dreaming of summer; the last photos of our trip to Sanibel Island

IMG_7839By now, I am sure you are ready for me to move on from my summer vacation photos but considering the hurricanes that have blown through that part of the world, I had to post this last group of photos.  While we were on Sanibel Island, we found a walking trail by accident.  We had left our hotel room, on foot, and walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner.  As we approached the front of the building, we realized that it was not open.  Since we were set on having dinner, we turned around and began walking back to go somewhere else and that is when we saw a small sign for the Pond Apple Trail.  And yes, we also saw signs for alligators-this little guy did not pose much of a threat but everybody knows that small alligators are the result of big alligators…

IMG_7852We didn’t walk the trail that evening but we did go back one afternoon while we were out riding bicycles.  A portion of the trail winds around several square ponds that are part of a stormwater remediation program for the island.  This handsome fellow was watching over the water for possible snacks.

IMG_7849If you are curious about the remediation method used here, small rafts of plants are assembled and allowed to float in the ponds.  The root systems of the plants help clean the water of pollutants that are washed into the ponds during storm runoff.

IMG_7844The trail gets its name from the native pond apple trees which are relatives of custard apples and soursops.

IMG_7854Although they were perfectly edible, we decided not to eat them.  We enjoyed the trail and look forward to a trip back to the island so we can explore it again.

IMG_7862On the day we were leaving, I scheduled the flight home late in the afternoon so that we could spend the day exploring some of Fort Meyers.  Mother nature had other ideas and we were stuck walking in drizzly conditions.  We found a great place to explore despite the rain!  Six Mile Cypress Slough is one of the most unique trails I have ever walked and I highly recommend visiting if you are in the area.  The entire trail is a raised wooden boardwalk that wides its way through a cypress swamp.  Currently, the trail is closed and I am assuming it is because of storm damage.

IMG_7863The stumps in the water are called knees and cypress trees develop these roots as they grow in the water.  The water was so clear, golden in color but clear with amazing visibility!

IMG_7865The ferns grow everywhere!  These were colonizing the base of a tree trunk.

IMG_7867Have you seen those air plants for sale everywhere?  They grow wild all over Sanibel Island and here in the slough as well. The lichens were pretty amazing as well, I have never seen them in this color before.

IMG_7875More air plants, they can get pretty large.

IMG_7869Ferns, love ferns… The way the little fronds unfurl…

IMG_7871Of course, it would not be a proper southern swamp without some hanging moss.

IMG_7872The boardwalk, it was only a mile from start to finish but we took our time and probably spent an hour wandering the walkway.

IMG_7873At every turn, there was something to see.  Plants above water, plants below water.

IMG_7877IMG_7881And it wouldn’t be a proper hike without a reflection shot.

IMG_7888Moss and ferns, two of my favorite things.

IMG_7901IMG_7904This guy was just hanging out, he let me take his photo.  Hopefully, the damage to the trail was not too extensive and it will reopen soon.

Doll’s Head Trail in Atlanta


Over the last 5 years, I have made many trips to Atlanta to visit our daughter.  Each time, we have explored a new place and on my most recent visit, Alix took me to the Doll’s Head Trail.  The trail is located within the city perimeter, tucked away in Constitution Lakes Park and while it is not exactly easy to find-so signs are posted for it, it is well worth the effort needed to find it.  That is provided you have an open mind, a fondness for “found object” art and a dark sense of humor.  The area itself is full of history and at one time, was the site of a brick manufacturer but what it is really known for is that it frequently gets flooded and that is key to the art installations on the trail.  Unlike most art parks/trails, where adding to the displays or even building new displays is not allowed, on the Doll’s Head Trail, you are encouraged to use objects found within the park to create work.  Actually, the only rule is that it must me made from garbage and junk already present in the park and if you carry in new things to use, they will be removed.


img_7058The dolls heads are everywhere, so is graffiti.


img_7048We wandered slowly along the trail, continually finding little treasures

img_7049and graffiti, lots and lots of graffiti

img_7050some of the work was clever and imaginitive

img_7051other things were humorous

img_7053quite a bit of it was creepy


img_7055img_7059img_7060img_7061img_7065This collection of shoes was amazing-look at the moss on the boots.  Love the Shoeless Joe Jackson reference, had to explain that one.

img_7066And of course, a common sense public announcement.  This will be a place I must return to on occasion, especially after a big rain event.  It will be very interesting to see what washes up and how it is used in the artwork on the trail.

img_7069The park is also a nature center and we happened to catch this little guy out shopping for lunch.

img_7070He was a little reminder to look at everything because you just do not know what you will find out there.

img_7068Like this tree which was easily 20 feet from the trail in some very tall and thick brush.

img_7072Of course, we had to leave our mark as well.

img_7075we did so in honor of our cats! Chicken Wing and The Captain are now part of the trail.


