Guana River Wildlife Management Area

A friend showed me how to get to a wildlife viewing tower in the nearby Guana River Wildlife Management Area.  We entered it through the Guana Tolomato Matanzas Reserve (GTM).  Regis, Dart, and I have hiked in the GTM several times, but never really ventured into the nearby Guana River Wildlife Management Area.  The WMA is very peaceful and beautiful.  There were few people there but we saw a variety of wildlife.  Although we saw a variety of birds, this is the first time I saw so many reptiles on a hike.

We saw lots of baby alligators.  We kept a watchful eye out for mom.  Where there are baby alligators, mom is likely to be nearby.  We did not want a close encounter with her.

We saw lots of snakes.  I think most of them were Florida Water Snakes.

We saw a few different kinds of crabs with two of the varieties pictured here.

An Eastern Towhee sang for us.

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We saw a few kinds of butterflies.  The Palamedes Swallowtail

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and the Great Southern White.

One of the last sightings was a Six Lined Racerunner.  It looks like he may have just shed since there appears to still be old skin on his tail.  I’m not sure.

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While I was out enjoying Florida’s natural environment, Regis was working on projects to get us ready for our cross country trip and Dart was staying cool in the air conditioned house.  I will pull Regis away from his projects long enough to go see the snakes and baby alligators before we leave on our trip.

Jumpy Dog

Dart doesn’t like noises.  We spent all day yesterday at the RV dealer while they installed the equipment to allow us to tow the Jeep. (regis the editor here. when someone says it will take “most of the day”, be sure to ask if that is a 24,12 or 8 hour day! on the plus side it was the first time I paid for 10 hours of labor and actually got 10 hours of labor!) The coolest place to sit was where the technicians would pull off sheets of plastic to put over the seats in the incoming RV’s so they didn’t mess up the RV’s when they fixed them.  Dart DID NOT LIKE when they pulled the plastic off the role.  He hated it.  Life was good until a technician pulled off a sheet of plastic.

To make his little life worse, we came back home today with the dinghy in tow which means all of us rode in the motor home on the way home.  Dart gives a new meaning to “not a happy camper”.  Every noise bothered him.  It took him at least two hours to stop reacting to EVERY sound.  When we stopped for gas, he bolted to the door of the RV to escape.  Eventually, he was reasonably satisfied with a setup Regis put together.  Regis put his dog bed between the driver and passenger seat and he sat in the passenger seat while I drove.  Dart became reasonably settled and gave us hope that he would become accustomed to this new situation.

I plan to try using Adaptil to come him down when we start on our cross country trek.  I hope that works to reduce his anxiety until he gets acclimated to the sounds and movement of the motor home.

As far as driving the motor home with the dinghy, it wasn’t bad.  I find the motor home reacts to wind (sometimes from passing vehicles) more than the 5th wheel did.  I find it easy to tow the dinghy rather than the 5th wheel.  Although driving the motor home takes getting used to, I think the advantages of the motor home outweigh the disadvantages of the 5th wheel for our style of camping.  If we didn’t move around a lot, a 5th wheel would be better.

Here is our one picture showing we drove through orange country.  It sure makes you want a glass of orange juice as you watch these trucks drive by.  The picture is a bit blurry, but the truck is filled with oranges.

Oranges

Once we got home, Regis had to run to a dental appointment.  Meanwhile, I brushed Dart and gave him a badly needed bath.  When Regis came home, he was horrified on Dart’s behalf.  He felt that Dart was tortured enough on his motor home ride and it was particularly cruel to make him undergo a brushing and a bath in the same day.

Now, we prepare for our cross country trip.  I may not post again until we get going.  We hope that will be in 1-2 weeks.  We have a list of things to accomplish before we go and it depends on how quickly it happens.  I hope soon.  I’m ready!!!!!!

 

 

Ding Darling NWF

We got a cable today and downloaded our pictures from yesterday and today.  This little crab was one of many we saw on a short hike yesterday.

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We returned to the refuge today and went for a short hike.  There was hardly anyone at the refuge compared to yesterday.  It was very nice.  It turned out to be too hot for Dart for us to complete the hike as planned.  In addition, bugs we couldn’t see attacked.

We saw this alligator right away.  Shortly afterwards, we passed some women who advised us to be careful that Dart didn’t get attacked by an alligator.  We were vigilant.

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We found a spot with this beautiful heron (I think.  I forgot my guidebook along with everything else, like my binoculars.)

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We also saw an Anhinga nesting.  She/he was sitting on two chicks.  If you are able to zoom in on this picture, you can see their heads to the right of the parent.

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We saw a snake and lots of anoles.  I have no doubt there was a lot more stuff creeping around in the mangroves but the heat and bugs caused us to return to the car and proceed on the wildlife drive.  We saw lots of birds including this Reddish Egret and these Anhingas drying their wings.

One of the more interesting experiences was watching this young bird catch a crab and eat it.  The bird appeared to work at knocking most of the legs off the crab before swallowing it.

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It was not a good day for crabs.  This bird also picked up a crab, but fortunately for the crab, the bird gave up and selected something smaller to eat.

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I know that estuaries are nurseries for fish and I’ve been to estuaries many times, but I have never seen as many fish as I saw today.  It was amazing.  If not for worrying about Dart in the heat, I would have sat in one spot for hours watching the fish activity.  The best place to go was where there was a big pipe under the road and water was flowing from the bay to the interior of the refuge.  That is the place where many fish hung out.  It’s hard to get good pictures of fish when you are not set up for underwater pictures, but I was able to get the following.

