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Not One, Not Two, Not Even Three

Because of a miscommunication,  Bruce thought our field trip was on the calendar for Thursday. I, on the other hand, was geared up for a Friday adventure at the Gamble House. As it turns out, he'd scheduled a meeting with his contractor in Lakeland for Friday morning so plans changed. In a good way I might add.

"How about I show you the Wetlands Park and Fort Christmas I asked?" "Sounds good to me, he replied." So, off we went after breakfast. The weather was warm, the skies filled with white puffy clouds, and a cooling breeze was blowing.

Making our way down Fort Christmas road we saw quite a lot of buses at the fort, and I mean a lot. Hmmm...what's going on there we wondered? As we passed the fort Bruce reminded me that long ago, when he was a carpenter apprentice coordinator, his students built the fort. Well now, that's something I'd forgotten but was happy to be reminded of. He was good at that job.

With Bruce at my side I showed him the map and off we went on the proper birding trail.
It was so quiet and peaceful UNTIL Bruce's mobile rang. His friend and co-worker Jeff was calling to chat. It was while they were talking that I spotted our first alligator just off the pathway, and I mean just off!!!
We moved faster, although the chance of his moving towards us was pretty slim. So, there was one. Meandering along, after finishing his call, Bruce began describing the work situation Jeff was talking about. For once I said, "honey, I don't want to talk about work today. Let's just enjoy nature, shall we?" And he listened, never once bringing it up again.

As I told you last week there are lots and lots of birds wintering here. By Bruce's estimate we probably saw more than 1,500 birds. Moorhens were there by the thousands, gathering in groups on the water.
I'm still puzzled by the look of the trees. Perhaps they lost their tops during a hurricane?

Although we had a map, it didn't seem to do us much good. As well, there are sign posts every now and again with "you are here" indicated. Unfortunately several we came across did not have the red dot indicating where we were. Initially, after poring over the map, Bruce was fine and dandy with doing the 2 1/2 mile birding trail. He did not express the slightest interest in the 4 mile loop, and really, who could blame him? If you're not interested in birds, once you walk for a bit, it mostly looks the same. EXCEPT, for the alligator sightings.
We got pretty good at it. This one facing the path caused Bruce to tell me to get a move on! No wonder they don't allow pets here.

We could hear them before we could see them. A loud squawking was just ahead, but I couldn't place the call. As we rounded a bend, I saw a pair of my favorite birds--sandhill cranes. They have such wonderful color and bearing, not to mention they mate for life and have what is almost a red heart shape on their heads! Here they are yelling at something:
 They didn't scare easily, allowing me to get relatively close. Between the squawking one of them opened his wings:
I was really hoping the dance I once saw a pair do would follow, but alas. it did not. Instead he/she just pranced a bit.
It may have been around this time that we lost our way. Between my excitement at seeing both alligators and sand hill cranes, we just kept walking down the path without realizing that we'd missed a turn somewhere. We saw maybe one or two people the whole way so asking someone was not in the cards. Instead we finally discovered that we were on the opposite side of Lake Searcy:
which looks innocent enough until you look closer at the grass,
Yes indeed, gator sighting, number six!! I started to move closer to get a better shot, all the while Bruce warning me not to because although they don't look like it, they can move very fast. Ignoring his pleas I moved closer just as he did just that!
In a stroke of good fortune he wanted to swim rather than eat us!!!

Eventually, after hiking off the path through the forest, such as it is, we made our way back to the car, or rather the restroom for me! Do not, and I repeat, do not try this in the summer. I needn't tell you that you might just roast!!!

We stopped into the fort, which I believe I'll show you next week; suffice it to say that we shared the experience with 1,300 schoolchildren!

During our drive out there I suggested to Bruce we might want to have lunch in Titusville, which is really not too far from Christmas. By the time we finished touring the fort I was thinking perhaps it was too late but Mr. Bruce did not, and I'm very happy with his decision. Driving about another 15 miles, we ate lunch at Dixie Crossroads, an institution in that city. Having heard how great it is for years I can now add my voice to the masses, as in seating for 500!! Yes, you read that right;  our server told us on the weekends it does just that. After consulting with her, we decided on sharing three kinds of shrimp, coleslaw and cheese grits. We'd already been snacking on some delicious corn fritters sprinkled with powdered sugar which apparently is one of their signatures. Just as we were sitting down, Heather placed them in front of us. They are famous for rock shrimp, which we loved. As well, for about two months of the year they serve a red shrimp,  caught in very deep water.
Absolutely delicious and worth every penny! While chatting with Heather, in a very weird coincidence, we mentioned that we'd made our way there via Fort Christmas. She told us she was married there! Say what?
Isn't that something? Furthermore, as we were leaving Ft. Christmas, we chatted with a tiny little woman who told us her grandmother was the first cook at the school, so naturally she attended the school for her first eight years of education. Because she was a local, I asked her about Dixie Crossings and she said they charge too much for too little food. Good grief, that little woman is Heather's great aunt!! I think I have that right. If not, she's a relation for sure. Small, small world we live in.

On the other hand, looking at these spectacular photos of the Milky Way, you may not agree. 
I saw them on Google+ and I felt sure you'd love seeing them as much as I did.

Further off topic, I became aware of this blog called Advanced Style that I think is pretty neat. Imagine celebrating older women?? While doing mammograms for all those years, it always struck me that once a woman is stylish, no matter her age, she remains so. Once a frump, always a frump. I did have several patients in their 80's and 90's who would fit in quite nicely with the pictured group.

So, six wild alligators, thousands of birds, including my favorite sand hill cranes, and what is my favorite picture of the day?
My sweet Bruce, on top of the world. Well, really on top of the only hill on the property, but he stands on top of my world! You knew that already though....

Have a fantastic weekend my friends,
Gail
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