Daughter Kathy Came to Visit

We never see the children and grandchildren often or long enough. But, we did have several very nice days when daughter Kathy came to visit for a few days this week.

Our first outing was to Key West where we showed Kathy Zachary Taylor State Park. First, we walked into town for lunch at Blue Heaven. We had not been there in several years and I was thrilled to find the Shrimp and Grits on the menu (as opposed to being a Sunday-only dish in the past). Seating is outdoors under the trees with cats and chickens wandering around.  Here is the entrance.

b Gate to Blue Heaven
Gate to Blue Heaven

I have passed this, or these, trees many times and just noticed them.  Yes, it is the rare “J” Palm.

b J Palm
J Palm

After touring the fort, we took a walk along the beach.  Although there are many tiki huts here in the keys, I had never seen one under construction before.  We stood and watched for a while. Two men on the ground were handing palm fronds to the two men up on the roof, who were nailing them down almost as fast.

b Thatching Tiki 1
Thatching Tiki

It was fun to watch, but we did not stay long enough to see the finished product.

b Thatching Tiki 2
Thatching Tiki

Here is another tree I have seen many times.  This was the first time a got a good picture of it.  It is a sea grape, the largest I’ve ever seen. Can you spot Kathy and Andy posing next to the canon under it?

b Andy and Kathy Under Sea Grape Tree
Sea Grape Tree in Key West, Florida

This was to be a relaxing vacation for Kathy, so we took her on our favorite walks each day.  At Bahia Honda State Park, Kathy opted to walk in the water while Andy and I kept to the dry sand.

b Kathy and Andy on Beach
Kathy and Andy on Beach at Bahia Honda State Park

The tide was very low again so we had plenty of beach to walk on.

b Kathy Walking on Bahia Honda Beach
Kathy Walking on Bahia Honda Beach

I don’t think I have posted a papaya update lately.  It is taller than the car now.

b Papaya Tree
Papaya Tree

Dave Scott was playing at Lulu’s, so we took Kathy. I sang a few songs and Kathy took this picture. I have always like that top, but now I think it makes me look pregnant.

Dinata and Dave Scott Singing at Lulu’s

We saw this iguana on the boardwalk at Oceanfront Park.  I zoomed in on the head so you can see all the interesting detail. They look prehistoric.

b Iguana Portrait
Bright Green Iguana

We also took a nice walk on the old Seven Mile Bridge.  I spotted a strange (to me) bird in the Sea Grapes on Pigeon Key. It was busy eating.  A quick Google image search told me that it is a Black-throated Blue Warbler. I didn’t get a good clear, sharp shot; this is the best I could do.

b Black-Throated Blue Warbler
Black-Throated Blue Warbler on Pigeon Key, Florida

Someone has marked the distance on the bridge in quarter mile increments.  The one-mile mark is fun.

b One Mile Mark on Old Seven
One Mile Mark on Old Seven Mile Bridge

We saw a Spotted Eagle Ray, also known as a Leopard Ray.  It is so hard to get a clear picture of them through the moving water.  Again, this was the best I got.

b Spotted Eagle Ray
Spotted Eagle Ray

I did get a nice, good, clear picture of Andy and Kathy.  She was holding her hair, but the wind was blowing hard.

b Andy and Kathy on Seven Mile Bridge
Andy and Kathy on Old Seven Mile Bridge

I don’t know why I didn’t have the picture of Dave and me. Maybe the computer bugs ate it.

b Dinata and Dave Scott Singing at Lulu's
Dinata and Dave Scott Singing at Lulu’s

I still think that outfit makes me look pregnant.

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Out and About in the Florida Keys and Big Creek Book

So far, April is much better than March was.  There are some, but the calendar is not full of medical appointments.  My shoulder pain is now merely background noise.  The weather has been spectacular.

It’s funny, but one of the things that hurt most with the shoulder was walking.  I don’t know if it was the weight of the arm or the natural swinging motion when one walks. I think some of both, but it is over now.  So we have taken more walks lately.  I’m still not back to my pre-surgery distance though. And, the pain from holding the camera to my face is barely noticeable. So I took some pictures.

