Pat McCarthy is the author of a dozen nonfiction books for children and young adults. She has published numerous stories, articles, puzzles and quizzes in magazines for children and adults. She teaches for the Institute of Children's Literature. She has also written encyclopedia articles and school curriculum. Pat is a retired elementary school teacher who subs to remain in touch with kids. Her hobbies are photography, travel, birding and scrapbooking.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Back from Florida

Well, I got back from Florida on Thursday evening, February 29. It was a great trip. I drove by myself. The first day, I got as far as Cordele, Georgia, where I stayed at the KOA. It's certainly easier driving through Atlanta at 5:00 on a Saturday than during the week!
On Sunday, I got as far as Collier Seminole State Park, just east of Naples. I camped there that night, driving into Everglades City to eat dinner at a seafood restaurant. I had crab cakes, which were very good.
The last few trips to Florida, I've enjoyed driving back Janes Rd., which was a dirt road along a river. I couldn't find it this time. I'm not sure if it went off Tamiami Trail or the road to Everglades City, but I didn't find it. There are a lot of changes, in the name of progress, along the Tamiami Trail. Lots more Indian villages, a housing development, and the Miccosukee Indians have a school, a casino and other buildings. Also, along the north side of the eastern end of the Tamiami Trail is a large canal. I'm wondering if they're draining some of the Everglades and what impact that will have.
On Monday I drove on to the Everglades National Park, stopping at the famous Robert Is Here fruit stand south of Homestead. I got to meet Robert and his daughter took my picture with him. Stopped at the Coe Visitor Center just inside the entrance to the park and took quite a few pictures from the boardwalk there. Then I went on to the Royal Palm Visitor Center, where I walked the boardwalk at the Anhinga Trail. That was a mistake at that time, since it was very hot and I was walking between 11:30 and 1:00. There is no shade, and I'm very susceptible to the sun and heat. I wore a hat and drank water, but I was really dragging when I got done. Signed into Long Pine Key campground, then drove to Flamingo, stopping at every pulloff and pond along the way. At Paroutis Pond, I saw white birds roosting in a tree across the pond. I assumed they were egrets, but couldn't tell with binoculars. I got out my spotting scope and was excited to see that they were wood storks. When I got to Flamingo, I checked at the Visitor Center to see where the bird hike would leave from the next morning. The ranger said right there. He said we'd start by checking out the mud flats, then walk towards Eco Pond. I had discovered that the tower at Eco Pond had blown down in the hurricane. A couple of black-necked stilts were my favorite birds there. Got a sandwich at the gift shop at the marina, which is the only place in Flamingo with food. They have a microwave to warm it up. I got a bacon cheeseburger and ate it at the picnic table outside. Also bought a t-shirt. The sandwich was amazingly good. I hoped to get back in time to go to the Anhinga trail again, but it was already starting to get dusk when I got to the campground, so I just stopped.
Tuesday I drove down to Flamingo to be there at 8:00 for the bird walk. It rained a little on the way, and was raining more when I got there. Tim had his scope set up on the covered walkway between the visitor center and where the restaurant used to be. We just stayed there the whole time. There were about seven of us. There was lots of activity on the mud flats, including black-bellied plover, willet, short-billed dowitcher, yellow-crowned night heron, and my favorite, the great white heron. That's the white form of the great blue.
It stopped raining soon after I left there. At Paroutis Pond I saw roseate spoonbills in the tree next to the wood storks, again with the scope. I had planned to eat at the Miccosukee Restaurant on Tamiami Trail, but it was getting late. I thought maybe it would be better to go across Alligator Alley, since it's interstate and would be quicker. My phone was dead, and I needed to call Bob. Stopped at a Wendy's in Homestead and there was an outlet at the back. I got lunch, sat in front of the outlet and surreptitiously plugged in my phone. I guess nobody saw me. I called Bob and got the directions, then unplugged the phone. It rang and it was Kay. It died in a minute, so I plugged it back in and called her. I told her that was the only minute the whole day when she would have been able to get me on the phone!
