Category Archives: Collier County

Honoring CREW volunteers



Honoring CREW volunteers, originally uploaded by Erin *~*~*.

CREW’s management honored a selection of their volunteers for their dedication to the cause and to the trails. After some goodie bags were awarded, they all posed for a few photos. Congratulations and well done, all of you – and thanks you to CREW for a lovely evening.

Tonight’s adventure: wine and cheese under the stars

As a member if CREW – Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed – I was invited to a wine and cheese party this evening under the stars and the Full Wolf Moon. Fun and nature geek friends shall ensue. lets go!

Late autumn in Southwest Florida – paradise!

Β© Copyright 2012 | http://MyMobileAdventures.com | CLICK any photo for a larger view

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What a beautiful time of year it is to live in Southwest Florida!

The summer can be unforgiving – the heat and humidity are relentless, the rain is capricious, and there is always the threat of a hurricane or two hanging over our collective heads.

However, as October melts into November, a kinder, gentler Southwest Florida emerges. Blue skies and refreshing breezes reign in the late autumn and early winter days. It’s a little cooler, a little drier, and much more enjoyable. It’s time to take it outside in Southwest Florida – let’s go!


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I got a call earlier in the week from friends who were going to take a boat out of Fort Myers Beach, and did I want to come along? You bet I did! We did a leisurely tour through Matanzas Pass and Ostego Bay, then emerged into the Gulf via Big Carlos Pass, near Lovers Key. That’s the bridge over Big Carlos, behind us (above).

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We decided to head for Nervous Nellie’s in Fort Myers Beach after our excursion. The town is all done up for Christmas. As a native New Yorker, it still gives me the giggles to see Christmas decorations juxtaposed against palm trees and blue skies.

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Here I am, enjoying royal status for about three minutes – Princess Without A Country πŸ˜‰ You will find this over-sized bench with the cutout near the gazebo beside Nervous Nellie’s, should you have a princess you’d like to photograph.

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At Moss Marine, I saw this egret standing on a post and took aim with the camera. I saw the pelican come in for a landing behind him, but did not see the little shore bird on the post in front of him until I got the picture up on the computer screen later on.

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A closer look at the egret – handsome fellow, isn’t he?

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The sun was setting as I crossed back over Matanzas Pass and made my way toward Summerlin. I decided to take a side trip before heading back to Lehigh, and made my way to Bunche Beach Preserve, where I saw this little blue heron hunting for his supper.

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The little blue wasn’t the only one looking for dinner – pelicans and an egret hunted as well. A misty glow enveloped the Sanibel Causeway in the distance – one of those scenes that makes your heart go “ahhh!”

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The sky is streaked in Creamsicle shades as the sun descends upon Sanibel’s east end.

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A side trip to the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve the next day yielded the delight of finding a cute little two-foot gator sunning himself in the vegetation along the banks of the gator lake. He would not be the last gator I would see this week!

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Saturday found me at the C.R.E.W. Bird Rookery Swamp, where I would participate in a geocaching event. It was a glorious day to be tramping around in the cypress swamp’s wide trails. Here’s a balsam pear we found growing wild alongside the path. It’s a relative of the cucumber.

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I haven’t identified this moth yet, but I liked the angle of his upper wings against the lower “tail” part of his flying apparatus.

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It’s that time of year, when the beautiful but destructive lubbers turn into lovers. These grasshoppers go through several colorful stages before they reach the cooked-lobster hue you see here.

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See? Told ya there would be another gator! Actually, there were two, on opposing sides of the path, but the other one was a bit too far away to get a decent shot. I’d say they were about 4 feet or so. We observed them for a while and when we were ready to move on, they quite agreeably slunk into the swamp and let us pass unmolested.

So that was my post-Thanksgiving week. How was yours?

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A visit to the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge

Β© Copyright 2012 | http://MyMobileAdventures.com | CLICK any photo for a larger view

IMG_6509In celebration of the Florida Panther Festival here in Southwest Florida, I participated in a field trip on Friday 11/09/2012 at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge in Collier County, Florida. Last year, I hiked the Bird Rookery at CREW (Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed); this year, I went a little further afield. The excursion came in two parts. First, we rode along the firebreaks in a swamp buggy, learning about maintenance efforts that keep the habitat in good shape for the Florida panther’s food chain. Then, we took to the trails on foot, exploring “the clubhouse” and back-country areas that are only seen by the public perhaps twice a year. The cell phone signal was spotty, sometimes working great but other times dismal or completely absent, so I did not attempt to mobile blog the adventure. Are you ready to explore? Let’s go!

