We settled into a efficiency room at Shalimar Cottages and Motel. Our room had a small kitchen, a huge bed and a screened porch on which we could watch the sunset on the beach. This is not our normal accommodations, but at off season rates, we could pretend it was.
|Porch view just after sunset|
In the morning we went to Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge and rented kayaks from Tarpon Bay Explorers.
"You're the third person to show up with a Greenland paddle this morning." the outfitter told us, "There were two others here before you."
"So are they out on the trail?" Mark asked.
"Nah, they were headed out of the bay. But you can't take the rental boats there, they have to stay in the bay or on the trail."
|Ruddy turnstones waiting to take a boat out|
There were a lot of "don't"s - Don't take the boats out of Tarpon Bay, don't land on any islands, don't enter the mangrove maze at the far end if you don't have a GPS. ("We got tired of launching search and rescues.") Mark packed a GPS, but it refused to work, so we crossed that area off our list.
|On the bay|
|The trail is well marked, note the wire used to keep birds off|
|Mangrove trees nicely reflected|
|Yellow Capped Night Heron|
Afterwards, we explored the bay for awhile. The bay is where dolphins and manatees are frequently spotted. We didn't see any though, and as the temperatures rose to the 80's, I was ready for a break from the sun. I had hoped the Loons would handle like our Palmico, but they seemed wider and slower. The front seat didn't fasten in place (maybe because it was a rental?) so as I used my legs while paddling the seat moved back little by little until I needed to scootch it forward again.
We arrived back at the launch, and met the Greenland Paddlers, a couple from North Carolina, who summered in Maine. We talked for quite awhile, comparing destinations, paddles and boats, before heading our separate ways.
|Little Blue Heron on Wildlife Drive|
|View from a platform along the drive. Ibis in flight, a barely visible rainbow|
|A royal tern on the beach in the morning. Be sure to take morning strolls on the beach as well, so many birds then!|