Monday, April 12, 2010

Snoop Loves the Ladies of WOW 2010

It's that time of year again! Time for the Weekend of Women's Adventure! Snoop and I did this for the first time back in 2008, and he insisted on doing it again with me this year. So we left work early on Friday and set out for Caloosahatchee Regional Park in Alva, FL.


We arrived at the campground around 5 PM on Friday, and the park attendant told me that this year I could drive around to the lodge and actually park right at the lodge. Woo hoo! Last time we had to haul our gear in a wheeled cart, so this was pretty cool!

We headed down the road to a side entrance, and passed through the gate...

...and meandered around the winding road...

...and got our first glimpse of the lodge.


I had intended to setup camp under the same tree as last time, but found that not one but THREE tents were already in my spot! So I cased the grounds and found this inviting spot under another tree set apart from the rest...

So that's where we decided to setup camp.

It was a little further away from the lodge than some of the others, but that was okay with me!

Since the weatherman had called for some scattered showers, I decided that it would be prudent to put on the rainfly this time. I've never really put up the rainfly before. Well, not propertly. I've tossed it on for privacy once or twice, but never for actual shelter. So this was a first.


Then I unloaded all of the gear and setup the sleeping mat in the tent, while Snoop does what Snoop does best...


This was my first time using this sleeping pad, so I was hoping for the best. My last one wasn't thick enough (1 inch), so I had to use it on top of a thick exercise mat. This new sleeping pad was rated well, and 2.5 inches thick.

So with everything unloaded, I head over to the lodge to see what was happening.


What a surprise! Pizza and salad was on hand! They don't usually provide food on Friday. So, wouldn't you know, I had already grabbed a bite to eat on the way to the lodge.

So, I signed my waiver and got my "goody bag" and schedule, and then headed out to see what was going on outside. There was quite the little tent city setting up under my tree from my last attendance.

This couple even brought flamingos to decorate theirs. Love it! I remember the two of them from my last time here, but they didn't have the flamingos then!

Then I decided to move my Jeep over near my tent, and I was set!

I sat around at the picnic table at my site and read for a little bit while I got some shots. This was the airplant that I used as my natural "broom" for sweeping off the table and the bench. It worked pretty well!



In this pic I spotted some fruit on a tree...



This used to be farmland, and so there are still grapefruit trees and grapes and other edibles around the property.

I climbed in my tent for a bit and and got a shot out of my tent entrance...


About 6:40 PM, it was time to head out on a hayride with the girls...

...and Snoop, of course.

The hayride was done by Dave, and his wife was riding along with us.

We crossed N. River Road to the north side of the park...

...and continued on over bumpy...

...and, at times, muddy dirt roads.


We entered an open clearing where Dave hoped to show us some deer, but for some reason the deer spooked and ran off before we could reach them. The shot below is the only image I could get of the deer.

Can't see it? How about now?

Uh, yeah. Too bad. He said that they usually aren't easily spooked by the tractors or carts.

We circled around the park, and started heading back as the sun was lowering...


I just love old oaks, don't you?

Then we headed back across N. River Road...

...and headed back across to the lodge road again.

When we reached the dirt road to the lodge, Dave pointed out the neighboring property...

...and informed us that the neighbor had recently acquired a pet camel named Isaac, and that it answers to its name. He said that he recently was passing by and spotted Isaac lying in the field. He pulled over, got out, walked up to the fence and called out, "Isaac! Come here, Isaac!" and UP Isaac jumps and runs over! Dave said that Isaac leaned into the fence and threw his head down into his body, just seeking attention and a snack. After some petting and Dave's failure to produce a snack, Isaac lost interest and moved on.

That evening we sat around the fire and roasted marshmallows and made smores. Snoop included!

Oh, by the way, in the picture above is...I forget the name of the woman on the left, but remember that she works for the Sierra Club and calls herself a tree hugger. To her left is Heather, Karen and another Heather. Yep! That's right! 18 women attended this weekend, and there were three Heather's including myself! In fact, I could swear that there may have been a fourth as well, because we had nearly half of the women camping around the bend away from the lodge, and I could swear I heard someone from that group call someone "Heather" a few times. So I'm not sure whether or not we may have had a fourth Heather!

I found that two of the other girls travel around with a rubber ducky and take pictures of it in front of different venues.


Snoop thought that this was an interesting concept.


