Saturday, April 28th. We spent 2 hours in the ranger station using the park WiFi, and marveling at the pleasant, helpful competent way Ranger Norma Zambrano welcomed all visitors, singlehandedly staffing the office during a very busy Saturday morning.
After lunch we were treated to a visit by Sandy and Jim Woodley, who toured our trailer inside and out, and gave it their stamp of approval. We talked nonstop for five hours, sharing our travel adventures, including their recent trip to St. Croix, and catching up on all their exciting news of finding, acquiring, equipping and storing their new 38’ 2005 Travel Supreme motorhome, had some snacks, took a stroll around the campground, and a good time was had by all.
Sunday, April 29th. Every Sunday there is a Native Plant Sale and Farmers Market at the Historic Site at Koreshan State Park, so that was our first stop this morning. The local native plant Society was selling a very nice selection of plants and we bought six small Swamp Milkweed, and a beautiful twinflower.
Then we embarked on our long-awaited trip to Ding Darling NWR on Sanibel Island. We were last there in 1985!!! Matthew was 3 years old, it was hot, our old Isuzu Trooper had no AC, I had mistakenly left our tent at home and packed only the fly, so our camping experience was less than ideal, and the road to the Refuge was a dusty shellrock washboard. In fact, it was so uncomfortable that we never stopped in the Refuge itself, but just turned around and drove back out. But people rave about this place, especially for birdwatching, so fast-forward 33 years, and I was determined to give it another try. Initial impressions: Sanibel is a cute, busy tourist town, with ferocious traffic and congestion. The road to the Refuge is fully paved, there is a new fancy Disneyrific Visitor Center and gift shop.
There are some trails around the Visitor Center, but the main draw is the Wildlife Drive, a one way loop for cars and bicycles, where you can pull over and park anywhere if you see an interesting feature or bird. The road is heavily used by people fishing, and by people riding bikes, usually not the same people. The road passes a series of small, flat mangrove islands in shallow Estero Bay. Many of the plants and landscapes are familiar to us now after having lived in South Florida for 33 years. But we were excited to see a couple of reddish egrets, which we rarely see at home near the east coast, as well as a group of willets, some osprey, a roseate spoonbill! as well as the usual suspects — herons, anhinga…
We went back to the Visitor Center and watched a short video, ate some of our snacks on a bench on the shaded porch, got back in the truck and snaked our way back through the Sunday traffic off Sanibel island and back to Estero and our campsite for our last night here. We took a sunset walk and practiced our tree poses among the trees.