Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Sarasota is a HOTBED of Birding Activity!

Sparky has been SUPER busy subbing....almost every day since school started back in August. She LOVES it! She gets to get dressed up, be silly, and read her favorite books when she does kindergarten. Her latest favorite book is, The Day the Crayons Quit. The kids love the part where the beige crayon asks his owner to stop peeling the paper off the beige crayon because he feels "naked" and doesn't want to come out of the box. They love this book so much that they asked Sparky to read it twice while she was there. Her favorite grades are kindergarten, first grade, and fifth grade....Just this past week, the little kindergartners have been celebrating St. Patrick's Day all week long. They made leprechaun traps to catch pesky little leprechauns. The kid that made this one said he made it all by himself, haha. 
The kids come up in front of their classmates and tell how their trap works. One little boy went totally blank when Sparky asked him how his trap worked. You should have seen the deer-in-the-headlights look when she asked. There was a big pause, and finally he says, "Uh...I don't know. It was dark. My mom made this after I went to bed." All righty, then.....

Each day or so, the teacher does something different to indicate that the leprechaun has visited. She might sprinkle glitter to leave a path like he's been through their room on one day, and in the room Sparky subbed in, the assisting reading teacher went through and created a chaotic trail of glitter, notes, and mischievous deeds. 
The notes were like, "Haha, you almost caught me!" and "Thanks for all this gold, I'm going shopping!" The kids went crazy when they saw what happened. "He broke my ladder!" "He left me a note!" "I almost got him with my trap!" One little boy said, "My dad says there is no such thing as leprechauns, but I think there is!" So there, poopy dad!

If Sparky is not subbing on a particular day, she is out looking for birds and nature stuff....There are TWO eagles nests within a few miles of our home...One has chicks that are about ready to leave the nest, the other has chicks just beginning to flutter their wings in the nest.

They are always magnificent to see and watch....Here is a youngster who looks like just about ready to fly the coop.

And sure enough, in a few minutes, he did....

We are so fortunate to have these sightings here in Bradenton and Sarasota....

See you soon at the Venice Rookery, another terrific birding spot!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Little Scare....

Sparky has been wondering and worrying a bit about Eldy since his quadruple bypass two years ago in February. She's been watching his fatigue level, which continues to be a problem, and wondering why the doctors don't do another stress test once a year to check for new blockages. Eldy has a very good heart/cardiologist doctor...he's one of the best in Sarasota, and the cardiac team at Sarasota Memorial Hospital has been ranked as one of the best in the country recently, so if they weren't thinking that was necessary, then we were accepting it. Eldo hasn't complained much about anything since the heart surgery, but that's the way he is....

So, a couple of weeks ago, he mentioned that he had been feeling "weird" and having more than the usual number of "odd" sensations in his chest. Then finally, on a Sunday, he said he was concerned...and you gals know, that when a guy finally admits something is not right and is ready to go to the doctor, SOMETHING IS NOT RIGHT! Eldy was having big belching, burping indigestion problems, he felt pain in his left shoulder, his blood pressure was up, he felt a tightness in his chest and he said his jaw was twitching. Sparky asked about the blood pressure and it was higher than normal for him. He had checked it four times unbeknownst to Sparky, and of course was stressing out about the readings, as each time they were registering higher. He was thinking that maybe he should get checked out. MAYBE?????  We're going NOW! said Sparky.  We started out with an urgent care center in Sarasota. In hindsight, we should have headed straight for the emergency room, but we both thought the urgent care center could handle the symptoms...Sometimes angina mimics heart attack symptoms, and we also thought indigestion could be part of the problem.

After about 45 minutes at one of the local urgent care centers, and their inability to provide a simple razor to shave Eldo's hairy chest and do an EKG because the leads wouldn't stick, they sent us to the emergency room at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where he got in right away....Four hours later, the EKG was normal and the cardiac enzyme tests came back normal. We were given a sheet on angina, and the attending physician had talked to Eldy's heart doctor and they both said he could come home but to follow up with an office visit soon. We were super impressed once again with the care and prompt attention given to Eldy, being that the emergency room was PACKED on a Sunday night. The attending emergency room doctor personally called Eldy's physician right away after the test results came back and got the OK-to-go-home response right back. Everyone was courteous and efficient despite LOTS going on at the hospital that night--car wrecks, a code blue, and more.
A beautiful mosaic wall near the emergency room at SMH
We learned a lot more about angina, which had not been in Eldy's medical history thus far, that was given to us in an info sheet and it was a little disconcerting as far as someone might misinterpret a heart attack as angina. Here were some of the facts listed on the informational sheet:

