Saturday, February 15, 2014

Living for EVER

(Note: this one is by Jeff, but posted by Kate)

EVER is the park service code for our workplace, the Everglades National Park. The job is great--we work with kids in overnight camps and day programs.  For some of the kids, our program is their only exposure to nature and wilderness in their entire lives.  When the kids are inspired, we feel like we are truly part of making a difference in their lives.  Our new park is starting to feel like our new  home, at least for the winter.

Sometimes, we bike to work on some of the flattest roads in the world.

The Everglades is known for its rich and strange animal life.  Of course, we have tons of photos of alligators and other critters, but with such animal richness, sometimes you are lucky to see strange bedfellows tolerating each other.

Threatened and Endangered species abound, such as the American crocodile,

the Wood stork, with its unusual foraging adaptations,

The purple gallinule often sports its colors along the trails,

Some of the most photographic fun is watching the photographers.  Often, the morning trails are filled with cameras worth more than the car we drive there:

Because our job follows the school calender, we get two weeks off around Christmas and New years.  We decided to go to Dry Tortugas and Key west.  Dry Tortugas is a national park around a civil war era fort, Fort Jefferson:

One of the largest brick structures in the world, it is fascinating to explore inside:

As the last of the keys in Florida, and only accessible by boat or plane, it is surrounded by moats and ocean:

the water is turquoise:

Kate celebrates the sunset with a trumpeting conch:
Kate's note: It didn't actually trumpet. Just thought I'd point that out.

We kayak to a nesting colony of magnificent frigatebirds, a soaring pelagic bird rarely seen in groups or on the ground.

The highlight of Dry Tortugas for us, however, is the snorkeling.  It's all accessible from the shores around the fort:

Some of the reef grows on the fort's moat walls:

There are schools of fish,

the largest hermit crab we've ever seen,

coral heads teeming with life,

And, since it was Christmas, we stopped to admire the so-called Christmas tree worms:

Key West is the gateway to Dry Tortugas, so we couldn't resist staying there for a few days around Christmas.  Tropical Santa was resting in his hammock:

and the streets were decked with lights:

We spent Christmas night at a show with our favorite jazz band, Deborah and Patrick:

We also visited nearby Key Biscayne, a small island just south of Miami.  It has a historic lighthouse,

miles of pristine, sandy beaches:

A fascinating beach park that includes fossilized mangrove reef with mangroves growing on their ancient brethren's fossils, notice Miami in the background:

We have had visitors!  Our friend, Fawn, came to visit for a week and we did many fun things, including kayaking and fishing in Florida Bay:

Mom and her friend since grade school, Cindy, came to visit for mom's birthday.  We went to Key Biscayne again, where Mom and Cindy enjoyed a spectacular sunset.  

There have been amazing sunrises and sunsets here.  Let's end with a few of them.  Here's one from our office after work:

On a bike trip down the main road:

near our housing area:

As seen from our back porch on a foggy morning:

We do a sunrise activity with the kids at camp.  Normally, we are not allowed to share photos of our kids and of us with them for privacy reasons.  But during our sunrise activity, their silhouettes are not identifiable.   A couple of our twenty-some fifth-graders watching sunrise.

 Recently, the cool mornings have created a steamy lake:

As seen from the highway back on the keys:

from Dry Tortugas:

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