Warning…this one is really picture intensive…
After my last post Connie got back from choir practice just in time for dinner and the campfire…Neil made mini sliders with 2 different kinds of burgers, 2 bun types, with and without cheese, and with and without sauce. He made a total of about 3 dozen of them and when he got to the potluck people asked him which ones were which. He answered that you had to pick your burger and take your chances as he didn’t mark any of them.
We all ate until we were full and still had leftovers…then we sat by the campfire and talked with friends, discussed more aspects of boon docking, gave some rig tours of our New Horizons, and just generally hung around. Looking around we saw that it was a 3 planet night…we could see Venus and Mars in the west and Jupiter in the east. Uranus was also above the horizon above Mars according to our star app…but with the light pollution from Punta Gorda to the west and the low magnitude of Uranus it just was not visible. Still seeing other planets showed everyone where the ecliptic (the plane that all of the planets except Pluto the wannabe planet are in) was so it was pretty cool.
The weather was pretty nice…not too cool…at least on Tuesday night; it got way, way cooler later in the week. By Thursday and Friday nights the attendance at the campfire waned pretty quickly once the sun went down and people were finished eating as it was right chilly. In fact it was down into the 30’s by early Saturday morning so at the last campfire Friday night we were all huddled pretty close to the 3 fire pits we had going.
Here’s a shot of our campfire Tuesday evening taken a bit before sunset.
Wednesday morning we had scheduled a trip over to Myakka State Park for some birding with our friends Lynn and Ed…who also invited Howard to go along with us. Linda was still in her jammies according to Howard and wasn’t interested in getting up at what she and Lynn called the ‘crack of dawn’ just to go look at birds. The rest of us thought leaving the park at 0830 was way past the ‘crack of dawn’ and thought that a lot of the really superior bird shots would be harder to get once the sun got higher. By the time we got over to the park and parked at the trailhead it was just about 1000…but although we didn’t see as many birds as we usually do at Myakka it wasn’t the lateness of the hour that was the problem, it was the high water. The river was pretty high which meant that most of the waders were elsewhere where they could get into the water without their head going under.
Connie grabbed this shot out the front window of BAT on the way over and after seeing 3 hawks, 2 Crested Cara Caras, 2 Kingfishers and an American Kestrel on the way over we figured it would be a pretty good day.
Our first captures of the day right at the bridge off the parking lot were a Great Blue Heron, a couple of gators across the way and an Osprey flying by.
After these we headed down the path alongside the river to see what we could scare up. We saw several more gators and then another Great Blue Heron with a huge fish. We watched it struggle for 5 or 10 minutes and it never was actually to get it swallowed down…although it looked like it would eventually figure it out.
Continuing on down the river we spotted a Snowy Egret…Neil thinks this is one of the most striking waders down here in Florida…particularly in the breeding season when the snowy gossamer like breeding plumage that gives the bird it’s name is fully present. It spooked just before Neil clicked the shutter but he did get a very nice flight sequence of it from takeoff to landing across the river…showing it’s bright yellow feet that it shuffles through the mud to stir up fish and other stuff to eat.
We spotted another couple of adult gators along the way and a cormorant swimming. The latter is also known as a snake bird locally because it swims with it’s body underwater and just the head and neck protruding…it looks a lot like a miniature version of a lot of the supposed pictures you’ve seen of Nessie the Loch Ness Monster.
Next up was a Kingfisher across the river…it’s a not a very clear shot because it was a long way over there and it’s a small bird…but you so rarely see them perched out in the sunlight and they tend to not perch very long so getting any picture of one is a worthwhile get.
Continuing on we came across a Black Crowned Night Heron and an American Phoebe…Howard spotted the latter off in the meadow away from the river.
By this time it was after 1100 and we had to head back…we were about at the limit of our hiking anyway due to the high water and Howard had to get back for the afternoon golf match so we headed back towards the car. On the way we spotted the same Snowy Egret (we think) as before on the little point of land it was on before…but conveniently the point was now out in the sun so we got another nice couple of shots. Notice the breeding plumage coming in…this is probably a male based on that…and also the rather unique way it’s fishing due to the high water. Typically Snowy’s stand in the water and shuffle their bright feet to stir up fish…this one is standing on the bank due to the water depth and dipping for fish as they pass…this is very common hunting behavior for other waders but is atypical for the Snowy. I like the shot of it reaching out…it’s actually coming back from an strike attempt on a fish (it missed) and you can see the water splash from the strike.
On the way back we spotted another gator…this one is clearly a female since it has 3 babies sitting on it’s back. The only other way to tell the sex of a gator is to get several strong friends to help you roll it over and hold it down and then examine the vent area to see if it has male or female organs.
Another Great Blue Heron flying by, a Palm Warbler, a view through the Spanish Moss and this little beetle finished up our walk back to the car.
We lazed around for the afternoon and then grilled some chicken for dinner.