The rest of the day was a nightmare till I got to Bob's. I stayed on Rt. 1 in Homestead instead of getting on the route that went to the Tamiami Trail. I didn't realize it till I was way out of Homestead and was starting to go through Miami. Then I got on an Interstate, because I thought if you have to drive through Miami, it's certainly better to go on the Interstate! Finally saw an exit advertised for a road that went to I-75, but missed the exit. I finally got across somehow and got on Alligator Alley. There was no question of stopping at Corkscrew. I was already in the traffic at 4:00. I couldn't find the Alico Rd. exit that Bob had told me to take over to 41. He thought it was 125 and it was 127 or something like that. I turned around and it said Alico Rd. 3 miles, but I missed it again! So I took the Corkscrew Rd. exit and went over to 41. I eventually got there. It was nice to see Bob and Glory.
On Wednesday, Glory and Bob's sister (my cousin) Libby and I went to Sanibel Island. We had lunch at the Hungry Heron, then drove the wildlife loop through Ding Darling National Park. I'd heard there weren't many birds this year, but there were that day. I saw the most roseate spoonbills I've ever seen at one time - about a dozen. That evening I went to Libby's for dinner with her and John.
Thursday I drove to Corkscrew Swamp and walked the almost-three-mile boardwalk there. It was a lot drier than usual, but I saw my first male Painted Bunting! I'd seen the female twice before in Florida, but this was the first time for the male. He's awesome! When I left there, I stopped for lunch, then saw an A.C. Moore Store across the parking lot. I remembered going to one in Erie, PA with Becky, so I had to go check out their scrapbook supplies. They had a lot of sales, and I managed to fill up my basket! When I got back to the park, there was a transit van in front of me at the visitor gate. I sat there waiting for him to punch in the code, and all of a sudden, he started backing up and backed right into me! I got out and so did he. He said, "I was talking on the phone to my client and I had to back up to get closer to the gate." Luckily it didn't do any damage. He just hit the rubber bumper. Went to eat that night with Bob & Glory and Libby & John to the Shrimp Shack. We met their cousin, Dan McLaughlin and his wife, Kathy, there. It was a nice evening.
Friday I went to Cape Coral and took pictures of a burrowing owl, then drove to Bradenton to visit my friends, Jean and Bill Shepard. I used to teach with her and I've visited them before. They live in a house with a canal behind and get lots of birds. While I was there, I photographed white ibises and a river otter. We went to a new Italian Restaurant on Friday, then I went to Bingo with Jean. Saturday we went to Friendly's for lunch, and on Sunday I went to church with them and Jean's 95-year-old mother, who is in great shape. We went to a buffet for dinner. Then I left for Haines City to visit Bill & Susie Murphy, friends from church. We went to a seafood place for dinner. On Monday, we went to Cypress Gardens. I'd never been there, and it's very close to where they live. I was disappointed that they've discontinued the ice show, but enjoyed the ski show and everything else. Tuesday we went to Barb & Ray Lavy's for lunch. They're from our church, too, and live in the same park with Bill & Susie. Another friend, Wayne Coblentz and his sister, Marceil were there, too. We had a nice afternoon.
I left on Wednesday morning for the long drive home. I decided to stay at a motel, since everything in the van was messed up and I was tired. I stopped at a bookstore where the most expensive book was $3. For $51, I got 25 books. Read one at the motel.
Ate breakfast in the lobby with a woman about my age who ended up being from Richmond, IN, (about 20 miles from here) and had driven down by herself, too. Drove all day and got to Dayton about 4:00. Went to a JoAnn's store to use my two coupons. It was a nice one I'd never been to before. I had seen it the night we had the photo trip to Cincinnati, then came back and ate in Dayton. So I got off the Interstate there and went to check it out. Very nice and I found stuff to use my coupons for. Got home about 6:00. Will post some photos tomorrow.