Monday, February 11, 2013

Ding Darling

Days on cruise:  275

Sanibel Island is somewhat unique. Attached to Captiva Island, it’s a pretty, upscale community in terms of wealth, but has the New England sentiment that’s not ostentatious, so it’s attractive and laid back. Bike paths line all the major roads, and they’re grade-separated, have signs reminding bikers to look both ways at driveways and intersections, and also reminding car drivers that there’s an $80 fine for failing to yield to pedestrians or bikers. Traffic, both cars and bikes, is pretty awful here. Traffic cops help manage it at a number of intersections in popular winter months.

So at 9:00 we set off on our bikes with Craig and Barbara on “Blue Heron” headed for the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which occupies almost half the land on the island.


Bob and Cathryn set out a bit earlier than Craig and Barbara because Cathryn’s front bicycle brake was broken. A bike shop a mile from the marina took her bike into the back room 2 minutes after they opened, and 15 minutes later, for $19, it was repaired! What a deal. The adjacent bike rental facility had hundreds of bicycles, including the kind with big balloon wheels that work as wheelchairs on the beach for those who can’t walk in sand.


Five miles after leaving the marina, we were at the entrance to the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge.


Serendipity had us begin the 4-mile loop road (open to cars, bikes and pedestrians, one-directional only) at low tide, which meant the shore birds were feeding in the shallow waters. We saw lots of nice shore birds, but not very close.


Another spot further along the road afforded more sightings.


We don’t have any White Ibis at home on Puget Sound.


Lots of co-mingled species, and Barbara could identify all of them!


In the mangroves there were tiny black tree crabs we’ve never seen before.


Late in the journey Craig and Barbara spied and identified a Red Shouldered Hawk, a new sighting for us.


We had sad news of one of our Gulf Crossing Buddies yesterday. Don and Anita from “Limelight” are from Wisconsin and began their Loop in September. We never met them until the Gulf Crossing group convened in Carabelle, but have spent time with them in Tarpon Springs and Fort Myers. Yesterday we got a call telling us they were riding bikes and Anita was hit by a car, badly injuring her knee. She had surgery late last night at a Fort Myers hospital, and Cathryn talked with her for an hour on the phone this afternoon. Anita is working to stay upbeat, but the Loop is over for Anita and Don this year. We’re distraught by the news and hoping Anita has a quick recovery and they’re able to resume their journey next year.

Craig and Barbara came to our boat for cocktails, and we walked a half mile to dinner at the Lazy Flamingo with tasty seafood offerings and outdoor dining.

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