Thursday was kayaking day…about 20 couples headed off for an 1100 launch for what was billed as an easy paddle. It was easy in that there wasn’t much paddling as it was 9 miles all downriver on the Peace River…but as with the Myakka River yesterday the water level was way up out of it’s banks. We saw many large trees that were 60-80 feet from the bank. As a result…there wasn’t much wildlife to see and the current ran between 3 and 5 knots all the way so our planned 4 hour paddle turned into just about 3 hours due to the speed. Of the 20 or so couples 11 rented and most of those were rookies and the other 10 had their own inflatable or hard sided kayaks. We did get some pictures of the group and our friends on the river.
Our friends Ed and Lynn…this was before what will forevermore be known as the Kayak Incident.
Connie assuming the Linda paddling position…legs up and paddle not in the water.
A shot of us taken by our friend Paul.
And returning the favor a shot of Paul and his bride.
And finally a shot of our hosts for the week Howard and Linda. They have 3 inflatables…one like we do, the smaller and better tracking FastTrack, and the larger catamaran like model with high seats and a trolling motor so you can fish from it.
Our friends Greg and Cori have what we think will be our next boat. It’s another inflatable but it’s from Hobie (makers of the Hobie Cat sailboat) but has a real rudder with a steering tiller on the side and most importantly incorporates the Hobie bicycle pedal fin propulsion system. This is a pair of pedals for each passenger that connect to a pair of what look like dolphin fins underneath. The pedals swish them back and forth so you don’t have to paddle so much and the fins fold up against the hull when you’re in shallow water for each passage of obstacles. It’s a lot more expensive than the Sea Eagle models…but it looks to be built better and has the great advantages of better tracking and propulsion via feet.
So…the Kayak Incident. At almost the end of the paddle there was one final right hand bend and a passage underneath a railroad trestle before the landing…with the trestle piers being just about 5 feet apart all the way across the river. Normally you don’t get very much backwash as you round a bend and it’s just a matter of cutting close to the inside apex of the bend then straightening out. Today…what with the high water and current…that wouldn’t work. On every bend you had to cut the apex then paddle like mad a couple dozen strokes to get you past the eddies formed by the downstream current bouncing off the far bank around the bend. The problem with this bend was that the bridge was not far enough around the bend to be out of the backwash so the boat was getting pushed sideways towards the outside bank still (another 50 feet or so downstream and it would have been no problem as the backwash eddies would be behind the boat. For experienced paddlers it was still a pretty simple maneuver; simply pick an opening and get into the center of it then crab the boat sideways to hold position in the center of the narrow opening. Right before the bridge the backwash eddy died out so it was a simple matter of the rear paddler swinging the boat perpendicular to the bridge to pass through. The only problem is that this whole line up/crab/wait until the right moment/swing straight thing happens in about 15 seconds.
Lynn and Ed were one of our rookie paddlers…never been in a kayak before so didn’t know all of the stuff in the above paragraph. In addition; they ended up paddling at cross purposes to each other so the boat actually swung parallel to the bridge and both ends came up against the pilings.
Did I mention that neither were wearing the life jackets issued by the kayak renters. So…the boat rolled over…they went into the drink and came up. Ed couldn’t see Lynn because she came up under the kayak, figured that was a bad idea and pushed down and off, through the bridge then surfaced downstream. Ed was upstream and couldn’t find her initially. Luckily there were a bunch of experienced folks around them to pull them out, pick up the kayak and backpack and all got to the landing another hundred yards downstream just fine. The only damage was to Lynn’s phone which died from the submersion.
Neil told them yesterday morning that even though they went into the drink it was still better than a day in the office and they both agreed…and have not sworn off paddling. They’re still considering whether they want to invest in a kayak or not.
We all headed home then ate leftovers for dinner.
Friday was another couple of seminars, do nothing, hang around, kinda day except for the appetizer potluck in the evening. Neil made chili and bean dip with some tortilla chips and soft tortillas to go along with it and (again) we all ate too much then sat around the campfire huddling up.
We did learn to make something called Fire Pies. They’re essentially bread buttered on the outside, filled with something good and toasted over the fire. We made Cream Cheese and Apple Pie filling and Cream Cheese and Blueberry Pie filling ones but they’re supposed to be equally as good making Tuna Melts or Patty Melts or Pizza Melts out of them. Here are a couple of shots Connie got of the iron you make them in, the filling and construction, and sticking it into the fire to get hot and toasty and yummy.
We’re gonna have to get us a couple of those I think.
We gave up and went in about 2030 or so as it was getting pretty cold…watched TV and then curled up under our down comforter while it got down to 39 degrees Friday night. Saturday morning we got up, packed and hitched and hit the road after saying our ‘see ya laters’ to all of our friends…we’ll see Howard and Linda again at the Reunion Rally in Marion NC in May but won’t likely see Lynn and Ed until the fall as it looks like our paths will sorta cross in September or so.
We got back home around 1300 and got backed in and the power hooked up. After lunch we finished all the setup and dumped/flushed our waste tanks then had leftover chicken for dinner followed by a Valentines Day Dessert thing up at the clubhouse. It was pretty cool last night as well so again we came home early as we were pretty tired by the week.
Connie has some doctors appointments this week but other than that we have nothing really planned except a trip to Sarasota for a concert on Friday evening.