Monday, November 12, 2018

Enjoying the Natural Beauty of Florida's East Coast With Fun Friends

October 28-30, 2018
Melbourne Beach, Florida

Sunday morning we get on the road early for us. We have an afternoon of football and grub planned with a couple of our favorite friends.

We last saw Jim and Diana (ExloRVistas) in Michigan, and made plans then to catch up with them at their winter digs in Melbourne Beach. It was supposed to be for a week, but with our expedited schedule we only have three nights. Still, we all make the best of what we have.

None of us remembered photos of our outdoor gathering watching all our teams with NFL Ticket, enjoying yummy eats and brews, and getting caught up - but it was fun!

Jim's been re-hired for his UPS gig so we run a couple errands before picking them up after he gets home on Monday. We're off to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge north of us.

It's not our first, but it may be our favorite! We see lots of what we're looking for, and even a big surprise! It's great having four pairs of eyes to find even more critters along the way.

 Great Blue Herons pose for us throughout the refuge.

Jim sees our first gator.

And he's a big one!

There are a lot of vultures here - this one looking more like a lady's hat than a voracious scavenger.

Some gators are mostly hidden in the grass, others float slowly beside us.

Always majestic, we see a couple bald eagles.

Although mostly marshland, much of the refuge looks like the savannah.

An Ibis with matching beak and legs.
The sun begins to set over baby Mangroves.

Some gators look more dinosaur-ish than others.
Our surprise is this wild pig with curly tail trotting along the pink grass.

It's a beautiful time of day to enjoy the natural beauty.

Florida sunset - our first!
It's dark when we find a spot to grab dinner. Rare for us to be out and about like grown ups :-)  The River City Bar and Grill is in a bowling alley - and has great burgers!!

Good times with good friends.
Knowing we're Doors fans, our local pals told us about a couple Jim Morrison sites in the area. Tuesday morning we check them out. 

The first home of Jim Morrison - a private residence that acknowledges the history but discourages accessing the property. 

So you know you're at the right place. Jim was four when the family moved to New Mexico.

Now a motel, this was the hospital where Morrison was born on December 8, 1943.  In the Times UK obituary it was written that he was born in California. He did spend much of his short 27 years there, but he was born right here.
Our first stop after picking up Jim and Diana is the Sea Turtle Conservancy. This center is a focal point of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge and includes exhibits, a presentation hall (with an interesting movie about the major programs in South America), a small research library, and ongoing educational efforts offered to local schools and members of the public. Their hard work and stewardship has had great success protecting and increasing the population of seven endangered sea turtle species.

We're greeted by these baby Loggerheads.

Colorful exhibits are informative without being overwhelming.

A little Halloween humor :-)
Home to thousands of sea turtle nests and hatching babies from May to October each year.
Continuing south we check out the Jungle Trail, an eight mile road originally built in the 1920's for citrus farmers on the sandy barrier island. Very different from the marshlands of the wildlife refuge, this hammock habitat provides a thick, limited-access, environment for birds and other critters. It also provides access to views of Pelican Island - the first National Wildlife Refuge in the United States.

The Centennial Trail lists every wildlife refuge and conservation area monument from 1903 through 2016. Sadly, I will be shocked if we see any more in the following four years. 

Restored wetlands and hydric hammocks.

A refuge we need to visit in Wisconsin!

In the late 1800's Paul Kroegel, a local citizen, took a brave stand using his shotgun to ward off feather hunters from this little island. In 1903, when President Roosevelt made Pelican Island the first NWR, Kroegel was hired as the first refuge manager. He earned $1 per month for two years.

The safety crew.

Our fellow nature loving pals.

Sparkles through the Mangroves.

This end of the trail is bordered on one side by large homes and a golf course on the other. 
Pizza and pasta wrap up our visit, and we say our good-byes-for-now to our friends back at their home. We've met up with these two in six different states over the last couple years, and are looking forward to adding many more!

Our stay here was at Outdoor Resort. Really a trailer park, there are maybe a dozen spaces for RVs out of 575. It is clean and well maintained, but it is very tight. We have a beautiful view of the water from our back yard, but can't put our awning out all the way. Trees and shrubs give us privacy and we're able to connect our satellite. Concrete pad and patio is level, and Tessa has a large grass space to play in the back.

After weeks of mostly heat and humidity, we have absolutely perfect weather!
Pets aren't allowed in the park 1/4 mile north where Jim and Diana stay for the winter, and it is not as nicely maintained, but we would definitely prefer to stay there next time. More room and more friendly :-)

After just a couple days, I can see the appeal of spending a season here. We'll be back!


  1. It was such great fun discovering Merritt Island with you guys! Glad we had great weather while you were here, and that nasty red tide had gone away. Can’t wait to see where our next meetup ends up being! 😎😎🐢😎😎

  2. Those gators are scary critters--we kept Ms. Emmi on a tight leash when in Florida. Love your bird photos!

    1. It's scary how fast they can move! Tessa stayed in the Jeep except when we were away from the water - a long way away!!

  3. Your sunset header photo is fantastic! I can't believe you're in Florida and we're not. :-(( But I'm so glad that you're enjoying the extraordinary beauty of nature there. And I'm extra happy that the weather is being nice to you! Looks like you had a wonderful time with Diana and Jim. Cute photo of the four of you!

    1. We lucked out with our Florida weather and really love the natural beauty of what little we got to see this time. Sad to see so much destruction though :-(

  4. Beautiful header photo! Sure looks like a wonderful time with Jim and Diana with awesome wildlife adventures. What fun! I agree with Laura. Very nice photo of the four of you:)

    1. That sunset blew my mind!! Having that much water to capture all the color was special.

  5. Looks like we got to the Florida East Coast not too long after you left. We're very familiar with that area having stayed many time in Sebastian Inlet State Park. Great place but only for 2 weeks or less and no FHU-water/elec & dump station. Love NWRs so your pictures make me happy happy. Serious envy about having one named after you. Better get up there and check it out. We've done Archie Carr several times but sadly never during nesting time - too hot for me. Also have done the Jungle Trail. Your friends have pointed you in all the right directions.

    1. I thought about you several times, seeing names I've become familiar with from your posts. we're enjoying more and more NWRs and appreciating the preservation of so much beautiful nature.

  6. We just got to the Melbourne area and do have a trip planned up to Merrit Refuge also one of our favorites...

    1. What a great place to spend some slow and quiet time. Hope the great weather holds for you!

  7. So glad you got to rehookup with Jim and Diana. I've never seen a vulture lay like that. Wonder if that's a nest. Such beauty you all discovered and shared. Outstanding sunset header.

    1. Thanks Gaelyn!!

      I've never seen a vulture like that either - it was completely still so a nest is likely.

  8. This looks like a great area to explore. Having a personal tour guide helps too. Hopefully your next visit together can be longer to make up for the shorter length of this one :-)

    1. We love spending time with these two - it's never long enough!!