This hawk was on a dead tree at the beach at Bahia Honda State Park, one of our regular walking courses.

b Hawk on Dead Tree
Hawk

 

I was enamored with this hibiscus with the sun shining through the petals.  It was growing in the RV Park. I like the shadow of the bud behind it.

b Yellow Hbiscus w Sun Back
Yellow Hibiscus

 

This tiny butterfly was feasting on even tinier sea grape blooms.

b Tiny Blue Butterfly
Blue Butterfly on Sea Grape Flowers

 

The flowers are very small, but there are a lot of them.  The trees are loaded with extra-long clusters.

b Sea Grape Blooms
Sea Grape Blooms

 

This hibiscus might be on the same bush as the previous one, but it was taken on a different day in the RV park.  I wonder if my neighbors know how many pictures I take of the RV park flowers.

b Yellow Hibiscus
Yellow Hibiscus

 

We like to sit outside on our back patio overlooking the mangrove swamp. This lizard has pretty good camouflage, but I spotted him anyway.

b Lizard Camoflage on Tree
Lizard on Tree

 

This was a new lizard sighting for us. We have never seen a yellow stripe down the back.  There is also an interesting pattern. Notice the exceptionally long tail.

b New Lizard
Yellow Striped Lizard

 

Here are some old sea grape leaves in the afternoon sun at Bahia Honda State Park.  There is a wonderful tunnel through the sea grapes leading up to the old bridge.

b Sun Through Seagrape Leaves
Seagrape Leaves

 

We have had some of the lowest tides we have ever seen here recently. Huge areas of sand  have appeared at Bahia Honda and people and birds have taken the opportunity to walk on them.  I like this pictures because of all the stripes in front of and behind the Great Egret.

b Great Egret on Stripes
Great Egret

 

This juvenile ibis was marching across the lawn at Oceanfront Park as we were walking around the perimeter.

b Juvenile Ibis in Oceanfront Park
Juvenile Ibis

 

These young men were catching bait fish right in front of us while we ate lunch at Oceanfront Park.  I took a number of photos of them tossing out the net.  Not all my photos turned out so well and not all their tosses yielded fish. They noticed me taking pictures and called to me to send them to them.  One guy yelled out his email address, but I got it wrong. I tried every alternative I could think of, but they always bounced back.

b Catching Bait Fish
Tossing Net to Catch Bait Fish

 

These stunning Frangipani are growing next to the RV park club house.

b Frangipani
Pink Frangipani

 

I don’t know what these are, but the color is amazing, especially on the buds.

b Purple Flowers

 

I had some real excitement yesterday while Andy was walking to the grocery store. I was preparing to wash the dishes and spread my dish-drying mat on top of the stove.  There is hardly any counter space in the motorhome. I don’t think it was a minute later when I noticed a tall flame on the stove.  I had forgotten to turn off the gas flame when I finished fixing dinner.  I had turned it down to the lowest setting to keep the food warm and then didn’t even notice the flame when I was loading the plates. I quickly turned off the burner and lifted the mat off the stove.  Melted foam rubber was all over the burner and then the floor when I dribbled it from the flaming mat.  I set it down and stepped on it to put it out. I did a lot of scraping, but still have not removed all the melted foam from the stove.  It all came off the floor though.

Lastly, I have been making some progress on the book, Big Creek – A Closer Look at a National Park. I emailed a draft to the editors on Wednesday. I guess it is natural to have doubts. I don’t know if anyone will buy it.  Hopefully all my friends who have said, “Write a book!” over the years will buy one.  But then, they have already read it in my daily emails.

The book does not have a story.  No structure. It is merely a long series of paragraphs, and sometimes single sentences, describing individual events that we experienced or heard on the park radio. Some people might describe it as a snapshot of the park.  Today I was thinking it is more like a slide show. Hundreds of events, one after the other, all day, every day in a national park. That is the point I am trying to make.  I’m sure many will interpret that as bad writing. It is unconventional.

It was exciting to see what the cover designer has come up with, using my photographs! It is not done.  The first concept had yellow words which popped off the cover better.  She had changed the font and the color.  I like the new font, not the new color.  I also asked her to move the two small photos down further to cover up some of that ugly gravel and balance things.  It looks top-heavy to me.  We also need to come up with some mention of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, which is this year if you didn’t know already.

Big Creek Cover April 15
Proposed Big Creek Cover

 

Maybe it needs a picture of Spence.

