May 1, 2019 – Venetian Gardens Park

It was as perfect a day as days can get for lunch and a walk in the park. And, we didn’t waste it. This grill was in front of our parking space

Looks as though there was some excitement at this picnic grill recently. Having seen all the stuff people put in barbecue grills up in Big Creek, I surmise that it could have been just about anything.

For some reason, I can never remember the name of Limpkin. We see several every time we take a walk in the park and then have to look it up again. Limpkin. Limpkin. Limpkin.


There were three or four of what I call odd ducks roosted at the water’s edge. Surely there is some Mallard in there.

Odd Duck

This Purple Gallinule walking across lily pads was most entertaining. By the time it disappeared into the grasses, it was running.

Purple Gallinule

The Red Heron, not to be confused with a red herring, looks a lot like a Little Blue Heron, except for the red neck and head.

Red Heron

A Great Blue Heron was standing majestically along the shore as we walked by so, of course, I took some photos. The most interesting one was when it stopped being majestic and scratched its chin.

Great Blue Heron

The Gallinules were abundant and active today. Their feathers were iridescent in the bright sunshine.

Purple Gallinule or Moor Hen

I saw this egret catch a frog. Swallowing the frog was a different story. We stood and watched for a long while as the egret seemed to have succeeded only to spit it back out and start over.

Great White Egret with Frog

The problem seemed to be the frog’s front legs which kept sticking out at the top of the egret’s beak.

It was a dexterous trick to spit the frog out and flip it around to a different position.

The egret’s throat was bulged out. I was feeling a great deal of pity for the poor frog. I hoped it was dead early on.

Poor frog. We watched it go in and out of the egret’s mouth until we got tired of standing there. We walked on and did not see whether the egret ever got its lunch down to its stomach or not.

I have never seen a gallinule with wings spread like this. This photo will make a great addition to my bird-butt collection.

Purple Gallinule

There must have been some pest annoying it. We saw a lot of flapping and scratching before moving on.

The red heron was just a shiver of feathers the moment before I snapped this picture.

Red Heron
Venetian Gardens Canal

At one point a gallinule seemed to be fussing at us as we began to cross a bridge. Then I spotted a nest in the weeds. There were at least two black fuzz balls in there, but I could not get a good picture of them. Ah, spring! I love babies.

On the far side of the bridge, a newly-hatched Common Gallinule/Common Moorhen was out of the nest and on the lawn. Two siblings were at the edge of the nest, not quite ready to conquer the grass.

Common Moorhen with Chick

It is about the size of a newly-hatched chicken.

Moorhen Chick

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a turtle with so much moss on its shell.

Fuzzy Green Turtle

Some water lilies at the edge of the lake are in such shallow water that the flowers do not sit on the surface. This one was about a foot above the water.

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 30 – Home from Disney World

For Andy and me, the trip to Disney World was more about getting together as a family than exploring Disney. We stayed in the Saratoga Springs Resort area, spread out in four suites. Andy and I spent a good bit of time simply walking around the resort. The day after Thanksgiving, we took a four mile walk around Lake Buena Vista while the children and grandchildren went to the Animal Kingdom section of Disney World.

One side of the lake, across from our resort used to be called Downtown Disney, but now there are several sections with different names. It is all shops and restaurants. And, it was very crowded.  We weaved our way through the crowds and made our escape at the far end. We did stop to see several cars driving around the lake.

b Car Boat on Lake Buena Vista

We took some time to watch the water birds along the shore. This one of a Common Moorhen in the grass is my favorite picture even though it could be sharper.

b Common Moorhen

We came to a putting green and the golf course on both sides of of the canal that connects the lake to the rest of Disney.

b Golf Course

This squirrel was next to the sidewalk near our room. It was surely accustomed to tourists taking pictures; it did not even flinch while I snapped a picture just a couple feet away.

b Squirrel

On Saturday, the grandparent generation and adult children went to Epcot while Joanne and the grandchildren spent the day at the pool with cousins. There were seven of us moving at a glacial pace. We couldn’t decide what to go see.  Then we had to discuss where we were going to eat lunch.  Andy and I decided to go wherever Mike wanted and he chose Germany. The large buffet was a delicious choice.

We walked around the lake some more and came upon a stage where a four-person a cappella group was singing Christmas songs.  Margaret and I stopped to listen.  Andy and Andy found a park bench farther away. The next group was a gospel choir dancing and singing Christmas carols in the hip hop fashion.  I really enjoyed their high-energy performance, but Andy said they were just screaming.

b Hip Hop Christmas Carols

Son Andy suggested that we take a boat ride across the lake.

b Roof in China Venue

b Spaceship Earth Across Lake

It didn’t take me long to figure out that he was aiming for the Italy exhibit.  He had voted for it for lunch.  They have the most charming pizza ovens named, from left to right, Stromboli, Vesuvio, and Etna. One of the pizza chefs told Kathy that they are 800 degrees F.

b Pizza Ovens at Italy Epcot

We saw plenty of birds around the lake within the resort as we walked on Sunday.
b Great Blue Heron

b Great White Egret

b Osprey on Top of Building

Many of the turtles had come up on shore to bask in the sun.

b Turtle on Grass Bank

We loved to walk across this foot bridge across the lake within the resort.

b Bridge Over Lake

We drove to the Grand Floridian resort inside Disney for lunch.  This is one of the most beautiful hotels.  They set up this gingerbread house in the lobby every year for Christmas. There was a line of people buying stuff from the two sales ladies inside the house.  Maybe they were selling gingerbread cookies.

b Gingerbread House

When Paul lived in Orlando, he went to the Grand Floridian cafe often.   All the staff came over to greet him. This is our waitress Rola, who is from Lebanon.

b Paul and Rola

This was my lunch view out the window.

b Lunch View at Grand Floridian

Monday was the day for our seven-hour drive back to Marathon. Before we hit the road for the long trip, we stopped in nearby Kissimmee to visit Ken Brooker. He was a campground host in the Cataloochee Valley section of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We drove over the mountain to visit him, but he was not there.  He drove over the mountain to visit us in Big Creek, but we had gone out for groceries.  We could not call ahead because we did not have a phone signal in the mountains. This was our day to actually meet each other in person.

