Archives for posts with tag: Florida

Lucky me! I got a break from my regular life at a time when it was much appreciated and went south to Florida with friends for a few days. For something different, we left the beauty of St. Petersburg and traveled north to Crystal Springs on the Gulf Coast.

Amazingly, it was predicted to hit a low of 30 degrees the morning we wanted to dive with the manatees in the only place you can do so by law, when they head from the colder Gulf waters into the springs with a constant temperature of around 70 degrees. We almost chickened out, discouraged by reports of visitors only lasting a few minutes before leaving with chattering teeth. At 70 years old, you think you’ve learned to be smart enough to know when it’s not going to work out. We considered a kayak to see them from the surface, but that was a 45 minute paddle, which sounded worse. My friend and I are nothing but game when it comes to a fun experience, so we prepped ourselves by worrying about the cold all night, packing up all kinds of non-Florida like things to keep warm.

It was 30 degrees when we walked to the boat at 7:15 am. I’ll be really honest – I was more worried about squeezing into a wet suit than the cold. Not pretty. I wasn’t shivering and I somehow got into the wet suit as several of us helped each other. Our boat was enclosed which helped.
IMG_9664Their slogan was promising a lot of fun ahead.IMG_9665It was the middle of the week, cold, and we lucked out with the last boat, so there were only 6 of us, my friend and me, two older ladies (maybe our age, but who knows) who are sisters-in-law, and a couple in their 50s celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary. He didn’t end up going in but a few minutes at the end because of heart issues. This was on his wife’s bucket list and he was making sure she got to check it off. Captain Ed has been doing this for 27 years, being a guide for 6. We had an extra photographer and another helper, who stayed on the boat and later served us coffee, hot chocolate or Manatee Mocha (a mix of the two). It was looking good.

We watched a video of rules for approaching manatees before we left and Captain Ed gave us more pointers on how to use the snorkel equipment as our boat approached the location. Everyone had their own dive shoes but us, so the worst cold I felt was taking my shoes and socks off on the boat. The water felt warm, there was no wind, and I climbed down the ladder to be met by a curious manatee.


This was a great start. I’ve been on whale watching trips in Alaska and Oregon and swam with stingrays in the Cayman Islands, but this was different. For one thing, manatees are so cute. When the first one you ever see swims over and rubs against you as you tickle its back, you fall in love instantly. They’re called sea cows, but a cow could rush you. There is absolutely nothing to fear with a manatee. Nothing! They eat plants and their only teeth are at the back of their mouth. We didn’t want to disturb them, not for fear of them frightening us but because we didn’t want to bother this endangered species whose greatest enemy is man. One had great slashes along his body from the blades of boats, even though their skin is tough.

Manatees can be as large as 13 feet long and 1300 pounds, but those were mostly sleeping. Ducking under water in my snorkel and mask, I quickly came face to face with some smaller ones. Oh, those faces.



We had seen manatees mating, thrashing around near us, as we approached our site. As the captain said, they’re trying to keep from becoming extinct. We also were so thrilled to see a baby nursing at its mother’s side below us.


In the springs we visited, there were homes around and the waterway was only 8 feet deep at the deepest. Most of the time, I could stand up if I wanted to stop my floating. We were there almost two hours, petting the cuties we met, watching them roll over in delight with our tickles.



There were some areas we couldn’t enter, full of large manatees resting.DSC_0081

I can’t exaggerate how very peaceful these funny creatures are.


When you have a chance to spend time with creatures who are so innocent and passive, you have to compare them to every other person or animal you’ve encountered in your life. I don’t know what their purpose is in our ecological system, but maybe it’s to remind us that it’s sometimes enough to get along with everyone, accepting them without qualm. These aren’t stupid beasts as they are compared to the very intelligent dolphin in many ways. They are gentle in the best kind of way. I felt so special to be in their presence.


At the end of the trip, I knew I’d had a unique experience. Captain Ed said you’re never going to get as much love as we did that cold January morning in the warm Florida spring water. In the end, we never were cold and had almost missed the adventure of a lifetime over nothing. A friend looked at this picture of me and said my expression was different, the glow of the morning showing in my smile. I know the magic of the manatees had rubbed off on me. I’m very lucky!



