Friday, December 17, 2021

Tampa and Fort Myers Adventure, Day 5

[Composed 11/25/2021]

Happy Thanksgiving! We planned for a chill, outdoor day, assuming that most businesses would be closed for the holiday.

We started our day with a delightful hike through the aptly named Lovers Key. We started our hike with some fun wildlife sightings: butterflies and a manatee. We come across a large number of interesting plants, including this mysterious guy that had red cones at its base, filled with what appeared to be pepper-like fruit:

Turns out, this is a Zamia integrifolia, also known as Zamia Floridana, Coontie or Florida Arrowroot. This specimen belongs to the ancient group of plants known as Cycads, which can be considered a living fossil (or maybe not).

While the red fruit in the dark-orange-red cones looked tasty, like the rest of the plant, it's poisonous. That is, until it's properly proccessed. Once that's been done, you end up with a flour-like substitute which was used by indigenous people and ultimately turned into an early Florida cash crop.

As we neared the end of the first loop we planned to hike that day, we came across a Gopher tortoise, an animal we'd seen mentioned in signs and brochures. He was a solid  creature, snugly tucked into a borough he'd no doubt dug himself. I snapped many pics and was pleased we could see one of these guys in the wild.

As we continued hiking throughout Lovers Key, we came across three more tortoises, including one slowly plodding along the shoulder of the road on the way out of the park. The slow, deliberate movements of these guys is almost animatronic like, and one can't help but wonder how these sluggish creatures have survived on the planet so long. That shell armor must be strong.

After exploring the trails at Lovers Key, we decided to pass on the beach and head back to our hotel.

On the way back to our hotel, I convinced Shira to stop at the Matanzas Pass Preserve so we could do a bit more exploring. While we did see some other-worldly looking spinybacked orbweaver spiders, and came across some deadly rosary peas, mostly this hiked offered us access to mud and mosquitoes. Yeah, Shira was not pleased. I couldn't blame her, given the hike we just came from and our explorations the previous day, this was pretty much redundant. Given the chance to replay the day, I'd skip the preserve. On the other hand, if we'd had been at the beach and shopping all day, the preserve would have been the perfect place to hike.

As we left the preserve, I couldn't help but notice all the life around Time Square, a touristy hot spot in Fort Myers. I suggested we stop for ice cream and explore the area. Shira was pretty sure this spot would skip the mud and mosquitoes, so she was in.

Looking at my ice cream shop choices, I opted for Kilwins. I was glad to avoid, say Cold Stone Creamery, because it was a chain. I definitely wanted to taste something local. Once we finished ordering an Kilwins, I realized that it too was a chain. Oh well, the ice cream still tasted quite good.

We strolled out to the pier and enjoyed the sights and sounds of all the tourists visiting Fort Myers. This turned out to be a delightful place to stop, and was absolutely a highlight of the day.

Finally, we returned to our room to enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving feast. We had hot dogs, buns, sauerkraut, sweet potato, and two, count 'em two, kinds of pickles. This was all courtesy of the nearby Publix and the microwave in our hotel.

After a week of visiting family, exploring amazing ecosystems, and enjoying the simple pleasures of travel, we had much to be thankful for. And again, I want to emphasize, we had two kinds of pickles at dinner. Life is good!

No comments:

Post a Comment