Florida Keys

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Florida Keys September 2014

Monday, May 25, 2015

A walk around Sweetwater Wetlands Park


Location: Gainesville, Fl

Date: 5/25/2015


It was the last day of the long holiday weekend and we wanted to do something outdoors, but nothing too strenuous. The city of Gainesville just recently opened a new park called Sweetwater Wetlands park just north of Paynes Prairie State park. This new park was created as a way to create a buffer for the water flowing down Sweetwater creek and cleanse it before it enter the prairie.  An article describing the restoration project can be found at this link. We decided to visit this new park and see what it had to offer.

Some of the boardwalks built along the wetlands


Some of the flowering plants


The water lilies in full bloom







Sunday, May 10, 2015

Camping at Anastasia State park and attending the TPC Golf Tournament


Date: 5/8/15 – 5/10/15

Location: Anastasia State Park


For the past several years we’ve bought tickets to the PGA tour stop in Ponte Vedra, Florida. The Players Championship is a fun tournament to attend since it has one of the strongest fields for a golf tournament during the year. It’s not one of the golf’s majors, but they sure are trying to push it in that direction. 

We’ve been combining our trip to the tournament with a camping stop at Anastasia State Park, which is about 20 miles south of the tournament location.  We usually make a reservation for a camping spot about 10 months before the tournament so we are sure to get a site. Anastasia is a very popular campground and fills quickly on most weekends.

We snagged site 111, which turned out to be a great site, very large with a good amount of spacing from the neighbors. This would have been a good site to share with family who often joins us on our trips, but this time around it was just Julie and myself with this huge spot.

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Site 111 at Anastasia State Park. Plenty of room to spread out!


One Saturday we went to the Tournament Players Championship, getting there at about 10 in the mourning. It was a perfect weather day for a tournament and the crowds were large. We did have tickets to the Michelob Blue Room, so we had a place retreat to for some relaxing, food and drink.

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The famous 17th island green at TPC Sawgrass before any players came through.


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And here is it much later with the crowds watching the leaders play through.


Besides attending the PGA tournament, we also did some bike rides and walking on the beach. The weekend went by too quickly, but it’s always great to get away for a weekend of camping.

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A little clouds and rain during our evening walk on the beach.

On Sunday morning (Mothers Day) we packed up and headed home. With the weather in Florida warming up for the summer, this may be the last camping trip we make until the fall. We do have a few reservations already set up for later this year and need to make some more plans before things fill up.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Winding up our trip west as we travel from the Grand Canyon to Boulder City


Date: 4/24/2015

Location: Grand Canyon Nation Park, Hoover Dam and Boulder City


Our week of vacation sure went by fast and our last day would be the drive from the Grand Canyon to the Hoover Dam and Boulder City where we’d be spending the night.

There’s not much between the Grand Canyon and Boulder City. We thought that we’d get breakfast at one of the “towns” just south of the park entrance, but there were only a few places and none of them were open. We had to push on to the big city of Williams Arizona before we could find a place to eat. We found an old diner right on an original section on RT-66, so that was kind of interesting.

After breakfast we continued on to the Hoover Dam where we wanted to take one of their tours of the dam. This place was complete opposite than the Glen Canyon Dam in that it was packed with tourists and a mad house. There were hundreds of people in line for the tour, along with several large school groups Sad smile We toughed it out and got our tickets to the tour and made it down into the dam without waiting too long. I’d done the tour before, but this was a first for Allison and Julie. So, even though it was crowded, I’m glad we did it



One last thing that I wanted to do was walk across the Memorial Bridge that was recently built to route traffic away from the Hoover dam. This would give us a great view of the dam as well as the Lake Mead. There is a parking area next to the bridge and a wide walkway next to the road. We started to walk out onto the bridge, but the wind was blowing extremely hard and at a few areas we were getting blown backwards. I’d say it was blowing at least 50 mph, with gusts even stronger. Allison and Julie decided to turn around because of the wind, but I made my way out to the center of the span to grab a few quick pictures.



The bridge as seen from Hoover Dam


The Hoover Dam as seen from the bridge.


After touring the Hoover Dam and walking the bridge, we headed off to Boulder City where we’d be spending the night before flying out way too early the next day. This was only a few miles from the Hoover Dam and a short 30 minute ride to the airport. So, it was a good location to spend a night.

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We stopped for lunch at the Boulder Brewing company. The food was ok, but their flight of locally brewed beer was tasty!!


We had reservation at the Boulder Dam Hotel, which was an old historical hotel in the town. It was beautiful restored and a very comfortable place to stay. Plus it was very reasonably priced and also had a free (for guests) museum. We’d definitely recommend this place for anyone staying in the area.

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Boulder Dam Hotel


Before dinner we walked around the quirky little downtown of Boulder City,. There’s many interesting places to eat and hang out. We stopped at a wine bar and had a drink before heading out to dinner.

For dinner we went to the new restaurant that just opened across the street from the Boulder Dam Hotel. It was a little fancy which is not usually our cup of tea, but it was an amazing meal. Everything we tasted was done perfectly. We just had to mention it here since we had such a great meal!!

Picture borrowed from the Scratch House website. http://www.scratchhouse.com/


One Saturday it was up at 3:30am for out early flight out of Las Vegas and head back home. Luckily all of our flights were mostly on-time and we all made it home and back to reality!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Our last day at the Grand Canyon National Park


Date: 4/23/2015

Location: Grand Canyon National Park


Our last full day at the Grand Canyon was here and we had one last adventure arranged. Doing some searches of activities to do at the canyon led us to bike tours by Bright Angel Bicycles which has a shop right in the middle of the village. This company gets consistent positive reviews on every web site that reviewed them, with many pointing out the friendly guides that lead the trips.

