Monday, 18 March:

Day Four - Southward to sunshine!

Awoke 0715 and it was still raining; had been raining steadily since 2300 the night before - sometimes raining quite hard. Something got wet in most of the tents. Dr. J and Dr. Cunningham had the wettest tent; their tent was something like a waterbed. Tough to heat coffee/cocoa water in the rain; tougher to do without, or to break camp. We move supplies to a shelter house to fix breakfast, and the rain slacked off around 0900. This allowed us to dash back to the campsite from breakfast and pack up camp. We loosely rolled the tents and put them in the bus and kept that gear needing drying on the top of the gear piled into the van. We were able to leave Suwannee River State Park 0940, in rather threatening weather.

Stopped for fuel in Lake City, having temporarily outrun the rainy weather front. We decided to find a laundromat and dry out our gear; we were also able to dry the tents out in the very windy conditions ahead of the front. While we laundered and dried and lunched, the front caught up, and we left in heavy rain for south Florida.

Most of the day was spent on the road. We took I-75 southward, through Gainesville, where it was raining so hard that the traffic on the Interstate was slowed down to 40 mph. Passed near Tampa, Sarasota and Naples, and saw the change of ecosystems as we progressed south: cypress domes and orange groves became common. Orange trees were in flower in places and the perfume of the flowers was a pleasing novelty. Weather reports were not particularly positive, so we decided to head all the way to Collier-Seminole State Park (CSSP), below the front.

Arrived CSSP 1930, and immediately set up camp so we could find dinner. This was our only crowded campsite of the trip! An hour later we headed for Naples in search of dinner, hungry enough to eat almost anything. We got lucky and found a very good Mexican meal at Amigo's, on the Tamiami Trail.

Upon returning to CSSP, most of us set out on a night hike. We were able to see the edge of a hammock, some open park areas and a mangrove bay site. Lots of neat critters out and about. We saw some preying mantids which were an ashy grey that almost exactly matched the trunks of the royal palms that they were hunting on. Carpenter bees were burrowed into the timbers of some of the park constructions, and anoles and a carolina wren were hiding asleep; southern leopard frogs, Cuban treefrogs and blue crabs were out and about - the latter mating.

Several of us stayed up until after midnight talking, and then a raccoon showed up.

-TPo and EJ