any Hurricane representatives read this, we would be glad to promote their kayaks in our blogs for a nominal fee.]

This week we stayed at Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys, about 37 miles from Key West.  In our first twenty years of living in Florida, we visited the Keys once, and only Key West.  In the last five years we have stayed at one of the four state parks in the Keys every year and have enjoyed each visit.  The Keys have their negatives—the traffic, noise, and tourist traps of Route 1 can be difficult to avoid—but the unbelievable beauty of the waters surrounding the Keys make it all worthwhile.

Needless to say, our visit to the Keys included a lot of kayaking but we also biked and relaxed on the beach.  Here are some photos of our week.

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The Florida Keys—water, sky, and a little bit of land.  There are over 100 keys which are the remnants of coral reefs that were exposed as the seas receded.

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We have met our friends from New York State, Dave and Donna, in the Keys for the last several years.  Here are Dave and Ed in the clear waters off of Bahia Honda.  It’s a good sign when you can see the shadow of your kayak on the bottom.

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Dave in front of the Old Bahia Honda Bridge—the bridge was built for the Overseas Railway to Key West that was completed in 1912 and was abandoned in 1935 after a hurricane destroyed much of the railway.  This bridge and others were later used for the original Route 1 to Key West.

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Approaching the beaches of Bahia Honda—really nice beaches are rare in the Keys but Bahia Honda has beautiful white sand beaches.

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A break from kayaking–biking on Bahia honda

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Dave and Patty leaving Cudjoe Key and heading towards Tarpon Belly Keys

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Patty approaching Tarpon Belly Keys

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We are greeted by campers on Tarpon Belly Keys.  The guy on the old bridge works in Alaska during the summer and is spending this winter in the Keys.  Apparently there was a shrimp farm on these keys at one time.

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Patty stretches and contemplates the next leg of our trip.

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Approaching Raccoon Key—this key was used to raise rhesus monkeys for research after India banned exporting them to the U.S.  We heard there were still monkeys on the key but we did not see any.

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Lunch break—there are a lot of shallow areas with sandy bottoms in the keys that make it easy to stop for a break.

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Another break—Patty wants one every hour.

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Heading back to Cudjoe Key

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View of Bahia Honda State Park

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Ocean-front camp sites at Bahia Honda—it is difficult to get camping reservations for the winter months in many Florida state parks but this is probably the most difficult.  You can make on-line reservations 11 months in advance at 8:00 am.  If you try to make a reservation at 8:00 plus one second you have almost no chance of getting a camp site.  We and our friends have never gotten one of these ocean-front sites—we typically end up close to the trash dumpsters.

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Heading out to the Old Bahia Honda Bridge

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In terms of aquatic wildlife photos, this is all we got—on the left, Patty points at rays and on the right she points at a sea turtle.  We also saw several sharks but it’s hard to get good photos of aquatic animals.

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We kayaked along Big Pine Key which includes part of the National Key Dear Refuge.  An endangered animal, the current population is estimated at 600 to 750.

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Taking (another) break on Bahia Honda

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It’s not all paradise here in the Keys—on the left, the owners of this sailboat obviously did not enjoy their visit.  On the right, for some reason, no-see-ums (also known as sandflies or midges) were plentiful this year.  One of us (pictured here) is sensitive to bug bites—you can’t see ‘em but you can definitely feel ‘em.

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Several views of sunset from Bahia Honda—note the object in the center of the bottom right photo.  The first person who identifies the object and its purpose will receive the honor of being acknowledged in our next blog.

The Glades

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The Everglades is not a swamp—it is a freshwater marsh.  It is one of the most unique wetlands in the world, a 50-mile-wide “river of grass” that flows from Lake Okeechobee to the southern tip of Florida.  Everglades National Park was created in 1947 to protect a portion of the Glades, however, continued development, diversion of water for agriculture and human use, and water pollution threaten its existence.   The State of Florida and federal government plan to spend about 10 billion dollars over the next 30 years to restore and maintain the remaining portions of the Everglades, but the future is still uncertain.

Last week we stayed at Midway Campground on the Tamiami Trail, which is located in Big Cypress National Preserve just west of Everglades National Park.  Big Cypress is a swamp—specifically a cypress tree swamp.  So in the future, remember that swamps have trees and marshes have grasses or similar vegetation.

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Our campsite at Midway Campground—a nice little campground except there are no showers.  We felt sorry for the campers in tents.

Both the Everglades and Big Cypress are not easy parks to see and to appreciate.  They are huge with limited access but if you make the effort to get out into the parks, visiting them can be very rewarding.

One of the best ways to visit the Big Cypress National Preserve is by kayak.  The Preserve feeds water to several creeks and rivers that flow into the Everglades to the Gulf of Mexico.  We use our own kayaks but the park also gives tours and private kayak outfitters in Everglades City also give very good guided trips.

We kayaked on Halfway Creek which is a well-marked paddling trail located directly behind the Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center.  Here are some photos.

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Patty on Halfway Creek

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A Quill-leaf growing on a tree along the creek

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Heading into the mangroves—the southern borders of Big Cypress and the Everglades are populated with mangrove trees that are able to live on the brackish water near the coast.  (Wetlands + mangrove trees = mangrove swamp.)

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Patty in a mangrove tunnel—many of the places we kayak in Big Cypress have tunnels
that are so small that we have to break our paddles in two to maneuver through the mangroves.

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Maneuvering in a mangrove tunnel—Ed had Patty go first because she has a rudder so her kayak is more maneuverable.  This worked well until she started running into spider webs and a spider fell into her kayak and climbed up the leg of her shorts.

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Heading back—Patty survived the spider attacks.

One of the best places to see the Everglades is at Shark Valley on the Tamiami Trail.  There is a 15-mile paved trail that you can explore by walking, biking, or by riding a tram.  We biked the trail and were amazed at the variety and the numbers of wildlife.  Here are some photos.

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Patty on the Shark Valley trail

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Another view of Patty on the trail—we visited Clyde Butcher’s photo gallery, who has been called the Ansel Adams of the southeast.  He is known for his beautiful black-and-white photography of Big Cypress and the Everglades—this is Ed’s attempt. You can see Clyde’s photos on his web site:  http://clydebutcher.com/.

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Patty and friend on the trail

Gators Collage

As always, alligators were everywhere.  Note the young alligators in the bottom right photo—Mom seems bored.

Birds1 Collage

We saw almost every type of bird we have seen in the Everglades on this one bike ride.  Starting at lower left and going clockwise: a Little Blue Heron, an Anhinga drying its wings, a Snowy Egret, and an Anhinga who is getting ready to eat a fish it just caught. It swallowed it whole in about one second.

Birds2 Collage

More birds—starting at lower left and going clockwise: a Purple Gallinule, a Great Blue Heron, a Wood Stork, a Black-crowned Night Heron

Flowers Collage

Wildflowers and some pollinators

Some people might question why we are spending so much money to save the Everglades.  We hope the photos in this week’s blog provide a little indication of why this irreplaceable natural resource should be preserved.

[Editor’s Note: For those who would like to learn more about the history of the Everglades and recent restoration efforts, Ed highly recommends “The Swamp” by Michael Grunwald.]