Ten Thousand Islands NWR Marsh Trail

Thursday October 15th 2020

Today I walked the marsh trail in the Ten Thousand Island National Wildlife Refuge. The high water level was in play once again. The marsh looked more like shallow lakes than a marsh.

The area was interesting. An observation tower in the middle of the marsh affords a great view. If the water level was lower, I’m sure more birds and a few gators would be visible. Today I saw a few ducks a few bigger birds overflying the area and one brave Great Blue Heron walking belly deep through the water. I don’t think Herons swim and I not sure it could take off it had to fly. Eventually, it climbed into a bush to get out of the water. It flew out of the bush a few minutes later.

I might have walked deeper into the marsh on the trail, but the darn flies were a major annoyance. They didn’t bite, but every fly and its siblings had to land on me to verify I wasn’t a food source before continuing on their swarming way. Strangely if I stood still they didn’t bother me. It was only as I walked through there hovering area that they became royal pests.

Tip Toe through the marsh.

When I got back to the state park this afternoon I found many of my neighbors had moved on. The place was emptier than it has been since I arrived on Sunday. I wondered, just for a moment, if I’d missed an evacuation order. A couple of new arrivals came in later in the afternoon, but I imagine a lot more will arrived tomorrow for the weekend.

I didn’t get a chance to visit the alligator in the Backwater River just before sunset tonight. I finished supper and was getting ready to go when a big dark cloud magically developed to the east. A quick check of the weather radar on my phone showed a storm approaching. A very loud and wet storm hovered overhead for about an hour. Consequently, I didn’t get any pictures of the sunset tonight.

Birds and Gators

Wednesday October 14th 2020

Today’s weather was a little more comfortable than the last few because of a nice breeze. The temperature still peaked around ninety with high humidity.

In the winter these cyprus trees are high and dry.
Ibis the flooded grass.

I drove east on the Tamiami trail toward Miami again today. This time, I stopped at several of the roadside pullouts and walked a few of the trails. The high water level made it hard to find a lot of wildlife to view. The alligators don’t have much bank space to take the sun. If they are in the canals and ponds they are at the bottom keeping out of the direct sun. I didn’t see many of the bigger bird species either.

Backwater river and canal at dusk.

Back at the state park this afternoon and evening I had more luck catching sight of animals. The big gator that hangs out around the kayak launch on the Backwater river decided to check me out on the dock while I was waiting for sunset. It came straight across the water toward me. Once it got close enough to realize I was more of a threat than food it veered off the bee line course. I got a couple of good pictures of its size.

High Water

Tuesday October 13th 2020

Today was another nice day in southern Florida. This area got a lot of rain before I got here on Sunday. It is only rained very briefly on Sunday night. For the most part it has been hot and humid, but dry since I got here. The mud around my campsite and the campground portion of the park in general is starting to dry out. I can’t say the same thing about the rest of the area.

Blossom of the day.

Previous visits to this area of Florida have been in the winter dry season. There is always water on both sides of the Tamiami trail as it cuts across the state from Naples to Miami. Today it was much closer to the road surface. In one area to the east of here there were warning signs about water on the road surface. I didn’t find any, but clearly it has been over the road recently. Many of the trails in the parks are closed because of high water.

Today I hiked the nature trail in this park. It is primarily a boardwalk through the mangroves. I was looking forward to the “Observation Platform”. It turned out to be a wide space at the end of the boardwalk with tall mangroves on three sides instead of the two sides on the boardwalk leading to the platform. The whole walk was a let down. I didn’t see any interesting wildlife and the plant life got repetitious fast. The biggest excitement on the trail was avoiding wet ground and navigating around the standing water on the trail in the areas without a boardwalk.

This evening at sunset I returned to the Canoe and Kayak launch area on the Backwater River. The alligator was back. Tonight he was watching a pair of fishermen. Every time they cast the alligator moved closer. Eventually he just went to the bottom and hid. I moved on and took a picture of the sunset over the salt marsh.

Exploring Collier-Seminole State Park

Monday October 12th 2020

Today was focused on getting settled in and exploring the Collier-Seminole State Park. It was a humid day with a high temperature just short of ninety. This is about the same as I was experiencing in the Bradenton area last week, but I think it is near normal here for this time of year. Getting a local perspective on the weather will be difficult. Even though I’m only about five miles from outskirts of the city of Naples, I don’t receive any over the air TV stations. If it wasn’t for satellite TV I would be without entertainment. Cell service is also a little sketchy, but usable.

Royal Palms and the memorial to Barron Gift Collier.

