My favorite local trip; river to the ocean

This is one of those local trips that’s a lot of fun because it’s not just kayaking. I begin on the river and kayak for about 30 minutes, then kayak through a narrow channel that takes me to a barrier island. From here, I walk across the island which is more like a jungle, and end up on the beach. Since the beach is only accessible by boat, its usually very serene.
Here’s a quick video of the scenery. Sometimes great places are close to home. Enjoy!

Early Morning Still Water

I love early mornings and watching the world come alive. Early mornings are when the water near the house is often the quietest and most reflective, much like me. I love to see the reflections of the sky, clouds, birds as they drift over, and just feel the peace of it all.

Here are a photo and a video of the area, enjoy!!

dock_sunrise

Short ride on the Ocean to Lake Trail

What a beautiful day! The cloudless deep blue sky and gentle breeze made it a perfect day to get outside.
Aside from just getting outside anywhere, today’s goal was to explore the section of the Ocean to Lake Trail that leaves from Riverbend Park in Jupiter Florida. I knew it was a hiking trail, but rumors had it there was a section open to bikes.

Starting in Riverbend Park, I followed the trail that goes under the bridge for Indiantown Rd. The Ocean to Lake Trail begins on the north side of Indiantown road. I sunk into the mud and spun my way out as I went through the trail entrance. This is going to be my kind of trail:) I had heard reports of this trail being very wet and at times deep. Fine by me; if you’re not getting dirty you’re not having any fun!

Today, the most mud was right there at the entrance. The trail splits right after the entrance; one section goes straight and the other goes right. The straight trail connects with the same one the right fork does; it’s just a straight line. The right fork meanders through the trees and is narrow but an easy, smooth ride. It’s hard packed and in one short spot there are some big roots, but that is the toughest part of the trail.
The right fork leads into the main trail which at times is a two track dirt road
so you can ride smoothly and gain some speed if you’d like.

Further down the trail narrows again and enters a stretch of sugar sand. Thanks to the previous day’s rain, it was an easy peddle through this short stretch. There is a restroom here, aka outhouse and a short trail that leads to the Loxahatchee River and the famous dam. You can watch kayakers and canoers attempt to go up/down this small dam. Today the river was really clear and looked inviting but I wasn’t prepared to jump in. Maybe next time.

The trail continues and at times is very narrow and often I just ducked and went through the vegetation. Another reason to wear a helmet! Fortunately nothing was big enough to knock me off the bike either.
The trail ends up at a fence that borders noisy interstate 95. If you go left from here the trail dead ends into the river. Going right it follows the highway and then turns back toward the entrance. I thought for sure there was a path under the bridge of the interstate and to the other side. I’ll have to review some maps and see if I missed a turn.

Either way it is only about a two mile ride that, with a couple of exceptions, is very easy and would be fun for any ability.
It was a great day to be out and I enjoyed being in the forest again and feeling the fresh air. There’s nothing like a walk/ride in the woods to nurture the soul.

For more information:
http://www.pbcgov.com/parks/riverbend/index.htm#.U2bQq3jD_IU

Ziplining at the Canyons

“Ok, Mr. Phil, ready when you are”. OMG!! I looked down from the high platform and then at the cable stretched out before me. Now was the time for everything to culminate.

I have never zip lined so a friend and I made reservations at a place in Ocala. There are plenty of places to zip line in Florida, but here we zipped over canyons and beautiful lakes. I’m a firm believer in doing it up as right as possible and what better way to learn to zip line than over beautiful scenery.

We arrived and were part of a very small group that consisted of the two of us, another couple, and our two fun guides, Denise and Craig. As we stood in front of all our gear laid out on the floor, I felt like I was about to go skydiving.

We climbed into our gear, cinched it all up, and I just needed one more thing; a place to carry my GoPro. Denise knew exactly what I needed and gave me a helmet with a GoPro mount. Perfect!!!

All suited up and ready to go, we encountered our first zip line which was only about 7 feet off the ground. Here we learned the basics and important safety information, such as braking and self-rescue.

After going through everything and a few test zips, we headed up to our first real zip line. I watched Craig gleefully leap off and head to the next platform. Denise secured me onto the line, gave me a safety check and then it was time to totally let go of all those fears of falling and anything else related to being high and going fast.

I placed both hands on the trolley, leaned back, and a tentatively took a step off. Immediately, I was effortlessly gliding along. I was amazed at how fun it was to just glide above the trees!!
It was not scary at all and I was totally comfortable. Where’s the next one!!!

