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July 25, 2015

Beach Art - Therapy


Nothing is more soothing for the soul than time spent on a beach, but if you still can't seem to unwind, try being creative with what's right in front of you. From the simple to the sublime, creating beach art will relax you - guaranteed.


July 5, 2015

Paddling Florida's Natural Areas: Everglades

When many people think of the Florida Everglades, they tend to think of an inhospitable swamp with alligators and snakes ready to pounce. The stigma originates from all those cheesy, over exaggerated movies touting giant gators and snakes, or worse, swamp creatures and creepy backwater people. I can almost hear the "Deliverance" music. To make things worse in 2014 an Outside Magazine adventure writer made it sound overly challenging, "...the Everglades are filled with mazes and monsters to challenge even the most seasoned paddlers. But if you can navigate the tides and the uncompromisingly flat terrain, avoid alligators and insects, and keep your GPS in good working order, you’ll be rewarded with a truly unique wetland adventure. Wow! Before you say, "Mark that off my list," hear me out. It's simply not all Man-vs-Wild "as seen on TV" there. While the post was meant to be forewarning, it was too harsh. Perhaps, it just wasn't his cup of tea.
I admit, the Everglades can be challenging to hike, kayak or canoe in certain areas, it is simply not the case in many other areas. The truth is the Everglades, as well as many other Florida waterways, are safe to explore with the proper preparations and precautions and what you'll experience is "truly unique".
DON'T be an IDIOT!
Don't panic over the "seasoned paddlers" reference or inference to monsters. The writer has a flair for the dramatic. There is something for everyone, from beginners to the seasoned pros, and the "monsters", alligators, don't eat kayaks and canoes or very many tourists (I'm kidding…really). Before you go, understanding each person’s abilities in your party will allow you to find activities that will suit their desires and capabilities, insuring everyone enjoys the adventure. If you're not comfortable planning this type of adventure for your party, there are plenty of guided tours. Know that very few humans have ever been attacked by an alligator. Alligators generally shy away from humans, but can get very defensive and aggressive when they feel threatened. Nearly every attack was a result of humans using bad judgement. Simply put. Don't be an idiot. Yes, alligators can be dangerous if provoked. (Note: breeding season, beginning in April,  is perhaps the most dangerous time.) Enough said.
Photo by Larry Kay
Everglades outings are fantastic! Having the largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S. to explore (1.5 million acres) leaves you with endless adventure possibilities. It's also the only place in the country to spot crocodiles (which should be treated with the same respect as alligators), and it's teaming with other incredible wildlife viewing opportunities.
There are plenty of places to rent equipment or join a guided tour. Most of which can be found online. Winter in the Everglades is the best time to visit. It is crowded, but not like you might think. Migrating birds flood the area. These visitors make for some very spectacular settings. Although spectacularly impressive in numbers, these visitors may be out shined by the local color - birds with funky names like Purple Gallinule, Flamingo, Anhinga, Ibis and Rosette Spoon Bill. There's so much to see - otters, manatee, deer, bear and panthers. Some sightings may require patience and some may require good fortune, but all are found in this amazing backdrop, the Florida Everglades.

Purple Gallinule by Jake Parades
Roseate Spoonbill by Diane R Brannon
River Otter