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Our leaders for the field trip were several members of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife team who maintain this refuge as well as Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, also located in Collier County. There were two swamp buggies, each of which could seat 6 or 7 participants, and about 24 people showed up. Therefore, we were split into two groups. One group hiked while the other group rode, and then we made a rendezvous and swapped places. I was in the first buggy group with my friends Charles and Vicki Wright who run Everglades Area Tours in Chokoloskee, FL, and Jacquie Roecker, hiking buddy extraordinaire and sole proprietor of Nature’s Voice Photography in Naples, FL. Jacquie and I do these things together on purpose, but stumbling across Charles and Vicki was a pleasant surprise.

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The buggies would stop along the way so the rangers could point out efforts to control overgrowth, invasive exotics, and habitat diversity. They talked with us about herbicides, fire, and hydrology. It’s been an okay summer rainy season here in Lee County, but further south there has been disappointment. They’re just not getting the rain that they should, and man’s efforts to control flooding has resulted in a complex canal system that often diverts water from where it is needed and carries it away to where it’s not. I snapped the above photo while standing on a dock out back of the “clubhouse” that should have been under water. If freshwater wetlands do not receive sufficient water in the forms of sheet flow and rainfall, then they cannot properly support the life forms that depend upon it for habitat and food.

I’ve mentioned “the clubhouse” twice now. It’s an accessible-access wooden structure, screened in, which is intended to someday house an environmental education program about the refuge in general, and specifically about orchids. The failure or success of orchids growing in the swamp is monitored closely, and with great interest. Orchids are an “indicator species” for a Florida swamp; if your habitat has them, then your habitat must be doing pretty well. A lack of them growing where they are supposed to be could indicate that environmental conditions are not right, or perhaps another species is hogging all the resources.

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Every now and then, while prowling through panther country, you come across something like this. Panthers like to use a fallen log as a scratching post. The fallen log happens to be alongside a footpath or firebreak trail that is used by humans. It doesn’t matter to the panther. Panthers like to use the trails because they will be unencumbered in their travels by understory plants. In addition to stretching and sharpening their claws on a log, panthers just plain like to play with such things, biting and wrestling and rolling it around. But how do we know that panthers like to do these things while no one is watching?

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Someone IS watching! The location of such logs is the perfect spot to install both video and still cameras. In this manner, wildlife can be observed without being disturbed at the presence of people. In addition to capturing the antics of panthers, these cameras pick up the activities of other wildlife on the preserve such as the black bear, the white-tailed deer, bobcats, and raccoons. The rangers mentioned that lately, there is evidence of coyotes moving into the refuge. I’d love to be the person who gets to review the footage :)

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Once the field trip was over, we filled out evaluation forms and took a quick turn through the newly built greenhouse, where different plant experiments were in various stages of being conducted. I snapped the above photo at pond near where we had all parked. There’s allegedly a one-legged alligator lurking in there. If there was one bee on these wildflowers, there were a billion! Jacquie and I had each packed a lunch, so we dragged our beach chairs out of our cars and sat in the shade of some ginormous live oaks dripping with epiphyte air plants, ferns, and Spanish moss. One of the refuge interns joined us and we all enjoyed being with our “tribe” for some lively discussion. I drove home contentedly, and felt the wild desire to nap when I got back to the house. An early start and lots of fresh air will do that to a person πŸ˜‰

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Summer adventures in Southwest Florida, Part 1

Β© Copyright 2012 | http://MyMobileAdventures.com | CLICK any photo for a larger view

2012-07-06 22.04.04The blog has been quiet, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been languishing – far from it! Most people think this part of the country is a paradise only in the winter, a respite from the frozen north. Well, that may be true, and it may also be true that while the rest of the world comes out of the house and comes alive in the summer, we tend to go inside to the blessed relief of central air conditioning.