Gan Shan Station; hungry hikers paradise

img_6986One of my favorite things about traveling to new places is the chance to try new restaurants.  Trust me folks, Asheville did not disappoint!  Every meal we had was well worth the visit.  After our big hike up to Black Balsam Knob, we followed another recommendation from the wonderful folks at Local Provisions (the first being the hike up to Black Balsam Knob) and went to Gan Shan Station for a late lunch.

This small indoor space makes great use of the natural light and we were seated at a table that was next to the large wall of windows in the front of the restaurant.

img_6988Having hiked at least 6 miles (did 9 miles of walking for the day), we quickly drained the water bottles placed on the table.

img_6990This old building was perfect for camera play-I loved the light fixtures hanging above the tables.

img_6991Sorry, couldn’t resist…

img_6992My choice for lunch was a spinach and tofu salad.  Trust me when I say that this is not what I expected.  It was also as delicious as it was different, those crunchy bits on the top…Seriously though, this dish was only offered as a special and for those of you who visit the restaurant, I hope they offer it again!  It had a little bit of a bite to it but the crumbled tofu and cooked spinach were well flavored and served cold-perfect and refreshing for the hot day and the hike we had just completed.

img_6994The rest of our meal included pork dumplings and fried tofu.  Be sure to check the special board to see what fillings are available for the dumplings because they change them frequently.  We devoured them!  The filling was a typical Asian style pork recipe with ginger and garlic and all of the other ingredients you would expect to find but it was the sauce that made them.  It was a creamy peanut sauce with what I think was a touch of red curry and if we had been there alone, we might have fought over who was going to have it all.

The fried tofu was light and crispy, fried to perfection in a well seasoned starch mixture and again, the sauce was a big part of the success of the dish.  It was not your typical salty-soy sauce and we used it freely as we ate the crispy sticks.

img_6996Between us, we also shared a grilled vegetable salad that included squash, peppers and avocados.  This was the first time I ate a grilled avocado and honestly, I don’t think it made any difference to the flavor; ripe avocados are the food of the gods and nothing can improve that!  Again, be sure to check the special board, that is where the good stuff is.  At least it was on our visit because most of what we ate, was ordered off the board and not the menu.

img_6999And if you need any proof, we joined the clean plate club and walked away feeling full but not stuffed!  It was the perfect way to refresh ourselves after our hiking adventure.

img_7000The verdict, if you are in Asheville, take the trip over for lunch, it isn’t in the downtown area but it is worth the time you will need to get there.  My plan is to go back sometime and try the dinner menu.

img_2344Remember that mention of Local Provisions?  We were staying nearby and walked over for cocktails before heading out to dinner.  When I read the description for the Midnight Voyage, I had to have one.  It was the first time I have ever tasted Honeysuckle Vodka and I probably could have consumed a quart of this mixture!  The cocktail is a blend of honeysuckle vodka, Creme de Violette, St. Germain and lime juice.  It was a little sweet, very citrusy and just a bit floral; it was also like a glass of grown-up limeade that did not remind me of really bad margaritas, which is something lime juice generally does for me.  They knocked it out of the park with the addition of a stem of begonia flowers.  How is it that this gardener did not know that begonias are edible???  They have a tart flavor that will get you at the back of your jaw but in this drink, they were the perfect addition!


Hiking the Black Balsam Knob area; a girls trip

img_2347Recently, I flew to Atlanta to visit one of our daughters.  Once she had picked me up from the airport and we were on our way for some much needed coffee (it was only 7:30am at this point), she surprised me with the news that we were headed to Asheville.  Hiking was on our list of things to do and we set off on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We stopped on several occasions just to admire the view.

img_6960As we drove on, we gained altitude and the views just got better and better.

img_6961We were lucky, the weather was perfect; sunny, clear and not too hot.

img_6965At one stop, the old Buck Spring Lodge site is near the Pisgah Inn on the Mt. Pisgah Summit and there are a few trails around the parking area.  Take the stone stairs and follow the trail toward the inn, the views are worth the walk.

