Goin’ Coastal – A recap of our Florida winter sojourn

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After three months of meandering along the extensive coastlines of Florida, we were eager to finally point Betsy west.  In early December we began our winter sojourn along the Atlantic Ocean, exiting on the shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico in March.  This was our second winter in the Sunshine State, and we visited about half of its coastal regions, exploring many natural settings and strolling an array of fabulous beaches – all while being entertained by wildlife unique to the area.  An added bonus was the great time we spent visiting with friends old and new.

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Good Times and Tan Lines – Naples, FL

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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! Continue reading

Final Days on the Gulf – Port Aransas, TX

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Port Aransas Beach

Port Aransas

Along the Texas Coast are barrier islands running parallel to the mainland.  The longest barrier island is Mustang Island, where Port Aransas occupies 8 miles of its 18 mile length.  We spent a month there with Gulf Waters RV Resort as our home base, then three days just up the road at Mustang Island State Park.

“Port A” as it’s known by the locals, is a small beach community of about 3,500 people.  Although the “Winter Texans” swell the population significantly each year, the town remains uncrowded and less frenetic than many we saw in Florida last year.

The big draw at Port Aransas is of course the beautiful Gulf beaches, with easy access to great offshore bay fishing.  Thankfully, birding is right up there in popularity as well, so you know what I was doing during the few nice days we had during there!

Dave Malouf

Dave, the smoked meats expert and a diehard fisherman with his buddy whom he calls Stealafish

Great Blue Heron

“Stealafish” checking Dave’s catch

South Jetty, Port Aransas

Folks came out to enjoy a sunny day and fish at the South Jetty.  Did I mention that fishing is popular here?

Leonabelle Birding Center

Photographers and birders at Leonabelle Birding Center

Charlies Pasture Natural Preserve

A bundled-up walker getting some exercise at Natural Preserve, Charlie’s Pasture

Vehicles and buggies are allowed to drive right on the beach here, so we just had to rent a buggy to join the fun and take a ride into town for lunch.

Scenes on Port Aransas Beach:

Port Aransas Beach

Now that’s what you call camping on the beach!

Campfire at the beach

Campfire at the beach during full moon

In between our medical appointments in Corpus Christi, we visited the USS Lexington, an aircraft carrier which is now a museum on the Bay.  You can probably guess who really enjoyed all of the “self- guided tours” on this giant ship – like a kid in a candy store!

USS Lexington

A huge collection of warplanes and helicopters

USS Lexington

Food stats for the hungry sailors

USS Lexington

Museum of the Bay – USS Lexington

For a more personalized experience aboard “Lady LEX”, check Ingrid’s post – A Trip down memory lane.  Her husband Al, a navy pilot, earned his wings flying on and off the Lady LEX, so their visit was quite sentimental.

Mustang Island State Park

Our last sunset viewed from Mustang Island State Park

Our month-long stay at the beautiful, well-managed Gulf Waters RV Resort partially made up for the constant gloomy cold and windy days.  More so as our site overlooked the pond where many birdies became our free entertainment, giving me lots of photo opportunities from inside our warm coach.

Mustang Island State Park

The goofy couple bidding goodbye to the Texas Coast.  No more salt water for us for a while!

 

 Next up:  Betsy undergoes her winter maintenance



 

It’s a Jungle out there – Sabang, Palawan, Philippines

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Jungle Trail
St Paul Karst Mountain. Palawan

St. Paul Karst Mountain Range in the background, said to be twenty million years old.  Our resort is hidden behind those coconut trees on the right

I promise this is my final (delayed) post covering our trip to the Philippines, then I’ll get back to reality here in southern Texas.  To view my previous Philippines stories, check out:

After being amazed and fascinated by what we saw during our exploration of the Subterranean River Tour, we turned our interests above ground.  Just down the island from our resort were two natural attractions; the Jungle Trekking Tour and the Mangrove Forest Paddle Tour.

At first we weren’t really interested in doing the Mangrove Paddle Tour, since I grew up with mangrove trees behind my house, and we had already kayaked through mangroves in Florida.  We also discovered that we would have to pay an entrance fee and hire a guide to see this one.  But it was a beautiful day and we had nothing else to do – why not?

Mangrove Paddle Tour, Sabang PalawanGetting underway, we learned from our guide that these activities are community-based, sustainable eco-tourism projects managed by the area government.  Local guides on these tours were former fishermen or farmers who are now employed to help generate income for the community.  Just the thought of helping the local economy encouraged us to do both activities.

MANGROVE FOREST TOUR

I immediately became a translator for Steve, as our guide could only describe the tour in Tagalog.  It was a quiet and relaxing ride as he slowly paddled us deep into the forest while following the river path.  I was impressed as he explained many details of the mangrove forest and why they are protecting it – and more importantly why they are proud to have it in Sabang.  The untouched old-growth mangrove trees, especially within an island forest, can rarely be seen these days, so the community is devoted to protecting them.

Mangrove Forest

Old-growth mangrove forest

Mangrove Paddle Tour

Just another day in mangrove paradise!

Since we took the first tour of the day, wild exotic birds could be heard and seen flying overhead, and we were able to spot several snakes sleeping on branches overhanging the river. I recoiled when I saw them, but our guide assured me that they sleep during daytime hours and there was no danger of me being attacked or eaten.

Deeper into the forest, the mangroves stood very high above the forest floor.  But what excited me most on this short paddle tour were the colorful little crabs.  There were red, blue, white and orange crabs all along the shore.  It was just too bad that in my excitement I was unable to focus on these tiny critters.