This part of the state park is located near the Royal Palm Hammock along the Backwater river. There are a number of historical displays and memorials in this part of the park. A memorial to Baron Gift Collier and advertising tycoon and land developer that bought over a million acres of land in southwest Florida in the 1920s is located in the park. He donated the land to the county to preserve the royal palms. The state took over the park in 1947. Baron Gift Collier is also responsible for finishing the western portion of the Tamiami trail in the 1920s.

In addition to completing my setup tasks around my site, I took a couple of walks around the campground. The area along the Backwater river has been recently modernized. There is a new seawall along the water with several docks for fishing and to support kayak and cannoning. The area even has a handicap kayak launch. During normal times a concession would be renting kayaks and canoes. I don’t know if it will be open this winter. All of the canoes and kayaks are stacked well away from the water.

Backwater River looks more like a canal through the mangroves to me.

My second walk to the Backwater river was just before sunset. The area was empty and the water was relatively calm. I could here the shark music from Jaws in my head as I watched a log like object moving toward me across the water. It was a good size alligator. The amphibian moved slowly watching the shoreline. When there was activity like a car driving by or a loud human noise it stopped and got lower in the water. Only its head was visible until everything calmed down again. Eventually it reached an area just beside the boat ramp. I think it was waiting for a safe time to climb the boat ramp and cross the parking lot to a marsh area. It probably had to wait until after darkness arrived. My patience was exhausted long before the gator moved. I took several pictures of the gator. I’ve included a few here to provide a little context.

The log like dot just left of center is a slow moving alligator.
Zoomed in view of the alligator crossing the river.
Alligator waiting near the boat ramp.

Travel Day to Collier-Seminole State Park

Sunday October 11th 2020

Today was a travel day. I’m on a Sunday travel schedule which isn’t the best for checking out of state parks. All of the weekend visitors rush to leave at the same time. I was third in line for the dump station. The guy in front on me probably wasn’t going to use his rig for a few weeks. He was trying to be absolutely certain his black tank was empty. He took a hose inside through a window to fill the black tank with water. Once would have been more than enough, but he did it three times. I must have waited half an hour. My next two travel days are also on Sundays. It will be the middle of November before I’m back to traveling on a weekday. Let’s hope I don’t have similar delays departing.

I left Lake Manatee state park a little after noon. Traffic heading south on Interstate 75 through Bradenton and Sarasota was heavy and the construction that started five years ago is still on-going. It’s just at a different intersection. Fort Meyers to the south wasn’t nearly as heavy. I even managed to buy gas without competition for the pump. A few very brief downpours made me thankful that I had installed new wiper blades on the RV.

Site 99 out of 105 at the Collier-Seminole State Park outside Naples Florida.

I arrived at Collier-Seminole State Park on the Tamiami Trail southeast of Naples a little after 3PM. This is my first visit to this state park. The campground is located on man made high ground in the middle of a swamp. The roads are paved and the campsites are hard gravel where you need to park. If you get off the roads or the intended parking area on the site you’ll sink into the grass quickly. There are lots of ruts to prove it. I got backed in and situated without incident. Overall this travel day had far less drama than two weeks ago. I’ll be here for two weeks.

Last Day at Lake Manatee State Park

Saturday October 10th 2020

Today is my last day at Lake Manatee State Park. The two weeks have passed quickly. I wouldn’t mind staying longer, but there is a limit of two weeks at a time. I’ll be back in December. Tomorrow I’m moving about 150 miles south to another state park for the next two weeks.

My speculation about the decorated campsite down the road being for a wedding proved true today. On my morning walk through the day use area I spotted a crew setting up for a wedding. There were fifty or so white chairs lined up under the trees. The tables in the pavilion were covered in white table cloths and additional tables were lined up with serving stations.

On my mid day walk the residents of many of the campsites in my area were in fancy clothes. Clearly they weren’t going to be walking in the woods in suits and long dresses. When I walk by the day use area later in the day, a full blown wedding reception was in progress complete with music and dancing. I’ve seen weddings in campgrounds before, but it doesn’t happen often.

The wedding participants were lucky to dodge the weather. The day started out fine with lots of sunshine. Shortly after noon the sky darkened and a storm front moved through the area. It looked like it was going to last all afternoon, but after about an hour the sunshine returned. It remained dry for the rest of the day.

Another Week Another Grocery Run

Friday October 9th 2020

The above normal temperatures continue. Combined with the high humidity the days continue to be uncomfortable. Today was the sunniest day of the past several. The clouds were a lot more scattered and no afternoon rain passed through this area.