img_2353We were headed for Black Balsam Knob and we drove on.  These were spotted on the Flat Laurel Creek Trail.  If anyone can identify these, please do-I have no idea what they are.

img_2349Even though were around 6000ft, honeybees were present.  While I am sure that the altitude was not an issue for them, I could only wonder if they were there because a beekeeper has hives out there somewhere or if there were feral bee colonies.

img_6976These were spotted along the Art Loeb trail as we hiked up to the top.  They had finished blooming for the year and were loaded with seeds for next years blooms.

img_6971There was no shortage of Mountain Ash berries.

img_6980And with goldenrod in bloom, the bees had plenty of flowers for foraging.

img_6984Again, I am looking for an assist on the ID, if you know what this is, I would love to know as well!

img_6973When we finally did reach our goal, not the entire trail but a nice high elevation, we were standing on this rocky spot.  The pattern in the surface of the stone is intriguing.

img_2355We stopped for a bit and enjoyed the view.  If you want to take a hike near Asheville, we highly recommend making the trip to Black Balsam Knob.img_2351img_2354img_6969img_6966img_6968My hiking partner, Alix.  It was a wonderful surprise and it was a perfect afternoon!

local friday; a hike on the back bay trail

IMG_1155When our daughter came to visit last month, she had only a few requests:  she wanted to visit a winery and she wanted to go to the beach.  Fortunately, in Williamsburg, Virginia, both requests can be met quickly because there are wineries all around us and the beach is just over an hour away.  We set the GPS for Virginia beach and went on our way.  After one of the best breakfasts I have had in a while (beachside no less!), more on that another day, we walked the boardwalk and visited some shops along the way.   It was a windy day and we decided we wanted to see more than the typical tourist beach stuff so we drove further down the coast to the Back Bay Wildlife Refuge.

The Back Bay Wildlife Refuge, part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, is about 30 minutes from the main drag on the beach and it features multiple trails and activities.  The trails lead to the bay and the beach.  You can also launch boats, canoes and kayaks here as well as travel by bike.  Since we were on foot, we took the Charles Kuralt trail.  It was cool out but sunny and breezy and we wandered all over.  The walk from the trail to the dunes was easily negotiated along the raised boardwalk.  Until you hit the base of the last dune, you can see the footprints that lead up over it to the beach and it was impossible to do without getting sand in our shoes!

IMG_1158Along the way, I spied what almost looked like a champagne cork sitting on top of the sand.  A closer inspection revealed that it was a mushroom.  Imagine that-a mushroom growing on the sand, the mycelium was actively fruiting and we saw many of them around us.


At some point, I hope to get this identified but it will be tricky, we did not bring it with us because you cannot remove things like this from a refuge.  The color of the gills was a rosy red, almost a purple tint to it.  If anyone has a clue as to it’s identity, please, leave a comment.

IMG_1147We walked to the beach and found it nearly deserted.  Swimming is not allowed here but fishing is and the only other people we saw had multiple lines in water.


It was a beautiful day with a deep blue sky, and the visibility was very good.


Walking along the trail we passed a marsh where migrating birds will stop to hunt.  Can you see the Great Blue Heron near the center of the photo?  We have seen many of these birds all around the country.  Although this is part of a birding trail, this guy was the only bird we were able to spot!


The trails around the Visitors center are interpretive and they are also at water level.  What this means is that at high tide, some areas are flooded.  We couldn’t take the one trail because it was about 6″ underwater in one area and neither of us had on waterproof boots.  The marsh that the path cut through was almost like a corn maze at times and we could not see anything but the plants on either side of the walkway.  This wet area with its tree roots and grasses was eye-catching.  It was nearly impossible to see where the water stopped and the plants started.  The only clue was the rings on the surface of the water.

IMG_1124A shot from further away of the reflection pond.


When you visit a wildlife refuge, you hope to see the wildlife.  Aside from a bunch of seagulls and a heron, we only say this snake.  Actually, it is a cottonmouth and it is not a snake you want to mess with.  Luckily for me, he wasn’t threatened by my presence and let me take his picture.

IMG_1121You can see how well he blends in, we walked past him the first time.  A teacher leading a group of students on the trail pointed him out to us in warning and we were grateful.

Do yourself a favor, visit the refuge and take in the sights and see what wildlife inhabits the area .  There are multiple activities from bird walks to whale watches available.

Winter waterfowl walks

Whale watching

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