POKIN’ AROUND THE PANHANDLE (FLORIDA)

Since moving to Georgia, one of our favorite things to do each year is rent a cottage through one of the websites such as Home Away or Airbnb, pack up our kayaks, and head to the water. Although we enjoyed Sanibel so much we visited there twice, we decided to explore new places each time in the future and enjoy new experiences.
This time, we headed to Laguna Beach, Florida to spend two weeks kayak fishing, swimming, walking, and exploring the state parks.

The following are some of my favorite photos from our visit. The complete photo album of 79 shots can be viewed at www.ExquisiteCards.Fototime.com .

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The “Think Pink Cottages” were our home for two weeks in Laguna Beach, Florida, along the panhandle.  Our pink kayaks fit in perfectly, don’t you think?

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Bruce snagged a nice slot-sized redfish, but threw it back.  When fishing from his kayak, he is a catch-and-release fisherman.

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The view of Panama City Beach from St. Andrew’s State Park

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An alligator catching a few rays at St. Andrew’s State Park

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These guys were waiting for a handout of fish scraps from the cleaning table.

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Grayton State Park

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The view of Panama City Beach from the pier.

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Panama City Beach Aquatic Center was my training site on a daily basis.  It was a beautiful facility, and I especially enjoyed getting the opportunity to practice block starts.


My Vote Goes to… THE PELICANS!

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Happy Election Day (or, unhappy, depending on who ends up winning…)!  You should have seen the lines at the polls, here on Sanibel Island!  I just hope that when I wake up tomorrow, the election will be DONE; no talk of “hanging chads”, “pregnant chads”, “butterfly ballots”, etc.  (Well, that’s not my only hope, but I’ll leave politics out of this post…)

So, the day began for us out on the water, near the bridge that links Fort Myers to Sanibel Island.  The fishing is supposed to be good in that spot and dolphins are often spotted there, as well.  Unfortunately, there was no catching or dolphins; probably thanks to the red tide that has plagued the area as it did last November.

Red tide is a natural phenomenon caused by tiny, single celled algae called Gymnodinium breve.  While red tide causes little more than respiratory and eye discomfort for most humans, it has a more serious effect on marine wildlife.  Exposure to the algal bloom can be dangerous, even fatal, to fish, sea turtles and birds.  Yesterday, we saw numerous dead mullet everywhere.

Needless to say, the fishing has been awful for everybody.  So, while Bruce gave it his best effort, I paddled around and photographed my favorite bird: pelicans.  I also got some shots of the egrets, eyeing the schooling bait fish that came in right up to the shoreline.  My last shot was of a heron, snapped right before it poured down rain and we both got too cold to stay out. 

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At the recommendation (once again!) of our Sun City friends, we had lunch at Island Cow; a very popular spot on the island.  The atmosphere was quite cute with their collection of cows throughout the interior.  And, the food was just fine.  But, I am still thinking about Over Easy Café’s Summer Salad that I enjoyed yesterday for lunch.

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The salad dressing alone; raspberry pecan vinaigrette was exquisite.  But, tossed with the mixed greens, red onions, blue cheese, mandarin oranges, dried cranberries, candied pecans, and crispy chow mien noodles; it was simply the tastiest salad I had savored in a long time.  So, since it is Election Day,  Over Easy Café gets my vote as my favorite restaurant to go with my favorite bird.  We also had great meals at every other restaurant we dined at, including:  Gramma Dots, Cheeburger Cheeburger (a chain, but recommended by our friends), R.C. Otter’s, and today’s lunch at Island Cow.

After lunch, we browsed the boutiques at Periwinkle Place; all very nice shops.  That was followed by a swim workout at the Sanibel Recreation Center; my 7th and last one on my one week pass.

Well, it’s time to check in on the election.  And, my vote goes to… I’ll give you one guess!

Birds in Paradise

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Summer fun at the Alamitos Bay Peninsula, in Long Beach, where I grew up, always included watching the pelicans fly overhead and dive bomb into the surf, in search of lunch.  I used to love watching “pelis”, my favorite bird. 

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Here in Sanibel, pelicans are everywhere!  And, we saw plenty of them today, along with great egrets, snowy egrets, reddish egrets, and cormorants; all hoping for castoffs from the fisherman along the beach and Lighthouse pier.

Before we found ourselves surrounded by birds, the day began with my swim workout, while Bruce took a long walk on the beach near our cottage.  (For my Sun City friends who have been to Sanibel, Seahorse Cottages are located directly behind the Lighthouse Café; a great location!)

At the recommendation of those same Sun City friends, we enjoyed brunch at Grama Dot’s, thoroughly enjoying peel-and-eat shrimp (me) and fried shrimp (Bruce), after working up quite an appetite.  It was a gorgeous day, so the view of the boats at Sanibel Marina was the perfect way to enjoy those shrimp.  I had hoped to also see manatees or dolphins, but the water was too cold for the manatees and the dolphins were elsewhere…

Bruce had opted not to fish today, so it was back to the beach for some shelling and photography.

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Our last stop was back at Lighthouse Beach, where we had seen dolphins and pelicans the first time.  We thought we would try our luck again.  So, that’s where the dolphins were hanging out today!  Overheard on the pier, spoken by a sunburned fisherman who had been there…awhile:  “Those dolphins have been here all damn day!”  Of course, we were ecstatic, however, he wasn’t too thrilled about the dolphins eating up his potential catch.

We didn’t see just one or two dolphins; we saw several pods, all out cruising for their lunch.  A couple of times, we watched as one would chase a fish all the way up to the shallow edge, just feet from the shore, then dart back out again.  It all happened so quick, I never had my camera ready.  But, I did manage to get my favorite bird and (part of a) water mammal together in the same frame.

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Meanwhile, back to the birds, as soon as a fisherman threw some bits of fish to a pelican on the beach, birds came out of nowhere and everywhere.  It was a free for all and quite a hoot to watch.  I never had this much fun watching birds in Long Beach!

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