i always thought this was funny. but i digress. florida may be the ultimate destination for much of our nation's elderly, but i LOVE florida. count me in. i did an internship with CROW wildlife hospital the fall after i graduated college, and i fell in love (i even got to be in a couple episodes of animal planet's wildlife emergency show!) now i'm not talking disney world florida. i'm talking beautiful, swampy, wildlife-filled florida. but i'll get there.
i got into florida late tuesday night. i had a great opportunity to rendezvous on wednesday with my friend heather who just happened to be vacationing down in FL with her fam - staying with her aunt. heather and i have worked at LaVida for a few summers, and she came out to the bay area last year to run the big sur marathon - AND beat her goal time. now, if you don't know, the big sur marathon is considered by many to be THE most difficult marathon due to it's many long uphills and downhills. but it's also one of the most beautiful, as it largely skirts the pacific ocean. i got to be heather's support crew - it was really fun. heather has been a great spiritual friend over these last few years. it was great to catch up with her.
i then made it down to south florida - the land that i love - on thursday. i stopped through sanibel to check out my old stomping grounds (where CROW was), and continued on down to the everglades. i had a rough start to my adventures on friday, as i had decided to try the north end of everglades national park, and was severely disappointed (AND the weather wasn't cooperating very well). but by noon i had moved on to bliss - turner river - considered one of the best canoe trails in florida. here's a taste of what i saw...
this is why i love florida - because specTACular wildlife like this is ALL over the place - even in the drainage ditches along the sides of the roads. and i am an utter wildlife junkie. i can't get enough - birds, reptiles, mammals - holy cow. so turner river got my blood pumping and i was psyched. paddling with alligators is like nothing else - completely exhilarating and SO nervewracking at the same time. a few of these guys were like 6ish feet, and were only 5-8 feet from me as i was paddling. so cool.
then i made my way down to the keys - i decided to check em out under a good friend's advisement. so i came down to key largo, to john pennekamp state park. they border the florida keys national marine sanctuary, which contains some of the most spectacular coral reefs. so what did i do? i took a snorkel tour out to the reefs. we went out to grecian rock reef. now i had never snorkeled before, and figured it shouldn't be too hard. but i got in that water - out in the OPEN OCEAN, like 5 miles out - and i was a little freaked out. i was totally hyperventilating through my snorkel. it took me a good 10 or 15 minutes to get the hang of it and to calm down. and once i did - holy cow. it was so amazing. this whole underwater world just a couple feet below the surface of the water...and i was gliding through the water just above it. so many beautiful fish. i wasn't getting my hopes up of seeing anything WAY supercool. but what did i see?
that would be a NURSE SHARK and a BARRACUDA. i definitely kept some space between me and the barracuda (these aren't my pics by the way - they're off google images). so cool. i also saw this cool squid thing (not sure exactly what) and a bunch of spiny lobsters. not many people saw the nurse shark or the barracuda, so i was pretty psyched.
anyhow - it's been amAAAAAzing so far. now i'm headed up to everglades proper - where i've been a few times before and LOVE it there. tons of wildlife and great paddling. will report after that.
hope you all are well wherever you are :)