We selected the Hermit Road Tour, which was an easy 6 mile ride on the road that hugs the rim of the Grand Canyon.  During most of the year this road is closed to the public, so you have a nice quiet bike ride without having to worry about dodging cars. There are a few shuttle buses that pass every once in awhile, but that’s about it for traffic.

Our starting point was Hopi Point, just west of the main Canyon Village area


Our guides loaded our bikes onto a van and drove us to Hopi Point, where the ride would begin. This way we would not have to ride up the steep road leading to this area. I’d say about 98% of the ride was on flat roads or downhill. It was really an easy ride!!

The views along the rim road were beautiful.


So, we’d ride for about 5 – 10 minutes and then we’d stop for a little talk by our guides. They covered many different topics, from the local wildlife, to the geology of the canyon and much more. At one stop we did see several California Condors, which was one of the things on Julie’s list. Check!!

A family pic at one of the many overlooks along the rim road.


There were probably 12 – 15 riders on this group, which our guide said was one of their larger groups for a ride. One guide led the way and another stayed at the back of the pack to pick up any that strayed from the group.



Yet another stopping point along the ride. We didn’t wear ourselves out on this ride.


At one stop Allison was trying to fall over the edge of the canyon. I guess I had to save her. (ignore the smiles)


The Colorado River (small green area)  still carving away at the canyon.




Our ride ended at the Hermits Rest which is at the end of the rim road. This was a stone building built back in the 1920’s. Here they loaded up our bikes onto the trailer. After about 15 minutes of exploring the Hermits Rest area, they loaded us up in the van for the short ride back to the start.







Here is the GPS track from our ride.

Grand Canyon - Canyon Rim Bike Ride at EveryTrail


We did one last drive around the park looking for wildlife and found some!



We also did one last walk along the rim of the Grand Canyon. Tomorrow we were heading and and heading to Boulder City and the Hoover Dam.

Taking in one last view of the canyon.


And a sunset pic from our last day at the canyon.



Grand Canyon - Canyon Rim Hike at EveryTrail

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

We start our time at the Grand Canyon with a grand hike



Date: 4/22/2015

Location: Grand Canyon National Park


We found the Grand Canyon to be much more crowded than Zion. It’s really like a small town, with its’ own post office, grocery store and the other amenities you’d find in community.  It also has many more places to stay with a wide variety of lodges and hotels, as well as several large campgrounds. All of this means crowds of people and it wasn’t even the busy time of year yet. We’ve heard (and read) that the vast majority of people never hike anywhere below the rim and also, to really experience the canyon, you need to hike down into the canyon. It doesn’t take very far down the trail to find yourself in much more peaceful surroundings.

After much investigation and reading different web sites, I picked out the South Kaibab trail as the one we’d attempt to hike. We had to take several of the Grand Canyon shuttles to get to the trail head and arrived at the starting point at around 9:00am. Not the earliest start, but the weather was cool which would make for good hiking conditions.

The Trail profile of where we were headed.


I didn’t know how difficult hiking into the Grand Canyon would be, so I had picked out two points along the trail as potential destinations. I wanted to at least get to Ooh Aah Point (1.8 miles round trip) or push on to Cedar Ridge (3 mile round trip).

Allison and Julie heading down into the canyon.


There were a lot of switchbacks to work our way down the steep walls of the canyon.


Every turn held a beautiful view.


With the morning sun still low in the sky, most of the trail on the way down was in the shade. This would change later in the day!!


After a short time we had made it to Ooh-Aah Point where we stopped, had a snack and drank some water. We were still feeling good, so we decided to continue on to Cedar Ridge.



No loosing Allison with her bright yellow hiking gear!!


Mother and daughter picture. Still looking good and ready to hike some more!

After about a little over an hour we arrived at Cedar Point which was a popular resting area for many of the other hikers. But it wasn’t too crowded. We hung out for awhile, relaxed and took many pictures!



Well, Cedar Point was my chosen turn around point since I didn’t want to over do on this hike, but we took a group vote and decided to continue on further down into the canyon. The next point along the trail was Skeleton Point which would be the last turning point before the trail makes a rapid decent down to the Colorado River.

The trail to Skeleton Point would take us around this butte and about 900 feet of elevation drop.


Some of the workers coming back from doing some trail maintenance.





The South Kaibab Trail crossing the plateau heading out to Skeleton Point.




We made it to Skeleton Point and still had smiles on our faces!! It was another place that we hung out for awhile, rested and fueled up before heading back up the trail.

We made it!!!


What’s over the edge??


Allison taking the some of the amazing scenery of the Grand Canyon.


A family pic on the South Kaibab Trail.




One thing that we all found amazing were all of the flowering plants we came across as we hiked. The canyon is mostly dry, sandy and rocky. But amazingly, flowers find places to grow and thrive in this challenging location.















The hike back up to the rim was extremely challenging. The sun was now higher in the sky and there was very little shade for our frequent rests. And the trail was very steep in places. In many sections, we’d hike for a hundred yards and then rest for a short time and then do it over again. Remember, we are from Florida, the land of no elevation! At times thoughts that maybe we had hiked too far crossed my mind. But we were not alone, all of the hikers heading back up were sucking air and struggling. We slowly made our way up and made it to back to the rim. It was yet another amazing hikes, and even though we struggled some, I’d want to do it again some time in the future.


Grand Canyon - West Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point at EveryTrail