I’m told that the first years of retirement are for travel, before your body or your mind gets too weak and you just don’t feel like making the effort any more. Before I get depressed by that thought, I’m thinking back over the wonderful places I’ve been in my life and wondering which way to go this year with almost an entire year stretched before me.

One thing I’ve learned is that you don’t have to go far to find beauty, history, and interesting people and stories. Last year, way back in 2013, I explored some areas of my home state of Oklahoma that I’d never passed through in my 68 years here. I also travelled to the northwest and the southeast. Maybe this year, I’ll go northeast and southwest. Or all of them. I’ve travelled to other countries in my lifetime and have plenty of places to add to my global wish list. Right now I’m loving our country, which I can never get enough of, so I spend my cold evenings with my iPad in hand, searching maps and places, trying to narrow down where to go, knowing that new opportunities will be there as the days progress.

For your winter dreams, here are sunrises and sunsets in various places. . .

Oklahoma sunset

Scan 7

Naples, Florida sunrise


Pass Christian, Mississippi sunset


Smokey sunrise over the Grand Canyon


Texas sunset


Sunrise over Depoe Bay, Oregon


Sunset over San Francisco Bay from Oakland


Sunset over the Grand Tetons, Wyoming


Sunset over Nye Beach, Oregon


And, another Oklahoma sunset to top it off. . .


May your 2014 be filled with sunrises and sunsets in all the places you dream of.

Places that restore my soul definitely include beaches ever since I saw my first one when I was about 10. That was Boca Raton, Florida and we looked for shells back when you could find lots of big ones, went crabbing, my brother got stung by a Man o’War, and we learned about tides and undertows.

Since then, I’ve been to other beaches in Florida, beaches in Mexico, the Caribbean, Spain, California, Virginia, Mississippi, Hawaii, and Oregon. Probably others, too!

When I hit a beach, I walk, looking out to sea. I look down to see what has washed up. I pick up shells, rocks, driftwood, sand dollars, whatever I find. I know the names of lots of shells, refreshed when I go each time. I watch for ships, boats, whales, dolphins, sharks, fish, birds. I watch the sky, the water, the sand and rocks.

I feel small at the beach, less than a grain of sand, and that gives me peace. I am of the universe, of nature. All problems are small, all life is part of the ebb and flow of the sea.

I walk, I think, I remember, I take pictures. Here are some of my favorites…

Naples, Florida in the morning…


Naples, Florida at sunset…


My first view of an Oregon beach…


Elephant Seals in California…


California coast


Cannon Beach, Oregon from Ecola Park…


I’m on the Oregon coast now, never tiring of the ever changing shore, the pounding waves, the variety of beaches. I’m at peace in my heart…


It’s that time of year when I’m stricken with Wanderlust. “Wanderlust is a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world” – Wikipedia. The word says it all. I’m ready to go…anywhere, anytime. Wanderlust has many symptoms – desire to see new things or revisit favorite places – desire to see people you miss – desire to explore and, literally, wander – desire to learn – desire to cleanse your soul of the everyday routine and worries of life.

I’ve got a bad case of it, but I’m not sure which way I want to go this year…I’ve been all over the place but there are so many places I haven’t seen, so many places I want to see again. Each time I travel there is something new. The places I saw as a child or earlier in my life have new meanings, look different now. I both know more and learn more. Lately, I’ve been heading west…there’s so much there…but I’ve been east, north, south too…and to other continents…such a rich planet is our earth.

It’s all good. As long as I have my camera to catch memories, help me remember, I’m ready. Here are a few of the places I’ve been in the United States – I’d go back to any of them…or elsewhere around the world…

Florida sunrise


Grand Canyon of Yellowstone


Sunrise over the Tetons


Elephant seals on California coast




Grand Canyon


Zion National Park


Monument Valley


Santa Fe


San Francisco


Denali Highway, Alaska

Denali Highway  Alaska  July, 1999

Glacier National Park


I love cities, I love mountains, I love the ocean. Oceans and mountains, running water, green forests…all necessary to restore my soul.

Maps are out, research has begun…where to go? Wanderlust…I’ve got a bad case of it!