What We Did on Our Winter Break, 1999

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The view from Winkelbleck Mountain Road, PA is quite impressive, but we were trying to get away from snow and ice for awhile, so we had to leave the mountains and didn't tarry here long.

Our trip to Florida didn't start out too well, although we did manage to leave the Washington, DC area before the "terrible snowstorm" arrived. It was nothing like the Blizzard of '96 when the whole state of Pennsylvania was closed and we got to spend 2 days snowed in with Janie's Mom, sister and 2 niblings in Bowie, MD. This time, we just picked up some germs from the niblings, so Bog was rather zombie-esque on the way down. Fortunately, all he had to do was drive and turn left when I said right. Apparently, my GSCI 100 students have taught me how not to be able to navigate. I thought left, I looked at my left hand, I knew it was left, and I invariably said "right". Finally, Bog caught on that I meant "the other right" so he would turn left.

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96fl5548.jpg (109974 bytes) No doubt we are out of the mountains, and
the lack of snow and ice is not the only clue!
99fl7228.jpg (94388 bytes) When we finally made it to the Everglades,
we put up the tent and Bog crawled in and took a nap!

It wasn't particularly warm that day, but the sun was out and Janie had a lovely walk along the beach
looking at the pelicans and herons and egrets and osprey while waiting for Bog to get rested up.

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99fl7240.jpg (96261 bytes) Cattle Egret
99fl7270.jpg (137969 bytes) Little Blue Heron

Turned out it was a good thing it wasn't warm, because the next day when the temperatures became more Florida-like, the mosquito population became more Florida-like as well. Most of them made a deet-our around us, however. I had brought some insect repellent that is not quite as repulsive to people as DEET, but it also proved to be not quite as repulsive to mosquitoes, either. We spent 5 days and 4 nights in the Everglades, biking along the park road and some of the trails. A few trails were labeled Bicycles Permitted. However, they should have been labeled Bicycles Permitted, But You Have To Carry Them. The trails were frequently blocked by downed trees, overgrown with pedal-entangling wiry, ropy vegetation or under unknown amounts of water. Oh, well, we got in our weight lifting as well as some aerobic exercise. What's that old saying, when life gives you lemons…make lemonade. We didn't get any lemons, but we did stock up on sources of Vitamin C: Florida oranges and key lime juice; and other beverages that may or may not help cure the common cold.

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A short-tailed hawk eyes its prey: an unsuspecting anole.
Turns out the anole was not so unsuspecting.
It dropped off the branch just before the hawk swooped in.

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The Shark Valley Tram Road was the best to bike on - 15 miles of paved road through the River of Grass -
with lots of snail kites soaring overhead and plenty of alligators sunning themselves on the warm pavement.

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96fl5544.jpg (93630 bytes) Shark Valley Bike/Tram Road from Observation Tower
Don't run over sunbathing alligators.
96fl5533.jpg (112020 bytes) Pahayoke: The River of Grass, Everglades, Florida
50 miles wide & 5 inches deep: too thick to navigate, too thin to plow

We happened upon a big 'gator who had captured a large turtle. The turtle was trapped in the 'gator's jaws, but seemed unaware of his fate. At first, they both seemed to be asleep, but as we watched, the turtle came out of its shell and the 'gator opened its eyes. Bog had enough time to gawk awhile, then he took some pictures and reloaded the camera. We got tired of waiting for the gator's dinner time, we decided we didn't really want to be around when it was dinner time and we weren't sure where our next meal was coming from, so we pedaled on. A Ranger told us that gators eat turtles like people eat potato chips, but we don't recall watching a person nap for several minutes with potato chips in his/her mouth. Bog's has been known to sleep through sporting events, but he usually swallows his food before dozing off.

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99fl7280.gif (161782 bytes) Eat all you want, we'll make more. Betcha can't eat just one!

About the time we got to the Naples area and the warmest, most humid weather we had encountered, Janie was sick, so she was happy to take a nap in a motel room with a real bed and air-conditioning. It also happened to be a football weekend, so Bog was happy to have a TV. We wanted to go to Sanibel Island to bike around the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, but thought it would be too crowded on a weekend. A weekday turned out to be too crowded with too many screaming school children and too many teachers screaming at the children to stop screaming. Thanks to the bikes, we were able to get away from the worst of the congestion and find some solitude and some wildlife that was a bit less wild than screaming schoolkids.

