March 4, 2017

ONE DAY IN THE EVERGLADES, THEN FAMILY FUN ON MARCO ISLAND

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  Then quit.  There’s no use being a damn fool about it.”  W.C. Fields

Carol writes:  For many months we had been anticipating a week’s stay in Everglades National Park.  We were anxious to get out on the water, see the wildlife, and learn about the python infestation in the Everglades.  As we pulled up to the ranger hut to register, we immediately noticed there was a huge mosquito presence.  We had read reviews online that mosquitos in the Everglades campground could be bothersome at times.  We consider ourselves fairly tough (stubborn?), so by the time we were all settled in at our campsite,
we were still determined to carry on with our week’s plans.  After all, we had a ranger led-canoe trip planned in three days and were really looking forward to that.  Keeping up with spraying DEET insect repellent on skin and clothing would be essential, and as long as we could escape the mosquitos inside the RV every night, everything should all work out fine, right?

After we were settled in, we headed over to the Flamingo Visitor Center.  Even in the middle of the afternoon, mosquitos were swarming all around us. 

This sign at the Visitor Center pretty much informed us what we had already begun to realize. 

Nevertheless, we headed outside on the patio just in time to hear an amazingly good ranger talk about the difference between alligators and crocodiles, both of which are found in the Everglades.  Spirits started to flag a little when an older couple showed up for the talk in nearly full-body mosquito netting with nicely designed headgear—sort of like a beekeeper’s suit.

As a result of the ranger talk, we learned how to tell the difference between an alligator and a crocodile.  The easiest distinction is color.  





Alligators are a deep shade of greenish black;





crocodiles are much more gray in color, as seen in this example swimming in the nearby marina.

In addition, only the top row of an alligator’s teeth are visible, whereas both rows of teeth are visible on a crocodile.

As a tropical species, crocodiles in the United States are found only in the very southern tip of Florida.  Most crocodiles are found in locations much further south than Florida.

Interesting factoid:  As pointed out by a fascinating couple from Australia that we chatted with, crocodiles are very aggressive and it is foolhardy to be anywhere near a crocodile in the wild.  Alligators are much more placid and really want nothing at all to do with humans, as long as they are not provoked.

After we returned to the RV at the end of the afternoon, we had already started to revise our plans.  Wearing long pants, long sleeves and neckerchiefs in mid-80-degree sun bordered on intolerable, and constant swatting at mosquitos was exhausting.  When we realized we were going to let dozens of determined mosquitos inside every time we opened our door and then spend the rest of the evening hunting them down before bed, our decision was made.  I was horrified to discover Al’s back covered in bites where mosquitos had stung him through the fabric of his shirt… while inside the RV!




The only way we could guarantee a restful night was to sleep under mosquito netting.  Wow!  A canopied bed for our 39th wedding anniversary on Valentine’s Day! 






FAMILY TIME ON MARCO ISLAND

Pulling out of the Everglades campground the next morning with no idea where we would camp that night was a first for us.  Luckily, as soon as we were in cell phone coverage we found an opening at an extremely beautiful RV resort in Naples, Florida. 

And… I had a voicemail from my cousin Rick telling me that his wife had spotted my Everglades post on Facebook and that they would love to get together with us at their condo on Marco Island!  Rick immediately invited us to a day of fishing in the Gulf on his boat.  I was in heaven!  Al tends to get seasick on the water, but a forecast for calm winds in the Gulf predicted a great day of fishing on the water…

It was so beautiful heading out to the Gulf through a series of canals lined with gorgeous homes and condos, each with a handy dock for their boats.



Captain Rick and wife Ro were a wealth of information, and very patient with us newbies at this saltwater fishing stuff…

It was a gorgeously calm day as far as wind; however, we discovered not-so-gentle swells at the 5-mile reef, one of Rick’s customary fishing spots. 

I had enough hits on my line to keep me content, and the lack of lots of action didn’t bother me a bit—I was immensely enjoying the beauty of the experience, along with the camaraderie.  Al seemed game, but after about an hour he announced he needed to donate his partially digested breakfast over the side.  Poor Al!  The swells had gotten the best of him.  I had a great time fishing and didn’t donate my partially digested lunch to the fish until the 5-hour point.  By that time, we had some fish in the fish hold and decided to call it a day… Funny how my nausea suddenly subsided once we got moving back to shore.









 Rick was a master at the electric fillet knife.







Everyone was interested, even the pelicans…






On Sunday Rick invited us to another day of fishing, if we were game.  I was all in, but Al knew his weakness for seasickness and decided instead to spend the day hiking along the beach on Marco Island.  On this day’s fishing expedition, we were accompanied by Molly and Ron, a delightful Canadian couple from Rick’s condo building. 

Maybe they were the good luck charm, because I had my line in the water for all of 30 seconds when I felt a nice tug.  Oh yeah, this was fun!  I had a 14-inch sheepshead keeper on my line that had been chased to the surface by a 3-foot grouper.  The thrashing of the grouper lunging for my sheepshead against the side of the boat as I reeled it out of the water was so startling we could hardly believe our eyes!

Before long, the rest of the crew were pulling fish in on all sides of the boat, and it was joyful controlled pandemonium.

At one point, our Canadian friend Ron spend 20-25 minutes reeling in a very large fish, only to lose it when a smaller grouper that he had hooked was pulled out of his large fish’s mouth.  Oh, what might have been… It was interesting to watch Ron’s reeling technique and how much time can be spent reeling in a very large fish.









By the end of the day I had caught another sheepshead, this one 16 inches!  What a fantastic day of fishing in the Gulf of Mexico…

(We have already fixed fish tacos and there are a lot more fillets solidly frozen in ice in our RV freezer…)








After two days of fishing, we drove into Naples and looked around the beach near the Naples Pier.

Yes, Naples was a very lovely and luxurious part of the Florida Gulf coast.

Along many canals we saw housing that was priced in the tens of millions of dollars—some of the most moneyed residences we have ever seen.  I tended to believe it when I read on Wikipedia that Naples has the 2nd highest proportion of millionaires per capita in the United States.

So…as I had wondered in my original Facebook post, our miscalculation in the Everglades really did turn into a great gift.  Our stay in Naples sampling the snowbird lifestyle of fishing in the Gulf with my cousin and his wife was pretty sweet... much more exciting than a week in the Everglades ever would have been.  Thanks bunches, Rick and Ro!

 You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.”             Wayne Gretsky






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