Underwater Adventure, Part 3

Driving half way across the country takes a lot of time, but the benefit is you get to see things along the way that you would normally just fly right over.

Crystal River was one of those places. It’s pretty much smack in the middle of the state, far from any airport, so it’s not even a day trip. But it’s worth it.

Baby manatee nursing on momma manatee!

Because you get to swim with manatees.

Look at that widdle iddy biddy face!

Yes, this entire trip was centered around either education, or wildlife (or both). So?

Manatees swarm the Crystal River area, and the entire town has totally accepted this. You see Manatee Bowling, Manatee Laundry, Manatee Diner, etc. But it is amazingly inexpensive to go swim with the Manatees, and it’s perfectly legal, and not at all frowned upon (see previous post). In this instance, I would do this over and over again, with no hesitation (except maybe if I didn’t have a thick wetsuit. That water was COLD!)

The viewing of manatees is regulated by the US Fish and Wildlife Department, because they are a Federally Listed Endangered Species. So for example, you are allowed to touch them if they come up to you, but if it is on the river bottom you are not allowed to go down to it. That is considered harassment.

Yep, that’s me. Petting a 2-month old baby manatee. Jealous much?

The money brought in to see them in the wild goes towards conservation of the species, and it educates people about them, so it’s pretty much a win-win!

The group we used was great, too. They let us swim as much as we wanted, and even when we were about to leave the boat captain saw another manatee and a baby, and let us jump back into the water! It was such a great experience for us, that we even suggested it to my sister and her husband on their trip to Florida that they took a few months ago, and they had a great time, too!

This was a really great way to end our Florida Adventure, but all it ever really does is make us want to go back again that much sooner!

Underwater Adventure, part 2

As I stated in a previous post, Hubby and I have started going to Florida every year as our summer vacation. We did it as a road trip this year, and drove all the way to Key Largo. It was a very long trip, and once we got to Key Largo, the days kind of blended together.

Our goal for this trip was not just diving, but to get our Rescue Diver certification. This is a lot of work going through drills and scenarios, and the weather was not exactly cooperating, so it was pretty exhausting.

We got to see Jesus-

And tons of undersea creatures!

School of Parrot Fish (can you spot the Grouper?)

We learned a lot, but we were also able to have a lot of fun while we were doing it, and we became pretty close with the dive crew, too!

Part of the Pirate Island Divers Scuba team!

On days when the weather was too choppy to go out on the boat, we went into town to explore. We found the History of Diving Museum-

Historic diving instruments

And what has to be the World’s Largest Carribbean Lobster-

And we had the chance to swim with a nurse shark!

Now, I have mixed emotions about this, but not for the reasons that you might think (unless you know me that well). See, on the one hand, I absolutely love predators so I jumped at the chance to be able to see one up close and touch one. But on the other hand, purposefully habituating predators to associate humans with food is a dangerous idea. Although the shark was perfectly calm and let us rub all over her, we were there to do that. If another diver is there and decides to harrass the shark, she will let the diver get much closer than a non-habituated shark would let him get, before she had to react. And by that time, because of the close contact, the shark would bite rather than swim away (Fight or Flight response). If a person gets bit by a shark, that shark is hunted down and killed. This exact thing is why the dive master for this trip told us he used to have 7 sharks that would come up, and now he’s down to 1. He says that it’s because other dive shops are jealous of his sharks or something, which makes no sense. In actuality, it’s because the sharks were deamed a danger to divers. If these sharks were in an enclosed habitat, I would do it all the time! But because they are wild sharks that are habituated, I will never do this dive again. (Not only this, but the dive crew (Not the same crew we usually dive with) sucked so bad I gave them a horrible review on TripAdvisor.

We had an amazing trip, as I know we will every year. We have actually already booked our plane tickets for our next trip, and we are about to book our hotel! I look forward to those beautiful Key Largo Sunsets everyday. The only problem with them, is that they mean we have one less day in Key Largo.

But, that also meant we were one day closer to the third part of this adventure…

“Cold” Winter Days

As I sit here in Louisiana while someone is trying to fix the heater in the next room and I am in the kitchen with a heater blowing on me, a beanie on my head, and the oven turned on, I am reminded of much colder winter days in my past and think to myself, ‘this ain’t nothin’.”

One year in college, way out in the True West Texas (not that Amarillo is West Texas crap), it was bitter cold. I know, “it’s nothing compared to Northern Winters” but it was cold for a Texas desert! Several days in a row over the Thanksgiving holiday it got UP to 7 degrees F during the day. I don’t even remember what it got down to at night, but it was bitter cold. Hubby and I were working at a vet clinic outside of town and we were completely booked – everyone was boarding their pets for the holiday. That’s all fine and dandy except a lot of our kennels were outdoors. We had tarps up to keep the wind out, and thick blankets down for the dogs, (and we only kept the biggest dogs with the longest hair outside, but their water bowls kept freezing solid. I would go outside every hour and trade their bowls out with warm water from the faucet. We also had horses at the clinic that week, so I would have to go outside with a rubber mallet and a small blow torch to melt the water, so that the floats wouldn’t break from the water expanding as it froze.

One January there was a beautiful ice storm in the middle of the night. Hubby and I got up that morning, and it was so gorgeous, and we had nowhere to be, so he drove me all over town in his 4×4 truck and we took photos of horses and cows in the snow, and the mountains and trees and barbed wire in wrapped in ice.

(That’s not the sun, that’s the reflection of the flash – the only picture I could find of this was from when I was trying to sell my photos on eBay) (Still for sale, by the way, if you were wondering…)

Another year, also in January, Hubby and I decided to go to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. I think it was New Years Weekend. We camped that night in the campground, and the next morning got up to hike Guadalupe Peak, the tallest mountain in Texas. We had a 5 gallon water jug sitting on the table that was half-frozen when we got up that morning! And of course, there is the infamous 14 Degree Weather from my wildhood.

While we were in Grad School, Hubby worked for NRCS through a grant, and that grant sent him to a conference in Grand Junction, Colorado. All I had to do was pay for my plane ticket, and I was able to tag along! This ALSO happened to be in January. (Come on, we lived there for 6 years! The odds are pretty good that it would be cold in January!) While he was at the conference during the day, I stayed nice and warm in the hotel room. But when he was done, we drove up to the Colorado National Monument. It was absolutely beautiful. Red sandstone, green cedar, and white snow. We hiked and drove as long as we could until it got too dark to see anything. We hardly touched the park, with as little of it as we were able to see. I can’t wait to go back.

So memories like these not only make me think of great stories, but they make me realize that I have been through worse, and I came out a stronger, more capable person because of it.

Not that anyone likes to do anything with their fingers tingling and hurting and numb from the cold….but I know it won’t kill me.

Stay warm out there!