Friday, February 15, 2013

Barefoot on the Beach

February 12, 2013
North Fort Myers, Florida
Seminole Campground

Looking at the weather patterns ahead, we decided Tuesday would be a good day to spend at the beach as temperatures were forecast to be in the low 80s with plenty of sunshine. Our beach bum friends, Mike and BJ, are always game for a day at the beach so we all headed out by 8:30 a.m. for Barefoot Beach Preserve County Park in Bonita Springs—about a forty-five minute drive.

Vic and I had been to this park before, but we had our dogs with us and discovered no dogs are allowed so we never went on the beach. We can easily leave our dogs in the motorhome for the day (with a/c when needed) and our friends have even walked the dogs for us, but we have been wanting to try out a doggie daycare place—something we have never done before. Vic researched what kind of places were in the area and discovered a fantastic place nearby called The Dog Resort in Fort Myers.  The Dog Resort is a free range daycare and boarding place where dogs are separated into different play areas by size and temperament. We think it’s good for the dogs to be socialized into the pack occasionally, especially Jetta, our mama dog who sometimes gets protective of her son Rico. Before dogs can go here, they have to pass a free three hour evaluation which we did the week before. You can watch the dogs on TV monitors to see how they are interacting. The cost for two dogs for 1/2 day (6 hours) was $30. We consider it an investment in their training and plan to do this a few more times while we are in this area.

resting dogs

Mike and BJ followed us to the Dog Resort where we dropped off the pooches, loaded into their car, and headed to Bonita Springs. Last year we stayed about one week at the Bonita Lake RV Resort and liked this area very much. One big difference as you head further south on the Gulf Coast seems to be that the affluence increases.  Probably a big generalization on my part, but Bonita Springs is close to Naples which seems to be one of the highest income per capita cities in Florida. Okay, so I had to check it out after typing that last sentence.  At least one source lists the Naples/Marco Island metro area as the second highest income in the United States with Bridgeport/Stamford/Norwalk, Connecticut ranked as first. I bring this up as the road leading into Barefoot Beach confronts you with the disparity between middle and upper class. Do you know anyone who has a vacation home that looks like these?

The two mile drive down a curvy brick road on Barefoot Beach Boulevard is part of a semi-gated community of homes that start at 5 million and up, although there are some cottages and condos that could be yours for around one million. The landscaping upkeep alone on some of these homes would exceed our previous mortgage payments. At the end of the two miles, you reach a gate that requires you to pay an $8.00 entrance fee to the park area, one of the last undeveloped barrier islands on Florida's southwest coast. The contrast from multi-million dollar homes to two miles of a natural preserve shoreline is rather stark. The park was pretty busy already at about 9:30 a.m. but we didn't have any trouble finding a parking place. It is a lovely beach with well-built walkways protecting the sand dunes, sea oats, and a hammock of sable palm, gumbo-limbo and sea grape. This hammock provides nesting sites for the protected gopher tortoise which makes its habitat in this area—probably another reason there are no dogs allowed here.

I took a walk on the boardwalk hoping to see a gopher tortoise shortly after we arrived, but to no avail. It wasn't until we were leaving later in the day that we saw two tortoises heading down the road. The park had posters providing information about the gopher tortoise. They are one of the oldest living species dating back over 60 million years. They are unusual in that they dig burrows that can be up to 40 feet long and 10 feet deep which are not only their homes, but also, when abandoned, serve as homes for all kinds of other species.  They can live up to 60 years if their habitat is stable. The biggest threats to them are habitat loss, logging, and road kill. I once accidentally drove over a large turtle in Michigan; it was a traumatic experience for me as a young driver and one I will never forget.  Sure glad that Florida has made an effort to maintain natural areas like this beach to help protect this endangered species.
When we arrived at the beach, we set up our chairsmand Mike, BJ, and I went off in search of shells. The tide was coming in—not the best time for shelling—and the Gulf was pretty choppy so the waves breaking at the shore made it less than ideal shelling conditions. The beach was also fairly crowded compared to most we have been to and this may account for fewer shells as well. 

After doing a little reading, I grew restless and walked down the beach with my camera in search of some photo opportunities.  I saw a couple pointing inland to an osprey nest that appeared to be occupied.  Just as I focused my camera on the nest, in came mama to the nest, followed by papa. (Just guessing who's who.) Lucky for me.

As I walked down the beach, I could feel my throat grow raspy and my nasal passages burn a little. There was a Red Tide warning sign when we entered the park, but the park ranger said the level was low. I must be pretty sensitive because I definitely could feel  respiratory symptoms.  I don’t think this was related at all but there was also a heavy haze in the distance. I checked on my phone and the humidity was 100%. I am not sure how humidity affects Red Tide; the windy conditions were probably more of a factor. Another effect can be the stench of dead fish washing ashore, but fortunately we saw very few dead fish. The haze produced kind of an eerie image of the when I zoomed in on the Naples shoreline in the distance.

After about three hours on the beach we packed up and headed to one of Mike and BJ’s favorite lunch stops: The Fish House Restaurant on the backwater bay in Bonita Springs, one of three local chains.  We opted to sit outside on their pet friendly deck (something I appreciated even though we were having a dog free day!). The service was excellent and the food very good.  While sitting there, I couldn't help but think about my mom who used to visit this area to see one of her very good friends who owned a restaurant here. Last year, I looked it up and learned the name of the restaurant was the Lucky Landing. It closed years ago. I haven’t been able to find its exact location but it was within a mile or so of where we were eating.  I asked our waitress the history of the Fish House and learned it was never the Lucky Landing. All the employees were too young to know the area back in the 70s and 80s. Time marches on, things change, and new memories are made where old ones once reigned.

We stopped to look at a few campground along the way home: Woodsmoke Camping Resort and Shady Acres RV and Camping Park. I preferred the Woodsmoke park over Shady Acres, but both are just off the very busy 41 highway and not too close to anything other than shopping. Just before 3 p.m., we picked up our pooches who were happy to see us. They gave us a report card for each dog with information on what games or toys they played with and the names of the dogs that were their favorite playmates.  Pretty cute. They definitely had some fun as they were completely exhausted the rest of the day. Even though it wasn't the best shelling and there was a bit of Red Tide in the air, it is always good for the soul to have a day at the beach.

Thanks for traveling along with us.

Morning glory flowers wrapped around the sea grapes at Barefoot Beach


  1. Awesome post. I love the beach and it's been a while since I was there! The turtles are glad for the warning signs.

  2. Great day at the beach ... and looks like a nice place to have an al fresco meal afterwards. We saw gopher tortoise nesting areas marked off at Kingsley Plantation in the JAX area, but no tortoises. Didn't realize they are one of the oldest species.

  3. That is a new item for the checklist-look for turtles:)

    1. Cute. If your checklist is like mine, it keeps growing instead of getting shorter.

  4. Oh sweet. I'm just back from 2 weeks in the Everglades with no internet and find 39 degree lows and 57 degree highs in Vero Beach so I'm thrilled to see folks actually in the water.

    If those are the "summer" homes don't you just wonder what sorts of other homes those folks have. But then I also wonder what they have to do for a living to afford all that.

    Love the tortoise sign!! Love the tortoises. We've seen them but mostly inland in Florida. I have the same problems with red tide. Everyone else around me is fine but if it's anywhere around I start coughing. Glad your day turned out so well and the kids got great report cards!


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