Despite the heat, there are still things to do, places to go, and people to see in the summertime in Southwest Florida. My month started out a little slow, after all the June excitement with Tropical Storm Debby and the treasures brought to the beach by that natural phenomenon – but I’m happy to report it rapidly picked up speed and I’ve had a blast this summer so far :) Are you ready to see what I’ve been up to? C’mon – let’s go!

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JULY 5TH: The Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida has been on my bucket list for a while. My visit coincided with a special exhibit featuring comic strips and cartoonists who were prominent during the era of Nazi Germany. Both Dr. Seuss and Walt Disney are featured, among others.

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I wasn’t happy with my visit. I was VERY interested in the special exhibit, as you can imagine – I am, after all, a huge Disney fan. Disney’s war propaganda cartoons were being shown in one room, but I was told that a really great docent was about to lead a tour, and the sound on the television was turned off, probably in deference to this tour, so I joined them. Little did I know that this tour would involve the docent delivering a lecture that went on for an hour and did not show signs of stopping; there were some chairs, but most people were left standing. I wandered away and after a quick turn through the rest of the museum, I made my escape. Wish I had better things to say about this experience.

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JULY 6TH: Art Walk in the Fort Myers River District! I began the evening at Ford’s Garage, rendezvous point with friends Charlene and Eric Taubert. Ford’s is one of those places with lots of different beers and ales to try, and if you have dinner there during Art Walk, you can have free valet parking that night. The place was VERY crowded, and it took a long time to get seated. After a good dinner and lively conversation, we took to the streets of the recently revitalized downtown area of Fort Myers to see some art.

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A friend pointed out that the buildings themselves in downtown Fort Myers qualify as art; everything has an art deco feel to it. Here’s the historic Edison Theater, which is no longer a theater but now serves as office space.

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The Howl Gallery had a special exhibit – it was all Mickey Mouse, all the time in there! Check out the Howl’s current show page to see all the art. Above is my favorite, because he’s sort of emo and sweet ΒΊoΒΊ

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JULY 10TH: Freakish and violent weather is not unusual for Southwest Florida in the summertime, but this was scary-freakish. I walked out of the house one afternoon on a grocery mission and saw this in the northeastern sky. Looks like a tornado wanted to form, a little too close to home for comfort! My shopping expedition was in the precise opposite direction, and I hastened away. The house was still here when I got back, so I guess it was all good πŸ˜‰

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JULY 14TH: Out on the town with pal Michele Lorito-Chase. We saw a movie at the Bell Tower, had some dinner, and went for a drink at World of Beer.

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The best part of going out for pizza: bringing some home for breakfast the next morning πŸ˜‰

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JULY 16TH: I’ve been volunteering as social media strategist for Lee County’s Conservation 20/20 organization, which acquires and maintains conservation preserves. I curate their Facebook page – drop by and “like” us! A new piece was added to the Alva Scrub Preserve, so I set out with a friend on a promotional photography mission….


NEXT TIME: a hike through the Alva Scrub Preserve

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Everglades adventure! Part 3, The Finale

Β© Copyright 2012 | http://MyMobileAdventures.com | CLICK any photo for a larger view

This is Part 3/the “finale” of a series, 2012-06 Everglades Adventure

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We’re continuing our beach walk from last time on the Everglades adventure – we’re still on Pavilion Key in Everglades National Park. We came to a part of the beach where we would have to make a decision to either start wading to get around this tree, or else turn back and head for the boat. In the interest of time, we turned back. No residents of this osprey nest were evident; they might have been off hunting, or else it was just abandoned.

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On our way back, we came upon this tree with dark, shriveled berries hanging from it. Bruce, our guide, speculated that it might be related to citrus, judging from the configuration of the leaves. I sent a photo to Leafsnap, but it didn’t come back with anything helpful. When I returned home, I emailed one of my instructors from the Coastal Systems module of the Florida Master Naturalist program, Roy Beckford of the Lee County, FL Extension Offices. Roy responded that it’s soapberry; “Fruits are a dead giveaway”, he explained. Further research indicates that the fruits are also referred to as “black pearls”, and are used to make soap, as their name would imply.

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I just thought this was cool, so I snapped a picture of it. A hollowed-out tree stump, still planted in the middle of the beach, provides a hidey-hole for all manner of sea debris – and probably a few critters, now and then πŸ˜‰

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Some chicks are more popular than others; I get that, but this is sort of ridiculous, given that they don’t actually copulate! Also wondering about all the barnacle-like things attached to her… jewelry? I’m betting neither of the dudes bothered with dinner and a movie!

