Welcome to my "Florida" blog

Being a third generation Florida native, I'm completely enamored with the diverse beauty of this gorgeous peninsula. For most of the year the weather is divine which makes exploring its unlimited nooks and crannies fun and easy.

Wherever I go I appreciate nature and the world around me. Come along with me as I share the places I visit and perhaps a few other amusements I find interesting along the way.

(FYI: Every post prior to January 1, 2009 was previously published and imported from my garden blog)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Honeymoon Island

Finding good places to eat that are attractive and serve good food is always a good combination. It often requires a bit of risk taking if we stumble upon a site that 'seems' like it fits the criteria. Mr. Meems is better at trying new places than me actually... so I'm learning to follow along better all the time.

On a recent drive over to Dunedin we added one such destination to our short list of places we would drive to return to. We ate on the outdoor porch of an old renovated home turned restaurant. The grouper was good, the french fries were great, and the Key Lime Pie... eeehhhh... not so much. We didn't need any pie anyway. The steady breeze blowing off the Gulf waters made for a relaxing and leisurely time.

The small, quaint town of Dunedin is a brief 45 minutes from our house. Driving over St. Joseph Sound on the Dunedin Causeway all the way to the end will take you directly into Honeymoon Island State Park.

An evening to walk along the sandy beach and soak our toes in the Gulf of Mexico was the real reason we headed westward this day.

From the shoreline the city of Clearwater is visible in the distance. Across the water it lights up from the splashes of the sun's rays like tiny protrusions on the southward horizon.

At the beginning of this week there was an ever so slight change in the humidity levels. Did anyone else notice?

If you happened to get outside really early or late in the evenings, it was noticeably more bearable. Just that tiny difference is a good indication that the long transition into fall is sooner than later after a long, hot summer.

Being at the beach for sunset is a favorite activity any day. But this evening was just one of those special times. I know, I say that every time. What can I say? I'm a simple girl.

Honeymoon Island is a unique park. The Gulf beaches are bordered by mangrove swamps and tidal flats that are home to all manner of wildlife.

Soft shades and majestic colors reflect in the east as the sun sets in the west. The vistas change by the moment.

The brilliantly green plantlife that was true to color a short while ago on the sun-drenched beach evolves. In just minutes the richer, deeper colors are more prominent in the moving angle of the sun.

Every leaf, branch, tree trunk, reflection, cloud, stone, sand, and even the birds are swathed with glowing hues of golds, rose, and amber tones. All too magical for any man to dream of duplicating or even try to describe.

Then, as quickly as it seemed to appear that very morning, the ball of fiery orange drops beyond the horizon as the earth continues it revolution just like clock work.

It is difficult to decide which direction to turn. We don't want to miss a single thing. We watch the sky on fire in the west and turn to the east where the sun has taken all the amber tones with it below the waterline. A ceiling of richer blues and clouds reflecting values more intensely pink cause us to pause.

The most peaceful shadows and sounds and smells and breezes in this one place... all together wrapping our souls in the big arms of God assuring us once again of His power and presence in every good thing.

The beach always transports us worlds away from the ordinary. Not that there's anything wrong with the ordinary. But what a blessing that the simplest of natural settings, everyday occurrences and beauty beyond our imaginations can transport our hearts and minds to a completely restful state in the midst of a mixed up world.

We are learning better to breathe in the moments. We are learning better to be thankful every day for all of God's goodness.
Reluctantly, we walk away. Soon... we'll be back.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Morning at Fort DeSoto Beach

When we think of August we think ... well, let's stay positive and just say... we're looking forward to cooler weather. August just does not afford ideal conditions for visiting beaches.

At least not in the usual make the picnic lunch, grab the towels and chairs and let's go lolly-gag on the shore all-day-long kind of visit. Maybe that's just me... but there are so many other perfectly fine months to linger on our wonderful beaches that August is just not a draw for me.

These days begin and end with temps in the eighties, peaking in the nineties, with high humidity. With all that said.... still, Florida people learn to work around the uncomfortable weather.

Sanderling, Calidris alba

Especially if you're like this Florida girl who just can't bear to be indoors. EVER. Besides there's a whole world of nature waiting outside to greet me.

Willet, Catoptrophorus semipalmatus

AND... you just never know what a trip to the shore will surprise you with.

So I recommend getting out and about either very early in the morning or waiting until later in the evening to do some coastal browsing. These are delightful times to be there no matter what season of the year.

Willet, Catoptrophorus semipalmatus
When the Gulf of Mexico is only a short driving distance away it seems a shame not to go there to hang out more often.

Ghost Crab
There isn't a whole lot of human activity on the beaches very early in the mornings. But one thing you can count on is the wildlife is out in abundance as the sun crests over the horizon.

As I mentioned in an earlier post it had been many years since visiting Fort DeSoto Beach in Pinellas County. What a treasure that beautiful piece of land is where the Gulf of Mexico meets the entrance to Tampa Bay. It has been named America’s Top Beach 2009 for the second consecutive year by TripAdvisor, the world's largest online travel community.

The park is vast with 1,136 acres made up of five interconnected islands. Annual park attendance averages more than 2.7 million visitors.

There are over 7 miles of waterfront, including almost three miles of the finest white sand beach in the United States. There is an 800-foot-long boat launching facility with eleven floating docks. And a 238-site family camping area with facilities including picnic tables, grills, water, electricity, washers, dryers, sanitary disposal stations, modern restrooms, showers, play areas, and a camp store.
The park offers so much more than I've listed here. All of my information is right off the official website for the state parks which you can check out for yourself for lots more information if you're interested.
It was a restful, quiet morning stroll for me. With camera in hand it's easy to lose all account of time. The worries of the world fade away and for the time being it's just me and my lens out to capture the beautiful and glorious world that God made.

Little Blue Heron, Egretta caerulea

I took my time to enjoy every little nook and cranny of the public beach. While just steps away from the white sandy shore is the back side of the bay with its inlets and bayous teeming with all kinds of plants and wild life.

White Ibis, Eudocimus albus

Sea Grapes ... which are loaded with... you guessed it... sea grapes this time of year.

It was worth climbing the steps to the top of the Old Fort. Reading all the informational signs that I'm sure I've walked past a dozen times in my lifetime I learned a few things.

Is this what people do once they get old and realize they've whisked past so many treaures in the hurry-scurry of ordinary life? As much as I'm loving my renewed desire to 'not take things for granted that have always been here'... I admit ... it makes me wonder if I'm old.
If you're like me and live in the area but haven't been to the park in a while I suggest you give it another visit. It doesn't compete with Anna Maria Island or Longboat Key for white sands and pristine waters by any stretch (in my opinion) but its closer.

Over all, Fort DeSoto definitely has an abundance of Florida goodness to offer all on its own. I'm going to go back when it's cooler and ferry over to Egmont Key for the day.