Nice fire, but the mosquitos were pretty bad this night, plus the gnats and other bugs were attracted to the headlamp I was using to read. So I retired to my tent about 9 PM to read, and the rest of the girls broke it up soon after.

I checked out the schedule for the next day, and I was excited to see both kayaking and archery on the agenda, as well as a night hike!

I think that I probably fell asleep around 10:00 PM or so. Then I was woken around 3:30 AM to the sound of a dog running around maniacally and barking. It sounded nuts, and from the sound of its voice it continued running all over the place. It's bark would get far away and then would be pretty close, and then further away and closer, then further and further away, fading into the distance, and then closer and closer again. Around and around and around. This went on for probably 45 minutes. I finally fell back to sleep. Otherwise I slept very well this night. The sleeping mat was very comfortable, and I didn't hear any of the other things that people spoke of the next morning. Some said they heard what sounded like a donkey in the middle of the night, some heard owls, and I heard one woman even had a battle with a raccoon in the middle of the night even yelling out, "Is anyone gonna help me with this raccoon?!" I didn't hear any of that, and slept like a log!

I woke the next morning to the beautiful sun rising up and shining through the tree...


While many still slept or lounged, I got up and gathered my things and headed over to the showers in the regular campground. I enjoyed the walk...





There's another grapefruit, just sitting out in the middle of the campground...

Humor me for a moment while I have an interlude with my friend Pam. Pammy: If you go camping with me in Caloosahatchee Regional, these are your bathroom accommodations. Here is the sink, mirror and electrical outlets...

...and here is the outside shower cubicle...
You have to keep pushing this button to make the water flow, but at least it's hot water!

And here is the bench where you can put your towel and clean clothes and shampoo and such...

...multiple hooks for hanging stuff...

...and this is what you're looking at while you shower...

Unfortunately I'm also looking at things like this freaky little spider that was next to me the whole shower...

After the shower, I walked back to the lodge. They had cordoned off the area from casual visitors...



Oh! And I figured this out the night before! It was hot and stuffy in the tent with the rainfly on and no breeze. I was laying there looking up and saw this sort of "slit" in the rainfly over a zippered slit in my tent. I unzipped my tent and reached up into the little "portal" and realized it could be propped open, allowing a little airflow. Yeah baby!

After my shower, I headed in for breakfast. There was fried bacon and hash browns, fruit and eggs. There were also sliced mushrooms and chopped pepper and cheese. So you could make yourself an omelet or scrambled eggs if you wished, which is exactly what I did.


After breakfast, it was time for kayaking. It turned out that only six of us showed up for kayaking. Karen (whom I had met the night before on the hayride) had never kayaked before and asked whether I would go tandem with her. I agreed. So we headed out with two guides taking the lead and rear.


Early on into our trip we came across a gator. Unfortunately we were going too fast for me to get a shot, while I was also trying to steer us and handle the camera at the same time. So this was the best I got...

About halfway into our trip, we stopped at "Party Island". This seems to be a manmade island where people come to have cookouts and such. The last time I kayaked out here, we passed by this island when a bunch of people were partying on it.




Our guide Kelly gave us some background on the dredging of the Caloosahatchee, how it was straightened, the oxbows lost, and the effects on the environment and eco-system.


Then we all got to see what happens when a large cruiser flies by too quickly.


video
If we had still been out on the water when this thing passed by like this, we would have had a hard time managing those waves!

After the history lesson, we got to dig our hands in and try to dig up a little history of our own! We grabbed some trowels and sifters, and we dug in the sand around the edge of the island in search of fossilized shark teeth. I picked this spot to start out...

I started sifting through, and I turned up lots of small live clams...


...but not much else. Then finally I found a shark's tooth! It wasn't fossilized, so it probably wasn't all that old, but it was a tooth! I found the first one, and then another woman went on to find two more.

After that, we hopped back in our kayaks to circle around to the "gator side" of the island and head back to the park. On the way I spotted this great big bromeliad up in a tree.

I also got a couple of shots of my usual favorites out here. For example, I love this pink tree. I've never gotten close enough to see what it is...

...and I always love the three colorful chairs in front of this house...

Wow! Was I wiped out when we finally made it back! Our guide Kelly said that the trip was about 3 miles. Not too bad! The second stretch was a nightmare, with a strong wind in our face. Whew!

We got back to find lunch waiting for us. Sandwich rings and chips!