We were admiring the huge Live Oak trees in Ken’s neighborhood and he took us into the back yard to see a large tree, part of which had fallen on his house during Hurricane Charlie. Andy was the first to notice the bear that had been carved into the stump of the section that broke off.

b Andy and Bear Tree

Andy stood close by for scale. Here is a closer look at the bear.

b Bear Carved in Tree

Then Ken and Andy posed for a picture before we went inside to swap stories about campground hosting in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

b Ken Brokker and Andy

It was a great, if short, visit. But, we had a long drive ahead of us. We vowed to visit each other when we are both in the park next June.

We got home after nine o’clock that night.

November 24, 2015 – Ocean Park

I spent most of the morning working on personal business rather than THE BOOK.  We met Ruth Olsen at the tax office to transfer the title of my Sunfish sailboat to the yacht club educational association.  Banana Split will now be used to teach children to sail.

b Ruth and Andy at Tax Office

I spent and hour or two reading and signing the contract to get the book published.  That is self-published.  I did not think it worthwhile to attempt to go the traditional publishing route. I did work on THE BOOK for a couple hours, but still did not get anything accomplished. Then, I spent several more hours extending the RV extended warranty.

We found a new place to take a walk today and I can’t believe we had not checked it out before now.  Ocean Park is behind city hall.

There is a very nice, if short, nature trail with many plants and trees identified.  I was fascinated with the red water in the solution hole.

b Red Water in Solution Hole

A solution hole is an indentation in the limestone that is naturally lined with vegetable matter and does not drain the water out the bottom. We saw bright red water like this in the botanical garden in Key West last year.  I don’t recall which plants cause it though.

The picnic table pavilions are right on the water’s edge.

b Picnic Tables on Ocean

This is where we are going to eat our lunch tomorrow.

b Picnic Table on Ocean

Four or five large birds were wading on the flats and eating their lunch.  I zoomed in to get a Great Blue Heron and a Great White Egret in the same picture.

b Great Blue Heron and Great White Egret

After watching the birds for a while, we walked along a canal to find the kayak launch. It is a great floating dock very close to the water’s surface with railings to hang onto while climbing in and out of the boat.

b Kayak Pier

There is even a board in the water at the end of the slip to hold the kayak steady in the process.

b Out of Canal

There are also a couple of picnic tables overlooking the canal.

b Picnic Table on Canal

While I was standing on the pier, a white bird flew close by me.  I thought it was one of the great whites and zoomed the camera to the end of the canal for a picture.  It turned out to be an ibis joining the others on mangrove roots.

b Ibis on Magrove Roots 2

They were so cute that I took another picture when one more landed.

b Ibis on Mangrove Roots

There is also one piece of sculpture in the park. A fisherman with a trap and a bucket of lobsters. He is not life-size but maybe three or four feet tall.

b Lobsterman Statue

We’ll have to wait and see if there is anything else for me to take pictures of tomorrow.



October 31, 2015 – Big Cypress National Preserve

If Joe and Linda were any nicer, we might just have stayed parked in their driveway for a month.  I didn’t want to leave, but knew I would feel that way every morning and might was well get along with it. So, we got underway about 1045. We went south in I-75 and then switched over to US 41 at Naples. Instead of saying Tamiami Trail, Helga the GPS kept saying “Tamiamitrami”.

I wanted to stop at the Big Cypress Visitor Center to look at the alligators and birds.  I was disappointed that we did not see any along the roadway as we have in the past.  I took a few pictures.

It was definitely alligator nap time. Not one of them moved a hair. This one opened its eye for a moment and then went back to sleep. There were not as many of them as we normally see, but I can’t come up with an explanation for that.

b Alligator Eye Open

b Alligator on Shore

Here is a better look at the foot.

b Alligator Foot

b Alligator

There is a very nice boardwalk overlook with chain link fencing at the bottom to keep the alligators from climbing up on the lawn and eating tourists.

b Andy Watching Alligator

This female anhinga was sitting in a tree drying and fluffing her feathers.  (The males have a black chest, neck, and head.) Anhingas swim underwater to catch fish, but then they must dry their feathers before they can fly.  They don’t have the oils like ducks and geese do.

b Anhinga Female in Tree

b Dragonfly

This Great Blue Heron was hunting on the far side of the water.  It did not seem too concerned about being close to the dozing alligator.

b Great Blue Heron Hunting

I thought this was a Little Blue Heron.

b Little Blue Heron in Tree

But, after I walked to one end of the boardwalk and back, this Tricolor Heron was standing in the same vicinity as the little blue.  I suspect it was the same bird, misidentified at first.

b Tricolor Heron on Branch

Of course I bought another book in the gift shop.

We got to Midway Campground at 1520 and had covered 140 miles. There were no camp hosts. There are 26 RV sites and were only seven RVs there for the night. It is a really developed campground for a national park.  There is even electricity, but no water or sewer hookups.  The dump station is near the exit.

b Sao in Everglades National Park

We took a walk and then sat next to the pond for a while.  We went inside before any mosquitoes could suck our blood.