Tomorrow we get to spend the day at the dealer so they can get the dinghy set up to be towable by the motor home.  Oh joy!

Earth Day

We went to the J. N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge today and it was very busy.  I thought it was because it was Saturday, but it turns out the refuge was celebrating Earth Day.  Earth Day was officially April 22, but many places held activities today.  There were lots of people riding bicycles through the refuge.  It was nice to see so many people enjoying the outdoors.

We probably arrived too late in the day to see many birds, so I hope to return early in the day tomorrow.  We saw lots of small crabs, anoles, and young fish.  The mangroves are awesome at the refuge.  Someday, I would like to kayak through the refuge.  They have some kayak trails.  Hopefully, I could do it without getting lost in the mangroves.

One of the MANY things we forgot to bring was the cable to download pictures from the camera to the computer.  (Pictures posted the last couple days were taken with our cell phones).  The list of things we forgot is so long, it makes me wonder that we remembered anything at all.

I forgot to mention something I saw on our drive from St. Augustine to Fort Myers.  As we got within about 45 minutes of Fort Myers, we started to see hundreds, if not thousands, of white butterflies flying along the side of the road.  I wonder if they might have been Great Southern White butterflies.  I have never seen so many butterflies at one time.

First Night

We packed up and left for a long week-end in Fort Myers, Florida so we could get the battery problem fixed and get the dinghy (towed) set up for towing.  There are a couple terms for the vehicle that is towed and we like dinghy the best since this really is our land yacht.  Following  is a picture of Dart with a pile of stuff to put in the RV.  I don’t know whether he was trying to ensure we didn’t forget him, didn’t forget his ball, or both.  Note his green ball on top of the blue notebook.

North Trail 2

So, we spent the first night in our motor home at the North Trail RV Center.  Following is a picture of Dart and Regis waiting for the RV center to let us know where we could plug in for the night.  The only thing missing is the Margarita.

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It was a nice setup at the RV Center.  They are huge and efficient.  It appeared that some of the technicians may stay in RV’s on site.  Staying there requires you to be locked in for the night, but it is a small price to pay for a free night with water and electricity.   We got our batteries fixed and went to the campground for the week-end.  The RV Center will get our dinghy set up for towing on Monday.

A pleasant surprise was to find out that the RV Center will give you a coupon to stay for some free nights at the campground when you are having work done at the RV Center on your RV.  We have to stay 4 nights because we have to stay through Monday night, so we have a coupon for two free nights.

Dart is struggling to deal with the changed situation.  He doesn’t handle change well.  He doesn’t like all the new noises in the RV.  We learned from last year that he eventually adapts and gets comfortable.  He needs time.  I drove the dinghy to Fort Myers behind Regis in the motor home.  Dart started off with me.  At one of the rest stops, we put Dart in the motor home.  Regis exited the rest stop and got off at the next exit.  I was curious why.  As soon as he stopped, he told me that Dart tried to run between his legs as soon as he got the motor home moving.  You can’t drive with a dog between your legs.  On the way back, we will be able to tow the dinghy and I will try to make Dart comfortable with a moving RV.  (He never had to experience being in the 5th wheel while it was moving.)

Dart is making himself comfortable in the new motor home.

Dart in the RV

Regis plans to do some work on the motor home over the week-end and we will check out the local area.  Sanibel Island is close by and we are camping on the Caloosahatchee River. I would love to do some Stand Up Paddleboarding but I didn’t bring the proper clothes.  In fact, I really messed up on packing and didn’t bring anything to sleep in either.  Our list of forgotten items is so long it almost fills a page right now.

 

 

 

New Motorhome

I question our sanity, but we traded in the Ford Pickup and Elkridge 5th wheel for a Jayco Seneca motorhome and a Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk to tow behind it.  We bought the motorhome at North Trail RV in Fort Myers, Florida.  It is a 4 1/2 to 5 hour drive from our home in St. Augustine.  Regis was very interested in this particular model and it was the closest place we could see it.

The main reason we made the decision to switch is because the motorhome will be easier to maneuver.  I was okay with the 5th wheel on the interstates, but didn’t feel as comfortable in tight spots which included some campgrounds.  I have already found I am comfortable driving the motorhome.  We don’t have the Jeep set up to tow yet, so we will have to see how that changes things.  At least the Jeep can be unhooked and driven if you get in a tight spot.

Additionally, it will be more comfortable driving.  The person who isn’t driving can go in the back.  The Jeep will be easier to use as the “drive around” vehicle than the pickup was.  The pickup had an extended cab and full bed, so it required more than one parking space.  That was limiting in certain situations.  The icing on the cake is all the nice features that comes with the Jeep Cherokee.  I’m still learning about them.  Between the motorhome and the Jeep, there are mountains of manuals to read.

Motorhome

Jeep

Tomorrow we need to head back to Fort Myers because the batteries in the motorhome are bad.  North Trail RV is going to let us stay on their lot for the night and fill up our tank with fuel because we have to return.  As long as we are headed down there, we are going to have North Trail RV set up the vehicles for towing.  They can’t do that until Monday, so we are staying in Fort Myers for the week-end.  It works out well because we wanted to do a local camping trial run before we head on our long trip.  It will give us the opportunity to make sure everything is working okay before we hit the road.