Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Greetings from Sunny Sarasota, Florida

A hard face to resist!

Well, we are midway through our month-long stay in Sarasota and having a great time in the constant warm and sunny weather.  The temperature fluctuates between 79 and 81 and we have not yet had a rainy day.  This is a great combination for outdoor activities, sight-seeing and, don’t forget, raising a puppy.  Sorry we have been lazy about posting – we are trying to get caught up (of course Spirit is keeping us really busy and her cute face rapidly lures us away from the computer).

We booked a month at Myakka River State Park located about 15 miles east of downtown Sarasota.  After camping in four Florida State Parks, we are huge fans.  We blindly picked Myakka partly because of the location and partly because of everything the park had to offer.  Myakka is a south Florida “jungle” paradise.  As one of the largest state parks in Florida at 37,000 acres, Myakka is very diverse displaying a myriad of habitats like wetlands, dry prairies, hammocks, and pine flatwoods.  The centerpiece is the Myakka River which carries the designation of a “Wild and Scenic” river and runs 66 miles south before meeting its resting place in Charlotte Harbor, Florida.
Sabal palms provide a little shade in the open prairie.
The higher ground within the park is filled with live oaks and sabal palms.  The parks
7 miles of paved roads are great for biking.
Evil (in the form of alligators) lurks everywhere!
Myakka is one of those parks where you actually see wildlife.  Alligators lurk in every body of water and we have seen quite a few alligators over 12 feet.  Rangers say there are at least 1,000 gators in park waters!  In fact, we have been warned a half dozen times by staff and volunteers not to take Spirit near the water because of previous incidents when alligators have killed dogs.  One poor golden retriever got snatched when he was wading near the bank to get a drink of water.  We have seen wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, and heard coyotes calling at night.  The wetlands are filled with winged wonders.  Sandhill cranes, wood storks, great blue herons, and roseate spoonbills are easily visible from many vantage points throughout the park.  A popular place for bird watching is the “birdwalk” boardwalk which guides you through the marsh into the Upper Myakka Lake.  Volunteers armed with spotting scopes and field guides are eager to help visitors identify the numerous waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds and, birds of prey that dot the landscape.  If you want to check out forest birds and other creatures, there is a “canopy walk” where a 25-foot high suspended walkway gives you a glimpse into the forest canopy.  The walkway’s terminus is a 74-foot high tower that soars into the air and takes you above the treetops – a great reward for the climb.

The view from the top of the Canopy Walk overlooking the park's myriad of habitats.
The Canopy Walk is on of the most popular spots in the park.  All the money was privately
raised and built by volunteers. There is a slightly unnerving sway as you walk across the suspension bridge. 
The 75-foot tower is worth the climb.  Interpretive signs are placed throughout which explain
the plants and animals that are found in the forest canopy.
Spirit heading out
on the "Birdwalk."
Myakka offers lots to do for all ages and physical abilities. There are over 39 miles of hiking (including sections of the Florida Trail), biking, and equestrian trails; 6 camping areas; cabins; picnic areas; pavilions; and plenty of places to fish if you are brave enough to go near the alligator filled water.  At the “Outpost” (the parks concessionaire) you can rent a bike, kayak, and canoe or take an airboat or tram ride through the parks unique habitats.  There are two gift shops and a full service restaurant that features alligator stew, hand-dipped ice cream, and an impressive selection of craft beer.  The first weekend we were here was “Frost Fest,” a weird combination of frosty snow for the kids and frosty beer for adults.  We tried cranberry and Christmas ales while watching kids playing in the man-made snow by throwing snow balls at balloons and riding rubber rafts down a snow hill.  We were quite entertained!
The highlight for the kids at Frost Fest was the snow hill....the highlight for adults was the beer.
This park is going to be a great, peaceful place to spend Christmas.  Everyone in the campground is decorating their RV’s with lights, trees and all kinds of ornaments.  We plan to have luminaries across the front of our site.  And each night so many campsites are lit by a campfire and you can just stop by and greet your neighbors or they often drop by ours with a chair and drink in hand.  Of course, our Christmas gift to each other this year is wonderful little Spirit and the great adventure we are undertaking.  Merry Christmas to all of our family and friends from the RVAGOGOers!  We look forward to seeing many of you in 2012 as we head out west and explore that part of our country.

Sandhill cranes, coots, egrets and other assorted birds in Upper Myakka Lakes - one
of two large lakes within the park.
Ranch House Road is great for biking or hiking. 
Many miles of trail lead visitors through the dry prairie.  This unique ecosystem was maintained
by fire and was important to early settlers for cattle farming.
for cattle grazing
The "Gator Gal" - the concessionaires airboat.  Her claim to fame is being the largest
air boat in the world.  It may be the biggest, but it is also the slowest with a top speed of 10 mph.
The visitor center is a great place to start your visit.
The building was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) as a stable in the late 1930's when they
were developing the park.  In 1972, the dilapidated building was turned into the Visitor Center.
Another CCC building that was built when the park was established in the late 1930's. 
It now serves as a pavilion for interpretive talks or picnics.
Note the people siting on the weir...I guess only the vultures can read.

This warning sign was posted at numerous campsites.

Our peaceful campsite before we moved in.

1 comment:

  1. LOOKS GREAT!!! I'll check this one out as well.
    We are sitting here in Santa Fe NM 18 degrees waiting for a snow storm.


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