I enjoy visiting the 3rd Street Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings in Naples, Florida. The past couple of years we have tried to go but it was so crowded we couldn’t find parking and the street was so full of people we lost interest. Between October and the first of the year when the tourist season begins, the market is in one lane of a parking lot parallel to 3rd Street South. When we arrive at 8:30 there were lots of parking places and we could walk through the market without bumping into anyone.
And I enjoyed the live music – the singer you see in the middle of the photo above and at the other end…
Today there were only two venders selling vegetables and one selling tropical fruits. The rest were local artisans or small business owners selling their goods. I didn’t buy much, just some zuchinni, tangerines, and a quiche to split for our lunch. I think I’ll go back next Saturday without my camera.
As we were leaving I heard a familiar sound before a saw them. The Parrot Man of Naples was taking his parrots for a morning outing and stopped to talk to the man who had been singing.
I’m taking a break from packing and laundry and cleaning out the refrigerator. It is time to make our transition to our other environment. I have nine orchids growing on trees around our condo here in Florida – and I spoke to our son and he said the grass has turned green in southern Michigan. As we drive north we see spring unfolding in reverse; leaving lush green foliage and flowers blooming and arriving in our northern neighborhood in very early spring.
This is not just a weather transition for us. Many of our condo friends here in Florida have left for their northern homes or will be leaving in the weeks after us. It is hard saying goodbye even though we know we will see them again in October or January. We also look forward to seeing northern friends that we haven’t seen since December – and we have a 3 month old great-granddaughter who met us when she was born and I think is missing us.
The main topic of conversation at the pool this past week was packing. So many of us seem to fill our cars twice a year taking things back and forth. We talk about how we can carry less back and forth, how we need to have sufficient clothes at both homes, figure out what we don’t need to take north. I decided to not worry about forgetting something because Michigan has stores and I can buy anything I can’t live without.
What I need to do now is say good-bye to my favorite places and things here in Florida so I can feel excitement about going back to all the things that I love in Michigan. We have been saying good-bye to our favorite restaurants, we went to the beach for a sunset, and I made my last trip to the Naples Botanical Garden. On Sunday we attend the Easter service at the church we fell in love with and consider our home church, and as is tradition every Sunday in Naples we will have breakfast at the counter at Blueberries. Then we will change clothes, shut down the condo, and hit the road.
We had visitors from Michigan over the week-end and they enjoy seeing critters of all sorts so we took them into the Florida Everglades. On a previous visit we went on a dirt road in the Big Cypress National Preserve called the Loop Road. This time I wanted to explore some of the dirt roads in the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, a large area to the west of Big Cypress. It was just my kind of day.
Our first stop was the Big Cypress Bend 3,200 foot boardwalk that I read about in O’Keefe’s excellent book The Photographer’s Guide to the Everglades. Even though we went right where he told us to go we didn’t find it. Instead we found an abandoned portion of road that was originally the Tamiami Trail (US 41 from Tampa to Miami). The alligator above resides in the canal along this walk. The next three photos were also taken from that walk.
I would still like to find the boardwalk and there is a number to call in the guidebook.
What we did find was the Janes Scenic Drive off Florida 29 going north. It is an eleven mile dirt road that goes to nowhere and back through the different ecosystems of the Everglades.
Travel was slow so we only went about half way before we turned around. Returning was even slower because I was driving and I know the spots where I had wanted to stop but couldn’t tell they were good until Jim had passed. A section of this scenic drive runs east/west and the raised parts are culverts that allows for this very slow flow of the very wide 6 inch deep river from Lake Okeechobee to the Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
Much of this water flow is through saw grass plains that are seen in the photos above. Driving down the Tamiami Trail through these plains, we seen large wading birds congregating at small ponds and nesting in far off stands of pines and bald cypress.
My favorite experiences are traveling through the cypress swamps to find birds fishing in the shallow water and seeing alligators sunning themselves. You should know that I enjoy being somewhat close to the alligators in the winter months when they are in semi-hibernation; not that hungry nor eager to attack. In any case, I understand that Alligators have the power to cause damage to my body.
We saw several birds but this one was one I wasn’t familiar with and was in the process of communicating sweet nothings with a potential mate a ways away. When I processed the photos I realized that we saw two different birds. I think it is a Least Bitten heron, and maybe the one on the left is an adolescent.
Here is the one on the right with the mating plumage down.
We also saw the green heron on the left and many black vultures (right).
As we were nearing the end of the Janes Scenic Drive, we could see storm clouds building on the horizon and it started to sprinkle a little.
No, we didn’t go for a walk through our nation’s capital. We visited the Bird Rookery Swamp Trails, a part of the land held by the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) trust. This reserve is off Immokalee Road south of the better known Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary run by the Audubon Society.
What a wonderful walk, although we did just a small portion of the 11 mile loop. There is a quarter mile gravel/shell path to the beginning of the boardwalk, and then the boardwalk is about a mile long. After that there is a dirt path that has scattered roots and protruding rocks so some caution while walking is needed. From reading reviews the path also is in places a narrow walkway through tall grass and a trolley lane used when logging was done in the area (people complained in the reviews that alligators lie across the paths or sun themselves very close to where people pass). The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a shorter walk of 2 1/4 miles (with a 1 mile shorter option), all of which is boardwalk, making it barrier free. The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary charges adults $10 and this sanctuary trail is free (with a donation box by the parking lot).
I was looking for a quiet walk and the opportunity to take some photos. Almost all of my photos this winter have been from the Naples Botanical Garden and I was looking for a different kind of landscape.
I have been thinking that I’m getting used to the southern Florida landscape – after spending 10 winters here. It has been a big adjustment to having just two seasons – rainy/hot and dry/cool. Being from Michigan I kept looking for the drastic seasonal change in plants and landscape. The southern portion of Florida is dominated by the Everglades and whenever we went into the Everglades, or those areas like the Corkscrew preserves that have been dedicated to water and wildlife preservation, my brain sees the exotic, not the vegetation that I recognize and find nourishing to my soul.
It’s not that I don’t know swamps, the area of Michigan where I live was described by settlers as a mosquito infested swamp that was uninhabitable. But Michigan swamps have deciduous trees, oaks and maples. These swamps that I’m visiting in Florida are mainly cypress – and I’m growing to love them.
My soul takes pleasure from the horizontal branches and soft needles of the cypress. I smile at the cypress knees.
I also take pleasure in photographing the plants and animals that are a part of this environment – giving me an image to revisit and research so I can learn names and characteristics.
Great Egret in Breeding
Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata)
If you know the name of the big white flower, please let me know. I believe it is a member of the morning glory family because of the lines on the petals and it grows on a vine (I think).
Jim and I stopped frequently and quietly shared how much we were enjoying the quiet sounds of nature. This might be an area to return to when I hear the Everglades calling me. Jim doesn’t want me to go into the Everglades alone because of the prevalence of alligators and lack of cell phone reception, so this may be a good alternative.
I am linking this to the RDP Saturday: Walk. Maybe you can link your ideas about “walk” to the fun.