Sunday, March 24, 2019

Spring Break with Mom: A Wild Week in Florida

When I was planning my annual trip to Anna Maria Island, Florida, I did what I always do. I looked for races taking place during the week. I found a half marathon in Fort DeSoto State Park, but I didn't sign up. I kept it in the back of my mind but decided to see how the week played out.

Smart move.

Both my boys made plans to join me on my trip for the first time in about 5 years. We had a wild week! It's not what you think, though.

Sit back, grab a glass of wine, and indulge me while I share our adventures in what some call "The Real Florida".




The Beach
There was beach time, but instead of lying on the sand and soaking up the sun, we walked the shore.

Anna Maria beach.
If this isn't the most beautiful beach in the world...well, I don't know what to say.
My boys indulged me, helping me find shells and sand dollars. We spotted dolphins. We talked.

Some of the sea treasures that we found

Myakka River State Park
The first part of the week started with just my oldest son and me. The Myakka River State Park offered kayaking and I thought this could be a fun adventure for the 2 of us. I read that we might see a few alligators. We got more than we bargained for! We were first directed to kayak on the lake but got behind one of the tour boats. Besides sucking the exhaust from the boat, we could hear everything the tour guide was saying. That was not our idea of a peaceful day on the water. We paddled across the lake and once we found the very small passage that took us to the river, we were on our way.

We wanted to get away from this
We saw a lot of alligators along the shore of the lake and the river. It was a sunny afternoon and the gators were all lounging in the mud. What surprised us was that there were so many birds feeding alongside the alligators. The Myakka River is home to a large variety of birds and after researching the park online, I do believe that we saw most of them! The river is calm and very clean, but it is brown due to all the mud. A lot of people that we talked to after our journey asked us if we were scared of the alligators. I truly don't believe that the alligators would be able to climb into the kayaks. We had one incident when I got a little too close to the gators sunning near the entrance to the river. They let me know they weren't pleased when they all jumped into the water at once. I can paddle pretty fast when I have to.

The pink birds are called Roseate Spoonbills, native to Florida
Other than my close encounter with the gators, we had a peaceful and uneventful paddle. After 3 hours, we returned our kayaks and found out that we paddled a total of 9 miles! I wanted to make one stop on the way out of the park to see the Canopy Walk, which is a trail that is covered with a variety of trees. We didn't walk very far because we were both pretty tired from our kayaking adventure. What we did see was absolutely beautiful. I definitely want to go back here and explore this trail.

No filter on this photo of this amazing tree!
Egmont Key State Park
In all the years we've been visiting Anna Maria Island, we've been intrigued by a small island located a few miles offshore. Egmont Key is a former fort dating back to the Spanish American War. There is also a lighthouse, which is no longer in use. The island is accessible only by boat and still contains the remnants of the buildings and roads once used by the army.

Approaching Egmont Key.
You can see the Sunshine Skyway bridge in the background.
You can take a ferry to Egmont Key from St Petersburg, but we hired a boat to take us out to the island from Anna Maria. Capt. Vern and his assistant Jack were excellent and accommodating skippers. Capt Vern is a native of the area and owns his own fishing charter business. The 5 mile boat ride across Tampa Bay to Egmont Key was quick and easy. On the way, we passed another island, Passage Key, which is an unofficial nude beach. I couldn't see anything, but my boys claimed that everyone they saw was naked. Apparently, the locals call it "Sausage Key".


Anyways, once we got to Egmont Key, Capt Vern anchored the boat close to the shore and we waded through the shallow waters to begin our explorations. Many of the buildings are gone and those that remain are crumbling. We were able to explore the jail and a few other buildings.



What amazed me were the beautiful red brick roads that remained. I wished I had brought my running shoes so I could run on them! There were signs along the way describing the buildings that once stood. There was a cemetery with a list of the dead; the demise of the island was due to a yellow fever outbreak. There is a lighthouse but it is no longer in use.


Egmont Key is also home to birds and other wildlife. We saw quite a few gopher tortoises roaming freely about as well as a variety of birds.


On the way back to Anna Maria, Capt Vern stopped at a "secret spot" where we were able to find sand dollars! There is a limit of 2 live sand dollars per person per day. Once we got our allotment, we put them in a bleach solution. We actually paddled back out there the next day to get a few more.

Drying in the sun.
SUP
Since the house we stayed at is on a canal that leads out to Tampa Bay, we rented kayaks and a SUP for part of the week. Much to our surprise, we saw quite a few manatees while paddling on the canal. At one point, we saw 2 manatees nuzzling, but unfortunately, we weren't able to photograph it! We did get splashed by the manatees when we got too close but we also were able to get up close and personal with a few of them. It was truly the experience of a lifetime. Sure beats the zoo! I bet the manatees would agree.