1. Angina is not always felt as chest pain and it isn't always in the chest. It might feel like discomfort, aching tightness, or pressure that comes and goes. You can feel this in your chest, back, arm, shoulder, neck or jaw. 
2. Tiredness that gets worse or you have more shortness of breath that usual for no apparent reason.
3. Shortness of breath while doing something that use to be easy.
4. Heartburn, nausea, indigestion, or sweating.
5. It usually happens during an activity. It can also occur if you are upset, or after a large meal. It can also happen when the weather is too hot or too cold.

Call 9-1-1 right away if these symptoms last for more than a few minutes....

It was a little disconcerting to see that the symptoms of angina can be VERY similar to a heart attack, so how is one supposed to know? When in doubt, head to the emergency room! As a wrap up, Eldo is going to have a nuclear imaging test, and a sleep apnea test to check for the amount of oxygen he's getting while sleeping which might be contributing to his high levels of fatigue that he seems to be experiencing more than what he should, at least that's what Nurse Sparky thinks!

So-o-o-o-o...everything is back to normal, and so far, the follow up tests are looking good. It could have been indigestion or a little angina, but we are happy that everything worked out ok.....

What's in our near future? A trip to St. Augustine, and Sparky will be posting some local nature trips....Come back and see us!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Well, Hello Once Again!

Life really keeps us busy and time gets away from us....But every once in awhile, it's nice to get back to the blog to document our lives, and we always appreciate anyone who stops by to read.....What are Sparky and Eldo up to these days?

In November, Sparky's daughter and handsome little grandson came for a visit.....We went to Coquina Beach and he had a wonderful time! Coquina Beach is a nicer beach, in Sparky's humble opinion, than Siesta Key Beach. There is a lot of shade from Australian pines, and a shaded boardwalk that stretches for a couple of miles. You can walk or ride your bike from one end of the walk to the other and get some great exercise, or have a picnic at one of the many picnic tables along the boardwalk in the shade. There is a wonderful playground for kids, informational kiosks, and plenty of places to sit and watch boats come in and go out in the channel or you can fish along the shoreline.

Sparky took the kids to Marie Selby Gardens, in Sarasota. They have a fabulous rain forest garden for children. You can walk across a suspended wooden bridge and jiggle it as you walk to make anyone nervous that's trying to cross, (Grandma was naughty), you can play several different musical instruments as you travel through the kids' sections of the rainforest---marimba style, drums, and other percussion style instruments. There are cool sculptures for the kids to climb on. The gardens have fabulous displays, sometimes from guest artist exhibitions to holiday lights celebrations. The koi pond is cool with a waterfall and a special bell to ring that just beckons anyone walking by to ring it.
Sparky's favorite at the gardens is the huge tree--it's either some kind of fig or banyan tree, she can't remember....Grandson loved it, too....
And when not visiting the beaches or cool places, it was great to just rest and show Eldo how to play video games....
Got a lot more catching up to do, but right now, we gotta go......
See you again soon...we promise!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

What Floridians Do on a Balmy Night....

Well...some of us anyway...Sparky was at the store the other night picking up a few things, so she thought she'd call home and see if Eldo needed anything. She WAS going to get him ice cream from Culver's for a dessert treat and was on her way there.  "No, can't really think of---OH MY GOD! THERE'S AN ALLIGATOR WALKING THROUGH OUR BACKYARD!!! yells Eldy on the phone.

"GET A PICTURE, TAKE A PICTURE, GET YOUR PHONE OUT THERE AND TAKE A PICTURE!" Sparky hollers back and hangs up fast. And she boogies home as quickly and as safely as she can, damn the ice cream, a gator is walking through our backyard!

Now, alligators are common in our neighborhood. We see them all the time---in PONDS, with their heads above water...We see them on the pond riverbanks in the neighborhood occasionally. Most of the time if they see you coming, they skedaddle right back into the water. We have NEVER seen one walk through the back yard in the four and a half years we have lived in Bradenton. There is no pond that is very close to the house, although one pond is halfway down our street. So to see a good sized gator waltzing down the golf course fairway and sauntering through people's back yards is something new. This one was about 8 feet long and he had a company of three sandhill cranes with him. The cranes appeared to be protective of him. Sparky was at first walking towards the cranes and the gator, and they promptly went into a warning dance, jumping up and down, flapping their weeks and making a racket. They were close to the gator and he wasn't interested. He looked like he had had a recent big meal, his belly and throat were distended and full. She didn't know if they were warning to stay away from the gator, or they were just alarmed at Sparky being on the scene. The cranes  in our neighborhood are quite tame and will come up very close to you if they think you might have food. Sparky and Eldy quickly hopped on the golf cart and started following the gator.

