Saturday, April 7, 2012

March 16, 2012 Spending A Day With My Cousin

The only reason for my visit to Miami was to spend time with my cousin Karen whose big smile is the same as my little brothers' and our grandfather's. My family says if you wanna spend a day with me you'd better be ready to eat, let's see if that's true. Our first stop was at the airport, I had to return my rental car. Our second stop was at a diner for breakfast, some eggs and pancakes. Nothing crazy about a little breakfast. Our third stop was the beach in Fort Lauderdale. Even though Chicago had the mildest winter I've ever lived through, I still wasn't prepared for the beach. It's tough to go from girls wearing jeans & jackets to string bikinis in one day but somehow I managed to adjust. Unfortunately, my white boy skin didn't. Karen said it was time to go when she heard my fat sizzling like bacon on a griddle. That was okay with me because even though the water was warm, there were no waves. But God did smile upon me. Now I know no one will believe this story but I swear it is 100% true. While sitting on the beach near the shoreline, two young women in bikinis too small for them if they were my daughters, luckily they were not, began to take pictures of each other with their cell phones. They took turns posing at the waterline. Then it got better, they started jumping up and down attempting to get a shot of themselves in the air. They had trouble timing it just right because this went on for almost a half hour. I'll admit I couldn't stop watching, but I wouldn't take pictures either...that would make me a pervert...LOL. My cousin did take pictures but hasn't sent them to me yet. I told her I have to keep watching...I don't have dreams this good. Finally I agreed to leave which was a good thing because as I would find out later the entire right side of my body was badly was still worth it. Our fourth stop was a New York style pizza place on the beach...only had one slice, it wasn't as good as I remembered it. We walked along the strip across from the beach. It was spring break so the bars were packed.
 Here's some pictures taken along the beach.

 Menage a Trois Chardonnay...must be a wine for three.

 Karen was trying out a new camera so we both looked like tourists.
Our fifth stop was at Larry Flint's Hustler store...not really we drove by because Karen also has an unfortunate trait she shares with my brother, Jeff. She has no sense of direction...I mean none at all. She headed north from the beach to take me to an old fashion ice cream parlor (big surprise). She had to call her husband Ken in Minnesota to find out it was south of the beach. But we did drive by the Hustler store which made me wonder what kind of low life shops there. Then I thought probably the kind that watch young women jumping in bikinis for half an hour.

 We finally made it to our sixth stop, Jaxson's and just in time. It had been 2 hours since that slice of pizza...I was about to faint from a lack of food.
 Yes, that banana split sundae is as big as my steroid enhanced head. Somehow I ate the whole thing.
Karen, again flashing the big smile, had a sundae on top of a giant Belgium waffle. She didn't finish hers...quitter.
We picked up my Aunt Nora and....stopped for dinner at the Big Easy, our seventh stop. Since New Orleans is my next trip, this was perfect. I had a muffaletta sandwich since it had been only three hours since I ate a half gallon of ice cream. Then we stopped at a bar to see a friend of theirs band. They were a very good blues band and several people in the crowd joined the band to play guitar or harmonica or sing. It was a really good time and after midnight it was officially Saint Patrick's Day. So a toast and a beer was appropriate. That was my day with my cousin. I guess this blog will not repudiate my reputation as a lover of was a fun day anyway.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

March 15, 2012 Everglades National Park

 I drove down to Homestead which is the southern entrance to the Everglades. This entrance sign is the only rock I saw all day. There are definitely no rocks here but there is wildlife and incredible scenery just about everywhere I went today.
 I started at the Anhinga Trail (named for the bird pictured above) at Royal Palm. The guide book says this mostly boardwalk trail over the fresh water marsh known as Taylor Slough is the best place to view wildlife up close. The following pictures where taken over the two hours I spent on this short trail. I could have stayed here all day long. This trail was amazing.
A double crested cormorant
The turkey vultures are everywhere in this area...
...there is a sign in the parking lot that reads "Vultures Can Damage Cars"...
...they have a bin of automobile tarp covers you can place over your car while parked here.
These birds, like most of the wildlife on this trail, couldn't care less about the camera toting humans walking by.
I am always fascinated by nature, especially when it is strange shit that I've never seen before like this tree. I think it is some kind of mangrove tree. Yes this is one tree.
A Great Blue Heron
American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis). The crazy Latin name sounds like what would happen if a squatted over this guy.
FYI - alligators are fresh water, crocodiles are saltwater.
 Green Heron

 An Anhinga drying it's wings. They do not create oil to waterproof their feathers like most water birds do. So after diving, they have to dry their feathers before they are able to fly again. This was a common pose
 A Great Blue Heron warily watching the nearby gators.
 The heron took off as this alligator glided by.
 Then this one glided by...
 ...then the heron came back. This is the dry season in the Everglades and the Taylor Slough is one of a few wet areas all year long so many local residents hang out here.
This cormorant let me get this close up without even flinching.
 The following pictures were all taken on the Anhinga Trail.

 I walked along the Gumbo -Limbo Trail which was also at Royal Palm. As I learned, the tree pictured above is a Gumbo-Limbo tree. FYI - read the info picture below. Nature sure creates some strange things.
 I saw this little guy on the trail and I wasn't even wearing my glasses...OK I'll admit I only saw him because he ran across then stopped long enough for me to get a quick picture.
 Info about the Gumbo-Limbo Tree.
 I saw this Florida Softshell turtle on the side of the road.
 After lunch in Flamingo, the skies began to look threatening. I decided to hike the Snake Bight Trail down to the Florida Bay. As you can see, hiking off trail was nearly impossible.
Once again amazed by nature, some type of cactus growing out of nowhere...
 ...and a plant growing on a host tree can be seen in both photos above.
 Herons at the end of the trail. These shots are looking out at Snake Bight on the Florida Bay.
The storm was rolling in and I could hear the thunder... I took a few pictures ...
 ...and headed back.
 The canopy cover provided by the trees kept me pretty dry so I stopped and tried to photograph butterflies. This is the only shot that came out.
 So I switched to flowers.
 I also had very little luck taking pictures of birds due to the incredible tough vegetation along the canal...I did get this Great Egret.
 The two sides of the trail...the canal side...
 ...and the impenetrable forest side.
Back to the trailhead, slightly wet but glad to be away from all those pesky bugs.
 My next stop was at West Lake. I took these only to show you how thick a mangrove forest can become.
I can't imagine trying to hike through this mess.
 A quick stop at Nine Mile Pond only produced a picture of this white foam along the shoreline. I need to know what causes this...anyone?
 I maybe be enjoying a day in the wilds of a National Park but the real world rears it's ugly head. This was at Ficus Pond, where I watched these anhingas fly across the pond to find twigs for their nests...

 ...if you enlarge this picture, you will see birds nesting in the trees across Ficus Pond.
 Next stop Pa-hay-okee Overlook. You can see the "river of grass" here but the pictures I took weren't very good. I was running out of time. I had to meet my Aunt & cousin for dinner which I desparately needed because all I ate all day was a box of Crunch & Munch with a RC Cola.
 But I had to stop along the road to get this group of various birds eating in a prairie. There are Great Egrets, White Ibis and a Wood Stork in this picture...
 ...add Snowy Egrets in this picture...
 ...and Turkey Vultures in the trees above them...
 ...and storm clouds above all of us...
...I'll end my day in the Everglades with proof that the NPS has a sense of humor.