Wednesday, December 31, 2014
But for now its the Gulf Coast as its too cold to be up North. Our son called and told us it was -29 below and that was the temperature and not the wind chill. Matt and Patty live about 45 miles away, as the crow flies, from our summer place. So today is packing time. Clear skies
Thursday, December 25, 2014
A special Merry Christmas for all who work today making sure we are safe and watching over us. Clear skies
Monday, December 22, 2014
Monday, December 15, 2014
Friday, December 12, 2014
Its finals week for our daughter and so she invited us to ride along and visit her campus at the University of Tampa, (she is pursuing a masters of nurse practitioner, ), There she took us on a quick tour and we wandered around the campus admiring the beautiful buildings and tranquil setting. It reminded me of the years I spent in school and seeing her stress out reminded me again of how glad I was that that stage of my life is over.
As she headed off to her pretest study session, we decided to take the tour of the Tampa Bay Hotel. The hotel was built by Henry Plant, (a steamship line and railroad baron), who designed and built one of the most unique buildings we have seen in our travels.
Building a huge gothic style hotel, it was 1891, he topped the hotel with minarets. Each minaret was finished by crowning it with a crescent moon finial. Upon arriving at the hotel, Teddy Roosevelt with his rough riders, is said to have exclaimed, ‘What the heck is that’, (I cleaned it up)?
Inside, the hotel was furnished by Henry Plant during a trip to Europe and is a classic example of the conspicuous consumption of the nineteenth century super rich. The hotel was only full during the Spanish American War, when it was used as an officer’s quarters. Afterwards it fell empty and went into disrepair before being saved by the City of Tampa and purchased for a price of one hundred thousand dollars, (it cost three million to build).
Much of the building is actually being used by the University of Tampa, with the northern end having been turned into a museum. The Museum was holding a Christmas Stroll and so paying the special price, (discounted to eleven dollars each yikes), we strolled along from exhibit to exhibit. Having been handed a brochure with little information we returned to the entrance to discover that for an additional two dollars we could rent a wand that would tell us about each numbered stop.
The wand helped to explain the purpose of each room but we were still disappointed at the lack of information on much of the exotic furniture and artwork. A lot of the furnishings had disappeared when the hotel fell into disuse, but many of the pieces there looked to be from Spain, (Toledo?), and England, (there was a room filled with Wedgeworth ceramics which was properly labeled and explained).
As we strolled from room to room we admired the craftsmanship and the exquisite details of each museum piece. That to us was the real value in our visit. It was a unique place and we were glad we had taken the time to take the Christmas stroll. Clear skies.
Saturday, December 6, 2014
Every once in a while you get lucky. Maybe it’s when you are looking for a place to spend the night and you find a beautiful park that you had never visited. Maybe it’s a fish or a pretty rock, yeah I know what you are thinking, “He needs a life.” Or maybe it’s just that you catch everything just right like today when we caught an incoming tide.
Sitting in the fifth wheel we realized that November was already gone, (and it went as fast as time does for retired people), and here we hadn’t been kayaking. So today was supposed to be in the eighties and one of our favorite places to paddle was only fifteen minutes away.
As I loaded the kayaks and gear Renita was busy packing our lunch, cameras and, dry stuff into our waterproof bags. Half an hour later we were on the water and she told me that she had looked up the tides. Low tide had been at eight thirty and the tide was coming in, so we hoped we could enter the black mangrove tunnels.
As we entered the small lake, sign post number three was being guarded by a rosette spoonbill, a double crested cormorant and a Louisiana/Tricolor heron. They seemed a little upset that we were bothering them during their afternoon siesta but as a paddled past they simply turned and watched me go bye before posing for Renita’s camera.
We knew that we had gotten lucky as the shallowest spot of the tunnels is at that spot and we were even luckier as the tide was rising and flowing into the tunnel’s mouth. It wasn’t very fast but it was rising and so Renita and I were both again riding the tide through the tunnels at Wheeden Island.
At places the tunnels narrowed and the mangroves closed in but we only had to occasionally grab a branch and push off as we silently glided by. Small mangrove crabs turned toward us and warned us of their might by holding out a large orange claw.
American Ibis skittered back and forth in the low bushes before leaving their perches to walk away from the danger they felt we represented. Taking turns leading the way I got caught sideways and Renita soon drifted out of sight, but she stopped at the next tunnel entrance and I soon caught up.
Passing by the ninth signpost the tide was now against us and so we had to paddle our way through. It still was easy going as it wasn’t rushing in and so we moved quickly against it by keeping a steady rhythm, left and right and left and right.