Sparky was texting a neighbor friend and told her about the gator. The neighbor was eager to see a gator, as she hadn't seen hardly any since she moved here earlier this year. Eldy graciously hopped off the cart so the neighbor could come along for the ride. Sparky went and picked her up on the golf cart. She was so excited! Sparky says, "Wanna get closer?" And game friend that she is, "SURE!" So we did. And then, "HE'S UP WALKING! OMG, OMG!"  She was SO excited to see this!
We picked up a second neighbor and continued to follow at a safe distance. The gator headed for the sand trap and then plunked down for a rest.

Can you imagine hitting your ball into a sand trap and then coming up over the crest of the hill to see the alligator in the trap?  Don't think anybody would go after their ball, do you? :-) With him deciding to take a rest, and it starting to get dark, we headed back to our house, just a few doors away......

It was a fun way to end the day...and interesting to see the cranes' behavior and how close they stayed to the gator as he walked down the fairway.

Bye for now!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Hurricane Irma Part 2

Monday morning.....we awoke....turned on the news and Irma was passed Bradenton...It had blown through, rather slowly at a less than category 1 storm...winds gusting from 45-90 mph. Sparky had a website called Next Door, where neighborhoods can set up a little private network of their own for neighbors to check on neighbors. You can request information about the best service people to use, what companies are good, and one of the best requests, "We are out of town, but how does our house look after the storm?" Because it's just your neighborhood and neighbors, it seems like a safe site to use. Sparky sent out a request, and a neighbor walking her dog was kind enough to report back, "Your pool cage has a branch through the screen, but it's just a small hole. Everything else looks ok!" Whew! Dodged a bullet there! It could have been really bad...the southern part got hit much harder than we did.
Sparky was anxious to get back home. Eldo, not so much. He was thinking, "Why not just stay here in Myrtle Beach, play a little golf, and wait for all the hubbub to die down?" But he knew how much Sparky missed school and the little kids, and how much she wanted to get back as soon as possible, just in case school resumed quickly. So we left late Monday morning. With no decision made on school other than it was closed Monday and Tuesday, Sparky was ready to go. There was just one slight problem. The outer bands of the hurricane were scheduled to pass through South Carolina close to the time we would be making our way back in the direction of Florida. Let's see what happened....

We drove and drove and drove....through bands of strong winds and heavy heavy rain. Just when we thought it was a bad idea to have headed home, the winds would calm down and the rain would completely stop. We kept going. Things started to get a little alarming once we got into Georgia. All the ramps were closed getting off I-95 through Georgia. We didn't know why....Apparently, the exits were closed due to the exodus of people leaving Florida, and the hurricane headed northwest tracking through Georgia and they hadn't opened back up yet. As the night deepened, the highway remained extremely dark. There were no overhead lamps illuminating the exits, there were no lights to be seen along the exits, where the gas stations, convenience stores and restaurants were. There were no gas stations open. There were no restaurants open. NOTHING was open. The area was without power. Uh-oh...we started worrying about gas, hearing that gas supplies were available. There was no electricity for miles and miles. We had kept our tank filled and topped off after having a terrible time getting gas once we were in the southern part of South Carolina. We started seeing lines and lines at the gas pumps and the gas pumps were closed off. We realized this was going to be a problem the rest of the way home.

