Hontoon Island State Park – Volusia County, FL

Jodi:  We parked in the lot and waited for the ferry to dock and take us over to the island located in the St. Johns River.

David:  Your options for getting to Hontoon Island are either the ferry or your own watercraft of some kind.  And, while there were no ferry or admission costs (as of this writing), there was an opportunity to donate some cash on the island itself.

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Gemini Springs Park – Debary, FL

Jodi:  Gemini Springs is home to two of Central Florida’s many natural springs where the water is 72 degrees year round.  A bit on the chilly side for this native New Yorker…I mean long-time Florida resident.  When I was a kid 72 degrees was the magic number for pool water.  By that I mean that’s when Mom had finally heard enough begging and let us get in for the first swim of the season up north.  Today, I’ll admit, my system prefers 80 degrees.

David:  Jodi and I both come from western New York State.  Learning to swim in the Finger Lakes meant that moms became very astute at observing their children for certain signs like turning blue and uncontrollable shivering!  That was time to get out and warm up no matter how much we begged to stay in…kids.

Anyway, I first came to know of this park and springs through patronage of the Lake Monroe Park a short distance away.  I like to launch my boat from Lake Monroe Park (which was also the starting place for our earlier St. Johns River boating adventure).  I found out that there is a trail leading from Lake Monroe Park to Gemini Springs Park.  One thing lead to another and there we were!

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Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – The Adventures Begin

Entrance Signage

Entrance Signage

Jodi:  Anyone who knows me is very aware that I would rather be at a beach than anywhere else on the planet.  I can honestly say that the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge [MINWR] is currently ranking second.  I think I could take the 7-mile Black Point Wildlife Drive every day and see something new.  It’s the type of place where anyone can go regardless of age and see the beauty that Florida has to offer.

David:  A very interesting place which owes, at least, some of its biological diversity to efforts to combat the salt marsh mosquito.  The various impoundments and water control practices have created areas where fresh and salt/brackish waters and wetlands are in close proximity.  This “best of both worlds” scenario allows for a host of species to exist in roughly the same place as we will see.

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Geneva Wilderness Area – Seminole County

David:  Jodi and I decided to visit a site fairly close to our homes in Seminole County.  As a former public land manager and long time Seminole County resident , I was interested in seeing what our own county had to offer.  So, we made plans to visit the Geneva Wilderness Area.  I had driven past this property on many occasions.  I’m a bit ashamed to say that I was always going somewhere else and had given little thought to actually paying a visit.  That would soon change.

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My Backyard…and a little out front

Remember when we said, way back at the beginning, that you may not have to venture farther than your own Central Florida back yard to experience “nature”.  Well, here are some species of plants and animals I found inhabiting my own backyard that you may have seen or could be seeing.

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Boating on the St. Johns River – Follow the Leader!

Jodi: Dave was at it again. Want to go boating on the St. Johns River next weekend? Of course! Hubby was off on an off-shore trip so Dave and I were off to the boat ramp. This is something we all do regularly so we have a system for it. I know… get out and do something new! Trust us, keep reading. We unloaded the boat and took off across Lake Monroe to warm up the motor. It was a beautiful morning!

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Right place…right time?

Jodi:  Sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time.  Sometimes you just sense something is about to happen though you’re not sure exactly what.  David and I were in the car one morning when I asked him to stop and turn around.  I think he’s now accustomed to my immediate requests so, he no longer even questions why.  He just did it.

David:  Fortunately we were on a back road so I was able to comply.  My own curiosity was piqued and I wanted to see what Jodi was seeing.

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Canaveral National Seashore – Day Three – Sunrise

David:  “Sunrise?”, I asked again, just to be sure that I had heard right.  “Sunrise”, Jodi said with a little more conviction.  Sunrise was to take place at 7:10 am the next day. Figuring in drive time and a minimum number of snooze button hits, that meant I would have to set my alarm for 4:00 am.  Done.

Jodi:  Let me just start by saying that I’m just not a morning person.  Never have been; I’m a night owl.  So why am I telling you this?  It’s to encourage you to break from the norm.  Leave your comfort zone.  Get up! Up! Up and get out!  What you get in return can be FANTABULOUS!  That’s a hybrid of the words fantastic and fabulous because just one of those words isn’t quite enough to describe being at Canaveral National Seashore (CNS) at sunrise!