Craft Beer
It wouldn't be a vacation without trying some of the local brews. My oldest son is 21, so we tried a couple of local spots. After our Myakka River adventure, we stopped in Sarasota at Big Top Brewing. I tried a sampler of a variety of their beers, and finished with a pint of Area Nevada, an American Pale Ale which really quenched my thirst. All the beers we sampled were delicious and we'd definitely go back for more. 

Later in the week, we drove to Tampa to pick up my youngest son from the airport. On the way, we stopped at 2 breweries. Cigar City Brewing was crazy good. My favorite was Resilience, which was an IPA made as a collaboration between Cigar City and Sierra Nevada breweries. Pure yum. Since we visited the week after the Hunahpu brewing fest, some of the beers (stouts) from that fest were still available. My son tried a few and they were also good. 


We had time for one more brewery, so we checked out Coppertail Brewing Company. This was a very hip brewery and it was the first time on our trip that I felt old. What can I say? They had a good beer list, but I just wasn't feeling it anymore. My son loved it. I want to go back and give it another try. Next year. 

Running
Yes, there was running. I ran twice while in Florida. I even ran a little bit on the beach. Made me long for summer...

Oh, and that race I was considering? It was a DNSU (did not sign up) for me. No regrets. All that kayaking, all the SUPing, all those adventures...well heck, it sure beats racing! If I could spend all my time on the water, I'd give up running. Ok, maybe not totally...Spring break with mom, anyone?

Spring break with mom? It was a wild week of "real Florida" adventures  /via @oldrunningmom #springbreak #florida #alligators #manatees #craftbeer 

Tell me about your wildest spring break. And I don't mean wet t-shirt or banana eating contests. Have you ever gone on an adventure vacation? Do you like spending time on the water? Would the alligators have scared you off the water? What about the manatees?

I'm lining this recap with Deborah and Kim at the Weekly Run Down.

55 comments :

  1. Looks like you had such a nice time with your boys. I would have completely freaked out about the alligators! I should probably not write about my wildest spring break ha ha . Thanks for linking up!

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    1. I bet that would be a great story! Let's share over wine some time!

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  2. Aw what a great trip! So active and full of fun. I'd love to take a trip with my mom, but she probably would have watched the SUP from the sidelines ha!

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    1. My goal has always been to keep up with my boys! Fingers crossed I can keep it going. This was FUN!

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  3. You had a busy week! Sounds like you and the guys had non-stop action, all kinds of fun adventure, and great memories made. Can't beat that ;-) Thanks for linking with us!

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    1. Nope! The week was wonderful and I wouldn't have changed a thing!

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  4. You were a little too up close and personal with those gatos if you ask me! We've done Vegas with the boys the past two Decembers and the first one was beyond wild. A little more laid back this past year. We've had tons of spring breaks in Florida and Puerto Vallarta, where we are all heading again at the end of May. It's so nice that at their age they all still want to hang out with us!

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    1. We went through a time when neither of them wanted to go to Florida, so I'm really grateful for this trip. It was an absolute blast!

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  5. Wow, what an amazing time with your boys! Sounds like the best vacation a mom could have. Glad the wildlife didn't get too wild.

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  6. It's so awesome that your boys want to spend time with you now that they are grown - and what a lot of fun you all had together! Although I would have been screaming as I paddled away from the gators, LOL...and my kadults would have been laughing their heads off!

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    1. My son was laughing because I was so calm, yep, time to go...lol! It was such a fun experience!

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  7. I love that you got to spend this kind of time with your boys! I hope mine still want to hang out with me as they get older.

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    1. There was a few really rough years when they wanted nothing to do with me or my husband. So this was especially sweet!

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  8. I love that you got to spend quality time with your boys! That's a rare commodity for sure. Your adventures look so fun. We saw manatees up close like that a few years back in Sanabel. You are a brave mama to hang out with those gators!

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    1. I wasn't too worried about the gators, but I did make sure not to dangle my feet or hands outside of the kayak!

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  9. I loved following along on your vacation! Even the alligators! I’m so happy you got to spend this time with your sons. That is so special and it gets rarer and rarer as they get older.

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    1. I feel very grateful that this week came together this way!

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  10. That tree! Those manatee. Manatees?
    I love the bright colors of the ocean
    Hard to have a bad time in Florida, isn't it?

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    1. I'd have to agree with you! It was hard to come home to all the BROWN here in the Midwest.

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  11. one year the guy I was dating and I went to FL with his family and took their jet skis. The dolphins loved us and would go along beside us and jump and play. I didn't like getting in the water with them but I was okay as long as I was on my jet ski. I had never driven a jet ski before and I had gotten a crash course as my boyfriend's sister was too young to drive it according to FL law so that was fun. We also got super sun burnt and spent several painful nights sleeping on vinyl couches, sticking to them OUCH.

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    1. The manatees are such gentle creatures--they didn't bother me at all!

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  12. What a busy but fun week! I love that you were able to spend Spring Break with your family and it looks like you enjoyed all the activities!

