Wednesday, November 22, 2017

I Finally Got to Go Swamp Walking in the Everglades!

Florida Everglades Slough Slog
Swamp Walking

Swamp walking in the Everglades is actually something I have wanted to try for a long time.  In the last two years, I almost had a chance and then it would get cancelled at the last minute.  This past January it all worked out!  Thinking back, I was really lucky that we did this when we did.  Who knew Hurricane Irma would blow through and change a lot of the scenery!

Ranger Led Swamp Walk

I had made reservations a week before.  My good childhood friend Steve, said he would try swamp walking with me, Nadia, my daughter was not having any part of it.  We showed up on a Saturday morning and checked in with the Ranger.  (this was a ranger led tour in the Everglades National Park)

It was a cold Florida January Morning, like around 69 degrees LOL, but cold to me!  After we checked in with the Ranger, we were all to meet near the Anhinga Trail.

Everglades National Park

Once it was time to meet up, the Ranger told us we were going to our cars and follow him down the road to the "Cathedral".  This was where we were going to hike.  The "Cathedral" was a mound of Cypress trees.  He told us to be careful if we needed to grab onto a tree for balance, because snakes like to rest in the moss! "What!?"  I was really starting to think about what I was getting myself into, because I am a bit uncoordinated.  Needless to say, I was already worried about touching a gator with my shoe!

Everglades Cypress Walk

When we arrived at the spot, we just pulled over on the side of the road behind the Ranger's Van in a single file.  We then were each given a walking stick to use for balance.  In the above photo, see that mound in the distance?  That is the Cathedral that we were going to hike into.  I also thought we would use that trail; nope, we made our own trail.

As we started out, it was quite comical.  Your feet would sink into the muck and then trying to get it out of the muck would make a "passing gas" sound.  The muck really sucked your feet in, so make sure you are wearing tied shoes, like hiking boots.  (NO Sandals).

Slough Slog Swamp Everglades Outdoors
Outline of my shoe in the mud

Just starting out, was so pretty to me.  We saw many, many birds.  It was amazing to me how these Great Wood Storks could sit on the top of the tree branches and not fall off!  These are big birds!

Our Outdoor Travel Stories

As we ventured along, we started entering the "Cathedral".

swamp Walking Florida

The day we went, the highest the water went was up to my knees.

hiking in water in Florida Everglades

Inside the "Cathedral" were air plants and bromeliads.

Everglades plants

It was beautiful in here, like an oasis.

hiking amongst Cypress Trees in water

There was a gator in here, but we stayed away from him.

We saw a Rosetta Spoonbill fly onto a tree.

Rossetta Spoonbill

Florida Everglades

We walked around and just admired the view and wildlife.  This was a great place to find peace and to let your worries of the city melt away.

My friend Steve, making his way through the air plants and Cypress Trees with his crazy hat.  LOL at least it would help authorities to find us if we got lost.

Bromeliads in the Everglades

Above is a Bromeliad on a tree.  Everything would really start blooming in the next month or so.  Could you imagine how pretty it would look then, with orchids and bromeliads all in bloom?

This tour was about 2.5 hours long.  We loved the walk and were glad that we did it.

Afterward, we walked along the Anhinga Trail.

Florida Everglades View

Checkout this big gator!

Everglades Boardwalk Water Florida

We also saw some baby Anhingas

Nature Everglades Water bird babies

The evening was turning out nice

Everglades Sunset Florida, Palm trees

But when we went to see the Sunset, the rain clouds took over 😞

Even though, it was still a great day and an experience I will cherish always.

Please note:  We went before Hurricane Irma hit Florida.  Many areas of the Everglades are still closed, but here is a link to more information on the Slough Slog in case they offer a Ranger Led Tour soon:

You should give it a try at least once.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Camping at Highlands Hammock State Park in Sebring, Florida

Highland Hammocks State Park Sebring, FL
Camping in the Tent
This past October, Nadia and I were able to go camping Halloween Weekend at Highlands Hammock State Park in Sebring, Florida.  Our friends John and Cretia, took us in their RV, but Nadia and I decided to camp outdoors in our tent.  One reason was because we have not had a chance to use the tent since our first camping experience at Collier-Seminole State Park.  (we were spoiled by staying in John and Cretia's RV).  The second reason we decided to stay in the tent, was because Florida was actually having a little cold spell.  I think it may have gone down to the upper 60's, but hey we'll take it.

Tent with lantern Highlands Hammock

When we arrived at Highlands Hammock, it was dark out, but we used the lighting from the RV and our lanterns to get our tent together.  It was not hard to put together, but I was glad that John and Cretia helped us.

