It turned out to be a nice sunrise, nicer than I had a right to expect as I drove the 45 minutes to meet a group for a sunrise shoot. I was pretty sure the cloudy sky would keep everyone else home and I wondered what I’d do instead, but I didn’t need to worry. The sky and the clouds were surprisingly pretty, and the crew showed up. Fun people to spend time with, and there may have been a nice breakfast in the scenario also. An altogether nice day. I’m glad I took the opportunity to go out because as I’ve looked at my photos and written this post it’s been pouring down rain.
Thursday of my silly little, chilly little, spur-of-the-moment trip to Fort DeSoto was the day with the promise of the best weather. So when I saw that a ferry trip to Egmont Key was available from the park I decided that Thursday would be the day I would go. We had a pelican keeping us company as we waited to board the ferry, and I couldn’t resist taking yet another picture of the Egmont Light, even though I knew I’d see it up close in just a little while.
We landed right at the weather-worn lighthouse, and we were told to take the trail to the beach across the island, and that we should be sure to see the ghost town also.
The day was warm and sunny, a nice change, and a nice day to walk on the beach. While I was preoccupied with taking pictures of the birds and shells my fellow travelers were finding sand dollars and shark teeth.
The ghost town turned out to be ruins of defenses constructed to defend Florida during the Spanish American war.
And ruins on the beach too.
In just two hours it was time to head back to the park, bringing our treasures, and pictures, and memories with us.
I have a friend that we tease with ‘butt shots’, so I made it a point to take this photo of the Willets on the beach. Little did I know that it would be my best photo of them.
Even with the chilly weather this was a fun trip. I didn’t know a soul when I arrived at the park, but there were four people to give me a hug goodbye. Everything I heard about camping and campers has proven to be true. I wonder where I’ll end up next?
Waking up in a camper with no heat on the coldest morning in 7 years wasn’t as bad as it sounds. The heated mattress had kept me cosy all night, and I plugged in the ceramic heater (with only one available plug-in at a time it was a deliberate choice) as soon as I woke up. I left for the day intending to take the feature photo, the line-up of rental kayaks and canoes at the (closed) rental shop. There has been very little activity here these last cold days. And that probably explains why the campground that is normally booked up months in advance seems to have a lot of empty slots available.
Then it was on to the actual fort which lent it’s name to Fort DeSoto State Park. The sign explains the significance, and all that information was news to me.
There is a raised walkway with a view which I may have missed if I hadn’t noticed a creature with a very, very long tail enjoying lunch in a very sparse tree. No, not an escaped monkey from the zoo, which from a distance was my first thought, but a squirrel. Not seemingly too different from your general, run-of-the-mill-squirrel, other than it’s tail.
The day before Joe had been working at the snack bar at the campground when I wandered in and asked him what was on the menu. Nothing, was his reply since it was close to closing time. But come and see me tomorrow at the Gulf Pier and I’ll make you some grouper. I’d been eating the almonds, clementines, apples, and animal crackers that I’d brought from home so that sounded divine. You can sit outside on a stool and enjoy the sun and the view while you eat, was his further comment, which at that point didn’t sound like a good idea at all. But on this new day by lunch time the sun felt great, and some nice grouper outside was enticing. And delicious. Up on a nearby pole I saw an osprey eating a fish and wondered it he also was enjoying grouper. And as I sat there I half expected an osprey to swoop down and steal my lunch. The sky was full of them. But I didn’t have to share and it was great.
While I was at the Gulf Pier I had noticed an empty dog crate, and the posted information with it was all about what to do if you catch a bird with a fish hook, and how to take care of it so that it can be rescued and recover from any wounds. I didn’t expect to see this situation in action so quickly, but I had moved on to the Bay Pier just in time to see a rescuer leaving the pier with a wounded pelican. She said that the pelican had caught a fish and hook as the fisherman reeled it in, just as I recently saw happen back home in Aripeka, but in this case the fisherman got the hook out and the bird just needed to have it’s wound heal. And to be fattened up. She said that the young pelicans are starving because these cold temperatures have driven the fish into deeper waters and food hasn’t been as plentiful for them. I was glad to see this pelican have a chance for a good outcome from his adventures.