Once we hit the border of Florida and Georgia, we were wiped out. It was about midnight. We pulled off the I-95 exit and interchange at I-75 in Wildwood, FL, deciding to see if we could find a place to spend the night and finish the drive the next morning. The most surreal scene greeted us. (Sorry for no photos, time of day and sheer exhaustion caused us to go into survival mode). Picture this...a major interchange with cars strewn all over the place in and around the gas stations....People sleeping in their cars in gas lines, lines of cars 25 or more deep, waiting for gas deliveries the stations said would be coming by morning. People sitting on the tops of their cars, parked willy-nilly all over in parking lots, on hillsides, like a demolition derby had just taken place and everyone had climbed out of their cars to wait the rest of the night out or choosing to sleep in them. People with children and babies trying to get some sleep, wondering where and when the gas would come. Others walking aimlessly around, talking to strangers. There was a motel right there, a Days Inn. A sign on the door said, "Sold Out" and it was locked. Sparky had to go to the bathroom, BAD! So she knocked on the door. The night clerk motioned to a little side window and Sparky explained her need. Sure, said the lady, and unlocked the door to let her in. After Sparky used the bathroom, she asked if she and Eldo could park the car in the back of the motel and just rest for a few hours. The lady took one look at Eldy, head down in the car and said, "Actually, we have a handicapped room still available. Would you like that one?" and Sparky WANTED  to say, "DOES A BEAR SHIT IN THE WOODS????" but she mustered up an effusive, "OH, YES! We WOULD! Bless you! Thank you SO MUCH" And we took it. Guess they were holding the room for anyone handicapped. At midnight, it had not been claimed, so we took it. They could have charged us an arm and a leg for it under the circumstances, but it was 116.00. That was all right. it was doable. Eldo climbed into bed and within 5 minutes was snoring logs. Sparky had her shower, and then she collapsed, too.

At 5:00 AM, we were back up and ready to roll. The thought of making it home on a low tank of gas was worrisome, but we had enough to make it. We headed for the highway entrance ramp for 75 south which had a line of 50+ cars in it at a dead stop. Nobody was moving. We couldn't figure out why until we saw a cop directing people AROUND the line of cars and it turned out the ramp was blocked because people were in a gas line that wrapped around the corner from the highway. We suspected that some people might have run out of gas in that line, but we didn't know for sure. We had to do a U-turn and come back the other way to get on the highway. As we got on I-75, there were cars after cars after cars on the shoulder. They had all run out of gas. We arrived home at 7:00 AM or so, and saw that the gas pumps were all out of gas in and around our exit as well....Unreal.....We have never experienced that nor seen anything like this ever!  We are old enough to remember gas rationing back in the early 70's but this was a lot worse....

Triple hurricanes 9/10/17

And wouldn't you know....school was cancelled for the rest of the week! Sparky owes Eldo, BIG time! :-) As we recovered from our ordeal, many emotions hit us the first couple of days back from having evacuated. Sparky was very emotional and tried to figure out why....(she's normally calm as a cucumber and very little gets her upset). Having missed a terrible storm, seeing others be not as fortunate, makes you feel guilty a bit. The Florida Keys got hammered. We felt terrible at the losses some RVing friends suffered from the damages to the Keys.

It was really really stressful....It took time to calm down and get back to normal, whatever that was and is...We learned some things about hurricanes in the process and being ready for the next one. We are not sure if we would stay or go the next time, but we do know how to prepare and how to be ready. We don't think we would stay in a shelter. There were some real horror stories about how people treated the shelter facilities in Sarasota. People left dirty diapers in children's desks in some of the schools that served as shelters. There was animal feces and other awful junk left behind.

We aren't blasé any more. We have a much more personal connection now with the weather here in Florida. We will have better supplies on hand next time. We will keep a "go" bag ready and packed a few days prior to having to evacuate if we do. We saw the power of a tropical storm, almost hurricane force winds, and we have a greater respect for the power it does have. It's been a busy hurricane season this year, THREE in the Atlantic basin at one time, Katia, Jose and Irma, something our weatherman says he has never seen. However, we are blessed to be in a location that has VERY few hurricanes actually come into the area. We are not worried. BUT--we will think about some new windows and we really should think about a new roof!

Until next time.....(not hurricane time!)

                                                             Eldo and Sparky

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Hurricane Irma Part I

We've never really worried about hurricanes here in the Sarasota/Bradenton area in the four years we've lived here. We are about 30 miles inland from the coast on the west side of Florida, an hour south of Tampa.We knew there was always a possibility, but 1) they hadn't had a direct hit hurricane in the area for about 90 years, and 2) we are not in a flood plain. We don't even carry flood insurance. We don't have hurricane shutters. Very few people in our neighborhood have hurricane shutters.