Highlands Hammock State Park, is one of Florida oldest parks.  It was opened in 1931!  There are various nature trails to take, biking, tram tours and something I was not expecting.  Black Bears!

Highlands hammock state park

When I found this out, I wanted to re-think the tent idea.  I did not have bear spray on me.  That first night, I woke at every little sound, listening for heavy breathing of a bear.  Thankfully we did not see one, but I did hear little critters walking near the tent throughout the night.  Read about Black Bear Safety.

Bears in Florida

I woke up the next morning before Nadia, and decided to open the zipper to my window in my "room".   We have a three room tent.

tent family fun outdoors

When I looked out my window, I actually saw two deer running away into the woods behind us!  I was pretty excited about that and wished Nadia could have seen them too.  We do not get to see a lot of deer where we live, so it is exciting when we actually get to see them.

Highlands Hammock State Park Florida

After everyone was up and we had breakfast; we got ready to bike ride into town.  I believe it was 9 miles each way.  We ended up going to a small mall and then we ate lunch at a restaurant!  Here we were supposed to be camping LOL.

Bike Riding at Highlands Hammock state park

When we got back to the park, we went to ride our bikes to the various hiking trails.  During the month of October, Highlands Hammock runs a haunted tram ride on select nights.  I wished they had it running that weekend.  It sounded fun!

boardwalk hike at Florida State Parks

There were some interesting trails to hike.  Like always, be aware of your surroundings.  We were not expecting to see this big guy.  Luckily we were on the boardwalk and he was below us.

Gator at Highlands Hammock State Park in Florida

Here's a really swampy area:

Swamp in Sebring Florida

Hiking near swamp at Highlands Hammock State Park in Sebring, FL

Now, check out this boardwalk!  It was pretty narrow with only a handrail on one-side.  It was an interesting adventure.

HIking in Florida

There are a Thousand Year Old Oak Trees found in the park.

Oak Trees in Florida State Parks

In this area, you can actually sit out here and watch the deer come out in the evening.

The Park also has a nice looking Visitor's Center, but we were too late and they were closed.

Florida parks

Florida outdoor fun

We arrived back at the campsite and it was time to start making the hamburgers and hot dogs.

camping fun

I slept a lot better the second night, even though my air mattress got a hole in it 😦

No Air Camping

We really enjoyed this park and I would definitely come back here and camp again.  I just hope the tram will be working then.

You can read more about Highlands Hammock State Park and make sure to read all alerts before you travel.

Happy Summer!
The Sunning Anhinga Wall Tapestry

Paddleboarding Parent Checklist to Keep Kids Safe on the Water

Check out this great Infographic on Water Safety for Kids from Jason at 

Water Safety for Kids: The Ultimate Checklist for Paddleboarding Parents

Monday, June 5, 2017

15 Summertime Activities to Get Your Kids Outdoors!

Here is a Great Article from Joe at Nature Rated.  He is right, we need to get our kids outside and enjoying Nature more.  There really is enjoyment in the simple things in life.  Read on for some cool outdoor activity ideas.  - Thanks Joe!

What are your kids doing this Summer? For many of us Summer-time with the kids is a time to enjoy the outdoors, the sunshine and if you're lucky the ocean.

As much as kids love Summer holidays, keeping them busy can be a real chore! If you've not got the luxury of a Summer camp then it's up to you as parent to find things for the youngsters to keep busy with.

Failing that, your kids might spend all their time in front of a computer, tablet, phone or other screen and research has shown that spending too much time in front of a screen can have a detrimental effect on the health and wellbeing of children.

Studies have shown that taking part in nature-based activities helps people who are suffering from mental ill-health and can contribute to a reduction in levels of anxiety, stress, and depression. In fact, a daily walk in nature has showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression.

One in four people are estimated to experience bouts of mental ill health and it's on the rise. Prescription medication of antidepressants are also at a record high level and the demand for more invasive treatments are also on the rise. Health and social care commissioners are examining and commissioning different options for cost effective services for mental health and one of these options is a daily walk of 90 minutes or more. We need to learn from the past when kids got excited to spend their time climbing trees and building dens rather than spending hours inside.

Joe at Nature Rated understands this all too well and has put together an infographic on 15 Summer activities to help your kids appreciate nature.

This is what it looks like:

15 Summer activities to help your kids appreciate nature

From baking a blackberry pie to constructing a pond or insect hotel, there's plenty for the youngsters to get up to. Head on over to his site for step by step instructions to get your kids out and about enjoying nature.

