Another Christmas has come and gone, and again this year we’ve spent it in Florida with Laura’s sister, Amy. It’s been a busy week, with boat trips, paddling trips, and explorations of the area. Normally I would have done several posts, but I just hadn’t gotten around to it. So I’ve combined a few items in one long post. Here are a few highlights and photos…
We took a couple of trips to the beach. First was a trip up to Avalon Beach on North Hutchinson Island after a shopping trip to Vero Beach. The wind was whipping, and the waves were higher than usual. We didn’t stay long at the little park, but just parked so that Laura’s mom could look out over the ocean and we could walk on the beach.
Later in the week we headed down to South Hutchinson Island and Walton Rocks Beach. That beach allows dogs, so we took GriGri with us to walk on the beach. The conditions were similar to our earlier visit to the beach.
We loaded everyone into the car and drove across some very long, very straight roads to the middle of the state. Kissimmee Praire State Park, located in Okeechobee County, is a scrub land preserve that borders the Kissimmee Prairie. Laura and I had visited last year on our anniversary. The park features wide vistas as well as the caracara bird. We spotted lots of these last year, and hoped to see them again.
Unfortunately, what we got was a traffic ticket. Apparently I was driving too fast on the park’s dirt roads for the feral pigs, as it was explained to me. Perhaps it was the South Carolina license plates. Perhaps it was that we had an elderly person in the car. Whatever the reason, I was not given the typical $248 fine and loss of 3 points on my license. Instead, the nice ranger issued an $80 ticket for a miscellaneous “park violation.” Oh well.
We had a nice (albeit warm) picnic, but we only saw one caracara bird. There were interesting clouds to highlight the panoramic views. We also saw several wading birds and one alligator.
Amy and I always make a trip to the Fort Pierce Farmer’s Market. It’s held every Saturday, which this year fell on Christmas Eve. Amy usually heads for the vegetable stands, while I go in search of stone crab. The supply is limited, and you have to get there early if you want any. This year we were successful, and I was able to get lots of stone crab claws for our Christmas Eve meal.
We also stop by the baker’s shop and pick up a few goodies for breakfast. There are lots of food vendors and the aromas of various ethnic foods is amazing. It’s always too early for lunch when we visit, but I am tempted to try some anyway.
Across the street from the farmer’s market is the craft fair. Tents are set up with various artists and their wares. We took a turn through the booths.
Dinner Out and Christmas Lights
Our Florida Christmas trip always includes one dinner at Harbor Town. We start with conch fritters and diverge from there. They used to have a wonderful fish Reuben sandwich, but that seems to be off the menu now.
Dinner is followed by a search for lights. Downtown Fort Pierce has a synchronized display with music and lots of palm trees wrapped in lights. It was quite the popular spot this particular evening, and we couldn’t get parked where we could watch.
We headed south down Riverside Drive, which normally has several houses with nice displays. Not this year, for some reason. The drive even seemed kind of dark. We turned west toward US 1 and hit pay dirt in the Midway neighborhood south of Fort Pierce. It seemed that the entire subdivision was in competition to see who could put up the most lights. There was even a chameleon.
Christmas Day Amy, Laura and I headed over to the Indrio Savannahs for a walk one afternoon. This was originally supposed to be a subdivision that never quite made it. Streets were laid out in blocks, but were never paved, and the houses were never built. Oddly enough, Google Earth still shows these as active streets with names.
A company mined sand from the area, creating a 35 acre lake. Eventually the area was made a wildlife preserve and has become a great birding spot.
We walked around to the back side of the lake then continued along several of the “streets.” Eventually we reached a raised platform with panoramic views of the marsh areas. It was rather warm and in the middle of the day, so we didn’t see as many birds as usual.
Boating and Kayaking
Of course, the big draw was water sports. I took the kayak out every chance I got. Laura and I had tried a tandem paddle with near disastrous results in the rough water. So, I was left to do solo paddles. I found that the mangroves on the ocean side of the Indian River were much calmer with more birds and fewer boats. I tried to get over there as often as I could.
I had lots of encounters with dolphins, and even spotted one manatee.
We also took Amy’s boat out several times. We ran out to spoil islands a couple of times, and out to the inlet once. On that trip a rain storm came up and drenched us as we tried to make it back home.
Today is our last full day in Florida and it’s also our anniversary. We’ve already taken Amy’s boat out this morning for one last quick run, and in a bit we will all head up to Sebastian to Captain Hiram’s for lunch. Then it will be time to pack the car and head back home to Greenville.