So in the first few days of last week, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, Sept. 4-6th, we were
watching the weather, in particular, our favorite weatherman, Denis Phillips of ABC10 News as he talked about a newly named hurricane by the name of Irma. He wasn't too worried. The system was well out in the Atlantic, and he was going to watch it very carefully....As the week progressed, the storm developed into a category 4, then a category 5, still out in the Atlantic and he was now watching it VERY carefully. A little note about Denis Phillips, Tampa Bay weatherman. He is probably THE most calm, non-excitable weatherman. He's cute, and always wears suspenders. He doesn't sugarcoat any bad weather news, he gives you all the probabilities and a very measured opinion and he doesn't hype up the storm like other weather stations do. And he doesn't do stupid stuff like go out in the raging hurricane gust winds and show you hard how it is to stand up in the wind with palm fronds and tree limbs flying by past you. (Really, Weather Channel? How stupid is that?) He has a favorite rule, rule #7--Don't freak out unless Denis Phillips freaks out. So we felt safe and secure....We continued to watch...and started to prepare. The stores started emptying out of basic hurricane supplies, water, food, plywood, etc. It appeared people were taking notice of the weather stations to prepare, prepare, prepare, and they did.

Around Wednesday, the spaghetti models and predictor models from several different sources were saying that the hurricane was a category 5, and it was a monster storm, one of the largest ever to form in the Atlantic.  What is a spaghetti model? It's a method of viewing data to visualize possible flows of weather systems. It looks just like spaghetti! But--according to Denis and other weather reports, the hurricane was going to hang over Cuba for a couple of days, it would weaken, and then take a turn northEAST around Saturday and head up the EAST coast. There were a few strings of spaghetti showing going up the central and west coast but the majority agreed it was a east side storm side for FL. So far so good. Remember, we're on the west side. The worst side of a hurricane to be on is the EAST side---the worst winds, the worst chances for developing tornadoes.  Eldy started looking at Pensacola, FL, up in the panhandle for rooms--plenty of rooms....

Thursday, the spaghetti models changed a bit. They were now showing lots of strings moving up more to the central part of the state, covering almost the entire state and a turn still happening around some time Saturday. We weren't worried. Denis thought that although the storm would make landfall at the southern tip of Florida, things were still pointing to the central, north central direction of the state. We decided to hang in there and see.....we got sandbags. Sparky prepared TONS of containers for the freezer in case we lost power. She got all her Tupperware containers and recycled plastic tubs and made ice. We bought bagged ice, Sparky cleaned out the perishable side of the fridge down to some basics and turned down the fridge to as cold as it would go. Sparky started preparing for a possible evacuation. If it was a category 3 or higher, we were definitely going to leave....Sparky talked to everybody she knew, and now the conversations at work were, "Are you going? Are you staying?" School was in session thru Thursday and they finally called it off for Friday.

On Friday, Denis was still thinking the storm was going to take a turn and although he predicted the storm was going to be coming thru the central part of the state, we would not get the worst hurricane winds, at most, perhaps tropical wind force winds with hurricane gusts...He did say the hurricane had shifted just a slight bit to the west, but it could shift back to the east overnight. All week it had wobbled back and forth like windshield wipers. Sparky packed some coolers with remaining perishable foods. She packed bread and peanut butter, snacks, pop, and cleaned out the right side of the fridge completely. She turned down the thermostat to the fridge to as cold as it would go. Fridge was ready.....Sparky was almost ready. Eldy was holding off. There were now NO ROOMS anywhere north in the panhandle, southern GA, or Pensacola area.

Sparky packed some more things, just in case...she looked around for what were THE most essential things in case the hurricane hit our area. H-m-mmmm...her dies for her die cutting machine, the Big Shot--they were expensive! Got to take those...Gotta take her big collection of knitting needles, medicines, check. Extra clothing, check. Important papers and photos, check. Bag anything in the craft room that might get wet should we lose our 1990's roof. Bag clothing in the closet in case water leaks through the roof. Pack the computer and tablet. Pack season 2 of the Outlander, one of Sparky's favorite TV shows. Check. Eldy went to bed early in case we had to get up early to leave. Sparky continued to pack. Updates for the hurricane were every day at 11:00 PM and 5:00 AM.  Eldy had said, if there's any change, we could leave in the middle of the night to avoid a big exodus of traffic. Sparky continued to pack. Then she went to bed. At 2:30 AM, something made her wake up, oh, right, the bathroom called. She got up, turned on the TV and there, blasting away, was Irma coming up the WEST side of the coast, hitting the Everglades and the Keys and heading straight for Sarasota, Bradenton, and Tampa in a few hours, forecasted as a category 3. NO TURN.....OUR AREA. We are in-between the 4 and the 1, an hour south of Tampa. It didn't look good.

