Energizer bunnies, they keep on ticking! 2/22-24

Per the weather forecast, Wednesday was overcast with possible rain. Hey, that didn't stop my sister and me! We elected to ramble over the long boardwalk and anything else we might've missed since our arrival last Sunday at Big Lagoon St Park. No short pants today - jeans and jackets were de rigueur on such a gray, chilly day. The buffleheads, mergansers and ospreys were all in evidence, as well as yellow-rumped warblers, bluebirds and robins. At least these feathered friends offered spots of color! We walked our legs off again, and then when we returned to Tergel, we hopped on our bikes to ride to the Observation Tower. This park is a great place for outdoor activities. Lots to see and do.

Nannie wasn't sniffing flowers. She was examining all the dead cones on this dead pine.
If you enlarge Photo 2, you can see this osprey caught a fine fish for dinner!

In the past few days, the dewberry vines have blossomed - berries ahead!
Only one pretty yellow flower along the sandy path, so I took its picture.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Nannie's husband called to say his Mom (her mom-in-law) would be undergoing major surgery early Friday morning. It being the right thing to do, Nannie chose to return to Baton Rouge a day early. Well, that's just the way plans go - astray! I called Jimmy Wed eve to tell him what was happening... and to ask if he'd like to "take her place." Needless to say, Jimmy was pulling into our campsite Thurs afternoon as Nannie was leaving. BUT FIRST...

Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island. Harmless water snake waiting for a tasty meal to appear.

... she and I drove all the way around the barn to visit Fort Pickens, which is a stone's throw across a channel from Perdido Key where we'd hiked the day before! A boat could've crossed the distance in minutes. No boat; we drove an hour in on/off rain to get there. We needed a lot more time than we had to tour the fort's remains. As it was, we had to turn around almost as soon as we got there so Nannie could get to Baton Rouge before - A) dark and B) big rains.

Nannie made it home Thursday w/o mishap. Her mother-in-law's surgery went well, but recovery will take a looong time. Lucky us - Nannie and me - we had a blast for four days (instead of five) and those four days were THE BEST. We have so much fun together.

Jimmy and I hiked the last day at Big Lagoon, covering some of the same territory as Nannie and me, seeing the same birds, plus the sneaky-snake above. We ate dinner out and enjoyed a quiet evening at home in Tergel. On Friday morning, we took Tergel to her parking place in Daphne. The sun was shining when we left Pensacola, but black skies opened just as we neared Daphne. We caught the tail-end of a cold front - the temp fell from 79 to 63 in a matter of minutes. By the time we were ready to park 'er, the rain had quit.

End of Story!


And another fine day! More miles on Tues 2/21

This handsome fella in tux and tails looks fit enough for a Mardi Gras Ball.

Cedar waxwings ate & pooped berries near the C/G. Least terns on the sands. Two noisy, nesting ospreys.

Nannie on our long hike on Perdido Key (my sandals). This shorebird dogged our steps for a long time as we walked along.

Gull is obeying the sign. And here we have a "decorator crab" next to a hermit crab (both alive). We'd never seen anything like this walking pile of seaweed. It walks and looks like a tarantula (yikes!). We saw it cruising along in shallow water near a patch of short sea grass, using it's camouflage well: Dang thing would blend in perfectly in sea grass. Ain't nature amazing?

A small section of redheads (ducks) in the Lagoon; there had to be hundreds, and a lone brown pelican flying low near sunset.

Like a snow fence, this "sand" fence does the job... only this one seems buried forever. Lastly, a lovely sunset - reminding us it's time to get back to Tergel.

Today dawned overcast, but still no rain. We decided to chance it and drove the short distance to Perdido Key National Seashore. Wise choice indeed! This long narrow peninsula with white sandy beaches offers the best of both walks: One side on the Gulf of Mexico, while the other faces Big Lagoon with it's gentler waters. We stopped near the toll booth and walked the Discovery Trail, but it seemed kinda barren. We drove on. The park road only goes halfway, leaving the eastern end of the peninsula practically untouched. We parked near the turn-around point and walked east, encountering only a couple of people along the way. Nice.

These beaches are known for their "singing sands," 'cause the fine sand squeaks as you walk. Better than squeaking knees! We walked a good long way on the Gulf side, watching birds thru our binocs: Sanderlings, pelicans, gulls, least terns, willets, and so on. We examined flat, oval tar balls, washed up from the Gulf oil spill. I even picked up a piece of hard coal (anthracite?) that must have fallen off a barge. Not much else in the way of beach-combing goodies.

At some unknown sisterly signal, both of us wanted to cross the dunes and walk back toward the car on the Lagoon side. Here we spied lots of hermit crabs and the weird decorator crab, loons and mergansers, more shore birds, and some boat/barge traffic in the Lagoon. This water was marginally warmer than the Gulf, warm enuf to wade in.

