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Florida 2005 / GoodeG Home / Trip Index


Another cool February in Florida and daughter Val came from Texas on Sunday, Feb. 13, to go camping with me in the GTRV Westy van. Our major objective was the Westy rally at Collier-Seminole State Park, but we had other destinations - some new adventures and some old. There are so many places to see in the short period of 3 weeks. The Westy was used in South Florida for 973.6 miles. The Toyota Echo was used for other local trips.

Silver River State Park, Ocala, FL, is located about a mile away across the road from my community. There are several trails, but the river trail and the swamp trail are my two favorites. Armadillos and birds are very plentiful on all trails. There were many trees uprooted during the hurricanes of 2004 and there was some damage to the end of the boardwalk by the river. Monday, Feb. 14. One-year family pass to FL state parks - $85.20.

Val with armadillo
Val with a very friendly armadillo
Most frequently seen wildlife

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota, FL, is a world center for the study and display of orchids, bromeliads, and other epiphytes, and their canopy habitats. The Tropical Display House has spectacular living collections of rare orchids and bromeliads in bloom, many collected in the wild by the Gardens' scientists on more than 150 expeditions to tropical forests. Orchids are one of the largest families of flowering plants with almost 30,000 species which are found on every continent in the world except Antarctica. More than 60 percent of orchids are epiphytes.

The original 1921 home of William and Marie Selby was undergoing an exterior restoration when we were there. Grover Yancy planted the Banyan trees in 1939 while employed by Marie Selby until her death in 1971. He continued as a member of the Selby Garden staff until he retired in 1992 at the age of 76.

The Schimmel wedding pavilion was built with Brazilian Ipe wood, which is the strongest wood in the world. It features stained glass panels and a beautiful vista of Sarasota Bay and depicts a place of "Love, Romance, and Commitment." The palm grove has 2,500 species of palms mostly restricted to the tropics, but some are native as far north as coastal North Carolina. Some varieties found here are the date, fishtail, talipot, triangle, and two Florida natives - cabbage palm and saw palmetto. Tuesday, Feb. 15. Entrance fee - $24 @ $12 each.

garden sign
Selby Gardens

pitcher plant
Pitcher Plant - The Nepenthes

Myakka River State Park is one of Florida's largest and most diverse natural areas. The river flows through 58 square miles of wetlands, prairies, hammocks, and pinelands. A 7-mile scenic drive winds along the lake. There are over 39 miles of hiking trails and many miles of dirt roads. Feb. 15-16, two nights camping, $24.20, with FL senior resident discount. The dam and the birdwalk are great places for birding. The park has a 85-foot long canopy walkway 25 feet above the ground, ending with a 74-foot tower on one of the trails.

Westy at Big Flats Campground
Sunset at the dam

Ev and Val
Ev and Val at top of tower
observation tower

Casperson Beach, South Venice, FL, sponsored by Naturists. Lots of birds, including a flock of noisy monk parakeets. This beach is still a prime location for fossilized shark teeth and other fossils because the beach has not been restored as it has in Venice. Thursday, Feb. 17.

beach finds
shark teeth, fossils, and seashells
the beach

Collier-Seminole State Park, Naples, FL. Thursday, Feb 17- 21, 4 nights $39.24. Due to heavy traffic and jams on I-75, we arrived late at the park and were lucky to have a person behind us with the combination to get through the locked gates. Besides the Westy rally, there was a Native American and Pioneer Festival going on, with a 1857 Third Seminole War Battle Reenactment.

We took a pontoon boat tour ($10 each; $21.20 total) on the Blackwater River, to experience this great mangrove forest and swamp in southern Florida, one of the world's largest. We were glad we did not rent a canoe and would have to paddle through all that same stuff. The Royal Palm Hammock 45-minute boardwalk trail goes to the observation platform overlooking the salt marsh. This park is one of 3 places in south Florida where native Royal Palms grow naturally. Thomas Edison planted Royal Palms in Fort Myers at the turn of the century, but had to ship them from Cuba since there was no way to transport them from this wilderness only 60 miles to the south.

The only existing Bay City (Michigan - 1924) Walking Dredge is on exhibit at the park. It was used 18 hours daily to dredge roadbed fill material material for the Tamiami Trail through the Everglades in 1927-1928.


Walking Dredge
Pileated Woodpecker

Battle reenactment
Battle continued

Tigertail Beach, Marco Island, FL, believed to be named for Seminole Indian Chief Charley Tigertail. Sunday, Feb. 20, parking $4. The 2,500 linear feet of beach is a bird watcher's paradise. We had to wade across a stretch of water to reach the seashore, and the birds were outstanding.


Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk. Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve. A wonderful boardwalk into the swamp had interpretative signs which really have a meaning. There was an active otter swimming right by the sign for the otter. Each sign signified something that we could actually see, even the birds and alligators. I used the handheld bug zapper and it proved very effective. We met an Audubon group on the way back and they thought the zapper would be a great fund raiser for their group.

The strand is the major drainage slough of southwestern Big Cypress Swamp and the largest and most unusual of the strands. Other stops for pictures were the H.P. Williams Roadside Park, Kirby Storter Roadside Park, and the Big Cypress National Preserve Visitor Center at Oasis. We took many pictures of birds and alligators.

Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk
Baby gator

Shark Valley The lookout tower is at the far end of a 15 mile paved bike trail. I used the electric bike, but remembered I left the lights on in the Westy and had to hurry back to save the battery. Val used the pedal bike and spent much time taking pictures of birds, gators, snakes. She said it was like being in a zoo, there was so much wildlife. This "river of grass" is a slow moving (1/4 mile every 24 hours) body of water that flows from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Bay. Along the road are four artificial lakes called borrow pits, where limestone has been removed, crushed into gravel, and used to raise the level of the tram road.


Miami Metro Zoo. Entrance fee to zoo $24.61 @ $11.50 each. We camped at Larry and Penny Thompson County Park which is close to the zoo, so we were able to spend the entire day at the zoo. The county park is set in 275 acres of woodland, with pine, lychee, mango and avocado trees. $88.05 for 4 nights.

zoo entrance
reconstructed aviary


Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Coral Gables, FL. Very large garden with 83 acres and a fantastic collection of palms and cycads. Signs around the lakes warned of alligators, but all we saw were 5-6 foot iguanas. Rain forest, sunken garden, rare plant house, narrated 2-mile tram tour. More than 500 species of palms are represented in its collection. In the garden's western area, there are collections of cycads, arid gardens, flowering trees and vines, and an overlook view point of 18 feet which is one of the highest points of land in southern Florida.

lily pond


Crab in greenhouse
Bark of Eucalyptus deglupta (rainbow eucalyptus)

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Florida 2005 / GoodeG Home / Trip Index