So, what do you think? Feedback would be appreciated! Positive or negative.

 

 

Valentine’s Day Walk

I said I needed to get you out more, so Andy and I took our walk at Bahia Honda State Park today. I had checked the tide tables and realized we would be walking at high tide. So we were quite surprised when we got to the beach and saw how much beach was there.

b Beach
Beach at Bahia Honda State Park

The seagrapes have had a hard time with the cold weather.  Many of the leaves have turned brown.

b Brown Sea Grape
Brown Seagrape Leaves

These three palm trees always remind me of my daughter Jennifer who sat on that rock with two pieces of coconut shells held over her breasts with a silly grin on her face.  I guess that was back when she was in college.  I’ll have to find that photo.

b Three Palm Trees
Three Palm Trees Bahia Honda State Park

Wow!! I found it in ten seconds!  It was December of 2001.

Coconut Bra

Unfortunately, that extra sand seems to be from the higher ground that had been washed out. It was very crowded and some areas were impossible to walk on and stay dry, so we drove down to the parking lot where the kayaks are launched.  There is never much sand in that spot.

b Beach from Kayak Lot Bania Honda State Park
Beach at Kayak Launch Area

There is a short nature trail/butterfly garden along the shore. We stopped to inspect the strangler fig overtaking a rock.

b Stangler Fig on Rock
Strangler Fig on Rock

The path to the old bridge was lined with spider webs and we saw something new.  I thought this was a Silver Back when I took the picture, but after Googling a bit, I have decided that it is a Silver Garden Spider. It was that Roman Numeral ten that convinced me.

b Silver Garden Spider
Silver Garden Spider

The path to the old bridge goes through a tunnel of seagrapes.  They were pretty with the sun shining through the cold-damaged leaves.

b Sun Through Seagrape Leaves
Sun Through Yellow Seagrape Leaves

This is the view on the gulf side  from the old Bahia Honda Bridge.  We can’t walk up as far as we could just two years ago as it has been closed off. That is the new  (1980) bridge in the background.

b View from Bridge
View Gulfside from Bridge at Bahia Honda State Park

We spotted a wrecked boat from the bridge and walked down to the jetty along the harbor entrance to check it out. That view was just the bottom of the hull so we walked around the harbor basin to get a look at the top side. That looks like plenty of salvageable hardware left on it to me.

b Wrecked Sailboat
Wrecked Sailboat at Bahia Honda State Park

We stopped to look at the sailboat near this interesting dead tree.

b Dead Tree
Dead Tree

These orchids are on a palm tree in the RV park.

b Orchids
Orchids

My sister Barbara sent me a picture of herself dressed in her student nurse scrubs. She feels extra large in them, but I think she is adorable. I am so proud that she had the gumption to decide to, and then follow through with the decision after all the boys grew up and left home.

Barbara in Scrubs
Barbara in Scrubs

December 14, 2015 – I Hope I Am Past Tense

It has taken me four days to read through Big Creek and change many of the present tense verbs to past tense.  It has made me tense, mostly in the neck and shoulders. Of course I wasn’t at the computer the whole time during those four days.  I spent at least one whole day at Andy’s computer on the phone with tech support. And, there was some laundry to do.

We went to a nice Christmas party aboard Jerry and Marti’s boat, Monarch. And, one day we went to Bahia Honda State Park to walk on the beach in the afternoon.

I have read through the thing so many times that now I find it quite boring and not worthy of trying to turn into a book. I also don’t feel that I am making much, if any, progress. Each time I go through it making changes, I introduce errors. You might guess that I am a bit frustrated.

So, here are a few pictures from our beach walk; that was soothing. I had checked the tide tables the night before, so we got there a bit before low tide and had some beach to walk on. It was the first time this season that we were able to get to the north end of the beach. I was sad to see the two palm trees, subjects of many of my photos, lying across the beach.  All the recent storms have eroded much of the sand away and there are a number of other trees fallen over as well.

b Downed Palm Trees
Downed Palm Trees

Andy spotted a Great Blue Heron around a point at the south end of the beach and motioned for me to stop.  We crept around the point, but did not see the heron until Andy saw its head poking up behind some bushes.

b Great Blue Heron Head
Great Blue Heron Hiding

We moved down slowly down the beach until we could see the full heron and I took a few more pictures. It was a large specimen.

b Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron

Since the tide was low, I was able to get a nice picture of these snails in the afternoon sunshine.  They are in the nooks and crannies of many of the limestone rocks on the beach.

b Snails on Rock
Snails on Rock

 

I decided that Big Creek Journal was not very description and changed the title to:

Big Creek

A Closer Look at a National Park

as Told by Campground Hosts

in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

 

Of course that will probably change again before all is said and done.

