Busy Week

My mom visited me down in Florida this week. We got a chance to spend a lot of time together on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, as well as yesterday. We were outdoors quite a bit and saw some really interesting things. I may post some small pictures later on.

On Friday morning, we went out to Sanibel Island. First we tried to visit the Ding Darling wildlife refuge, but they were closed because it was a federal holiday. I think they may also normally be closed on Fridays anyway, so it was poor planning on my part. However, it turned out pretty well because the Indigo Trail (for hiking/biking) was open. It is a two-mile long trail and it doesn't loop around, so you have to walk two miles out and two miles back. We were well-prepared to be outdoors, with plenty of sunscreen and broad-brimmed straw hats.

About a quarter-mile down the trail, there was a sudden flurry of feathers exploding across the path right in front of us, and a red-shouldered hawk flew past in a blur and lighted atop a nearby palm tree, no more than ten feet away from me. He was a very fierce-looking bird. I snapped several pictures of him with my digital camera, one of which came out so well that I'm currently using it for my desktop wallpaper. At about the half-mile mark, we spotted our first alligator. He was about twenty feet off the path, basking in the sun along the water's edge. He was perhaps five feet long. A couple walking behind us with a baby stroller took one look at Mr. Gator and decided that they weren't going any further. We, however, continued on.

We had been impressed with the small alligator until we saw the larger one at about the one-mile mark. He was perhaps seven or eight feet long, and was sitting at the water's edge facing the path, again about twenty feet or so away. His mouth was gaping wide open, and he showed off an evil-looking set of jagged teeth. My digital camera was very busy as I shot several pictures of him from various angles, including one with full digital zoom in which he took up the full picture frame from elbow to elbow. I sent that pic out to many of my friends, along with one of the red-shouldered hawk.

Further down the path, we saw many bees buzzing around a tree. We figured that their hive was probably within it, and that the tree was probably filled with honey. We decided not to try to find out for sure, though. At the two-mile mark of the trail, there is a small dike road that takes off at a right angle and links up with the road that drivers use to drive through the preserve. There was a wooden pavilion along the water, and we went under its welcome shade and looked around the area. After we'd been there for perhaps ten minutes, all of a sudden a mother raccoon came walking along the water's edge, with four or five baby raccoons trailing along behind her. I snapped several pictures of them, although they moved so quickly that I didn't have the opportunity to zoom in on them.

After we made our way back along the trail, we went out to lunch at the Mucky Duck on Captiva, then went back down to Sanibel to Bowman's Beach for some shelling and a little beach time.

Saturday, we went to Fort Myers Beach to the Sand Sculpting competition. It was really interesting to watch the professional sand sculptors at work. Not only does it require artistic talent, but also an ability to figure out what the sand's qualities are and what they will allow you to do with the sand. We had some lunch, then watched the sand sculptors in action for awhile longer, then made our way back to Fort Myers. We had passed a fruit stand on the trolley ride back from the beach, and watermelon sounded good, so we got a quarter-melon at Winn-Dixie and had some of that when we got back. Then, we went out and played miniature golf. I was extremely rusty, and Mom beat me the first game. I shot something like a 56 on a par 42 course. Bad. Very bad. Not to make excuses, but I made the mistake of dragging my digital camera a long, so I had to juggle a camera, cell phone, putter, ball, scorecard and pencil. I was somewhat distracted and I didn't play well. After the first game, I put the camera back in the car, then we had a rematch. I played much better the second game, shooting a two-over-par 44 the second time around, including THREE holes-in-one. After that, we went to Smoky Bones Barbecue (a sports bar on US 41) for some barbecue. I had the pulled pork while Mom went for some ribs.

Sunday, we went out to Six Mile Cypress Slough and walked the boardwalk through there. We saw some wildlife, including an otter, turtles, some anhingas (long-necked birds whose feathers aren't water resistant, so they stand with their wings extended to dry them out), a little blue heron, more hawks (at a distance), and some strange bird up in a tree that Mom thought was a night heron. I got some nice pictures of the Slough. My favorite was of the light shining through the trees directly onto a strap fern growing on a fallen tree. The light shifted almost as soon as I took the picture, but I managed to capture it at just the right time. After the Slough, my mom was in the mood for seafood. We tried a couple of the local seafood restaurants, but found that they didn't open until 4 p.m. We ended up having lunch at Hops instead.

Mom visited friends up in North Port on Monday and Tuesday, then we got back together yesterday. We had lunch with my ex, who always was on good terms with Mom, and then Mom and I drove down to Naples to visit a couple of her friends from her condo in Michigan. We had a nice visit with them, then I drove Mom to the airport for her flight home.

It was really nice to have Mom down here to visit me.