Thursday, October 27, 2016

Girls Weekend 2016, St. Augustine, Florida

St Augustine Lighthouse          
Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Yes, that is a picture of the St. Augustine Lighthouse above.  Yes, you can go into it and climb the 219 steps to the top for what I am sure is a stunning view of the area.  No, we did not choose to do this. Are you kidding?  There is a time when we would have readily done this, but our knees and ankles have aged a bit since we began our annual adventures and some things we just have to let go....

Anyway,  we awoke this morning to the alarm at 7:30am, a bit of a challenge since we managed to stay up until 3 am the night before journaling away.  After breakfast we were off for the days' adventures which centered around an EcoTour of the inter coastal water that is one of the bodies of water that surrounds Saint Augustine.  This tour, which doesn't seem to be very popular with tourists, was recommended to us by some of the locals working at one of the trolley stops.  Again we were blessed with stunning weather for the day.  We arrived at the city marina just in the nick of time to board our boat.  There was only one other couple on the tour with.  A lovely couple who were from Georgia and had wonderful southern accents.
Our tour guide, Joyce

Our tour guide was Joyce, who looked as if she lived outdoors and proved to be very knowledgeable about the waterways and the animal life that inhabits both the water and the air in this area.
Once out upon the open water, we were able to see that the Bridge of Lions was open to allow some taller vessels to pass into the bay.
The Bridge of Lions

Apparently this happens about once every hour throughout the day and can cause quite a traffic jam in town.  We were happy to be on the water where it didn't affect us at all.  Joyce then turned the boat inland and took us to an marshy inlet that is actually a river.  Here she pointed out many a group of brown pelicans, a white egret and a bed of oysters.
Brown Pelicans
As she was talking about the oysters and the various kinds of oyster lovers, I was scanning the water for signs of bottle nose dolphins who live in these waters.  It wasn't long before I spotted one.  While the oysters were somewhat interesting, the dolphin proved to be far more so and we were all fascinated watching the water to see where it would surface next.  Joyce explained to us that while most dolphins to live and travel in groups, this is not necessarily the case for these bottle nose dolphins and this one seemed to be traveling solo.  While we were watching the dolphin, Joyce spotted a young eagle flying high above us.  She explained to us how to tell the difference between an eagle and other birds of prey that can often be spotted above bodies of water.  Eagles' wings, she explained are flat, no notches in the bottoms like an osprey has.  She also told us that when an eagle is in flight, its' wings lie flat, not arched up toward the sky, like many other birds.  I was glad to learn this.  I had often wondered how people could tell the difference when a bird was high overhead where it was impossible to see the colors and markings.

We left the small inlet and went a bit further inland under a higher bridge where she pointed out a type of sponge that lives right at the waterline on the concrete pilings of the bridge.   These small sponges are orange and I would have thought it was just some kind of rust had she not pointed this out.
Orange sponges

We then turned around and headed back the other direction, towards the inlet where we first spotted the solo dolphin, because Joyce had caught sight of a pair of dolphins, a mother and her youngster.  Pretty soon we all caught sight of these two as well as the first dolphin we had seen.  After watching them a while, Joyce pointed out a young osprey that was sitting atop one of the signs posted for boaters and she brought the boat closer so that we could get a good look.

One legged osprey
I took several pictures of the osprey and when I zoomed in on one of them, I could see that this young osprey was missing the lower part of one of its' legs.  Joyce had just finished describing to us how osprey caught and carried fish with their claws, so I couldn't help but wonder how this one managed with just one claw.  Joyce pointed out how well-nourished this bird appeared so we all came to the conclusion that it seemed to have figured out how to survive with that one foot/claw just fine.  Mother Nature is truly amazing.WE then headed out of the inlet, under the draw bridge and Joyce pointed out where the waterway empties out into the Atlantic ocean.  While headed toward the ocean, we could see much of the damage that Hurricane Matthew caused to many of the boat docks on Anasataia Island.  There were even some boats that were still stranded up on land.  While there was certainly a lot of evidence of the hurricane throughout the town, all in all it was amazing to see how much recovery and clean up had already taken place in the two weeks since the hurricane hit this area.

She took us close to the fort that was constructed hundreds of years ago of coquina to defend the city.  Coquina was the only rock available in the area when the fort was constructed and had never been used before, so the Spanish were unsure how well it would hold up when attacked so they built the walls 12 feet thick.  Turns out this material which consists of millions of shells of dead sea creatures that has been compressed over the years into a form of rock is quite resilient and with all of the little air pockets in it just absorbed the impact of cannon balls launched at it and the fort never fell in all the years that it served to defend St. Augustine against attack.
Saint Augustine Fort
We returned to the marina, very happy that we had decided to take this tour and would recommend it to anyone visiting St. Augustine.  We then took a walk through town and ended up in a shop called Earthbound that we had walked by the previous evening and thought looked interesting.  Well, we ended up spending a couple of hours there and made several purchases, including some essential oils that Kathi bought for Ridley, some masks that I bought for Megan (they were on sale for $1 each, how could I resist!), as well as some cool clothes.

After shopping, we both realized that our late night of journaling had caught up with us and we were both pretty tired, so we decided to go back to the condo for a little bit to catch a quick nap so that we would be refreshed for our visit with our new friends, Julian and Shelley, whom we had met at Mi Casa Cafe and who had invited us to their home.

We napped, then went back into town to Julian and Shelley's beautiful home on Water Street.  As one might suspect from the name of the street, their house had definitely suffered some damage from the hurricane and they were still in the process of recovering, restoring and replacing things that were damaged.
Debris pile from hurricane damage awaiting pick up
Their boat dock was completely destroyed and when they returned to their home from Orlando, where they went upon the mandatory evacuation order, they found that their basement was full of water.  Their air conditioning units were still not working and not all of their electricity was working, either.  Nevertheless, they were gracious enough to invite us to their home, which is quite beautiful and has stunning views of the water.  They bought the home from artist who had added many unique and whimsical touches to the home, including mosaics and painted furniture.
The amazing fireplace in Shelley and Julian's home
We swapped stories of travels and raising teenagers as well as stories of the hurricane and what that was like for them.  It was a very enjoyable evening and Kathi and I were very glad that we had taken them up on the offer they had extended for us to come and visit with them.

We left there around 8:30 or so and had intentions of staying up and journaling through this last full day of our trip, after Kathi's cooked up more delicicious hamburger and onions for us for dinner, but after eating we were both starting to nod off, so we decided that we get a good nights' sleep, so we could get up early in the morning to pack and journal.

Oh, and Kathi's Amazon package?  She had received a text message from Amazon saying it had been delivered, but upon calling the front desk, she was told that no package had been delivered, so the saga continues.  Where in the world is Kathi's package?

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