Backed up to a low dune, we surprised the great blue heron (and vice versa); I believe he had been snoozing, because when I got my camera almost ready, he yawned! I missed that shot. He no more cared that we were passing him near the shore than if we were tugs in the water. We figured he knew we were photographing him in full breeding regalia and felt right proud of himself! You know: Hey! I'm handsome, go ahead, take my picture. Show the world! Neither of us had ever seen a heron quite that dressed up. He was impressive.

So, after many hours of walking and dawdling, poking and prodding, we made it to the car. Love the Golden Age Pass that let's people like me get in free, escaping the $8 charge to enter this excellent National Seashore. People like me that have attained - uh - a certain age...!

Walking the Florida boardwalks, Monday 2/20

Click on any photo to enlarge.

Blue skies with lots of fine cloud shapes. 

If my sister is 5'5", it's pretty easy to tell how wide the boardwalk is. This is how she measures. Works for me, but I had to help her get up!

Male Eastern Black Swallowtail flitting from flower to flower. 

This cottonmouth sunning itself is the biggest one I've seen.
See the red arrow pointing to it's tail? Gi-normous UGLY snake.

Aha! Just then a river otter popped up and swam (shallow water) toward the cottonmouth.
We watched dumbfounded.

As the otter approached the snake (last photo, near snake's head), Mr. Ugly whirled its head around and seemed to dare the otter to get closer. We could imagine the otter utter, "Oops, never mind," as it did an about face and swam away. Smart move is my thinking!

Woo-hoo! My sister, Nannie, and I - sans husbands - spent four days and nites last week camped in Tergel @ Big Lagoon St Pk, near Pensacola, Florida. The park's only 50 miles from our condo; easy, short drive. We were like a parade: I led the way in my Prius. Nannie drove her Prius from Baton Rouge. Jimmy installed his tiny 87-yr-old Mom in Tergel's passenger seat for the drive to the St Pk. She must've felt like she was in a plane, tho she's never been in one, she sat that high off the ground. Jimmy helped us set up camp, then he and Mom departed for home. Nannie and I would use her car to get around. Everybody told us to stay out of trouble. I wonder why?

The first day we walked - miles - beginning @ Tarkiln Bayou, where we didn't see much except pine trees. This is longleaf pine habitat, so the sign said, but we saw as many slash pines and spent most of our walk trying to distinguish between the two. For some trees, this was easy. For others, not. The bark on slash pines consists of large flat plates. Heck, most of the trees we saw had large, flat plates. We finally gave up and said: A pine tree.

Next up was Bayou Marcus, aka ECUA. You wouldn't think this would be a great hiking place, it being next to the water treatment plant, but it didn't smell. All of today's photos were taken at ECUA. This boardwalk thru wetlands produced an abundance of flora and fauna for us, in addition to good ol' pine trees - we were enchanted the whole 3+ miles. Weather-wise, this day was forecast to be the best of five and I believe it was. We ate our picnic lunch sitting on one of the boardwalk's benches. Photos that didn't make it (too far away): 100 or so turtles lining a south-facing pond bank, sunning themselves; striking buffleheads (ducks) on the pond; soaring red-tailed hawks; fleet-footed deer; and all the beautiful spring-green foliage that's just sprung up! The otter/cottonmouth was the icing on the cake, tho. Grand walk.

We put on roughly five miles, loving every minute. So glad to be out and about in the fresh air, sunshine. Sisters: walkin' and talkin' and lookin' and laughin!


When was the last time you visited "Das Boot?"

It's been a donkey's age since Jimmy and I walked the decks of the USS Alabama permanently moored in Mobile Bay. (This is a huge WWII battleship - click on the link above to see the stats.) Judy had never been to Mobile or Battleship Memorial Park, so we decided to tour the park together. We ate first @ the famous Original Oyster House on the Causeway, in the hope that we could work off some of that yummy lunch afterwards. I don't know how much actual aerobic exercise we got unless climbing up and down countless very steep ship stairs (ladders) counts. That's hard on everybody's knees AND hard on some heads if you forget to duck. (me: ow!)

Judy and Nickie @ the USS Alabama

Ready, aim, fire! Judy & Jimmy point and shoot. Good thing all the guns are disabled, esp these long guns that can fire 21 miles away!

Jimmy served in the USAF - WRONG uniform, dear! Comfy, cozy bunks aboard the sub. (pee-yew?)

Galley aboard the USS Alabama... that guy has been standing there a LONG time! Next photo is the way-smaller galley on the USS Drum.

The USS Drum, now parked on dry land at the same Park is open to the public. Go ahead, climb down to see how claustrophobic life would be aboard a submarine. Every inch of space is taken up: I've never seen such an array of gears, gadgets and gizmos (above). Also torpedoes. And bunks inches away from torpedoes - imagine! These guys could neither bathe nor do laundry while submerged. Double pee-yew. I was happy to come topside and breathe in a lungful of fresh air! We all were. And it was a glorious, sunny, spring-is-in-the-air kind of day.