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99fl7254.jpg (78378 bytes) Indigo Snake trying not to be dinner.
99fl7246.jpg (148707 bytes) Red Shouldered Hawk looking for dinner.

After fighting the traffic in the Naples-Ft. Myers area, we escaped to what is variously called the "Forgotten Florida" or the "Nature Coast": the upper West coast of Florida, north of Tampa and into the Panhandle a short distance. Two of our favorite places there are Manatee Springs State Park, near the town of Cedar Key and St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, near the towns of Port St. Joe and Appalachicola. It wasn't as warm in the northern part of Florida (their season doesn't start until March), so it wasn't as crowded. Except with manatees, which seek refuge from the cold waters of the Gulf by swimming into rivers fed by hot springs.

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99fl7297.gif (116706 bytes) Mamma & Baby Manatee: Doing Nothing
99fl7300.jpg (57889 bytes) Mamma & Baby Manatee: Resting Up After

Now, manatees are not the most exciting animals in the world, but that's ok, because we were on vacation and looking for restful activities. Besides, as geologists, we have learned to appreciate rocks, which move even less than manatees. Usually, manatees hang out in deep water where all you can see is their crusty noses when they come up to breathe. However, one manatee cow and her calf spent an entire day in the shallow warm waters of the spring. We spent about 2 hours watching them in the morning and 2 more again in the late afternoon. We could see Mamma's back (which looks a lot like a rock) most of the time and could make out her whole outline when the light was right. Bog was even brave enough to take several pictures. See the shadows in the pictures above that look like rocks under the water? That's a manatee and her baby. Really. Our experience watching manatees has given us a new philosophy. In the future, we will aspire to the Manatee Way of Life: Do Nothing All Day - And Rest Up After!

But before we can adopt that way of life, we have to earn enough money to support ourselves. And that means heading back to Geneseo. Enroute, we stayed at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, which is the #3 rated beach in the US (#1 & #2 are both in Hawaii). We don't spend a lot of time at beaches, because neither of us can swim and because Bog has a family history of skin cancer, but we do like St. Joe. The road to the park is becoming more and more built up, but inside the state park, there are miles of beach with very few people.

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99fl7261.gif (330647 bytes) Sunset over the Gulf

The Peninsula sticks up with the Gulf of Mexico on one side and a sheltered bay on the other, which provides two different beaches with different vegetation, wind, scenery, birds, etc. On one side we sat on sand dunes and watched the sunset (above) while shorebirds skittered about and dolphins leaped (lept?) out of the waves. On the other side, we sat on the gravel beach and watched the sunrise (below) on the calm waters where herons, egrets and pelicans fished for breakfast.

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99fl7266.gif (322869 bytes) Another Gulf Sunset

One evening on our way to the beach to watch the sunset, we made the mistake of calling Bog's mother back in Geneseo. She informed us that the snow was "up to my waist" and her roof was going to collapse. She's not very tall, so up to her waist isn't very deep. As the conversation progressed, the reported height of the snow declined from "up to my waist" to "above my knees" to a more realistic "over my boots". She had no reason for thinking her roof was going to collapse, but an elderly woman in a nearby town was trapped in her car when the carport collapsed. Listening to her complaints took some of the joy away from the sunset, and it was about that time that Bog decided we had better be heading home.

Once we got back to Naweedna, Bog had a choice - stay at Mom's overnight and tackle plowing the driveway in the morning OR tromp through 2 feet of snow wearing only his sneakers to get the tractor and plow out the drive. A few minutes of listening to Mom's list of all the things that went wrong and all the things that Bog needs to fix and we were both ready to tromp through the snow barefoot! Apparently, she did not have fun left at home in the snow and cold, but who can blame her?

There are so many things that need to be done before either of us can "Do Nothing All Day and Rest Up After",
but we're looking forward to it. And we must not forget one very important thing to do: plan our next vacation trip!

Where will it be?

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glacial_valley.gif (149286 bytes) Northwestern Glacial Mountains?
96fl5491.gif (239131 bytes) Southeastern Cypress Swamps?
Zoroas.tif (701076 bytes) Southwestern Canyons Grande?
erratic_acadia.jpg (82730 bytes) Northeastern Rocky Coasts?
craters_moon.gif (129322 bytes) Or someplace truly Out of This World?