As we progressed the platforms became higher and the lines longer. With each zip, I would look around more and take in the scenery. Craig would always give us brake signals and he soon realized he needed to give me mine early. I’m not sure how I’d get going so fast, but somehow I did and I loved it.

After a few zips, I really wanted a nice long zip over something scenic so I could just glide along and take in the view. The next run was the perfect place for that!

We climbed up a platform that appeared to be several stories high and on the edge of an emerald green lake. The cable stretched so far over the lake, I could barely see the platform in the trees on the other side.

When it came to be my turn, something unusual happened; for the first time I was scared. I had been fearlessly zipping along however I had not stepped off such a high platform into thin air. I looked straight down into the water; wow, that’s a long way down! Moving beyond those fears was one of the many reasons I wanted to do this adventure.

It was not easy going off that platform, but I went and totally loved the long ride. I took it all in; the swans swimming in the lake, the white limestone cliffs, the semi fall foliage, and more.

We did a few more runs before the tour ended and I must say zip lining is one of the funnest sports I’ve done in a while. If you’ve never zipped, I highly recommend it. If you’re in Florida, here’s a link for more info: www.zipthecanyons.com

Here’s a short video compilation I took:

Keys to the Cities; 18 pianos and lots of fun!

Is that a baby grand? We gleefully bounded off the trolley like excited kids. To our delight it was a baby grand; bright blue, top open, sitting outside against the backdrop of flowing fountains and lit by the lights of the Kravis Center. The cushy piano bench was even covered in glitter.

Oh yeah, we’re definitely playing this one!! Playing a few simple tunes under the stars, in such an opulent setting was truly unforgettable. We definitely played better here; must’ve been the awesome venue…..

If you’re wondering how you can just walk up and play a piano in front of the Kravis Center, it’s quite easy. There are 18 pianos on display to benefit children’s charities in Palm Beach County; “Eighteen used baby grand and upright pianos are being donated by the Kretzer Piano Music Foundation and local residents. School groups and professionals will be performing periodically, but the main message is that everyone is invited and everyone can play! After their public debut, the pianos will be donated to local children’s charities and community organizations, enriching lives for years to come”

The Palm Beach County’s Art in Public Places program assisted the Kretzer Foundation in developing the Call to Artists for the project and promoted the Call to Artists to 1000+ local artists in the County’s Artist Registry. As the County’s Public Art Administrator, Elayna Toby Singer was one of three judges who selected the piano art designs and connected the Kretzer Foundation to Palm Beach Counties Parks and Recreation dept. which resulted in them placing one of the pianos at Carlin Park.

Our mission was to find as many pianos as we could around downtown WPB. The fun part of the story is I have not played the piano for longer than I’ll admit in writing. I had invited my musician friend to come play while I filmed and took photos. However, that plan dramatically changed at the first stop, City Place, when my friend stated; “I’m not playing unless you play”. I really wanted to revisit the piano, but I figured I’d start in the comfort of my own home, not in the middle of City Place!

After some gracious training, I was able to join in on some simple duets and had fun. I can’t believe I just played at City Place by the fountains! After that, I was hooked and it was time to find more.

The hardest piano to find was the one on Worth Avenue. It’s tucked back in one of the alcoves; exactly where the ghost tour tells haunted stories. 11:30pm, on a windy, almost stormy night, and we played a piano in a supposed haunted area.

A few oddities occurred that made us both go “hmmm……maybe this place is really haunted”. Then, out of nowhere, a guy briskly walked by calling out for his wife and dog! Ironically, we had just seen a lady walking a dog on the sidewalk. Or did we….where these real or apparitions? Who/what else wanders Worth Ave at almost midnight? We carried on with our tunes, but after one more odd noise, we left, promptly!

We managed to find five of the 18 pianos: Clematis by the fountains, the waterfront near the docks, City Place near the fountains, in front of the Kravis Center and Worth Avenue. If you’ve ever dreamed of playing keyboard in some fun outdoor locations, this is the perfect opportunity. Even if you don’t play, come out and enjoy the artfully decorated masterpieces.

For a list of locations: http://www.palmbeachculture.com/keys-to-the-cities

Ducky in Palm Beach

“Again?”….I mused as the big, blue, bus size amphibious vehicle drove by. It seemed every time I was at lunch downtown, the vehicle named Diva Duck would drive by. Not only that, it was always completely full of camera toting tourists.