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  13. What a great time! I love that you get to spend so much time with your sons doing things you love. I don't know about being THAT close to wildlife on kayaks and SUPS - OMG!!! I was scared of alligators on my bike so...:-) Great recap and so glad you had this time away and in the SUN :-)

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  14. Sounds like a really fun time with your sons! You had a lot of beautiful views and the animal encounters all sound so cool. Though I have to admit I would have been a little worried by the close encounter with the gators :)

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    1. I don't know why the gators didn't bother me...I'm glad they didn't because I would have missed out on our fun kayak afternoon!

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  15. Sounds like a great week but yes, the gators probably would have scared me. Races will always be waiting for you, but your sons won't necessarily always have time for you so you need to enjoy it when you've got it!

    I do love the ocean. I just don't get there very often. But I get to lots of nice places so I can't complain. :)

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    1. You nailed it, Judy! I wouldn't have missed one minute of this trip in exchange to run in a race!

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  16. This was an amazing vacation. I would love to do ALL the things you did! I would even give up racing if I had these opportunities.

    I have looked and looked - never found a sand dollar :(

    You are so lucky your sons still want to spent time with you.

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    1. Right? That is totally how I felt! But running gave me the stamina to do all this stuff, so there's that...

      We've had trips there where we didn't find any sand dollars. This time we got lucky. And now we know the secret spot...

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  17. Sounds like an amazing vacation! SUPing around manatees just sounds incredible - what an experience! One of our local breweries did the Resilience collaboration also and it is pure yum! I was able to have a few before I found out I was pregnant and I'm a little bummed it will probably be all gone by late September.

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    1. That's interesting about the collaboration--I wonder if they did that around here! Off to search...

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  18. What an awesome trip to Florida! I have still yet to see a manatee in the wild. They are so cute! Love your collection of sand dollars too!

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    1. I have a ridiculous amount of shells! Did I need more? Of course...

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  19. What a fun trip! You know all our vacations always include some kind of adventure (kayaking the Napali coast, hiking the Grand Canyon, mountain biking on Mt. Etna.) Those are the best times!

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  20. So, first of all.... Gators can climb. And they can tip kayaks. Just for future reference LOL. I think they are so used to people being out on the water that they probably aren't super aggressive unless it's mating season or feeding time, but I also have no problem keeping a healthy distance between them and me.

    Love that you got to see some of our gorgeous manatees. They are truly magical.

    And I also love that you and your boys got to have a great time together. I hope that little man chooses to spend some quality time with me like that when he is older!

    Our Spring Breaks are usually pretty quiet. We had bigger plans for this one, but life sort of took over: new bathroom, illnesses, an unwell pug... it made for things being a little more reserved than usual. Summer is where it's at this year!

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    1. My spring breaks are usually quiet but with both boys coming, it was time to change it up. We had a blast. I wasn't at all nervous about the gators. They were enjoying the sun and the mud...

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  21. Sounds like a great vacation! I would love to see manatees in the wild, but I think I'd pass on the gators.

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  22. What a lovely week and wonderful photos, though I would paddle as fast as an Olympian if a single alligator jumped into the river with me!! Love the spoonbills, too. I was going to say I didn't do spring break because we don't do it here, but I have been on holiday, haven't I!

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    1. Yes you were, and that Canary Islands trip looked amazing!

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  23. What a fun trip! I would have been freaked out with the alligators. I've been kayaking once in Alaska and while it was fun, I didn't enjoy it 100%. I was more worried about the falling in the water.

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    1. You just have to go more! Experience is the best teacher. I love kayaking.

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  24. Wow! Lots of wildlife! Get to have all the time with your boys too!

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  25. I have always wanted to visit Anna Maria Island! However we settled for going to Orlando this week. The last time I was there was for a half marathon. I don't think we will be doing any sort of exercise on this trip as I am feeling super burnt out from trying to get back into shape. www.supersana.com

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    1. I didn't do much "exercise" but we were active! Have fun!

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  26. Sounds like you were in FLA the week before me! Looks like you had a beautiful trip. We also hit up Big Top and Cigar City which were both awesome. Next time you visit, try Darwin Brewing Company in Bradenton, right across from McKechnie. So delish. And if you ever have a chance to try the Schnitzel Trailer - YUM. We thought about running the Fort DeSoto Half since they moved the Sarasota Half to October but opted to visit family in the Marco Island area and run give that half a try (it's a good one to keep on your list for future visits!)

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    1. I did have some Darwin beer on AMI but yep, we want to go to the tap room. Where did you find the Schnitzel trailer? That sounds way better than the Kielbasa trailer we had in Tampa. I looked at Marco Island but it's a long ride from AMI! Maybe next year.

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    2. The Schnitzel Trailer is typically at Darwin during the Spring Training games. They will post where they are going to be if you follow them on Facebook. The food is so good and the couple that owns the truck are so nice. When you were at Big Top, did you meet the brewery cat, Bojangles?

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    3. No cat in sight! When we return to Bradenton, we will definitely check out Darmwin and The Schnitzel Trailer!

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