"ELDY, WAKE UP! IT'S COMING STRAIGHT FOR US!" perhaps a little overly dramatic. Eldy was dead asleep, but it didn't take long for it to sink in, and he got up. We turned off the AC, the pool, and the hot water heater to reduce electrical load should the power go off and surge back on. He packed, we loaded up the car, and decided to hit the road at 3:30 AM. Traffic was very light...Since the hurricane was now heading up the west coast, we decided to head up the east coast. Eldy's brother had a place in Myrtle Beach and kindly offered it to us as long as we needed....a BIG thank you to him and his wife Shell. We drove away from the storm. It was an easy drive, with very little traffic EXCEPT for one thing. Two hours into the drive, in a rainstorm, WHAM! A car sideswiped us on the passenger side, and kept driving, a hit and run driver. We sped up and flashed our lights to try and get the guy to pull over, but he sped up and exited at the very next exit. There was no way to stop and call the cops until exit 358 on I-75. We sustained some minor damage and passenger Sparky wasn't traumatized.

This is a photo of traffic before the storm, heading north on I-75. Internet photo.

The remainder of the trip out of FL was uneventful. There had been two previous waves of evacation the past week, one was on Wednesday, and the second one was on Friday. Seven MILLION people had been ORDERED to evacuate Florida, the largest evacuation in U.S. history, according to the news.

We left in the middle of the night Friday, so we were in good shape. We stopped in Charleston, SC (remember that town for later on the way back) and stayed at a wonderful Best Western in Charleston.

We continued to watch the news....and Denis Phillips...He was saying on Saturday that it would not be a category 4 but a category 3, and landfall would be around the Naples area, so by the time it came to our area, it may weaken a bit. Still, winds and wind gusts were formidable. By Saturday afternoon, we were in Myrtle Beach and safe.....By Saturday night, the turn had NOT happened, but because Irma would make landfall south of our Sarasota/Bradenton area in the keys and possiblly a second landfall further north, it would weaken as it moved up the state and they were now talking category 1......Wind gusts of 74-95 miles and hour with hurricane gusts of over 100 m.p.h. We went to bed Saturday night with hopes that our area would not be too badly hit.....

Sunday, we watched the news off and on all day....One of the most interesting things to happen which is a very rare occurrence, before the hurricane hit Florida full force, was a reverse storm surge. The winds sucked the water out of Tampa Bay and other low lying coastal areas. The winds would continued to circulate and eventually the water flowed back in. Manatees were stranded and people went out to rescue them, which was a heartwarming but dangerous thing to do, because nobody knew when the water would flow back in. People were out walking in Tampa Bay and the beach areas where all the water had disappeared, on the sand which is normally under water. (The winds out of Tampa were southwesterly, which pushed the water from the bay into the Gulf of Mexico. The surge is maximized when the tide is low and the bays are shallow.) It was weird seeing this!

The day went on...it seemed like forever.....Friends were texting from Florida, giving us the latest news. Then cell service from our area became interrupted and intermittent. We watched anxiously as the storm moved north...Friends were moving into shelters.

The storm was HUGE! It covered the entire state of Florida. No one would escape its wrath, it appeared. As it passed through familiar areas to us, we saw that although the winds were fierce, the storm was not pushing through the 100 M.ph. steady sustained winds that had been previously forecasted. Our area of Bradenton/Sarasota ended up getting tropical storm force winds with gusts of over 95 m.p.h., down from a category 1 forecast.....We heard our residential area still had power....We started talking about going home and trying to beat the millions of Floridians that had evacuated this past week. It was with a great deal of relief and feeling blessed as we headed to bed Sunday night. We would make a decision in the morning as to whether to stay or leave SC.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Sparky Hikes the Deep Hole

Sparky has always wanted to hike the Deep Hole in Myakka River State Park. It's a deep watering hole in the middle of the state park, and there are USUALLY hundreds of alligators sunning themselves and swimming around. The rangers only allow 30 hikers at a time to hike back to the hole and you have to register in then check back out when you leave.

