Sunset Cruise on Rookery Bay, Part 1

Sunset Cruise on Rookery Bay, Southwest Florida
Saturday 26 April 2008

Part 1: The Road to Good Fortune

Thanks to those of you who followed along Saturday evening while I was floating blissfully on Rookery Bay in Southwest Florida. As you could see, I did indeed have a cell phone signal out there on the bay. BONUS: I learned how to take video with the cell phone and send it off to Utterz for posting here! WOOT!

Several weeks ago, when I made my annual pledge to support our local National Public Radio station here in the Fort Myers area (WGCU), I received a sunset cruise on Rookery Bay as my “thank you” gift. I had intended all along to renew my membership with WGCU, but the offer of the cruise narrated by Dr. Jerry Jackson made me call immediately upon hearing about it. Dr. Jackson presents a short program about nature and conservation each morning called With the Wild Things

The trip down took more than an hour. This is because a)I drove at 60 mph instead of 70, to conserve on gas, and b)Shell Island Road down in Naples is nothing but dirt and potholes, and requires careful navigation at no more than 15-20 mph.

Above, the location of Shell Island Road, which leads to the Conservancy’s dock

Here’s what you see when you turn onto Shell Island Road from Collier Blvd.

Above: This sign reassures you that you are in the right place

Not so reassuring: the condition of the road!

Even driving an SUV, it takes a while to drive those 2.5 miles. The speed limit is 15 mph, and rightly so. It’s an obstacle course of hills and canyons, and at some point, I realized I had an opportunity to drive my RAV like it was meant to be driven, and began to have a little fun – yee haw!

There was a point at which I had to get out of the car to remove a piece of wood from the road – it had very long nails sticking out of it! All along the road, every few hundred feet, there were dire warnings posted regarding the removal of wildlife from the premises… and then I realized that the reason the road looks like that is because it is part of nature conservancy area, and they cannot very well put blacktop through it.

But I started to wonder at all the signs, especially calling out saw palmetto berries and gopher tortoises. Are these really popular wildlife items with which to abscond? Why? Do people try to eat them or something? I many never know!

Turtle soup, anyone?

Finally, after bumping along for what seemed eternity, I found the place to park.

Put myself alongside a big tree, like a good Floridian, and then broke out the bug spray. Having wandered through Ding Darling a few times in my life, I knew better than to even set foot outside the car in this area without bug spray.

As I wandered down the sandy path in the direction of the dock, I saw this plaque and snapped a pic so I could google it –

You can find out about Dellora and Lester Norris too, by clicking here to visit the Naples Chamber of Commerce page that lists that city’s 60 most important business leaders.

Finally got down the path, and found I was the first person there, except for two gentlemen sitting on the boat reading. Yep, the Road to Good Fortune led me to this –

The gentlemen on board were Pete, the skipper, and Jim who was his “Gilligan” for the evening. Jim gave me a copy of the the colorful booklet/brochure about the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. The Conservancy owns the boat called The Good Fortune, which does educational eco-tours of Rookery Bay January through April, and is staffed by volunteer naturalists like Carol, who climbed aboard a bit later with a steady stream of arriving guests.

Bill and Nancy arrived just after I did. Nancy recovering from knee surgery. They live on the Caloosahatchee and have been there long enough to see entire ecosystems wiped out and replaced as the water has changed from fresh to salt and back again. Not fans of Lake O releases, which have turned their part of the river to fresh water. Bill believes it’s supposed to be salt at their point on the river, and says it has been recovering to salt as of late (Lake O is down more than a quart, so there is no need for releases).

A woman named Sue sat next to me for the duration of the trip. She’s a pharmacist, and she and her husband like to go kyaking near their home.

Finally, as the last few guests were climbing aboard, the man of the hour and our tour guide for the next two hours, Dr. Jerry Jackson (bio on arrived.


Wordless, Sunday April 27th 2008

Wordless, Sunday April 27th 2008
“But… why?”

Six Mile Cypress Slough ~ Fort Myers, Florida ~ July, 2005