Sunday, March 6, 2016

February 21, 2016 - South Ponte Vedra, Vilano and Jacksonville, FL

Edith got up three times to be sure she and Erwin did not sleep past 7 am. We don't have an alarm clock!  We are retired and don't need one (of course, we do need it if and when there are early morning plans).  We left the house at 7:10 am, stopped at Gate gas station on way for Erwin to get coffee and a donut.  

Michael and Jessica Stultz were already at the parking lot near gas station in Guana when we arrived.  It was good to see them again.  Michael suggested that we leave our car at Gate parking lot and go ride in his Jeep, since he has an annual pass to go in the recreational area.  Otherwise, it is $3 per vehicle parking fee.

Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTMNERR) has over 70,000 acres of conservation lands including beautiful beaches and dunes.  It is located off A1A in South Ponte Vedra Beach, 8 miles north of Vilano Beach, 17 miles south of Jacksonville Beach. There are hiking trails, small boat ramp, fishing area and Environmental Education Center.  Hiking trails will take you through Mesic Fatwoods, Pine Flatwoods, Maritime Forest, Freshwaster Marsh, and Coastal Scrub. Only foot traffic and bicycles are allowed on trails with the exception of research team in golf carts.

Michael suggested that we go on the Purple road (3 miles), so we went that away.  The walking surface was firmly packed and dry making it very easy to walk.  Of course, we meandered off the beaten path.  It was sad to see litter here and there and if we had a trash bag with us we would have picked them up.   We took a short quick walk on the Yellow road because Michael wanted to show us what the oyster preservation is like.  GTMNERR is striving to shore up the oyster bed because in the past 85% of oyster reefs have been lost to over harvesting and poor water quality.  The absence of oyster reef had created a domino effect of environmental destruction.

Hand in Hand and still in LOVE!
It was this BIG, I swear!!!
Erwin loves trees with burls!

Colorful collection of leaves

Yellow Rumped Warbler

Behind us is a shell midden or shell mound
Indians used the site to dump oyster or mollusk shells
Bobcat or Dog?
More people were starting to show up along the trail.  By the time we got back to the parking lot it was full and Michael said he had never seen so many people. He usually comes to GTMNERR during weekdays when there are not too many people.  

When we got back to where we left our car at Edith made a suggestion that we go out for lunch somewhere near Vilano Beach.  Michael and Jessica suggested to go to Aunt Kate’s and we followed them to the restaurant.    It is a local restaurant and has been around for 100 years.  It is situated on the bank of the Tolomato River.  There are outside decks, but we chose to dine inside.  Fresh catch of the day were flounder, grouper and mahi. 

We split our order of Seafood Special Platter (shrimp, scallops, crab cake and fresh catch with two sides (sweet potato casserole and cheese grits). Michael ordered the seafood platter, also and Jessica had blackened fish tacos.  We all enjoyed our lunch immensely.  Good company, good chat and good foods made the day so great!

We were really tired on way back home. After we got back to our Lil’ Home Edith took a nap right away and fell into deep sleep for a couple hours. Erwin took a nap later, but did not sleep as long as Edith did.  Erwin was still asleep when Edith got out of the bed.  She was going to do something but once she sat down on the cool surface of the sofa she went into sleep mode again and slept until past 6:30 pm.

Edith was lucky that she did not have to prepare and cook supper. There were leftovers and Erwin warmed them up.  That was quick and easy and that is why we love leftovers especially when we do so much in a day and don’t have the time or energy to cook.

We were still tired and sluggish and we did not do much for the rest of the night.  

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