November 18, 2015 – Odds n Ends

I said I was going to hunker down and get busy writing THE BOOK.  Well, I have. This past week (or more) I have been attempting to spend at least eight hours per day at the computer.  It’s a job. For the most part, I have been successful, but there are always little distractions.

I’ve been struggling with the approach.  Patricia, the editor, had encouraged me to write it as a series of essays.  She said to think about the themes in my logs and make each one a separate essay.  Many days I have sat down to do just that, but in the end I get frustrated because my stories gets fractured. I think I should stay chronological and let the themes intertwine and overlap as they do in life. The hard part about that is reducing or condensing my material into a modern (meaning short) book length. I’ve gone back and forth and not settled on either approach yet. What do you think?

We had three or four days of heavy rain and high wind, accompanied by thunder and lightning.  That was helpful for keeping me indoors. So, I’ve been reading my logs, rewriting, and augmenting so much that I wake up in the night and think I am in Big Creek.

Andy had done a good job of getting me to take breaks.  I took my camera with me when I went out to stretch my legs. Andy has started taking early morning walks and once or twice this week, I got out of bed to join him.

b Sunrise

We went to the yacht club for karaoke night.  Now, I admit that I’m a karaoke singing fool of the first order. Friend Chrissy took this picture of me singing with Dave Scott.  I guess I didn’t know the words too well; I was clearly focusing on the screen.  I did have a good time and, when I wasn’t up there singing, I was singing along with whoever else was up there.  My throat was raw the next day.

b Dinata Singing w Dave Scott

Here is the view out the front window in the RV park during one of the rainy days.

b View Out Front Window

The garden has been doing well with all the rain.  So far, everything so growing nicely. The basil is ready for some light harvesting and all the tomato plants have blossoms on them. I did pull the rotting coconut out of the square pot and plant some Hawaiian papaya seeds in there.  No sign of papaya trees yet.

b Garden is Growing

One of the reasons we bought a lot in this RV park is that we are about half a mile from the grocery store.  That gives us a good excuse to walk over a mile there and back. I took these pictures here in the RV park as we took a walk. I don’t know what kind of tree this is.  All the long skinny leaves hang straight down making a great background for a butterfly picture.

b Butterfly on Tree

Many of the palm trees have produced clusters of red fruit. Some people call them Christmas palms for the red color, but it could be an African Oil Palm.  I dunno. I do know that it is not a good idea to bite one.  Trust me.

b Palm Tree Fruit

I took the afternoon off work today and we went to Bahia Honda State Park for our walk. It was very windy, which made for surf on the beach.  That is unusual here with the reef a few miles off the islands. Our timing was impeccable and we got there a high tide, which means there was not much beach left to walk on. The high winds and high tide made it an exhilarating walk.

We always see these cone-shaped sponges on that beach, but today there were plenty of new fresh ones washed up.  If I didn’t live in a motorhome, I would figure out how to clean and dry one to turn it into a bowl, or maybe a lamp shade.

b Cone Sponges on Beach

The high winds had blown mounds of sea grass up onto the beach. A sign next to the beach entrance said not to move it because it is important to the beach ecosystem: protects the beach from erosion, has little shrimp-like critters to feed the birds, and fertilizes the shore plants.

b Grass on Beach

b Bird

This little group was hunkered down behind a mound of grass apparently trying to hide from the wind.

b Birds Hunkered Down Behind Beach Grass

An egret was fishing at the water’s edge.

b Egret on Shoal

I’m not sure why I was attracted to this dead tree.

b Log on Grass

I regularly take pictures of these two.

b Dead Trees on Beach

We went to the club again this evening for trivia night.  Our team did win one round, but with no help from me.  I surely don’t know my trivia, especially sports trivia. Tonight, the themes were sports, Thanksgiving, and veterans.  I could not even hazard a guess for most of the questions.