Hi all - Dianne here. We spent three short days at Collier-Seminole State Park outside Naples, Florida. As we suspected, there were too many trees for us to have satellite coverage, so we "roughed it" without satellite OR TV for the time we were there. The only local channel we were able to get was a fuzzy FOX station; that was good enough for us to get our weekly fix of American Idol. We did miss having internet access, but there is a lot to do there at Collier-Seminole, so we were certainly not bored.
The park rangers there are very proactive, putting on lots of programs. They were all very, very helpful and friendly. I give the staff there an A+!
We took the dogs hiking on a trail, then took ourselves in the SS Minnow on a canoe trail through the mangroves. I'll let Roger elaborate on that a bit. In fact, we enjoyed it so much that we did it two days in a row.
Roger here... On the first full day we did a one-mile hike with the dogs.
Dianne took some interesting pictures of the red-barked Gumbo
Limbo tree, as well as the red fungus (maybe lichen) that lives on many of the trees.
Later in the day we took our first excursion on the
Blackwater River that flows through the park. Before the paddle trip we registered with the park rangers so they could send out a search party if we did not return. The river, which is affected by the tides, is truly "black" due to the tannins in the water - lots of jumping fish and other creatures in the water that we could not see. (Note from Dianne - at the very shallow points where we could see the bottom, it was obvious that the water was surprisingly clean and clear, despite the dark color. The bottom just looked like sand with a scattering of leaves which had dropped from the trees.
Also, the SS Minnow was actually cleaner after our trip than when we had it in the Caloosahatchee River. It hardly had to even be wiped down.)
At the launch area, the river was pretty wide. However, after about a quarter mile it
narrowed into a winding, deep, somewhat narrow stream through the mangroves. We soon found ourselves totally alone as we criss-crossed up the stream. In one section the sky disappeared under a complete cover of mangroves - much like paddling in a cave. Deep in that section, we saw a small set of eyes protruding out of the water. We thought it might be a snake, but upon closer inspection we confirmed it to be a baby alligator. We knew it was newly hatched because it still had its yellow stripe. We made it about a mile and a half the first day
before turning back shortly after seeing the baby gator. It kind of creeped me out. Dianne, however, was very brave. The paddle trail is 13.5 miles long and eventually dumps into the Gulf. Obviously, due to the ridiculously small gator, we barely put a dent in the trail.
When we checked back in with the rangers at the end of the trip, they assured me that if we encountered a gator, that it would leave us alone unless we harassed it. (Right, like I'm going to harass an alligator in an inflatable kayak!). They encouraged us to go again the next day and to go further, which we did. On the second day we paddled for about four miles and had a great time - a very different experience than Sugar Creek in Indiana. We intend to go kayaking a couple more times before we leave South Florida.
Dianne already mentioned how nice Collier-Seminole State Park is. While wandering through the park, we took a couple shots with the dogs as we clowned around at the Barron Collier monument.
We also took some shots of the "Walking Dredge" display
that was used to build the Tamiami Trail Highway (US 41) through the Everglades and Big Cypress Swamp, linking Tampa and Miami and opening southwest Florida to travelers.
We had some time to lounge around the campsite. There was actually wildlife viewing at the site with dozens of gray squirrels (kept Jasper on his toes, Chaplin just slept), lizards, and about thirty kids in tents with their fathers on a weekend outing. (Dianne here - there wasn't a mom in the bunch. It wasn't the boy scouts, because there were both boys and girls, of all ages. They had a great time, and I dubbed the group the "Good Dads Club.") We did not get a shot of the tent city across from us, but I am really pleased with the picture of the small lizard
that I got on a tree at the exact moment that he extended his very red neck in a mating ritual.
The park had an ice cream social on the last evening we were there.
Dianne made sure that Jasper and Chaplin were able to partake - vanilla ice cream, their favorite.
Dianne again - Our site at Collier-Seminole was not spacious by any means, but the activities there made up for it. Another interesting aspect of the area here is that it is one of the few sites where royal palm trees are indigenous to the area. They are interesting to view up close; the trunks on the mature trees look like concrete. The younger palms have stripes and green areas.
I am including a photo of a tree from one of our hikes, but I'm not sure you can get the true effect.
Charlie the cat wasn't very happy at Collier-Seminole; because of the dirty sand everywhere on our site, I KNEW the first thing he would do if we let him out on his harness was roll around in it and then his fur would be a mess. At least whippets don't normally roll in the dirt, and even if they did, their fur is so short we could just wipe them down. With Charlie it would have been a major issue.
Check back in a few days and we'll get caught up and describe our fun days here at the Groves in Fort Myers with our camping buddies, Chuck and Cindy, and their brand new puppy. See you then!