Fishing in a central Florida swamp.

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Sunset reflecting on distant clouds.

I took a much needed break to see my son in Florida for a few days this week.

I made a vow that this time I would put my camera away and actually just enjoy our time instead of constantly brandishing my phone to get dozens of “must have” pictures, most which I never bother posting or ever looking at again anyway.    I mean, how many more beach pictures do I (or you?) really need?  Yes, the Gulf Coast beaches are stunning (especially at sunset) and I’m a sucker for beach pictures of any type anyway, but I successfully resisted the temptation to snap photos this time.   There are plenty of beach and sunset pictures on this blog already.

However, I did cave when we went fishing on our last day (Friday), because we were in a stunningly beautiful wetland area in an inland town called Inverness.

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Yes, you would be correct to assume it was beastly hot and almost unbearably humid, as you might expect such an area in Florida to be in August, but we still had so much fun.    It was surprisingly un-buggy (probably due to all the dragonflies around who catch the mosquitoes), and the fish were definitely biting!

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First, we drove to a brackish lake to catch the small bait fish (I caught five but had to throw two back because they were too large to use as bait fish), then on to the wetlands to do the real fishing!    My son (who purchased his fishing license at Walmart that morning), my daughter, and a friend all caught a few rather large freshwater bass (they were thrown back except for two, which will be eaten later, though not by me).    I caught no bass, but had a blast taking pictures of the scenery (we stayed past sunset) and everyone else’s catches.

Enjoy the photos. (The above photos were taken at the lake where we caught the bait; the ones below were taken at the actual fishing site about a mile away, as was the one at the top of this post which was taken near sunset).

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I love her slightly disgusted expression.  But she was thrilled about catching her first fish ever.

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That’s Spanish moss dripping from the trees, and in the background you can see a makeshift swing hanging from a branch.  I guess people actually swim here.  Yuck.  I sure wouldn’t.

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The same view as above just before sunset.

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The water was like a mirror.

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Here you can actually see a bit of the small bait fish inside the bass’ mouth.

 

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Pictures from Tampa and Clearwater (4/20/19 – 4/28/19)

I took fewer photos than I have on earlier trips to see my son in Florida, but that was fine because I actually got more time to spend with him, and I just wanted to enjoy our time together.

Here are the pictures I did take during my week there.  We both had a fantastic time.

Tampa River Walk, Tampa.   I took these on April 20, the first night I was there, after the 12 hour long car ride.   These were taken just before, during, and just after sunset. I was sore from the car ride but still managed to walk quite a bit.  It was definitely worth it!

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I’m the one in the gray sneakers. 

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Clearwater Beach

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Sign greeting me in my hotel room.  The beachy decor was adorable.

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The surf was rough on this day (4/24) due to storms in the area, so there were few people swimming,  and there was a rip current warning.  The waves were very high for the Gulf.

I will never get enough of those Clearwater sunsets:

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Anclote Key sandbar (via boat ride from Tarpon Springs):

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The photo doesn’t do this justice.  Anclote Key is a state park and camping area, accessible only by boat, about 4 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico.  It is very remote.  The sand is as white as snow, and is almost blinding in the sun.  The many tidal pools are filled with shells and hermit crabs.

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My son took these two photos of the seabirds at Anclote.  This post wouldn’t be complete without them.

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Dessert at Hellenas Greek Bakery, Tarpon Springs.

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I’m sorry…

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It’s been a long time since I posted.  I haven’t forgotten about my readers.   I hope no one is worried — I am fine.   I’m actually on vacation, visiting my son in Florida.  Right now I’m at Clearwater Beach and having a wonderful time.

I’ll try to find time to post tomorrow about my trip.  The weather is supposed to be kind of crummy and rainy, so I might not be getting much or any beach time.  I have a ton of pictures.   The one you see heading this post is an actual sign in my hotel room.  It’s a standard room, but has a cute beach decor.

In the meantime, here’s one of the sunset tonight.   It got cloudy, but the sun peeked out from behind the clouds just minutes before it set.

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My Clearwater and Tampa, Florida trip.

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Sandbar at Anclote Key Preserve.

More than two months ago, my daughter and I spent 8 days in Tampa and Clearwater Beach, Florida.  I never got around to writing about my trip, even though I kept promising to.  Well, I finally got around to it.  Better late than never, right?

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Horseshoe crabs — one of them crawled right over my feet!

I got to see my son while we were in Tampa, even though he had to work most of the 4 days were here, but we did all go out to dinner a couple of times, spent some time lounging at the hotel pool and hot tub.  On our last day together, we all went to ZooTampa.  It was a bit pricey, but worth it.   We got a late start, but still managed to see almost the entire zoo, except “Australia.”  The sections we saw were “Florida,” “Africa,” “Asia,” and “Primates.”   The zoo is very large so if you go, be prepared to spend lots of time walking!  Stay hydrated.   As we passed through the indoor reptile area (a welcomely cool respite from the heat), there were colorful decorations all over the ceiling that resembled deep sea creatures and looked as if they were made of glass — but they were actually sculptures made from recycled soda bottles and other plastic trash!

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We loved seeing all the different animals (there were even river otters — my favorite — in the “Florida” section).  My daughter seemed quite taken with the pink flamingos, who were very entertaining and funny.   There were so many of them!  We spent a long time just watching their antics.

