Early Friday morning we motored over to Pine Island to explore one of its estuaries by kayak. Of course,every exploration needs a guide and ours introduced himself as "Mel the Guide, no last name and cash payment only."
We'd had experience canoing and hoped it would translate over to the kayaks and pretty much that was the case.
Mel was quite the guide -- a certified naturalist, he described the eco-system and its inhabitants in detail -- Lots of birds, osprey, pelican, eagle and kingfisher - The estuary sandbed with its grasses - Mangrove trees and the oysters that grow on them.
The oysters filter the estuary waters and make possible the clean, clear water enjoyed by its many inhabitants. The mangroves are making a comeback after being crowded out by the invasive Australian Pine which was imported into the area. Because they have a shallow root system, many of the pine were uprooted by the winds of Hurricane Charley giving the mangroves an opportunity to repopulate the area. There are also programs to plant significant numbers of mangroves.
Mel explained that from time to time dolphin and manatee would swim into the estuary but none showed up while we were there. He managed to fulfill his guarantee that we'd see manatee when he displayed the two that are tatooed on his calf -- mementoes of a female manatee and her offspring that he befriended over a couple of years.
Our biggest challenge was paddling in the open ocean against a brisk headwind -- very hard work and very slow progress. Of course, Mel made it look easy.
Next stop -- Hammond Stadium to watch the Minnesota Twins take on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in a spring training game. It looked like a sell out with the parking lot and stands completely filled.
Thanks to Bob Schmidt, we had great seats on the shady side of the stadium. We settled in, got focused on the game, and who do we see in the batter's box but Jim Thome. A treat for us as Cleveland Indians fans.
With our first ever spring training game under our belt, we headed back to the house to pack up and get ready for the next day's trip home.
Bye, Bye. And thanks for sharing the trip.