Saturday, June 18, 2011

Florida Spring Break

Work has gotten busy again and posting has suffered. One of the things I like best about this blog is that it serves as a historical record for the family and some of the various happenings and events that make our live so fun, interesting, and at times challenging.

So here is a post about our Spring Break Trip to Florida in April. Yes, Spring Break in Florida is a quintessentially American cliche, but this year we really really needed some sun. Fortunately, Amy has cousins with a condo in St Petersburg, we happened to have some free tickets on Southwest, the boys were both out of school for the same week, so off we went. And it was more fun than I could have imagined!

The boys went to Florida with their Grandma last June, and they had a great time. However (and I'm embarrassed to admit how proud this makes me) they were less interested in the theme parks than in the incredible biodiversity they experienced. Liam, in particular, was far more interested in Armadillos than Mickey, so this year, we didn't mention the theme parks and the boys didn't ask.

We spent the majority of our time at the beach, in the water, or on the water. The Tampa Bay area has some of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen--powdery white sand, completely devoid of rocks, that extends for miles in all directions. The Gulf of Mexico is comfortably warm and has exactly the kind of luminescent aqua-marine color that I've daydreamed about during many a soaking wet winter bicycle commute. The marine animals and shore birds are completely different than what we're accustomed to on the west coast, which really helped to make us feel that we were in a new and (relatively speaking) exotic place. And the shells are abundant and beautiful! Lochlan really enjoyed shelling along the beach.

We did take one trip inland to look for Alligators, and boy did we find them! The airboat ride at Myakka River state park was top-notch--we saw dozens of alligators, some of them quite close, along with bald eagles, anhingas, and numerous species of reptile that I could not identify.

In addition to the airboat, we traveled on a pontoon to get to Caladesi Island, a large-ish power boat to get to Egmont Key, and we rented a Flying Scot to do a little sailing in Clearwater Bay. The flat water and steady breeze were a real treat.

Perhaps our best evening of wildlife viewing took place right across the street from the condo along the nature trail at Bay Pines. We saw Roseate Spoonbills, Yellow-Crowned Night Herons, a Little Blue Heron, Ospreys, dolphins, and--an Armadillo! Amy and I were starting to get worried that we'd never find one of these supposedly ubiquitous mammals, but thank goodness, there he was right near the trail. We got a really good luck, and Liam was ecstatic.

If the circumstances ever align so fortuitously again, I would definitely go back to southwest Florida. (Click on the thumbnails to embiggen the photos)

Beach boys! at Madeira Beach.

The treasures found during a productive afternoon of shelling on Caladesi Island.

Waiting for the boat after a fun day on Caladesi Island.

Liam with a hermit crab he found while snorkeling at Egmont Key.

Sailing on Clearwater Bay.

Liam walking the beach on Egmont Key.

Amy and the boys heading for the beach on Caladesi.

Lochlan playing in the sand, Clearwater Beach.

Amy and the boys enjoying a beautiful sunset at Bay Pines.

Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin surfing the boat's wake on the way to Egmont Key.

American Alligator, Myakka River State Park.


Tree frog.

Green anole.

Paddle crab.

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