Two of the attendees (I think their names were Diane and Willo) are vegetarians, and they introduced us to this yummy salad. It is raw grated sweet potato, pineapple, pumpkin pie spice, and just a dash of agave nectar to sweeten it.

Mmmm! Next time I come to the weekend getaway, I think I may try to bring my own veggie food like this, too!

Next it was time for a craft project. We were making "Glowing Flowers" votive candle holders.

First I grabbed my supplies and chose my flowers and leaves.

After coating the holder with glue, the leaves and flowers were stuck on.

The tissue paper gets stuck on over that.


After that it was time for archery. We had two members from Lee Country Archers come to give us a little demonstration and allow us each to try our hand at it.

The archery members demonstrated a number of bows and the different rules associated with them.


Then we each got a chance to shoot.



We each got five shots. The guy said that I was a natural, and could do very well at this sport with practice. These were my five shots...

I loved it! I would definitely consider taking this up as a hobby.

Next was basket weaving using intact Saw Palmetto fronds. I started out great! My basket was tight and uniform! It looked beautiful!

Then I got stuck at about this point. I didn't know what to do with all of those loose ends. I could never wrap my mind around it. So I never finished the basket. I just got too frustrated by it!

Later this afternoon I decided to take the rainfly off of the tent. It was just too hot in the tent with the rainfly on. This allowed me to finally get a look at the freaky little guy that I'd seen hanging out on the outside of the tent since I'd gotten up that morning.


He wound up hanging around until sometime that night. He disappeared after dark.

This is the view I love so much from inside the tent when there isn't a rainfly on it.


This gave me some good air circulation. So here I sat about 5:30 Saturday afternoon, listening to an owl hooting nearby as I waited on dinner.

A little while later I went in to check on things in the lodge. I found that Kelly had brought by her guides to shark teeth and fossils. Seems my tooth, as seen below, is probably from a Bull Shark.

And this other item that I found is supposed to be the fossilized mouth part of a ray, or some such thing. I've seen quite a few of these around in the Caloosahatchee in the past.

Shortly after we all made our own dinner packets. I put some sliced chicken, frozen carrots, cauliflower and brocolli, peppers and mushrooms and onions in foil along with a tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Folded that up and popped it up on the grill.


After probably 20 minutes or so on the grill, I had this. Mmmmm! This plus a salad makes a good dinner!

After dinner, we went on a night hike. We started out walking along the shore of the Caloosahatchee. I spotted this area, which looked to me like it could be an area where animal cut through to the river. Or it could be an inlet that allows water from the woods to enter the river. That is probably the more likely explanation.

This was a neat area. A bunch of dead debris with a hole dug through to the river.

We stopped at an observation deck, where we got a group photo of the 11 of us who did the night hike.

Then we continued on, as the sun continued to set.


Eventually the flashlights were busted out, and this was all that I saw...


We estimated the hike to be about 2 miles. After a day of kayaking, archery and hiking, I was exhausted and in bed by 9:30 PM!

This night was the slowest night on earth! It was one of those nights when you keep waking up, needing to use the bathroom, but not wanting to get your shoes on and get your glasses on, and grab a flashlight and trudge across a pitch dark field to do it. So you keep trying to sleep through until morning. You wake up thinking "It must be nearing morning." You look at the time and see it is 2 AM. You try again, and wake up and it is 3:30 AM, then 4:15 AM, etc. Finally about 5:45 AM I awoke to the sound of rain. Yep, rain. Remember what I did earlier Saturday?

Yep. I took off my rainfly. So at 5:45 in the morning, I had to put on my shoes and grab my keys, get in the Jeep and pull the rainfly out and put it back on again by flashlight. Thank God I had done the rainfly on Friday, or I would have been lost and had no idea what I was doing in the middle of the night. But it wound up being pretty easy for me doing it a second time, even if it was by flashlight and in the rain.

So at that point I wound up staying up and reading and listening to the rain and the blowing wind. It didn't rain too hard. About 6:30 AM two owls started hooting back and forth to one another.

I finally dozed off again around 7 AM, and then got up at 8 AM and had a bagel and banana for breakfast. I broke down my camp about 9 AM, and was ready to head out in no time.

Before we left, Snoop posed with Karen (my kayaking partner) and Cindy (who organizes this shindig). Karen came all the way from Fort Lauderdale for this getaway, and plans to try to come back again in October!

So it was a good time all around, and now that I know that they are also doing it in October I'll try to do it again later this year. Maybe Pammy can make it next time!

See you guys in October?