Curiosity won out and a friend and I finally took the plunge and booked a tour on the Diva Duck. As we waited to board the big blue vehicle, I really wanted to crawl underneath and see how it all worked. Fortunately, our onboard guide gave us a quick overview of the vehicle.

While the name on the side may say Diva Duck, the real name is the Hydra-Terra and sports dimensions of 39’ long, 8’ wide, and 13’ feet high. To keep all of that moving along, it is powered by a 300 hp 7.2L Cat diesel engine, via an Allison heavy-duty transmission, Velvet drive, electronic rudder control, and 100% combined power on land and water for beaching operations. On land it can hit 70mph and on sea 6 knots.

We loaded up, headed out and were treated to a plethora of duck stories and puns. Admittedly, some of them did “quack us up”.

Riding in the open air was fun, but the highlight of the tour began with a right turn onto a boat ramp located on North Flagler drive. As we waited for the boat ramp to clear, a curious crowd of onlookers gathered. Everyone wanted to see this big vehicle make the transition from wheels to water.

Soon, we eased down the boat ramp and within seconds this behemoth of a vehicle was casually floating along. The guide noted that the vessel is said to be unsinkable and for you history buffs, they said the same about the Titanic. Thankfully there aren’t icebergs in the Lakeworth Lagoon.

Interestingly factoid though: the vessel is manufactured with buoyancy foam filled compartments and will remain afloat with all the drain plugs removed and full engine room flooding. Wouldn’t it be fun to be the people who conduct those kinds of tests!!

We floated across to the shores of Palm Beach and heard stories of famous people and their homes. Does the name Marjorie Merriweather Post sound familiar? I’ll give you a hint; cereal. More specifically, Post Cereal.

Speaking of elegant homes on Palm Beach; most all of them have towering hedges that are beautifully groomed and of course provide ultimate privacy. I thought it was just being artistic, but it’s a little more than that. Zoning rules only allow a six foot privacy fence, however, there are no rules on hedge height. I like the hedges better anyway; they add a natural and artistic touch.


As we turned and headed back, the afternoon overcast and light breeze turned to black and windy. Soon, we could see that 30% chance of precipitation heading straight for us. However, I remember the forecast said 30% chance of rain, not 30% chance of monsoon!!

The wind blew and rain came down in buckets; 10 gallon buckets at that!! The nose of the Duck confidently bobbed in the waves as we headed toward land.

The vehicle has open sides for better views so you know what that means when it rains. Yep, we were like ducks in a hurricane. However ducks have oil on their feathers so their body stays dry. We don’t and didn’t!! The cheery crew was more than accommodating with towels and wiped off our seats numerous times. It wasn’t a big deal as most of were laughing and taking pictures of each other totally drenched. It’s only rain…..

As we disembarked, drenched and a bit windblown, I must confess, I felt a little bit ducky. My friend and I laughed about being soaked and said; “We’ll never forget this trip!!” It’s those unexpected oddities that always lead to those great stories that begin with “Remember when…..”

If you’re looking for something unusual that combines a little bit of land, sea and history, then you might enjoy taking a tour. For more information: http://www.divaduck.com/

Disclaimer: I’m not paid by or affiliated with the company; I just took a fun ride and wrote about it

The Preserve Welcomes a Long Lost Friend

As I opened the gate to the preserve, a rush of emotions flooded my mind. The crisp blue sky of the fall afternoon provided the perfect backdrop to the green trees and shrubs enjoying the warm sunshine. Why don’t I come here more often, I sternly asked myself? It’s not far, it’s in my backyard, literally.

Location, location, location
I live in a community that is bordered on the south by a state preserve and on the east by the intercoastal waterway. How many times have I sat at home and said “I want to go experience nature and pondered where to drive?” Now here I was, only a short 10 minute walk, in the midst of what I crave every day.

With camera in hand and a sense of purpose, I began meandering down the trail. Yep, meandering, something I don’t do very much anymore. I pride myself on getting places the shortest way possible and hopefully before others. Slow was the word today and my sense of purpose? Just soak up everything like the cracked drought stricken ground eagerly soaks up the gentle rain.

I approached the signs for a hiking trail and wondered “was this a new trail?” or had my absence been longer than I remembered. Either way, I took in the sites like a child’s first visit to a museum. What I call the “boring” signature Florida landscape of scrub brush and sand welcomed me like a group of long lost friends.

