Otterbox 3500, is it really waterproof?

It’s been raining here for literally weeks so I took this time to field test the Otterbox 3500. The Otterbox 3500 securely holds a handheld Canon HD video camera, GoPro camera, Garmin handheld GPS, and a handful of other small accessories. At 8x5x4 (approx) it easily fits in my backpack and I’ve used it for a couple of months without any problems.
I really wanted to test the waterproof claims and this rainy weather gave me the perfect opportunity. Enjoy the video below:

Owahee Trail

Several people had mentioned I could make this trip, but few people had actually done it. That always makes me a bit suspicious and curious at the same time. Just because you could, doesn’t mean you should….

The trip I’m talking about is Owahee trail which connects Apoxee Park to Grassy Waters Preserve located just west of the Northlake Blvd and Beeline Highway intersection.

Unlike Apoxee, the trail is accessed by exiting the Grassy Waters entrance and heading east on the sidewalk. Just before the Beeline intersection, there is a dirt road on the right. The main gate is locked, but just to the right is an unlocked pedestrian gate.

The trail is a packed dirt road with occasional tree roots, so walkers, hikers, and cyclists with hybrid or mountain bikes, can easily make the trip. Many sections of the trail are shaded by trees which makes it nice on these warm afternoons. Water on the west side provides scenic views and periodically there are benches.

I was surprised what I found near the midway point of the trail. Several canals converge and then flow into the trees and wetlands. It would be the perfect place to launch a kayak or canoe and there is even a launching area. The only problem is the portage to this launch area would be very long.

A short distance from here, was a very long boardwalk that went deep into the preserve. (It’s not the boardwalk in Apoxee) It started out over grassy wetlands, continued through a small forest area, and then exited into an open expanse of crystal clear water. The boardwalk dead ends, but the walk is worth it and a great place for stunning photos.

With all the water, there was plenty of wildlife making an appearance. Wood storks glided over, soft-shell turtles sunned on the bank, herons and Roseate Spoonbills waded through the water. Roseate spoonbills have rose colored torsos and wings, which makes them easy to spot in flight.

spoonbillsmall

I’m unsure of the exact mileage, but the return trip from the Apoxee parking lot to Grassy Waters parking lot took an hour which included a few photo stops.

There are plenty of other side trails that are on the list for the next visit. Regardless of where you start, Owahee is a scenic, easy trail that allows everyone to experience the diversity of nature.

Here’s a link to the trail map: http://www.wpb.org/grassywaters/trail_information.php

Apoxee Park

As I was soaking up the serenity of nature, I was amazed at how quiet it was considering the proximity to busy civilization.   Natural areas within the city limits are a great respite from the city, but they often can’t escape the noise of the city. Somehow this park did and it was nice to fully immerse myself in the surroundings without the distractions of civilization.  apoxee water

The park is named Apoxee Park.  Apoxee (pronounced Ah-po-ee) means Beyond Tomorrow in the Miccosukee language and is the first of the City of West Palm Beach’s urban wilderness parks. Unique to the park is they use the wetlands to provide a new water supply (maximum 10 million gallons per day) in order to achieve both urban and environmental water sustainability.

apoxee owlFrom the parking lot, the trail is paved and shortly after provides two options; a paved loop or a dirt path to the right.  The paved portion is a short loop through pine and oak trees.  If you go in the late afternoon, you’ll hear the calls of the Great Horned owls echoing through the trees.  I was lucky to actually see and photograph both of them.  It is amazing that such a large, majestic bird can fly so silently.

You can walk the paved path in about ten minutes or so depending on if the owls are there. The dirt path is a much longer trail that is suitable for hiking and biking.

The dirt path is narrow and tree lined with occasional openings to catch a glimpse of the water.  A boardwalk here and there provides unobstructed views of the lakes.  Benches are strategically placed along the way to sit and enjoy the view of the water or just enjoy the sunshine. One of these benches amidst some trees was the perfect lunch spot.

Shortly after crossing the power line road, the trail forks and fortunately there is a big sign and a map. I took the right loop and found a long L – shaped boardwalk that traverses one of the lakes. Throughout the water is a variety of plant life that provides a carpet like covering on the bottom. The plant life is so thick in areas, it looks like small canyons under water.  Most rivers in the area have tannin (decaying plant material) so the water isn’t clear. Here the water is crystal clear and all the fish, plants and other inhabitants were visible.

The boardwalk dead ends into another tree lined dirt trail which is flat, straight and the perfect place to ride a bike. According to the map this trail stretches for  few miles if not more.  On the other side of this trail is another lake full of lily pads, birds and trees.  The serene view, gentle wind through the trees, and warm sun made for perfect place to just relax.  A strategically placed bench was the perfect place to hang out and enjoy the view. apoxee trail

According to the map, the trails extend for many more miles so I’ll be back with my bike to continue exploring and will provide an update.   Apoxee park is a nice oasis for a gentle walk, a medium hike, biking, or birding all right in the middle of town.

Here’s a short video of the boardwalk: http://youtu.be/THrKrn9iRRg:

For more info on the park: www.wpb.org/park/apoxee-park/

Camping at Disney’s Fort Wilderness

I’ve visited Disney’s Ft. Wilderness campground and enjoyed the festive atmosphere. When I got the chance to camp there with a group for only $28, I was in!!