I love a happy ending, and didn’t know that there was one in store for me too. A chance conversation with fellow campers not only got my electrical issue fixed, but I was also assured that when I leave on Friday I will be able to make the turn onto the one-way road with the trailer in tow and it would would clear the surrounding trees just fine. Yes, happy endings all around!
It was the power of suggestion that got me. When I got here to Fort DeSoto campgrounds I told the ranger that I’d seen pictures of owls and eagles that were taken here in the park. He suggested that my best bet for either bird would be the Arrowhead area. Take the nature trails he said, so I headed there the next day. A self-guiding nature trail, what could possibly go wrong with that, I asked myself. And there were lots of signs, signs announcing what flora you might be seeing, like the long needled pine trees who’s needles were carpeting the trail I was on. Or the Cabbage palms that seemed to be everywhere. I wanted to see the Prickly Pear cactus because I liked the name and the flower, but didn’t notice any cactus anywhere.
Signs saying ‘trail’, and with an arrow, pointed the way. One of the last signs I noticed was one announcing that the fauna lining the trail at that point was mostly Poison Ivy! Not good news. But still I walked, and walked, and then realized that I hadn’t seen any signs for a long while. No signs announcing the wildlife or plants, and most alarming, no signs pointing the way. And it was about then that I realized that my left leg was really itchy. So I scratched, and walked some more, and the trail seemed to be becoming narrower, and narrower still.
I then decided that maybe retracing my steps was probably a good idea. I saw no eagles, or owls, or people, on the walk, and eventually my leg stopped itching. But as I drove away I did finally find the water and stopped for pictures.
On the way back to the campgrounds I decided that I should stop at North Beach. I had stopped there for the sunset on the first night here, and found pounding surf and a fishing pier. But North Beach had been named one of the best beaches in the country more than once, and it got top honors a couple of years ago. So I wanted to see the actual beach that had inspired such rave reviews. But in this cold weather it was empty. Totally empty. I would have loved to have seen rows of colorful umbrellas, and children chasing the waves in and out. If I had seen them I might have wished to see less people, wished to see the scene as nature had created it. I will visit again another time, and maybe the weather will be warmer. Beach weather. That would be nice.
I rousted myself out early for the sunrise on my first morning in the Fort DeSoto campgrounds. From time to time my photo group holds photo walks to see the sunrise between the main uprights of the Sunshine Skyway bridge, when the sunrise will line up properly. That first morning wasn’t one of those mornings, but it was very worth while to be out there, killing time until the camp store opened so I could get some coffee. I had solved my electrical problem by plugging my extension cord into the camp supplied power and using it to charge my computer. My camera battery would be next, and if my phone was charged after driving around that day then the heater would be a very welcome use of that extension cord overnight. And the next morning? Coffee!
The sky was blue and clear, and the lights on the bridge were so pretty when I arrived at East Beach. As it got lighter the lights weren’t visible, and the colors became muddy. But a lovely sunrise none the less…
Day one at Fort DeSoto campgrounds had me finally set up by 3 PM. This is a lovely campground but the tent/pop up area has a narrow, one-way, road, with equally narrow and abrupt turn-offs in which to back your camper. Even with two people directing me it was quite an ordeal, and it has occurred to me that getting it out of here just might be as bad, or worse. Guess I’ll worry about that later.
But I was anxious to get out for pictures so I rushed up to North Beach because I could see that the sun would be setting in that direction. On the way I stopped for the first couple of osprey nests I saw, but I soon realized that they were everywhere, and they all were occupied by at least one adult. They certainly didn’t have any protection from the wind up there. And the ranger had told me that there was an eagle nest on the cell tower, you can’t miss it, he said. It wasn’t the natural setting of the eagles I’m used to seeing so I probably won’t be staking this nest out.
With temperatures in the 40s and a brutal wind, it was almost too much, for a Floridian at least. And the waves crashing on the rocks were dramatic, but the tide was coming in and I began to worry that the camera would get splashed. But it didn’t, and neither did I, and the sunset was lovely. And I drove back to the campground never suspecting that I’d discover that when I plugged in the heater, or the charger for the computer, that the plugs weren’t going to work. Lights yes, plugs no. And I must have used my last gasp of propane testing that I had propane, because that heater didn’t work either. So I’m roughing it until I figure it out, and warmer weather is coming, or so they say.