It must take two or three days to see everything at Battleship Park, but we ran out of time. It was fun to visit a hometown attraction with a new friend - what a nice day!


Ride like the wind! Or ride in the wind! Feb 8th

The three of us on the Dauphin Island pier to nowhere - Jimmy, me and Rob; and Jimmy looking thru the binocs for the Gulf water!

On the Estuarium boardwalk (pier), checking for birds. Finally, a busload of middle school kids who were part of a class, dragging nets in the chilly water (in that blustery wind - yeow!) to see what they they could catch. Most of what we saw in their nets were itty-bitty minnows. The kids seemed to be having fun, but better them than me....

My youngest brother, Rob, Jimmy & I picked the best day of the week to ride - we thought - mostly sunny, except for a north wind that was a real drag! We were a colorful group, judging from the above photo! The island isn't that long and we always ride to the pier that used to be above the Gulf (obviously), but is no longer. It's weird to stand at pier's end, look straight down, and see glistening white sand, and lots of it. I can't judge how far away the water is these days, but it's a good distance. Of course, water is fickle and will go where it wants and maybe next year or in five years ye olde pier will again have water beneath it.

We ate our picnic lunch sitting at the base of a sand dune to get out of the wind, watching a willet (shorebird) work the shoreline for its own lunch. Very nice, very relaxing. Fun day, neat ride for a winter's day!


And then there's that durned television...

Here's the scenario: We parked Tergel at a C/G near Seattle last June for two wks, sans hookups, while we "did" Alaska. When we returned and moved to a F/H site, the sound on the one-year-old Jensen TV was barely audible. No reason. Picture was fine. Jimmy tried everything the manual said to do; nothing. Then he contacted Winnebago (Tergel's maker) for instructions; no help there, they just install the dang things. He called Jensen (TV maker) and they were of NO help whatsoever. Get this: Jensen no longer has service centers or parts for their TV's (guess they want you to buy a NEW Jensen, heh-heh). Two months later and still on the road, we got in touch with a friend of a friend who's a true TV technician - he and Jimmy pulled the dang thing apart and it was judged non-fixable.

Fast forward to January now back at the condo, and one last hope: Willard TV in Fairhope AL. Jimmy hauled the Jensen to him. Willard said, "I'll see what I can do." Without any help from Jensen (no schematic, no nothing!), Willard installed an amplifier, and NOW WE HAVE SOUND. Thank you Willard!


End of story... we hope.


Saturdays are great days to hike!

Too nice to be indoors on a warm, 73 degree, partly cloudy February day, so we decided to visit another NWR in our neighborhood: Weeks Bay NWR. We were bummed out when the man in the Visitor Center told us there'd been a prescribed burn on the refuge the week before....

Charred and blackened stumps and shrubs and not much else. We walked the entire boardwalk anyway when he told us someone spotted a bobcat that morning. We saw nothing and the smell drove us away! We moved to the pitcher plant bog across the hiway and walked the boardwalk there, but not much to see this time of year as nothing is blooming yet. They'd burned in this area, too. Pee-yew! We decided to drive south to Gulf Shores and check out Bon Secour NWR. Eat our picnic lunch there. (Clocked Bon Secour at 50 miles from our condo.)

This was a delightful surprise! We didn't know when we started walking the Pine Beach Trail, that it was a four-mile out and back hike. Guess we should've read the sign! Nevertheless, hi-ho, hi-ho, off we go. The first mile led us thru a mixture of woodland hammocks and wetland swales, piney and live oak forests. And it's a wide, easy trail. The bridge over the water above took us around the west end of Little Lagoon and east end of Gator Lake and was the beginning of mile two. The trail soon melted into fine white sand... not easy walking in that stuff, but a sign said, "to beach," so we continued till I could stick my toes in the Gulf water!

More to see at this NWR, inc bright red yaupon berries and beach rosemary that was in full bloom. Smelled good.

Big ol' beetle crossed my path. I walked barefoot in the sand, till I realized these caterpillars that were devouring the scrub oak were ALL over the sand. Bleah! The caterpillars had denuded the oaks.

No, this is not SNOW. This is SAND. Water was uh, not cold, but not warm, either.

Finally, we spotted this handsome fella just as the trail heads off in the sand toward the beach. Great blue herons don't let people get this close. Could it be sick? We each took several pictures and continued on to the beach. When we saw it standing in the same place on our return, and it let me get this close w/o moving, we sort of figured it might not be standing there the next day, if you get my drift. Up this close, it was a real beauty, but I wasn't going to get any closer -- that beak would still be dangerous! We saw quite a few birds on this hike, no alligators and no snakes.

A new hiking area for us -- we enjoyed it very much. Over five miles today and we were ready for the couch when we got home! But, we'll go back....