Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Get out and enjoy Florida's natural gifts

Is it just me, or has this been an especially confusing holiday season?

Thursday was Thanksgiving. It also was Hanukkah. Which meant it was also Thanksgivukkah. The blue and silver menorah cards I'd bought late last year (on sale! ) for my Jewish friends suddenly seemed all wrong.

Speaking of sales, this transformation of "Black Friday'' into "Black Days and Days and Days of Deals'' baffles me entirely.

We're in the market for a new Christmas tree (artificial — you don't want to see what happens to us allergy sufferers around real trees), which seems the ideal Black Whatever Day purchase.

Last Sunday, we sat down with the newspaper, parsed the ads and hatched a plan.

But then we realized it was that rarest of Florida days — cool and overcast but with no rain in the forecast. The tree, we decided, could wait.

We wheeled onto a new-to-us stretch of bicycle trail near the Twin Brooks golf course in Gulfport, and cruised south on a gorgeous, smooth, wide ribbon of concrete that took us on boardwalks over a mangrove forest and through Clam Bayou. Admiring the birds, leaping mullet and "do not feed or molest alligators'' sign, we had to remind ourselves that we were still in Florida's most densely populated county.

Because of a construction project temporarily blocking the trail at 54th Avenue S, we had to pick our way along 31st Street S to pick up the Skyway Trail across from the Magnuson Hotel. Thanks to good sidewalks and crosswalks, it wasn't at all harrowing — and well worth the effort.

Climbing the Dick Misener Bridge, the whizzing traffic on the right is a little unnerving, though you are shielded by a stout concrete wall topped by chain link fencing.

The view over Tampa Bay on the left more than compensates, and there's plenty of room to stop to admire a view that's breathtaking — literally so, if you're not accustomed to riding uphill.

A few more miles down the trail, after stopping to enjoy dozens of swirling and swooping kite surfers, we came to the North Skyway Fishing Pier. Riding well away from casting anglers, we saw folks of all ages haul in their Sunday dinner. Birdwatchers, take note: Even on a bike, you can get close enough to seabirds hoping for a dropped fish to notice the color of their legs.

Signs warned against cutting fishing lines that snagged birds, an instruction that puzzled us at first. But then, at the end of the pier, we saw a fishing line whip around a circling pelican, trapping its wing. In moments, the man controlling the line carefully reeled in the bird, his friend got the line removed entirely — and this is the key part — the men let the bird go so quickly, it didn't have time to take out its wrath on them. Quite the wildlife education.

This may be my favorite time of year to be a Floridian. Hurricane season is over, the spring break frenzy is months away, and so we get our gorgeous beaches, trails and woodlands (mostly) all to ourselves.

We never did get around to buying that fake tree, but we did get something more lasting — a wonderful experience of home. I hope you, too, can find a few hours in this hectic season to give yourself a similar gift.

Get out and enjoy Florida's natural gifts

11/27/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 3:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Florida's school grades improve as educators get the hang of a new system


    Following a trend, Florida's school grades showed strong gains in the third year after the state changed its grading formula and the standardized tests that students take every year.

    After finding out earlier Wednesday that her school went from a low C to an A,  Bear Creek Elementary principal Willette Houston celebrates with her students in the YMCA After School program at the school in St. Petersburg. Houston is giving a high five to rising fifth grader Jonaven Viera. Rising 4th grader Jonathan Cafaro is in foreground with his back to camera. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  2. Tampa Bay woman, 11-year-old boy had sex up to 20 times the year their baby was born, detectives say.


    TAMPA — A woman sexually battered an 11-year-old Brandon boy, got pregnant and raised the baby for three years before a tip led to her arrest, Hillsborough County sheriff's officials said.

    Marissa Mowry, now 25,  had sex as many as 20 times in 2014 with a boy who was 11 when he impregnated her, Hillsborough County detectives allege. [Photo courtesy of Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks


    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  4. Mariners lose lefty Drew Smyly to Tommy John surgery


    SEATTLE — Drew Smyly was the centerpiece to one of Seattle's many offseason moves by general manager Jerry Dipoto. He was a priority acquisition as a proven lefty for the rotation the Mariners believed would thrive pitching at Safeco Field.

    Drew Smyly will undergo Tommy John surgery after being diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Seattle announced the diagnosis on Wednesday, ending Smyly's hopes of returning during the 2017 season. [AP photo]
  5. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times