Sunday, February 3, 2013

Turning North

Well, I finally made it as far south as I plan to go on this trip.  No, not Key West.  I spent 2 weeks there on active duty training and it was perfect.  I returned there during the break between Christmas and New Year's with my stepdaughter about a year later.  That was nearly 20 years ago and we still refer to it as the vacation from Hell.  I think I will keep my good memories of the 2 weeks on base there and cut my losses. 

Where I did go was the southern tip on the Gulf side of the state.  I spent 2 wonderful nights at Collier Seminole State Park.  Of course I had my reasons: 1) it's in the Everglades but it's not swampy (it's actually a hardwood hammock) and 2) it's home to the oldest cache in the state of Florida.  I mean, as long as I'm out there I might as well grab a milestone.  The hike to the cache was just under a mile and a half.  I set out about 10:30 in the morning.  Now, because of the wildlife in the area (bear, panther, and gators of course) I hung a set of chimes on my backpack.  Since I hike at a brisk pace I'm sure if it's true that every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings then I filled the skies with angels that morning.  Just as I was within 300 ft. of the actual cache (and watching for gators since previous cachers had been turned back at this point by a momma and her baby) I met up with a caching couple from Quebec who had just signed the log and were hiking out.  Between their broken English and my broken French I managed to learn that all was safe in the area of the cache so I rushed in and signed off as quickly as possible.  It didn't take me long to catch up with my new caching friends after leaving the cache.  Like I said, I hike at a brisk pace.  But sure did feel great to mark that milestone.

On my last day in the Glades I actually drove over to the area of the national park and drove a 20 mile loop through the area.  Saw lots of ibis, herons, and even a wood stork.  And yes, of course, alligators.  36 to be exact.  One even made me wait while he patiently crossed the road.  Well, it is his habitat after all.  I'm just a visitor.  After the drive I arrived back in camp in time to tear down my campsite and check out on time. 

And then I started driving north.  In case you haven't noticed by now, I tend to indulge my need for serendipity on these adventures.  I had no real itinerary in mind other than beginning to work my way up the gulf side of the state.  I listened to a local radio station and learned that the Tampa/St Pete area (in the general direction I was headed) was expected cooler temps, rain, and strong winds.  Decided that I could find just as much serendipity heading a little more northeast.  Just about sundown I pulled into an rv park about 60 miles inland from Tampa and paid for 2 nights.  The next day I left out early in the car and drove to Tampa Bay.  It is an amazing sight and the waves were really whitecapping in that wind.  Glad I had a jacket with me.  Of course I did some geocaching along the way as well. 

What I really like about geocaching is finding places and sites that I might miss had I not been looking for a cache.  There in the middle of the Sunshine Skylight bridge across the bay I found a memorial to some brave coast guardsmen who died in the bay on a foggy night.  The story really adds dimension to the sight of the water stretching out for what seems like forever.

After leaving Tampa I drove back toward camp passing through town after town of orange groves and citrus production plants.  Now this is the rural Florida I was expecting.  Stopped to do a cache at the Florida Cracker Museum and had a few laughs.  Very unique roadside attraction. 

Today I will hook up the little orange car and head out north again.  Where to?  Wherever serendipity takes me.

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