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Na na na na, na na na na,

Na na na na, na na na na,

BATFISH!

OK, now that you all know that I grew up watching TV in the ’60s… he was dead, and just kind of floating around in the surf. I’d never seen one before.

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On our way back to the boat, we passed the kayak expedition; they’d just made shore. We spoke briefly about the turtle nest and then each party went their separate ways. Closer to the boat, we passed these three whelks lined up on the beach. Someone in the kayak expedition must have arranged them there, for I hadn’t noticed them when we started out. Doing some googling around about Pavilion Key, I found some claims that there are THOUSANDS of empty, ancient whelks in the shallows, all bearing evidence that humans had eaten them – the tell-tale hole punched in the shell, through which something sharp would be poked and wiggled around to detach the muscle from the shell. I guess the Calusa were not interested in collecting shells, and therefore did not share our dismay at defacing them in such a manner!

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The batteries in my camera gave up the ghost while we were still on the beach, but I was able to take this dramatic shot with my iPhone once we were back in the boat and amongst the mangroves headed home. Bruce pointed out some butterfly orchids growing on it way up high, which you can’t see because it’s an iPhone. I still like the shot, though – it’s sort of spooky and mysterious.

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The trip around the Ten Thousand Islands ended, and I drove back to Everglades City to check into The Ivey House. On my way to the office, I saw this guy and knew right away that he was too bulky and walked too ungracefully to be an anole. He’s a curley-tailed lizard, and he’s not a native of Florida. He’s from the Caribbean. I believe I might have seen one before, at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve; however, it could have just been an anole holding his tail in a curled-up position. Once I was checked in, I pretty much RACED through taking a shower and headed out to the Everglades Seafood Depot, where the annual meeting of the Florida Society for Ethical Ecotourism (Florida SEE) was about to commence.

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The Everglades Seafood Depot was once actually a train depot. The inside is all done up in beautiful exposed beams, and there’s a lanai, bar, boat docks outside.

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The host waits to greet guests and seat them….

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Look at those teeth!

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We had an inspiring meeting, and I was elected to the board. I’m not sure I know what I’ve gotten myself into… I guess I’m going to find out! It was a nice little overnight escape, and I met some terrific fellow nature geeks. Would love to visit again when I’ve got just a bit more time to poke around the various local attractions.


Thanks for tagging along on the 2012-06 Everglades Adventure!

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Everglades adventure! Part 1

Β© Copyright 2012 | http://MyMobileAdventures.com | CLICK any photo for a larger view

This is Part 1 of a series 2012-06 Everglades Adventure!

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On Friday, I ventured further south in Florida than I’ve ever ventured before, to participate in the annual meeting of the Florida Society for Ethical Ecotourism (Florida SEE). The above map, captured from Google, shows where I wandered. “A” is Everglades City, Florida. Not many people are aware that part of the Everglades is Gulf-front, in Collier County. This map clearly shows the proximity of Everglades City to Marco Island, which is just off the coast of the city of Naples, Florida. “B” is Chokoloskee Island, which is partly comprised of a shell mound built by Native Americans over the course of a couple of thousand years. Chokoloskee is in Collier County. “C” is Rabbit Key; there’s a tinier island right next to it (can’t see it on the screen shot, but trust me, it’s there) that’s affectionately, if unofficially referred to as “Bunny Key”. “D” is Pavilion Key. Rabbit and “Bunny” and Pavilion are all in northern Monroe County. All three islands (B, C, D) are part of the Ten Thousand Islands area; Rabbit and Pavilion are part of Everglades National Park.

It took about an hour and a half to get to Chokoloskee from my house up in Lehigh. As you can see from the previous “on the road” mobile post, I had to pass through the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, which is made of of bits and pieces of other lands, including the Fakahatchee Strand, Everglades National Park, and the Big Cypress National Preserve. I went through Everglades City and straight on to Chokoloskee because I was scheduled for an ecotour with Everglades Area Tours, one of the ecotour operators certified by Florida SEE. I was excited to be meeting up with fellow members of Florida SEE and spending time out in the natural world with them. LET’S GO!