Finding an overhanging tree we tied off and stopped for lunch. A solo paddler in a canoe went by and then a fisherman casting as he/she peddled a Hobie kayak. I had long since put my pole way, for me anyway it was too nice a day to be bothered by fish during our tunnel travel.
Finishing lunch we moved from shaded tunnel to open water and then back again and now the heat of the afternoon made the tunnels a welcome relief. Too soon we left the last tunnel and now two long open water stretches awaited us. The wind picked up a little, as if to say that our tunnel riding had been too easy. Still the kayaks moved swiftly into the wind as we both found our kayak’s easy rhythm.
The last open water stretch was behind us and only a couple of turns were left until we reached the takeout point. I count the tunnels as an old friend and for a while we both had been transported into a special place, a place without traffic jams and crowds of people, a place of peace. The best ride in Florida isn't in an amusement park but riding through the black mangrove tunnels at Wheeden Island. Clear skies.
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
When Jenny told us that she had to have her new truck serviced, it gave us a perfect opportunity to hunt for sharks teeth. So after dropping off her truck at Sarasota, we picked her and Eric up, loaded their beach gear and snorkel equipment, and headed south to Caspersen Beach.
Renita and I had both been waiting for this day! We had made a screen sifter, from a gold mining rock sorting sieve, by reducing the opening size with a piece of quarter inch galvanized screen. So along with that sifter and, another we had purchased in South Dakota, we grabbed our pails, beach bags, and shovel.
Loaded down with too much gear, not unusual for us, we hiked a ways down the beach before finally deciding on a good starting spot. It reminded us both of carrying all our gear when we had gone gold prospecting north of Chicken, Alaska. At least here we didn’t have to worry about bears!
As soon as we got started Jenny and Eric found a small sharks tooth. The shark’s teeth here have weathered out of the Peace River Formation and the beach is famous for all the finds that have been made, (one tooth actually sold for ten thousand dollars)!
Scooping sand and shell fragments into the sifters, we worked quite a bit of material and while we found some teeth they seemed few and far between. Jenny donned her snorkel gear and braved the cold water and occasionally we would see her go vertical as she would dive to investigate an unknown object. While she found some interesting rocks, the best place for divers is about a mile offshore and so she retuned back to shore to work the sifters.
Taking turns we got better at spotting the sharks teeth and by lunch we all had added to our collecting sacks. We hadn’t found any larger specimens but what the heck we were finding teeth with our equipment, (people often ask us if we find all the rock we work and while we do find some we also trade, barter, and buy).
It does not matter if your fishing, fossil hunting, or prospecting, it’s really all about the hunt. It’s an added bonus when you actually have some success. Too soon the phone rang and the dealership had finished with her truck. Tired we rinsed off the sand and loaded our gear. It had been a great day on the beach and we definitely hope to return here again. Clear skies
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Sunday, November 23, 2014
Now they never did land any of the big fish they had on but they had found a spot and when he invited me and another friend, Tim, we both jumped at the chance to catch some black grouper. Two days later we had a live well full of fresh bait, pinfish and mullet caught with our cast net.
Now it all depended on the size of the seas and sadly we soon found ourselves in five footers. It was obvious that it was simply unsafe for us to continue so we headed to a pass with protected water and tried our usual drifting techniques.
Shortly after a new frenzy took place so we decided to continue fishing the pass. Drift after drift followed and finally Tim caught a nice keeper Atlantic sharpnose shark, As soon as it was landed Alan set his circle hook on a large bonnethead shark and we actually had fish in the live well.
Feeling left out we tried another drift and it was my turn as I felt a weight on my cut mullet, set the hook and actually landed a really nice southern flounder. On the same pass Tim landed a nice keeper black sea bass and surprise surprise we all started to discuss our favorite ways of cooking fish!
We didn't add any more fish to the live well but it didn't matter. Mother nature had thrown us a loop with big waves but when you can't fish for one species then go after another. The day turned out to be a five species day with good friends, good stories, and fish for the table. Clear skies
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Of course I jumped at the chance and a few days later we were launching his boat at the Fort Desoto boat ramp. Now Alan is an expert walleye and salmon fisherman and I could see right away that I was in for a treat. Just by watching him it was obvious that he knew how to handle a boat.
Now if I could only meet my part of the bargain. That was that I had told him how the flounders were migrating to the Gulf for their spawning run and how you could usually find them alongside passes.
Trying other places the fish refused to cooperate so the day turned into the usual dues day, which is a day where you have to pay your dues before you finally figure out the local fish. Still it was a really nice day in Alan's boat, a day of sharing fishing stories and talking about the differences between fishing for salmon and walleye on the Great Lakes, and my techniques for fishing the western reservoirs.