The first month of 2019 whizzed by, with our winter downtime in southwestern Florida drawing to a close. The weather during our stay was mostly on the cool side, sometimes wet and drab, but with several beautiful warm days in the middle. The humidity wasn’t too bad and we got nary a bug bite during our stay – yay!
As is to be expected in a typical Florida RV resort, we were feeling cramped at Lake San Marino RV Resort during our one-month stay. We spent the first few days whining and complaining about our dislike of our site, especially that Steve couldn’t use our grill (no fires of any kind allowed). Wailing sirens and almost constant noise from the next door cement plant didn’t help matters.
However, it had some redeeming qualities, including its proximity to lots of shopping, good access to beaches and a wonderful Tuesday farmers market right at the park.
With the complaining and whining out of the way, we made the best of our stay. Both of us completed a long list of things to do in and around Betsy – including household chores, computer/photo reorganization and catching up on other mundane things. But all chores and no fun would make RV life bland 😦
So as weather permitted we socialized, took many walks on the beaches and through the swamps, and checked out some wildlife along the way. Our previous visit here 5 years ago gave us a good knowledge of the area and what we wanted to do this time around, and meeting up with friends during this stay made it very enjoyable.
Naples is located in southwest Florida, also known as Paradise Coast. History says that in the early 1800’s two gentlemen – General John S. Williams (a senator from Louisville, KY) and Walter Haldeman (owner of a Kentucky newspaper) – sailed down the coast near present-day Naples. Noticing the miles of pristine beaches, they also discovered a bay just behind the beach. They thought they’d found paradise, hence Paradise Coast.
Later they established a town they named Naples, reminiscent of the Italian peninsula. They developed it as a winter retreat, and by the late 1880’s it gained popularity as a winter resort for wealthy northerners and sportsmen – you might say they were the first snowbirds!
Fast forward to the 21st century, Naples is more popular than ever and we joined the thousands of other snowbirds flocking here this winter. The beaches we visited didn’t disappoint, and we can see why this area is such a popular destination. Miles of powdery sugar-white beaches framed by inviting turquoise and blue waters along the gulf is a beach bum’s dream. We revisited some beaches and enjoyed a few new ones, thinking the $6 to $8 parking fees were reasonable – even though we usually left before the midday crowds arrived.
Boardwalks and wildlife
Several of the “trails” we followed were actually boardwalks built over the low-lying, flat wetlands. It was nice to learn about marsh ecosystems without impacting the fragile, unspoiled areas around the boardwalks.
At Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, the 2.5-mile boardwalk meanders through wet prairie and marsh, pine flatwood, and finally into the largest old growth Bald Cypress forest in North America:
In urban Naples, we took advantage of the natural beauty of the Gordon River by following a 2-mile boardwalk that weaved among mangroves and other native plants at Gordon River Greenway Park:
At Estero Bay Preserve State Park, we followed muddy trails through tidal marshes and wet flatwood that make up the uplands surrounding the mangrove fringe along the bay. The park became Florida’s first aquatic preserve, serving as a land buffer to protect inlets and islands along 10 miles of Estero Bay.
Walking the 12-mile trail through some of the most pristine habitats in southwest Florida, we experienced a glimpse of “Old Florida” at Crew Bird Swamp Rookery. This wild space is home to hundreds of alligators, playful otters, and red-bellied turtles. We enjoyed hearing a raucous among the wide variety of wading birds, songbirds and raptors we saw along the trail.
We had a great time watching alligators peacefully laying in the sun, until we encountered a few of them right on the trail. We were able to go around most of them…
…but at the 7-mile mark we had quite a standoff with a couple of them. We didn’t want to go back and face those other gators again, but we didn’t want to be on the 6 o’clock news if these guys wouldn’t cooperate:
After about 30 minutes the huge gator finally moved far enough that we could walk (no, run!) behind him to resume this hike that we’ll never forget.
I was happy to visit with old friends and my cousins that live in the area:
Steve spent some time helping Joe and Judy remove the paint/rock guard protective film from the front of their coach, as he had done previously on Betsy:
We met up with John and Sharon a couple of times to patronize local breweries:
The day before our departure we all gathered at Betsy to share delicious food and great conversation, promising to meet again somewhere down the road:
And that wraps up our month in Naples, our last visit here in Betsy.
Next up: Having real fun in “Real Florida”