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After sitting and chatting a few minutes with the other members scheduled for tours, we split up – some were going kayaking, and two of us had opted to tool around the mangroves with a guide looking for birds. Almost right away, we came upon a group of royal terns named John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Kidding, I just gave them those names about three seconds ago. πŸ˜‰

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The osprey is one of my favorite critters to look at – they’re just so handsome, physically incapable of taking a bad picture! Naturally, they’ve also been a favorite blogging subject

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Tiny shore birds frolic on a sandbar; we saw a bull shark idling by our boat while we were stopped here. The large landmass to the right is Rabbit Key. The tiny cluster of mangroves to the left is the “Bunny”.

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The advantage of having a guide whose experience with the area extends back some 25-ish years – he knows where to go in the backwaters to find the pretty critters :) How many roseate spoonbills can you count? Click the picture to see the full size version in Flickr!

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A group of 3 (I think) dolphins did a drive-by and started hunting around our boat. This is one of the few times I’ve been lucky enough to get more than a fin while watching dolphins hunt.

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Our Pavilion Key welcoming committee πŸ˜‰ We spent some time walking the beach and mourning that shelling is not permitted there.

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There was lots of “yard art” on the beach at Pavilion Key. This beat up whelk was longer than my foot and twice as fat. Some of the ones we found were clearly former Calusa tools, with a hole in the side into which a handle was fitted.

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If there was one empty, still-attached set of Venus clam shells, there were a hundred. My friend Christene would have gone NUTS on this beach.

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Mossy yard art! I could have gone on forever photographing these ginormous old lightning whelks, but I’ll spare you more of them.


NEXT TIME: more stuff from the beach on Pavilion Key!



Take me to Everglades adventure! Part 2


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Today’s Adventure: Caracara prairie Preserve hike for National Trails Day

8:14 AM – It’s National Trails Day! I’ve got my hiking shoes on and I’m going on a five-miler at a brand new trail in Immokolee, Florida. It’s gonna be hotter than the hinges of hell! I must be out of my mind. Let’s go!

Today’s Adventure: Hiking through the marsh

We’ve been to the cypress dome down here at CREW – now lets check out the marsh :) Our tour guide is David Cooper, a Florida Master Naturalist who volunteers here. I can tell I will learn a lot from him. Let’s go!

A fair exchange



A fair exchange, originally uploaded by Erin *~*~*.

I did not bring anything to leave in the boxes, because I had no intention of taking anything… that is, until I saw the Mickey Mouse camera toy in one of them! I quickly rifled through my field bag and decided a bug bite stick would be a fair and useful thing to leave it it’s place.

First cache! First to find!



First cache! First to find!, originally uploaded by Erin *~*~*.

I was teamed up with an experienced cacher "Lorriebird" – she has a Garmin, but was familiar with how the iPhone app works. My VERY first cache was also a "first to find" – mine is the first entry on the log. Exciting, and I guess a memo from the Universe that I was in the right place, doing what I am supposed to be doing.

Geocaching at CREW: the crowd gathers

I got there a bit early and was able to chit-chat with a few folks prior to starting out, letting them know why I was there and what I hoped to learn. Everyone was super welcoming and friendly. The infamous "Jungle Pete", Kenny Jenkins, and CREW’s executive director Brenda Brooks were just a few of the folks who were generous with their time and knowledge.

Today’s adventure: Geocaching at CREW’s Cypress dome Trails

Yes, we were just here a couple of weeks ago for the Wildflower Festival. Now we’re going geocaching! Was conferring on Thursday with some classmates in the Florida Master Naturalist Program about final projects, and the subject of safe and ethical geocaching in the uplands was floated as a possible candidate. Since this event was coming up, I thought I would try my hand at it. I did some last spring when my niece was here, so I was not a complete novice but now I have "an app for that", so watch out! Here we go…

Today’s Adventure: CREW Wildflower Festival 2012

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The CREW Land and Water Trust, down in Immokolee FL is hosting their annual Wildflower Festival today. There will be hikes, exhibitions and fun. It promises to be a very warm day, too. Oh, and I’ll be hitting the new Trader Joe’s in Naples on my way home. CLICK the flyer to the left to see the details.

What’s not to love about this day? :)

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