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500 Miles, 500 Miles

Well, we didn't travel quite 1,000 miles on this week's road trip, but almost! 967, to be exact.

Driving trips are great, especially when you are not in a hurry. Because our plans were, what you might call fluid, when we felt like it, we stopped. Driving out the East-West Expressway, which I stubbornly still call it, although the name has changed in recent years, we got off at the last exit, and never got back on a major highway until we got on I-4 at Maitland Blvd. on our return trip.

I said our plans were fluid, and to a certain extent they were, but eventually I hoped to land in Destin, Florida because I'd heard so much about it. More on that in my next post, but we did indeed spend a few hours there on Thursday. Google Maps is great, don't you think? According to "them", driving the 418 miles to Destin would take 6 hours and 17 minutes. Fat chance with this couple behind the wheel!!

April is a lovely time to drive the scenic highways of Florida because there are wildflowers like nobodies business alongside the roads. I mean seriously, even Bruce, Mr., I don't care about flowers, was impressed. Phlox, mostly in pink, hot pink, white, as well as some purple. Fantastic, is what I had to say about that!
We followed State Road 50 until it hooked up with US 98, heading North. The link is to someone else's review which states "it takes a little longer, but is well worth it. We couldn't agree more. Not only was the scenery beautiful, couple that with the lack of traffic, and you have a win-win situation in our book.

Our first stop was the absolutely awesome Homossasa Springs State Park. Did I mention it was awesome? Why, yes I did, and that is why today's installment of "Camera Crazy" will focus only on said park. So, let's go there, shall we? Before we do so, a word of warning: there will be many, many photographs to follow, so if you're pressed for time, or uninterested in nature pictures, close down right now!
Furthermore, some of the photos are sadly, not so great, but I'm sharing them nonetheless to encourage those in range to visit. So, here we go.....
Why, yes there are owls, either just sitting on the ground, or in a tree. Seriously, I was so enamored of the beautiful flamingos, that I almost walked past the beautiful owls because they blend in so well with their habitat. They rescue injured birds, rehabilitating those who can be, and keeping those who can't.

Flamingos anyone?
You know how much I like Gatorland, the flamingos being one reason, but here, on the grass rather than in water like at Gatorland, their gorgeous color just popped! The whole park was absolutely pristine; both Bruce and I think it is the nicest State Park we have visited. Apparently, the flamingo's diet has something to do with their coloration, so perhaps there is some gorgeous coral stuff in this trough?
I've seen a fair number of brown pelicans before, but very few white pelicans who have this weird funky thing on their beaks. Here they share a habitat:
Yeesh--I tried so hard to keep the photo number down, but I see you can't see the funky thing, so here's yet another one of a white pelican:
I'll leave it those interested to find out what the heck that bump thing is. Meandering along the waterway, we next came to the eagle area, all of whom looked as if they were either missing a wing, or at least partly so.
A fantastic, as well as large, aviary came next. Good grief--I now have a new appreciation for ducks, including this finely colored one:
There were probably six or eight different types of ducks, none whose name I can recall.

Several other cool birds, which, again, I can't identify by name, were hanging out:
Somehow, I took a number of good ones of this bird:
Here's the thing, I love the shape, feathers, and coloring of birds, but their feet--not so much. God, in his infinite wisdom, gave birds beautiful bodies and ugly feet, all the better to perch with.

Before I forget, there are two whooping cranes, a cousin to my favorite Sandhill Cranes. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, they are not only the tallest birds in America, but graceful as well. Plus, they are noisy!
The pure white body was gorgeous! Interested in more? See the above link.

Speaking of noisy, the park has three Florida red wolves, which began howling like you wouldn't believe.
Throughout the park there are volunteers, friendly ones, I might add, who are happy to answer questions. We heard such howling that we asked one of those friendly folks who volunteered that either a motorcycle, or an ambulance must have gone by on the nearby street. High pitched sounds apparently set them off. Looking at one another, we couldn't help but think of Baxter who makes such a pitiful sound when the phone rings more than once. By the way, Mr. Baxter spent a little vacation with his former owner, our son Bill; things went beautifully for both of them.

How about a Florida panther? Seen one lately? I sure hadn't.
But now I have, and so have you, albeit vicariously. The coat sure looks rough, doesn't it?

Anyone up for burrowing owls?
How cool are they? Very cool. Small as well.

We didn't spent too long in the serpentarium, but this diamond back turtle was pretty cool:
Although there was quite a large pool for otters, they either blended in, or were napping, because we did see a one of them, however, we did see a deer:
I have no idea why I could not focus the deer without the fence, because I did so with the panther, but I just couldn't seem to make it work. I've spared you the turkey.

Following the path we kept marveling at how pretty and clean everything was. Eventually, we came to one of the coolest features, a structure that set down in the spring, allowing a view to the fish AND manatees!
Taken through one of the windows, the reflection is super cool, isn't it? I can't seem to find a link to how they built the observatory, but there are placards which explain it. I came across this listing for an old postcard advertising the attraction before it became a state park. Here's an outside view:
There are gobs of fish swimming on the other side of the windows, as well as, on our visit, three manatees. See the manatee above in the deep part of the spring?

Are you weary yet? To think we saw all this in our first 90 miles!

How I wish we lived closer, because the park is so beautiful, and peaceful! In the interest of time, we skipped the twenty minute boat ride from the visitors center to the park, however, now that we have a yearly pass to the entire state park system, as well as more time on our hands, I'm hoping for an encore visit soon. Of course, it helped that the temperature was moderate, something I won't be able to say in the next month or so!

What else did we see? Stay tuned!
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