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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Florida Road Trip Day 12 - Santibel Island: Ding Darling Sanctuary

We arrived at Santibel island in our hotel late, by the time we set up the pack and play and got my Little Cricket in bed we were super tired. And it was nice to all sleep in as a family. It was also nice that we weren’t moving hotels tonight. Mr. Rogue and I decided on the drive over to stay in Santibel two nights. We weren’t really sure of an exact plan yet, but that is what breakfast is good for, making a plan.

I used Yelp so much during this trip. Generally I research everything, including food, when we vacation. But this trip was a more wing and and hope everything turns out approach. Not really Mr. Rogue’s style at all, so we will see how this goes, I sure do love the adventure. Anyways I found a breakfast cafĂ© that yelp gave amazing reviews too so we headed to Over Easy. I know it pretty hard to mess up breakfast but this place was amazing… including their clementine pastry that Mr. Rogue and I split.

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We decided today to explore Ding Darling, a bird sanctuary that my mother highly recommended. The visitor center was super cool. There were so many things to touch and explore, my Little Cricket loved it. And Mr. Rogue loved spending so much time with his son after being away so long. My favorite thing in the center by far was the exhibit of wooden decoy birds, a bird donated each year, mostly carved by Jim Sprankle. Sprankle is considered one of the best-known waterfowl wood carvers in the world. They were incredible.

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According to the ranger we had two options at Ding Darling, we could walk the path directly behind the visitors center, or we could drive the long Ding Darling loop through the park. Since it was still reasonably early, and since it was only going to get hotter later in the day we opted to do the walk first. There was a beautiful boardwalk that meandered through the mangrove swamp where we found some beautiful birds and crocodiles. I was super happy to finally see the Anhinga. What a beautiful bird.

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The boardwalk was awesome but it was short. After the boardwalk was a long, unbroken, unshaded, seashell dusted walk. We figured we would go a little ways, maybe there was another shaded boardwalk just around the next bend. NO. It was a never ending walk to hell. So we turned around and started to head back, sweating all the way. We did get to see lots of swampland and even a few crocodiles. Yeah, we will just keep our distance, I am not interested in getting anywhere near one of these guys. My Little Cricket decided to beat the heat by taking a nap. Smart boy!

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We made it back to our car, and back to the air conditioning in time for me to not pass out. My body does not like extreme heat. It took forever for the car to cool down but when it did it was heaven. Definalty one of humankinds most brilliant inventions!

We started on our drive and it was AWESOME. More than awesome, it was the best thing ever. To be out of the heat, watching the incoming storm approach and being able to bird from the comfort of the car. I was having the best time ever. Many of the birds I have seen so many times, although these let us get really close. But the bird I kept searching for, the Rosette Spoonbill was more allusive. We went through the park once and then I begged Mr. Rogue to go again. I found my Spoonbill on our second round. He was far away but I did get to see him. My joy was complete.

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By the time we were done with our second round of the sanctuary the clouds now turned into rain and we realized that we were all STARVING. Yelp saved the day again and directed us too The Lazy Flamingo. I was a little skeptical of the rave reviews of this place when we walked in. It looked like a little dive, but the food was incredible. Ms. Ivey had talked to me about how super yummy a fish sandwich she had a few weeks ago was, so when the bartender recommended the fish sandwhich I had to try it. A tastebud delight. Seriously it was that good.

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After we ate we decided to make a quick stop at one of the beaches, just so we could dip our toes in the water. The beach was gorgeous, none of us had our swimsuits which was a disappointment but that didn’t prevent my Little Cricket from running into the water. He had so much fun on that beach. He is a lover of the ocean and the water just like his daddy. We spent an hour chasing the waves and trying to prevent my Little Cricket from drowning before we called it a day. It was time to go back to the hotel and get some sleep. It was a long day after all and this sun really zaps the strength out of you.

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