Joe's Bio:

An outdoor enthusiast, Joe is the lead editor at Nature Rated; a website which rates and reviews the best outdoor gear for people who quickly want to know what to get. He believes in no fluff, to the point reviews, which help you choose the right gear for your next adventure.
Whenever daily life gets him down he heads to the nearest lake or river with his kayak and camera spending time recharging his batteries.


“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” - M. Gandhi

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Boneyard Beach - It is in Florida

Hiking to Boneyard Beach in Florida
Boneyard Beach at Big Talbot Island
Big Talbot Island State Park is south of Amelia Island in Florida.  At the park, you will find a trail to Boneyard Beach.  The name was given to this beach because of the salt washed oak trees and cedar trees lying on the beach.

Guess what?  It has been said that there have been findings of huge Mammoth Bones by some archaeologists here too!

our outdoor travel stories at Big Talbot Island

This beach is not recommended for swimming, but good for picture taking and shelling.
It is said that Blackbeard landed on these shores!

We visited Boneyard Beach as my sister and I were heading home from Amelia Island.  I was not sure where to park exactly, but we did end up finding the trail head to Boneyard Beach.  There is one of those "special" bathrooms you can use before you start on the trail.  My sister and I were the only ones around, which was a little scary when you could hear some rustling in the bushes.

Boneyard Beach Florida State Parks

Luckily we did come by some nice overlooks of the beach, but we never did make it all the way to the end.  We chickened out, but what we did see of boneyard beach was really pretty.

Hiking Trails skeleton trees

I did not see the parking lot for the Black Rock Trail and it was starting to get late, so we just continued to head home.  I would like to go back to that park and plan out my visit better.  The Black Rock Trail did sound really cool.  It has black rock like outcroppings.  Here is a link to Florida Hikes website where they discuss the different trails to help you plan your trip better.

If you would like more information on Big Talbot Island State Park, you can check out their website here.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Riverboat Cruise at Amelia Island was Cool in Fernandina Beach, Florida

River cruise in Amelia Island Florida
Riverboat Cruise
While my sister and I were visiting Amelia Island, we signed up for an Amelia River Cruise.  I selected the Cumberland Island tour.  Why? Do you ask?  Well read on and find out!

our outdoor travel stories traveling on the amelia island river cruise

There are around five different cruises to choose from.  The Cumberland Island Tour lasts for 2.5 hours and runs seven days a week at 10 a.m.  I had made reservations on-line before our trip, because I did not want to miss it.

learn the history of amelia island florida

When we visited, it was around late July and it was extremely hot that weekend.  They do have some shade on the boat, but make sure you have water.  They also provide water for sale too.

Fort Clinch Beach seen from the ocean

Once everyone had arrived for the tour, our Captain and Crew talked with us.  They were very friendly and knowledgeable about the area.  They also had a great sense of humor.  This is a narrated tour.

As we headed out to the ocean, we passed some historic homes, boats and Fort Clinch.

Amelia Island Boat Cruise Fort Clinch Florida
View of Fort Clinch from the Ocean
We got to see a couple of Dolphin jumping out of the water, but I had a hard time trying to get a picture of them.

Here is the best I could do.

Dolphin jumping near Amelia Island
A Dolphin
Here, we are getting closer to Cumberland Island, which is located in Georgia.

Wild horses at Cumberland Island Georgia

Do you see the horse?  He is right in the middle (the brown object).  This is why I selected this tour.  My sister and I have never seen wild horses before.

Here are some more.

A Wild white horse on Cumberland Island, Georgia

And here is a Mom with her kid.

a little horse family on Cumberland Island Georgia

And here are some more near the trees.

Viewing the wild horses on cumberland island while traveling on the amelia river cruise

Cumberland Island looked so pretty.  I would like to visit there one day, but they warned us that there are a lot of ticks there.  Be careful.  Remember the horses are wild, so do not try to touch them.  They can really hurt you!

To get to the island, you would take a Ferry Boat.  Here is a link to the National Park's website for more information.

Enjoying the Amelia River Cruise

It was time to head back.  The boat ride was so relaxing.

On the way back we passed by a Shrimp Boat.

A Shrimp Boat at Amelia Island

And this used to be an old orphanage.

learning the history of Amelia Island while on the Amelia River Cruise

Amelia River Cruises and Charters was located right across the street from the Hampton Inn that we stayed at.  Arrive a little early to pick your seat.

We really enjoyed our cruise.  I saw a lot of new things and learned a lot about the history of the area.  My sister and I would definitely take another River Cruise next time we visit.

Remember to bring your camera, sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. 

Then you can sit back and enjoy!
Funny Shirts