Thursday, March 8, 2012

Ft. Meyers bucket list

Feb. 27-March 7--North Ft. Meyers, Florida
With only about ten days left at this campground, the list of things we still wanted to do was growing instead of waning.  Another visit to Sanibel Island rose to the top. It turned out Mike, BJ, Diane, and Steve were also interested so we took off around ten a.m. (hoping the bridge traffic was not yet bad) and ventured off to Bowman’s Beach on the north end of Sanibel.  The shell collecting was not as good as my first time here, but I managed to add to my jingle and kitten paw collection (pretty easy to do in Sanibel) and found a couple of good conch specimens. (Lest I sound jaded, I am still in awe of the 2-3 foot piles of shells that turn up on these shores.) 

On the way "home" from Sanibel, we stopped at a park none of us had ever seen before, Gulf Waters RV Resort—just on the other side of the bridge to Sanibel. The park was very spacious and nicely laid out with several amenities including a tiki bar by the pool.  The one down side I discovered was their brochure said they limited dogs to 40# and under; don’t know how strict they are about dogs in the 40-50# range. This park was also a mix of owners and renters with prices being a little high (daily rate of $60-$65 during high season) because of its close proximity to the beach.  Good possibility for a short term stay close to the beach.


Throughout the month that we were here we enjoyed many meals made by Mike and BJ and Steve and Diane, and one of the fun things for us northwesterners was eating southern style.  Diane introduced me to my first biscuit and gravy breakfast, white gravy made with sausage over homemade biscuits, that was tastier than I expected.  We went to a well-known restaurant in the area called Farmer's Kitchen and had a lunchtime feast of southern favorites including ham hocks, country fried steak, fried green tomatoes, okra, pickled beets, and dry lima beans. I even made a southern meal of shrimp and grits (a new recipe for me discovered at Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill) which Mike requested an encore of before we left.  I also wanted to have Lois and Mike come to the campground and experience our new lifestyle (far from the Fred Astaire studio). I happened to catch a Rick Bayless, Mexico: One Plate at a Time series that inspired me to make flat iron steak tacos.  Lois and Mike added a fun mix to the group with their local stories (especially Mike’s about the parking lot scene he once experienced at the Farmer’s Market restaurant). We managed to finish the evening around the campfire again, one of the highlights of this campground, as most in the area do not allow open fires. Another fun eating experience was our celebration of Diane's 17th birthday (she was a leap year baby).  We just had to take advantage of her rare birthday, so the six of us went to dinner in at The Captain's Table, located in the Fisherman's Village in Punta Gorda. 

One of the other activities on my Ft. Myers bucket list was to go to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Preserve—about 45 miles from our campground. I saw a documentary on the preserve and read some blog entries that piqued my interest.  Vic was planning a day of washing the motorhome but I talked Mike and BJ (what troopers) into joining me—he even volunteered to drive.  It is about 20 miles east of Naples where there is not much to see, but supposedly it as in internationally famous boardwalk where you are likely to see some rare bird species and typical Florida wildlife such as alligators, snakes, and turtles. The first mile or so of the walk was pretty in terms of looking at flora and fauna, but we saw few birds or other creatures.  A little more than a mile in we came upon a swampy area that had provided quire the natural setting where we saw a humongous alligator, several baby alligators sunning themselves, a turtle, a couple of water moccasins, a few anhingas, sand cranes, snowy egrets, red tailed hawks, a wood stork, and a kite bird. I loved the sanctuary feeling of the place where everyone respected wildlife by whispering and seeming to be more in tune with the balance of nature.  I think that is what made the place feel so special as you could certainly see most of these species in common settings all around Florida.  The only two things I didn’t see here and had hoped to were Roseate Spoonbills and Painted Buntings.  Gotta keep some things left on the list. I was sad Vic did not join us as I wanted him to have a real wildlife experience in South Florida, but he will have to settle for our nightly campfires. (He’s not into snakes and alligators. . . . )
Entry to the two mile Corkscrew boardwalk
Black racer snake

Waer mocassin, a safe distance away

Anhinga drying its wings in tree with turtle below to the right

Sunning baby alligators

Little Blue Heron
Snowy Egret

Red Shouldered Hawk

Snowy Egret in water
My favorite shot of the Snowy Egret

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