JUNGLE TREKKING

After the tour, our guide dropped us off at the Jungle Trail trailhead, where a new guide took over.  I berated myself halfway through the hike, since I had become one of those people I usually criticize – folks who wear flip-flops while hiking.  However, I somehow survived the fairly difficult 6-mile round trip over mountainous terrain.

The trail passed through a lowland forest in the shadow of Mt. St. Paul, and ended where the Underground River tour began.

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Jungle Trail

Some of the tree roots here are more like walls!

Our guide pointed out some amazing works of nature as the hike progressed. Tarzan and Jane would have been very happy here among the hundreds of vines that hung all around us.

Jungle Trail

Do you see the knot in that vine?

The trail was quite challenging, and we trekked through several different forest environments.  We enjoyed new bird sounds we had never heard.  Halfway through the hike we came into a rugged Karst Forest, formed from soil erosion.  We noticed some plants that had adapted to the thin and poor soil there, and they seemed to be hanging on for dear life.

Jungle Trail, PPUR

This huge tree had grown from inside a hole at the base of the rock

Limestone cliffs

Striking limestone cliffs

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Another huge limestone formation containing several caves

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There were hundreds of wooden steps through and over the rock formations

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We also saw several varieties of cactus on this hike

Finally, we came upon a swampy ecosystem described as a major provider of several ecological functions.  These plants and trees improve water quality as they absorb nutrients and toxins, providing habitat for a variety of animal species.

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At the end of the trail we noticed a gathering of people.  As we got closer we were happy to find that several Monitor Lizards and monkeys endemic to the park were entertaining the visitors.  Of course, they work for food!

Monkeys

Monkeys and lizards were on display

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Monitor Lizard

Is he giving me the eye?

Puerto Princesa Jungle Trail

It was  a jungle out there, and it took us about 4 hours to take it all in.  The diversity of flora and fauna amazed us as we trudged along, and it was unlike any other trail we had followed before.

Daluyon Beach Resort

Time for a little nap on the beach after an arduous hike

During our early morning walks, the clear pristine beaches beckoned us to stop in wonderment at the works of art created in the sand overnight by the nocturnal critters.

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Steve thought this resembled his walking path after too many glasses of wine!

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A community of sand crabs

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These little “balls” are created by sand crabs – they form them with their saliva so the sand won’t fall back into their hole. Is that amazing or what?

Beach crabs were also fun to watch as they scampered away when we walked by.

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There’s one of those elusive little sand crabs!

And that concludes our awesome vacation in the Philippines.  In closing, lets enjoy a local San Miguel beer, which is actually quite good.  Cheers!

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Next Up:  Party time at Port Aransas, Texas!



 

Party time at North Myrtle Beach, SC

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Lewis

Isn’t Lewis cute?  This guy enjoys posing for pics!

What do bloggers do when they meet? Well, they eat, drink, talk and have a ball – especially when they happen to land at the same RV park!  And that’s exactly what we have been doing here.  Heading toward North Myrtle Beach, we learned that Dave and Sue of Beluga’s Excellent Adventures were already settled in at Briarcliff RV Campground.  Then we discovered that John and Pam of Oh the Places would be arriving at the same campground the day after we got there.  None of us planned it that way, it just happened!  Following each other’s blogs helped us to track our movements, and – viola! – we all ended up here at the same time.  Now, how cool is that?

Oh the Places they go

Happy Hour at John and Pam’s site (John and Pam on the right).

This was our first time meeting Dave and Sue, and their very well-behaved black beauties, Lewis and Sasha.  We had met John and Pam earlier this summer at Lake Erie, NY.  Both couples have been on the road longer than us and had lots of stories to tell and experiences to share.  There were a lot of laughs as we got caught up on our adventures.

Briarcliffe RV Resort

Happy Hour #2 at Dave and Sue’s

Good times with good friends was the main affair here.  Happy hour in the afternoon…

Briarcliff RV Resort

Happy Hour #3 at the Lowe’s

…and dinner in the evening at the excellent restaurants that were just a short walk away.  All we needed were hungry tummies and the gate combination – “lower, middle, top”, according to Dave.  We had themed dinners – seafood night first, then Italian and finally pizza.  I forgot to bring my camera to our unexpected family-style Italian dinner.  That doesn’t happen very often!

Joe's Crab Pot

Seafood night at Joe’s Crab Shack

California Pizza

Pizza night, and we were happy to have leftovers of this pizza!

Each night, Steve and I arrived home with full tummies – oink, oink!  We don’t normally go out for dinner so often, but we had a blast enjoying good meals with our friends at these excellent restaurants.

Hungry Warriors

Hungry travel warriors heading out for pizza – don’t get in our way!

Just like the Outer Banks in North Carolina, Myrtle Beach is pretty quiet this time of the year.  And to quote one of the servers we talked with, “it’s boring here now”.  Wasn’t a problem for us!  Unlike at the OBX, we had to drive just over a mile to access the beach here.  But parking wasn’t an issue, and it was free.  So, we made the most of our time, hanging out at the beach whenever the weather permitted.

North Myrtle Beach

Looks like someone’s ball left behind from busier times

Myrtle Beach

Each stop on our way south is getting a little warmer – in about 500 miles we should be down to shorts and tank tops every day – yay!

North Myrtle Beach

North Myrtle Beach, SC

These guys seem to be enjoying the quiet times

I want to take a moment to thank all of you who have asked about my family in the Philippines after Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated my country.  Mom and the rest of  my family in Cebu are safe and out of danger.  However, as of this post we are still unable to contact my nieces and nephews who live in the province of Leyte, which bore the brunt of the powerful storm.  We’re praying for them as we wait for communications to come back up.

Update: As of today Nov 11, the fourth day after the storm we finally heard from my nieces and nephews. They are all alive, safe but are now homeless. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers.

Next up:  Charleston, here we come!

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