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One of the days my son was working, my daughter and I decided to drive to Tarpon Springs, a small Greek fishing village which is known as the Sponge Capital of the US.  It was my third visit there.  It’s one of my favorite places in the Tampa Bay area. On a whim, we decided to take the Sponge-O-Rama cruise out into the Gulf.  It’s a two hour cruise and pretty cheap at only $20 per person.   We had to wait a while for the boat (a sort of ferry) to fill up, but when we took off, the water was pretty choppy from recent storms, and I had to hold on.  Drinks were served but it was hard to hold onto them without them splashing everywhere.  After we got out into the Gulf, the dark water from the marina and inlet suddenly turned bright aquamarine.   For a minute I thought someone had slipped some LSD into my beer!  But this is the actual color of the water.

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The boat’s captain, a youngish Greek man who had been raised in Tarpon Springs and worked with the boats all his life (his name was Atticus!) explained the reason why the color of the water changed so abruptly isn’t so much due to the depth, but because once you leave the river and enter the Gulf proper, the water changes from brackish (almost freshwater) to salt water.  The mangroves dotting the area suck up the nutrients from the water, making it clear.   He pointed out other things we were seeing along the way.

Finally, about three miles out into the Gulf, he pulled the boat over next to a large sandbar.   This was part of Anclote Key Preserve State Park, a group of very small mangrove islands so remote there is no way to get there except by boat.  The sandbar is a semi-permanent fixture, with a few low growing plants and grasses and a lot of seaweed washed up on the sand.   The sand was absolutely blinding white, like snow, and surrounded on all sides by the clearest aquamarine water I’ve ever seen.  In the shallow areas the water was so crystal clear you could barely see it.  Our group (there were about 20 of us) spent about 30 minutes exploring, collecting shells, or swimming.  We were each given a plastic grocery bag to collect shells in.   I didn’t spend much time shelling.  After a few minutes, I ran out into the pristine warm salt water and just let it engulf me.   The whole experience was exhilarating, even though 30 minutes wasn’t nearly enough time!

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The above photo is my absolute favorite.   The juxaposition of the white sands, aquamarine water and fluffy white clouds stirs my soul.  I have made this photo the background on my laptop!

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Our combined seashell booty.

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The marina at Tarpon Springs (notice how much darker the water here is)

We drove to Clearwater for the remaining 4 days.  The 10 mile drive over Tampa Bay into Clearwater is very pretty.   We stayed in a cute hotel right on the beach, but the weather during our stay could have been better.   We only had two days of good weather, but being right on the boardwalk, there was still more than enough to keep us busy.   Our first night, we ate at Clearwater’s most famous eatery, Frenchy’s South Beach Cafe.  The beach was wonderful, and not too crowded.  One day we decided to drive out to Treasure Island in St. Petersburg, even though it was raining.  Hey, why not?   It rained during the drive, and the entire time we were there, but the beach was still pleasant and the water warm.  We didn’t stay long, but it was nice having the beach almost completely to ourselves.

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Frenchy’s South Beach Cafe, Clearwater.

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Treasure Island in the pouring rain.

The sunsets over the Gulf were incredible.    I just can’t get enough of Gulf sunsets, and here are the pictures proving that.

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Sunlight from sunset reflecting off the clouds to the east.

On our second day, we had beautiful weather (even though the morning forecast had predicted rain), so we decided to book the Pirate ship for its Champagne Cruise, which takes off in the late afternoon.  There are two champagne cruises; ours was the first.  The next one takes off at sunset.   I would have liked to go on that one too, but we’d already had way too much champagne.  Yes, I confess both my daughter and I overindulged (you pay your $40 for the cruise, and the drinks are unlimited), but we had so much fun, and the views from the ship were amazing (a few are pictured below). The pirate theme was fun, and the appropriately costumed staff were friendly.  The nice young man pictured below (I can’t remember his name) even hung out with us on the upper deck for a few minutes.

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Me with view of the beach in the background

One thing I noticed this time was how good I’m getting at finding my way around the Tampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater metro area.   It’s my third trip to this area, but this time I was finally getting comfortable just driving around and finding my way from one place to another.   I’m generally not good with directions and navigation, but  because everything’s pretty much laid out on a grid here, it’s a lot easier to get around the area than where I live, where there are mountains and no grid to speak of.

It seems so much longer than two months ago I was in Florida, but in some ways it feels like it was just yesterday.   To end this post, here’s a little video I made just after sunset of the patterns of the surf (it’s actually the first video I ever made from my phone).

Dancing alone on the beach.

That’s what my son is doing here.

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My son was at the beach again today and tweeted this photo. For some reason I’m reminded of “Wilson” in the movie Castaway. Click for a larger view.

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Ethan’s hair is the exact same color as the “extensions.”

Post #50: on the beach

My son is a talented photographer and filmmaker. Today he shared a few photographs he took of an approaching storm and the sunset (not on the same day) off the beach on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, which is five minutes from where he lives outside Port Richey, Florida. I thought these deserved to be shared here. There are a lot of others, but I’m not able to upload the file type.
Click the pictures on for larger views.

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The water looks like liquid gold. Those are his feet.

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There’s something haunting about the child’s swing in the approaching storm, and that’s what makes the photo.

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Sunset off the Gulf.