Friday, February 13, 2015

2015 Biking South Florida's Gulf Islands with Road Scholar

This was a repeat Road Scholar active outdoor adventure program for me, and as good as the program was three years ago, this "revised" program was even better!  We were based in Naples for the first three nights and then boarded a bus for Sanibel Island for two days of biking and one night of lodging, before returning by bus to Naples for the fifth night.

Although the on-and-off rain canceled  Monday's first day of biking, we still managed to visit much of what we would have reached by bike in Naples, including the Naples Museum in the old train station, the historic Tin City shopping area, and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, where we went on a tour of their remarkable wildlife hospital, a boat tour of the mangrove canal, and a lecture on raptors, including a visit by this red-tailed hawk, Horatio. Despite the rain day, we still managed over 70 miles of biking the other three days!

On Tuesday, we biked 29 miles, first visiting the historic Naples Pier (which we missed yesterday due to the rain) and then continuing biking north against a wicked 20+ mile per hour headwind to Bonita Springs' Barefoot Beach Preserve with their protected gopher tortoises and crashing waves.  Our leader, Mary, also led us on a naturalist walk on Saylor Nature Trail...

That evening we had a lecture by the knowledgeable and entertaining Bob Nesmith on the hydrology and water flow of southern Florida, and how it was disrupted to allow development of the southern Florida, the repercussions of that disruption, and the efforts to restore the natural flow of water. Bob's easy going style and ability to talk in non-technical-jargon English was exemplified by this simplified  explanation: A marsh is a grassland that is under water, and a swamp is a forest that is under water.

On Wednesday, we boarded the bus to travel to Sanibel Island, where we hopped on our bikes for 23 miles as we toured the island on its marvelous bike paths.  Our first stop was a talk by Charles LeBuff  as he recounted the history of Sanibel as well as the stories surrounding its lighthouse. He lived on the island for much of his life and actually lived in the cottage next to the lighthouse for 22 years while working 32 years for the "Ding"Darling National Wildlife Refuge as a refuge biologist.


Then after biking to lunch, it was over to CROW, Sanibel's Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife.  After perusing the displays, we were treated to a visit by the raccoon Trouper who at eight weeks of age was beaten with a golf club and left for dead.  Through the tireless efforts of Miss Dot, the blind and brain-injured Trouper (held in her arms below) has been given a home and rehabbed as much as possible.  Trouper has his own website and serves as an ambassador for preventing animal cruelty and educating school children to respect wildlife.  We were also given a tour of their clinic and the organization's grounds.

After spending the night at the lovely Sundial Resort on Sanibel, we were treated to this sunrise during breakfast.

Then we biked to the "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, one of over 560 such preserves across the country.  After a tour of the visitor center and a talk about the tireless efforts of editorial cartoonist, Ding Darling, which led to the ultimate creation of this wildlife refuge, volunteer Patsy took us on a guided  bike tour of the four mile Wildlife Drive, where we enjoyed the wildlife sightings along the way and the information about the types of mangrove trees and their importance to the environment.  We also hiked the Calusa Trail.

After biking to lunch, we continued on to the Sanibel Historic Village which consists of a number of buildings moved to this site from elsewhere on the island to preserve examples demonstrating what  life was like here in the earlier days.  As a retired teacher, I'll show you the interior of the old Sanibel School, which though smaller than the school I attended in Chicago in the 1950s, still is very reminiscent of my old schoolrooms albeit on a smaller scale here.

Here's a photo of our stalwart group of bikers and our two leaders:

(l to r):  Ruth, Linda M., Jim, Edda, Emilie, Larry D., Chuck, Allan, Lee, Barb, Linda T., Trudi, Rick, Bill, and Connie

Seated in middle: Our leaders, Mary and Larry 



Here's a video of our week's adventures:

No comments: