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Our trip to Naples, Florida

The trip from Valdosta, Georgia started the way the previous day ended. It was a gray foggy morning when we started south on I-75 and until about 10:00 AM there wasn’t more than a quarter to half-mile visibility. But the drive went well, with little scenery to comment on. We have traveled this highway before and commented how it is lined on either side with Southern Yellow Pine trees and there is nothing to be seen through or over them. We arrived about mid-afternoon and following check-in we took off for Barefoot Beach. The picture bellow shows the beach and the large hotels and condos north of our vantage point.

Barefoot Beach

Our interest in this beach was not to go swimming or sunning ourselves, but instead to see something other than city skylines and interstate highways. The map below shows that this beach is located on one of the keys and is about 4 miles from our motel.

Barefoot Beach map

We did get a chance to see one of the vultures that soared high above the wooded areas of the key. This picture is deceiving, the bird is huge and was preening itself while setting atop this dead tree.

Vulture atop a tree

The real attraction of this area is the Gopher Tortoise that lives on this key. We were lucky enough to see one crossing the road so we could get a picture, he moved slowly enough that we could get several pictures and select the best one. This guy was about 10” in diameter, which we learned later is a full adult size for this land based tortoise. They live to be 40 to 60 years old and are primarily a vegetarian. We also learned that this tortoise digs burrow to live in. The signs around the preserve tell us that they do not swim and to drive slowly as they are a protected species. If you want to know more about them you can visit this site about the Gopher Tortoise

Gopher Tortoise

The drive too and from the Barefoot Beach was through a pretty high-class neighborhood and the signs told us not to make any stops along the way. So Sandy shot this picture out the window as I slowed down for a speed bump. We were certainly impressed by the size and style of these homes, most were three stories tall.

We are always impressed with large homes

Our next stop occurred quite by accident. The traffic was pretty heavy so I turned off the main street and we ended up at Matanzas Trail at the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve. This bay and some of the tidal flats around it are now maintained and replanted to the natural vegetation that was here before the exotic plants man brought in crowded them out. It was a pleasant walk and provided us with a nice view of these boats moored in the bay.

Boats in the bay

Although the cottages were closed, we did look around these two examples of early construction on the key. The cottage on the right, titled by its original owners as “We’re Here,” was built in 1921 and was the fourth house built on the key. The one on the left, a separate structure, was known as “The Pink Palace” and was built in 1960 as part of the Laughing Gull beach rental property.

Early cottages on the Key

The final picture for this update is what I think of as the “money shot.” We just love a good sunset picture and this one was taken at sunset on our way back from our drive. I was complaining about missing the good sunset since most of the clouds seemed to have cleared off, then we rounded a corner and I saw a pull-off for the a public access. As it turns out this is Dog Beach, a location where owners are allowed to run their dogs without a leash. The water in the foreground is what is left of the tide that was receding.

Sunset on the Gulf

Our plans for Monday include sightseeing around the Bonita Springs and Fort Meyers area, and then we will travel to Naples, Florida for the meeting that brought us here. Google wants to send us down State Highway 41, but we have been down this route last year and know that it will take far too long to make the trip this way. We will use I-75 and cut the time in half getting there.

Route for trip to Naples, FL

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