The timing has to be right to see a lot of alligators. The ranger says they don't like cloudy, windy days.  You don't want to go when it's an extremely hot day as more gators will probably be in the water than out, so a day in the coolest part of Florida's hot, hot, hot season which are the winter months of December, January, and February and a little later, are best. Sparky had some time one day, not too long ago and the day was starting out in the sixties, with a high in the eighties. This might be a good day to go even if it was a little outside of the optimal viewing time. It was during the week, less foot traffic at the park probably. She wasn't subbing, and anyone else she knew that might be interested was working, so on a whim, she decided to go it alone. She called ahead to see if the hiker list was full. Nope, the ranger said. Not very many were out on the hike today.  Hot dog! Sparky decided to head over to the park. First--supplies---hat? check! Water? check....sunscreen? check. And off she went.

Now....if you have been following the blog for awhile, you know that Sparky is directionally challenged, even with GPS. What's worse, is even after visiting a local place many times, if it's out in the boonies, Sparky can still get lost. She thought she knew the way to the park so didn't have her GPS on. Sparky got off at the wrong exit off I-75 and proceeded down a certain road, saw a sign that said Myakka River State Park and thought she was on the right path. Forty-five minutes later, she still hadn't arrived at the park, and the park was nowhere near to be found. (it's normally about a 20 min. drive from the house). Sparky turns on her GPS  on the phone, and discovers she has a half hour drive to return back to the park, which she overshot. (Sparky wastes a lot of time continuing to drive thinking she can see something familiar eventually that will give her a clue as to what direction to go.) Ah, nope...ain't gonna happen, says a knowledgable Eldo. Needless to say, Sparky was clueless that day. She finally arrives at the park at 11:45 AM, when the heat is beginning to build.

She checks in and she's off! Sparky was glad she had on athletic shoes. The ranger checked for that before she left, saying that people hike the trail in sandals or flip flops sometimes. BAD idea! The trail is 2.5 miles one way on a deeply rutted sandy tractor trail. Hard on the ankles, hard on the feet if you are not wearing the proper shoes. And hard, if you have a bad ankle with tendonitis, Sparky learns.
It was hot....no breeze...There is VERY little shade along the way. Sparky should have brought TWO bottles of water, she was thinking....On she trudged....

Not much to see along the way...no birds...no animals, some farmland.....Sparky encountered two people hiking back, but saw NO ONE along the way, a BIG clue that this was not the best time to hike the trail because of the heat baking the sandy trail. Sparky trudged on....
There are no places to sit along the way, no stumps, no rocks...Sparky was getting tired....But almost there...Once you get there, the trail opens out into a clearing and you see a big pond ahead of you. There are some bushy plants that form a mound in one spot in the clearing (remember that for later) and then, you see the gators.....Sparky apologizes for poor photos today...the camera lens was foggy or dirty, not sure which, and Sparky was so hot and sweaty, she forgot to clean the lens. She was also a little dehydrated and not the steadiest on her feet while snapping a few photos.
It was quite the letdown....Sparky only counted about 55 gators. There could have been more, they were all tangled up in each other. While she wanted to walk around the outskirts of the pond to get just a tiny bit closer with her lens, there were two BIG gators swimming in the pond, heading her way. Sparky could tell they were very interested in what she was doing. Being the SOLE hiker at that moment at the Deep Hole, with no one ever joining her in the half hour she was there, Sparky backed
off to the mound of rushes in front of the pond and stood behind them. The gators kept coming. At that point, Sparky decided it was dumb to be at the Deep Hole, by herself, and that wanting to get better pictures was a bad idea. So, with an eye on the two gators that were swimming to the edge of the hole towards her, she headed for the return trail 2.5 mile hike, disappointed that there weren't more gators, and that she couldn't have gotten better photos for the day. Mid day is a terrible time to take photos, you've got that glare from the sun on everything.

The only birds she spotted was a great blue heron at the hole, and the usual egrets fishing at the pond with the gators.

Sparky would like to do the Deep Hole again, but thinks she might want to come in by kayak. The only problem with Myakka River State Park is, that sometimes the water levels are so low, you can't kayak back there. There has been a drought in Florida this spring, so water levels are extremely low at the park. Right now the boat ramp is closed, and there are no airboat tours because of the drought. It's going to take a LOT of rain for the park to recover.

Sparky has seen videos on Youtube about kayaking to the deep hole, and you are REALLY close to the gators if you can navigate your way back there. It just goes to show, with nature, you never know what you are going to see. Sparky was happy she did the hike, but recommends that you go EARLY in the morning to avoid the heat. Wear proper shoes, bring plenty of water, clean your camera lens and BRING A FRIEND.  :-)

                                                                          The End