It’s the little things:
Along the trail I heard a rustling ahead. I raised my camera in anticipation of a wild boar, a snake, or the ever elusive panther. It was just small sparrows flitting about and enjoying their community tree. I stopped and watched them hoping they didn’t see me and instantly fly away. They flew without a care and just went wherever they decided. I soon moved on and experienced more wonders along the trail.

Like nature itself, the trail changed along the way. Scrub brush gave way to a mixture of trees which gave way to mixture of growth so dense, I felt like I was in a South American jungle rather than a few minutes from home.
Rounding a corner, I saw a glimmering thread across the trail.

A tiny spider’s web was catching the rays of the afternoon sun. Spider webs aren’t unusual in these parts, what was unusual was that I going slow enough to see it.


I hadn’t seen any footprints in a long time so who knew the last time a person walked this way. Making sure my passing wouldn’t damage the shimmering web; I gently placed my camera bag on the ground and slowly crawled under. All day long I solve complex problems, but figuring out the simple act of not disturbing a spider’s web was much more rewarding.

Leaving it all behind:
The more I explored, the lighter I felt. All the usual noise in my head was being replaced with peace and wonderment of the world around. It’s a good thing mental clearing isn’t visible; otherwise I’d still be picking up trash from that trail. All the running around I normally do didn’t seem to matter anymore. Just being and enjoying the moment right here, right now was the most important thing.

Along the way, several open places just begged to be stretched out in. Sitting and letting whatever thoughts come and go through my mind was surely relaxing. If I drifted off to sleep, it would be one of the nicest naps in ages.

Coming home:
Losing all track of time as I explored, I finally decided to slowly make my way back. I hadn’t told anyone where I went or how long I’d be gone. I walked slowly and took in all the sights in reverse. Everything looked different on the way back.

Reaching the gate, I paused before going through. Like leaving a world of peace and beauty and stepping into one of chaos, I took a long look at the preserve.

Thankful for this time to rejuvenate and become clear, I confidently stepped through and shut the gate behind me. Often we look long and hard for answers, peace, or just solitude. Often, what we want is closer than we think and it’s been right there all along.

Sea turtle moonlight crawl

Looking down Juno Beach at twilight, I saw a large dark blob slowly emerge out of the rolling surf. More ocean debris, I thought. When the surf subsided, the object continued to move forward. That’s definitely not debris; it’s a sea turtle!

Sea turtle background:
There are five different species of sea turtles that visit Florida’s beaches; Loggerhead, Green Turtle, Leatherback, Kemp’s Ridley, and Hawksbill. A sea turtle’s life is challenging from day one. As a new hatchling, it has to dodge hungry birds, curious humans, and the hot sun on its way to the ocean. If they make it the ocean, they have to outwit the ocean’s larger predators. Throw in the probability of getting stuck in trash or other man-made obstacles and it’s easy to understand why all five species are listed as endangered or threatened.

Privileged viewer:
As you can imagine, the prospect of being able to witness such a magnificent, yet fragile species lay her eggs was quite exciting. After the slow trek up the beach, she found a spot under one of the boardwalks and began digging. It is critical that she is not disturbed which means no lights, flash photography, or even talking.

With amazing quiet and reverence, the impromptu crowd watched her. Surprisingly for almost an hour, people were in total silence or barely a whisper. No annoying ringtones, zero lights or flash photography, even a couple’s little dog was perfectly silent. I was inspired to see a group of strangers show such respect.

One final challenge:
After she finished laying her eggs, it was time to head back to the ocean which was another challenge. She had laid her eggs near a couple of pylons and moving forward required her to navigate a very tight space. Each move, placed her shell against a pylon which was enough resistance to prevent forward movement. The soft sand provided zero traction as she flapped her flippers to move forward. If you’ve ever been stuck in the sand or snow, you understand the scenario.

She’d fling sand everywhere with little progress and then just stop. The only illumination was from a full moon, but you could still see her breathe hard. This was no easy task.
With much effort, she rearranged her position perfectly and had a straight shot to the ocean. She didn’t get that big by giving up and tonight was no exception.


Freedom:
Once free and on the packed sand, she was promptly on the move. While turtles can’t run, I’d classify that last burst as fast walk. She stopped at the water’s edge, waiting for the next wave, which gave everyone a photo op.

She crawled into the next wave and disappeared into the moonlit night amidst applause from an reverent group of onlookers.

As I walked the moonlit beach, I felt humble and yet privileged to be able to view such an amazing feat of life. Life will definitely find a way…..