A quick disclaimer…..if you’re used to quiet primitive, back country camping this isn’t it. This a fun, lots of activities happening, place.  Even if by chance you don’t hear many people, you will hear and see the fireworks from the nearby parks. 

The campground is very pedestrian, bike, and golf cart friendly. In fact golf carts seem to be the preferred mode of transportation.  There are also free buses to take you around the campground or to other Disney locations.

My first evening of exploring, I ended up at an outdoor amphitheater. Kids, of all ages, were roasting marshmallows and the concession stand had cookies, popcorn, hot chocolate, and the like.  Shortly after I arrived, they began showing a Muppets Christmas movie.  Lots of families and kids milled around so it wasn’t perfectly quiet, but it was fun to watch a movie under the stars.

Then I headed back to camp and grabbed a shower. It was great; I had the place to myself and plenty of hot water.  The next morning I went to brush my teeth and there was a long line. The next night I did the same and there was no one there again.  Speaking of the shower, it was as nice as the shower at home. Wall to wall earth toned tile with an inset for shampoo, soap, and shaving supplies.

Comfy Shower Stall
Comfy Shower Stall

One of the advantages of camping at Ft. Wilderness is the proximity to all the Disney areas .The next day we caught the boat to the Contemporary resort. From there, took the monorail to the Grand Floridian for some exploring.

Now, if you’ve never been to the Grand Floridian at Christmas, you need to go. At the front, you’ll be served roasted chestnuts and apple cider. Once inside, there’s an incredibly large Christmas tree that can only be described as Disney in size. Every year, the crew makes a full size ginger bread house and you can listen to them describe how they built it.  On the other side of the house, you can buy all sorts of sweets and treats.

From there, we hopped a bus to Downtown Disney for lunch. After wandering around the shops, it was time to catch a bus back to the campground.

After seeing lots of people out holiday shopping it was time for a quiet bike ride along the trails.  There are two nature trails that run between Ft Wilderness campground and the Wilderness Resort. One is paved and follows the road between the two resorts. The other is dirt and is accessed from behind The Wilderness Lodge, just beyond the main pool off to the right. You’ll see bike rentals and such and the path begins there.  It’s common to see deer along this path and you can also enjoy some nice views of the Contemporary Resort across the lake. The dirt trail connects back to the paved trail so you can easily find your way back to the campground.

After exploring the trails at dusk, I headed back to the campground and quickly found the golf cart Christmas parade. Each cart was uniquely decorated with lights, figurines, sound systems and the like.   Definitely plan to explore the campground at night so you can enjoy all the holiday decorations.

Here are video links to the golf parade:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5oKx-SbdVs&feature=youtu.be
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ho09lJPXNqg&feature=youtu.be

Afterwards, I made my way back to the beach for a front row seat to the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks. The fireworks start at 10pm, but if you want a beach chair, get there by 9:15. Course, just bring a blanket and you can sit in the sand. It’s the same view.

At the beach, you can only see the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks. From the campsite you can hear/see the fireworks from Epcot at 9pm and Magic Kingdom at 10pm.

I was only there two days, but could’ve easily spent a few more. There is plenty to do for kids and adults at the campground and surrounding areas; bike rentals, boat rentals, kayak rentals, carriage rides, horseback rides, a show, multiple swimming pools, etc.

The winter season is usually the busiest because the weather is cool and dry. So plan to come and spend a few days. Even if you can’t camp, swing by and enjoy the festivities.

For more information: http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/campsites-at-fort-wilderness-resort/

Halpatiokee Park

I was supposed to meet friends at Halpatiokee Park early this morning but they were really late. So I decided to explore the nature trails by foot. This park has plenty of biking trails and that’s usually how I explore the park. I love to bike, but this morning I was on foot and enjoyed a totally different perspective. 

Walking the trails early, there wasn’t the usual rush of people. A hawk flew over, landed in the ball field and began poking around at something. Since it was early, the sky was filled with all types of birds as they made their way to wherever they go. Have you noticed that birds leave early and return around dusk; they don’t have to work, so just where do they go? I guess anywhere they want:)

The nature trails wind through dense foliage and periodcally parallels the Lost River. Along the way, there are “unofficial” walkouts where you can access the river. Halpatiokee is Seminole for “Alligator Water” and I can personally vouch for alligators being in the water so don’t plan on jumping in. Early morning, the water is perfectly smooth and provides mirror like reflections of the overhanging trees and foliage on the adjacent bank.

One of the walkouts was just too good to resist so I sat for a bit and it was so peaceful! Being out in nature is a great way to clear the mind of useless clutter.

After some time, I continued on the nature trail which then connected to the main paved trail around the park. Since there weren’t many people around, it was a great time to just stroll, take some pictures and relax.

DSC_0442In addition to nature trails, there are mountain biking trails for all levels, tennis courts, soccer fields, baseball fields, and picnic areas. It’s a great place to have some fun on your own or with a group.

More information here:

http://www.martin.fl.us/web_docs/prd/web/docs/xx_halpatiokee_info