Today was a resupply day. I ran out a couple of daily consumables, orange juice and bread yesterday. Of course, I bought a lot more than just those two items. Ever since the pandemic hit I’ve been keeping more stuff on hand. My overhead pantry cabinets are packed full of duplicates of things I like to eat and my refrigerator and freezer have more in them. In pre-pandemic days I planned on shopping every week and kept only a little more than I needed on hand. Now I’m keeping more on hand to keep my options open.

The Walmart Supercenter I visited today was well stocked and had spacious aisles for a change. I managed to find and buy “Clorox Clean-up Cleaner and Bleach” for the first time since the start of the pandemic. In the early days, I couldn’t find any spray bottles of cleaner. By the time I ran out in the summer, odd name brands were available. Today was the first time I found a recognizable brand on the shelves. On the other hand, I haven’t been able to find any cans of corn lately. Even in the early days, I usually found my favorite vegetable. The challenges of shopping continue.

Peek A Boo

The state park is filling up for the weekend. Similar to last week a few arrived on Wednesday, more on Thursday and the main influx was today. I’m curios what is going to happen at one of the sites down the road. After setting up their trailer, they decorated the campsite. They put tiki torches all around the site. Each torch has a big white bow with streaming ribbons attached. Under their awning they have a table setup with a white table cloth. It looks like they are getting ready for a wedding. I can’t imagine the rationale or logistics for having such an event in a state park campground.

I see you.

In addition to the march around the grocery store, today’s exercise was a couple of walks around the park. The water level in Lake Manatee is now much higher on the bank than when I arrived twelve days ago. At that time I commented on it being unusually low. Now it seems unusually high. The Dam managers must be “playing” with the water levels.

Hiking at Robinson Preserve

Thursday October 8th 2020

I spent some time hiking in the Robinson Preserve today. The preserve is a large tract of coastal grasslands, marsh, and mangroves along Tampa Bay in Bradenton just west of where the Manatee River empties into the bay. There are walking and biking trails along with observation areas overlooking the ponds and bay. The preserve supports a diverse range of plant and bird life.

It was a very hot and humid day. Walking around the preserve was a real sweat producing exercise. I spent about three hours on the trails pausing now and then to take a few pictures of the terrain and birds. A sample of the pictures are included in here.

Annoyed by the Heat

Wednesday October 7th 2020

It was another hot and humid day. Once again the temperature was near record highs in the area. Here it was in the low nineties with enough humidity to make it seem like it was near 100 degrees. The sun shined through the scattered clouds in this area, but the gulf coast was much cloudier once again.

I got a couple of short walks in around the park today. By mid afternoon the heat was starting to wear on me. I shut the windows and turned on the AC for the rest of the day. There are some things I’d like to do in the area, but they are outdoors. I know I’ll be back in this area again in December and next March, so I don’t need to force outdoor activities into hot days.

My next two stops on the Rambling Road Trip are further south in areas that I don’t return to regularly. That should be enough incentive to keep me going in the heat and humidity. I need to take the opportunity presented to see new things. This level of heat is more of a mental obstacle than a physical one.

The Weather is Getting in the Way

Tuesday October 6th 2020

The weather is getting in the way. Yesterday (Monday) morning it was partly cloudy and clearing at my campsite. I decided to visit some of the area along the gulf coast. It is about 25 miles to the west. With each mile toward the coast the cloud cover increased. By the time I reached the coast it was fully cloudy, visibility was low and rain was threatening. All I really did was drive a loop route and return to my RV home. It was still partly cloudy inland.

Wildflower blossom of the day.

I interpreted today’s forecast to be similar with a higher chance of rain. Ut couldn’t have been more different. The weather pattern was from southeast to northwest instead of southwest to northeast. The day started out with bright sunshine and a few fluffy clouds. It got very warm to go with the very high humidity. Some locations in the area set record high temperatures in the low nineties. It was very uncomfortable outside with very little air movement. The weather forecast during the morning news program called for strong thunderstorms starting around noon. One loud storm passed by to the west around 4PM. It dropped very little rain, but did cool things off a little.

Puffy clouds in the morning sky.

The bottom line is I let the weather or the anticipation of the weather dictate my activity over the last couple of days. All of the things I want to do are outside activities, so some concern about the weather is necessary. Tomorrow I’m going to ignore the forecast and see what kind of trouble that gets me into.

The campground was really empty this morning after a couple more of the weekend residents departed. There were only three of us left in this loop of 30 sites. There may have been a couple more in the other loop of 30 sites. Late this afternoon two more RVs arrived. Just my luck, one of them is on the site beside me.