Friday, April 10, 2009

Florida - Southwest Florida is Beautiful

Blog entries were on hold while I was in Florida the past week. Since this is mainly a Berks blog, I'll share a few highlights from the visit with the bulk of the photos surfacing on my Flickr account in the next few weeks.

Lovers Key State Park
Lovers Key State Park is an island due south of Ft. Myers Beach. Another gem in the barrier island chain that runs from Tampa to Naples. Like all the islands I visited, it's connected via a causeway to the main land. A combination of remote beaches, nature and water trails make this a unique locale. My intent was to walk some trails with Max and then catch the sunset.

Sanibel Island
Sanibel Island is one my all time favorite destinations. A laid back lifestyle where beautiful nature dominates the landscape makes this a relaxing vacation oasis. J.N. Ding Darling Preserve resides here and offers bird watchers great looks during the migration season. Coined by locals as the "sea shell capital of the world", you can literally pick up handfuls of perfect specimens. Giant sea turtles have been laying eggs on the remote beaches for generations and will continue to do so as long as people allow them.

Max, as well as, other dogs are allowed to visit the beach when leashed. Since it was a sunny, warm day and Max shuns water we needed to stay hydrated and in the shade to keep cool.

This small island between Cape Coral and Pine Island is famous for it's quirky artist community and water recreation. Almost every building along the main road is brightly painted making it visually interesting and fun.

Naples has some of the most beautiful retail streets that I've ever seen. It's as if they built a park and garden then strategically placed the buildings and shops to compliment the flora. Accompanied by miles of white sand beaches and turquoise blue waters of the Gulf, it's easy to see why real estate prices are still some of the highest in the U.S.

Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center (Alligator Creek)
Alligator Creek is a great venue located due south of Punta Gorda on Burnt Store Rd. Part of the massive Charlotte Harbor State Park and Preserve system, I thought this was the most likely place to spot an alligator. At least the name suggests that.

Thanks to a few enthusiastic volunteers, I was able to see an 7'-8' gator in a remote pond. Skittish once I got too close, the gators are not that aggressive unless a female is protecting her young or they are hungry. Best not to find out and just stay at a safe distance.

Corkscrew Swamp Santuary
Corkscrew Swamp Santuary, an Audubon site that features a 2.25 mile boardwalk through four distinct ecosystems. The $10 entrance fee seems like a lot, but in about 3 minutes you realize it's a small price to pay for what's ahead. The natural beauty of old Florida is abundant in this relatively small area.

The lack of water reminded me of the African nature shows where all the animals need to share a small watering hole. A tropical storm in the fall contributed to an abundance of water and fish hatching's, so the winter and spring shrinkage forced all this fish and gators into a small area and created a buffet for the birds.

Selfishly is was great to photograph the concentration of animals, but as a nature lover, I believe that these animals lives will eventually become threatened by the lack of water.

CREW (Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed) Estero, FL. Water was lacking, non-existent, this time of year and it might be at the point considered a drought. I visited mainly for their spring wildflower reputation is outstanding and did not disappoint.

Cape Coral
The Cape Coral Yacht Club offers sunset and sunrise photo opportunities. Situated on the mouth of the huge Caloosahatchee River, it's a popular fishing and boating destination.

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