When we travel we don’t linger in one spot for to long. Our reluctance to stay put is a fear of running out of places to explore. That has not been the case here at Myakka River State Park or this part of the Florida coast.We’ve enjoyed visiting with friends, hanging around camp and filling our days with lots of hiking, biking and wildlife viewing.
Apparently vulture poop is quite fertile-This green grass grows under the trees where they roost every evening. It also happens to be right behind our campsite.
Across the road from the park is the Myakka River Wilderness Preserve. Located in the Preserve is Lower Myakka Lake and Deep Hole. Access to Deep Hole is limited to 30 people a day. There’s a 2.2 mile hike to the hole and most of it is through a sunny prairie with the ocassional pine island or oak hammock for shade.
Deep Hole is actually a 130 foot deep sinkhole where alligators converge to enjoy the cool water and sunny shores. It’s quite a sight to see these prehistoric -looking creatures just hanging out. The day we visited, we spotted about 80 alligators and at least as many black headed vultures.
Deep HoleLower Myakka Lake
Sunset over the prairie
This is a cutaway image of a shell midden located on Spanish Point near the town of Osprey. Shell middens are the ancient garbage dumps of the eastern woodland natives.
Spanish Point is a peninsula jutting out through mangroves on Little Sarasota Bay. By all accounts it has been a popular spot for human habitation for thousands of years. This 20 ft high shell midden was excavated in the 1920’s when the property owner needed a space to park his car. Fortunately someone recognized the importance of the site and saved the midden for scientific research. Prehistoric people occupied the site from 5000 years ago – and they abandoned the site about 1000 years ago. Between 1959 and 1962, scientists excavated a burial mound at the site and used carbon 14 dating (a new technology at the time) to determine the age of the artifacts they found.
Bertha Palmer bought 350 acres on Spanish Point in 1910. She saved some of the cottages on the Point and developed gardens as she planned her winter estate. Bertha was an early real estate developer in the Sarasota environs.
What would a trip to Sarasota be without a visit to the circus?
We lucked out with the circus being in town. The acts were unbelievable. It was a magical 2 1/2 hours with feats of daring and strength.
These two brought the house down. They were amazingly agile. But no trip to Florida is complete without plenty of beach time.Beach goon. Nokomis Beach Drum Circle on Casey Key
Two ways to get ready for a sunset
We’ve been using Myakka River as a base to explore Sarasota and the surrounding area. Sarasota is home to the Ringling Museum and estate. The museum houses a large art museum as well as a circus museum. We spent two afternoons wandering the grounds.
The Circus Museum houses an immense scale model of the Ringling Circus as it would be set up in the 1930’s. It is the creation of Howard Tibbals and his life’s work. These photos do not do justice to the detail and care that went into creating the model. Must be seen.
Lots vintage posters on display
The grounds of the estate are on Sarasota Bay. The park like setting offers beautiful gardens and art for viewing. David is spending Winter in Sarasota this year.
Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads
Part of the museum’s new Asian wingDetail of Ringling’s home
We met up with Bruce and Loretta to check out Sarasota’s Saturday farmers market. We had a fun morning. Through the miracle of Facebook we connected with a high school classmate that Pat hasn’t seen in thirty years or was it fifty. We spent an afternoon catching up. Pat and ConnieJeffery
The last time we were in this part of Florida was 1980. Needless to say things have changed.
The Legacy Trail is a newer rails to trails bike path that runs between Sarasota and Venice with a side trail along the Intercostal Waterway to Caspersen Beach.
We made a quick stop in Venice to get silly.
But wait!!!–We still have another week in this area so watch for another post from West-central Florida.
After a lovely stay near the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay we’ve moved south and inland to Myakka River State Park. Site 13, Big Flats Campground
We were happy to get a spot at this popular campground. There are lots of birds here but by far the most common are Black Vultures.
It turns out that Site 13 backs up to a stand of palms where they come nightly to roost. Every night at sundown they swarm into the tops of the palms to settle in for the night. The real issue here is they stink. At times it feels like we’re camping next to a chicken coop. But, there’s lots to do and we don’t spend a great deal of time in camp.
Fortunately, there are lots of other birds and wildlife in the park. Sandhill Crane
Black-crowned Night-Heron (juvenile) And lots of these
A large prairie-river system dominates the park.
There’s plenty to do in and around the park. In the park there is birding, biking, hiking and a canopy walk.
The Park is situated near Sarasota, Siesta Key and Venice. Our plans include a visit to each of these areas.
We decided to take a drive and spend the day on Siesta Key. The beach here has been rated best beach in Florida based on the sand quality. It’s very fine and white and draws a lot of people to the beach.
We’ll be here for one more week. The adventure continues…
When we travel we tend not to linger in one spot to long. We’ve been at Fort De Soto ten days which has allowed us to more fully explore the area and connect with old friends and family.Bruce & Loretta with Pat
We connected with some former Rochesterians who have taken up residence in Bradenton. We spent a lovely afternoon touring the area with a stop in Sarasota.
The beaches, the bike paths and birds make an extended stay at Fort De Soto worthwhile.
Pat’s brother Mike and his wife Donna came over to camp with their grandson Maddox.
Being at the beach doesn’t get old and we’ll miss walking the beaches at Fort De Soto and watching the sun set on the Gulf of Mexico.
We are getting ready to move down the coast to Myakka River State Park just south of Sarasota. We won’t be on the Gulf but we have a new area to explore.
This is our first visit to Alafia River State Park about 40 minutes east of Tampa. It’s a small quiet campground with an abundance of bird life and miles of mountain bike trails. Site 25
The river and ponds support a wide variety of water birds. Every evening a couple hundred egrets gather in the reeds across this pond. It’s quite a sight to see them arrive and leave each day.
Florida is basically a flat state but it has a surprisingly challenging trail system. This park is a former phosphate mine that created new landforms when they excavated the phosphate. A branch of the Alafia River runs through it and several small ponds developed after the mine disrupted the area. The trails are built and maintained by volunteers from the Swamp Mountain Bike Club.
So far we have mostly stuck to the easy trails but Shelly tried a more challenging one today and will try a few more.
A familiar reminder that we’re in Florida.
A day in Ybor City
Ybor City is a section of Tampa known for it’s cigar producing past. Today it draws people to the area for its restaurants and cigar cafes.
In its heyday, worker social clubs dominated the city’s social and political life.
A wonderful Cuban bakery. Highly recommended.
The area around Centennial Park supports a large population of feral roosters and hens.
A pretender to the throne of the Plant City Strawberry King.
This park is named for a Florida folk singer who was camping at Flagler Beach and lost his life there while attempting to save a drowning man. In honor of his heroism they renamed the park for him. Site 42
The park has two camping areas, ocean side or riverside. We were set to stay ocean side but the cold and wind had us moving to the larger more sheltered river side campground.
The park’s location allowed for more time with family and a chance to explore the marine scrub forest.
The curiously twisted trees are Sand Live Oak which are surrounded by Saw Palmetto.
While it was REALLY WINDY– we did walk the beach to enjoy the many shore birds as well as the surf and sun.
The river side campground had lots of bird watching opportunities. Without binoculars we had a hard time identifying what we were looking at. A quick trip to Daytona Beach solved that problem.
On one of our hikes we ran into this guy.
We also also came across this unusual fern like plant called a Coontie. Early settlers in Florida made arrowroot starch from the root of the plant. At the center of the plant a cobb like structure develops that produces a bright orange seed.
We saw a fungus growing under one the same color as the seeds.
After a few days at the beach we where ready to move on to Alafia River State Park with it’s 17 miles of mountain bike trails.