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Canaveral National Seashore – Day Two – Bicycling

David:  We scheduled our biking day for a Sunday.  We wanted to get on the road fairly early in the morning so, Jodi’s husband, Jeff, and I loaded the bikes in my vehicle Saturday night.  As I suspected, there were three bicycles and no lounge chair as was called for in the original, i.e. Jodi’s plan.  This trip was going to be interesting!

Jodi:  The plans were made and the day had come to bike and tan at Canaveral National Seashore (CNS).  The guys were going off on their bicycles and I was going to soak up some rays.  I wanted to finish up that John Grisham novel I’d started.  Yeah!  Dave’s SUV was loaded and ready to go.  I called ‘shotgun’ and climbed in the front passenger seat.  I looked back to see Hubby and three bicycles.  Three?  Is my chair back there?  Nope!

I gave him that wife to husband ‘you’ve got to be kidding me?!’ look.  He just laughed and said you’re going with us.  Great I thought.  The last time I was on a bicycle, I was nearly hit by a car.  It was completely my fault.  I’m not exactly known for my gracefulness.  But that’s what this blog is about…getting up and out and doing new things.  Ok, I’m a good sport, I’ll roll with it. (Pun definitely intended.)  As it turned out, Hubby who is a Florida native didn’t know there were North and South Districts of CNS either.

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Canaveral National Seashore – Day One – Discovery and Rediscovery

Note from David:  Jodi and I were so fascinated by the features of the Canaveral National Seashore that we made three visits to try to experience all that it had to offer. From eyebrow-raising moments to local history to natural beauty, this place had it all.

We will have a total of three separate posts about Canaveral National Seashore, each one coinciding with a visit.

Enjoy!

Rediscovery

David:  It’s great sometimes what we re-discover by accident.  I guess I was feeling a little restless one day and just needed to get out…maybe do some exploring.  I decided to do some much-needed shopping along with my exploring.  The required items were soon secured and I headed toward New Smyrna Beach on SR 44.  My plan wasn’t so much to go to the beach, but to, I guess, fill in some gaps in my knowledge of the coast line from New Smyrna Beach and south. Continuing on SR 44 across the causeway, I made the big right “bend” onto A1A or S. Atlantic Avenue and headed south.  I had a vague idea or, maybe, a “recollection” of where I would end up, but wasn’t positive.  A small road sign informed me that the road would end in a few miles at the Canaveral National Seashore.  HUH?  Didn’t one get to the National Seashore through the Cape Canaveral area?  Totally intrigued, I continued south and soon found myself at the attended entrance to the Seashore.  The entrance fee of five dollars per car seemed reasonable and I asked the attendant if there was a map to be had.  He handed me a printed map along with my receipt or “pass” which was good for an entire day.  Pass and map in hand, I drove onto the property which, according to the map, was the “Northern District” of the Canaveral National Seashore.

I pulled into one of the parking areas which promised beach access to take a closer look at the map and to take, at least, a peek at the beach and ocean.  Well, I’ll be, I thought as I looked closer at the map reciting to myself, of course, the somewhat familiar place names:  “Castle Windy”, “Eldora”, and “Turtle Mound”.   Now, I can be a little slow on the uptake as they say from time to time and it took me a couple of minutes to realize that I had been here before.  That time was almost 20 years ago when I was a graduate student at UCF.  My herpetology class came here to look for salt marsh snakes and we were based in a house that the university owned on this property.  A very adult and educated, “freakin’ cool”, went through my head as these memories and realizations came together.

It was getting a little late, but I wanted to do two things before I headed home:  walk the beach and see if the “UCF house” was still here.  Crossing the dune on the elevated crossover, I stopped to look north and south along the beach.  There were, maybe, five other souls as far as my eyes could see in both directions.  I am not a crowd person and liked this beach quite a bit.  I limited my time and distance walked knowing at this point that I would be back and probably soon.  Noting the marked sea turtle nests at points along the beach, I hoped that there were… “enough”.  Back to the car and, sure enough, there it was, the sign marking the UCF laboratory property.  Wow, how cool!

Hey Jodi, I’ve got a place for us to check out!

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