Rapids in Tampa??

Yes, if you can call the above rapids, then we do have them in Tampa. At Hillsborough River State Park. According to the Florida State Park website, these are Class II rapids. I visited for the first time in mid-June after several days of heavy rain.

The elevated bridge that crosses the river.

The water in some of the swampier areas of the park looked like tea.

Lots of beautiful old trees along the trails.

The park’s purpose it to preserve the “real Florida”. It was hot, muggy and buggy in June and that’s exactly the real Florida. I had 2 layers of DEET on and still came home with lots of bug bites. I didn’t see a lot of wildlife the morning I was there. Not like all of the other parks I frequent close by. Very few birds but I’m sure there were lots of snakes hiding. It’s about 45 minutes away from my house so not a long drive but I don’t think I’ll go back until winter (which around here means January).

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In the fog at Lettuce Lake Park

The view along the boardwalk and observation tower at Lettuce Lake back in late February. It was just foggy enough that you couldn’t see the other side of the small lake. I love mornings like these. Not many people out so it was very quiet. All above taken with my phone.

I could just make out the grebes swimming close to the tower.

Even in the fog, the bright colors of the azalea bushes were popping out. These were at the entrance to the park. The azalea flowers don’t bloom long here so I caught them at the right time.

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Getting there early

I got to Circle B Bar Reserve just after the sun came up but it was hiding behind the fog. There were a few people already there but the crowds don’t usually come until closer to lunchtime. I love it when it’s so quiet. Only the birds and ducks were making noise.

The fog was really thick this particular morning in early January. It did not burn off until I was leaving.

Bald cypress trees in the middle of the lake. All of these were taken with my phone.

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Looking for an owl

I stopped by the park not to far from my house on the way home from Chesnut Park. I hadn’t been in a while but was wondering if the owls were nesting again this year. It was too early for babies but I did see an adult sleeping in the tree. This was a good sign.

I would nest here too if I was a bird. The old trees are beautiful.

Nearby in the utility tower are the brown boobies. It’s always been rare to see them here but in the last year, a handful of them have been living in the area. Most days they can be seen on the tower. These were taken with my 300mm lens and extender and I cropped these up so they are pretty far out. You can tell the boobies by the white stomachs vs. the many cormorants or anhingas on the tower.

Lots of birds in along the shoreline at the park.

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The Air Force Academy

We stopped for a visit at the Air Force Academy on our way back to Denver from Colorado Springs. I think this was the coldest morning we had in Colorado. We had freezing drizzle that was blowing sideways. Our main visit was the famous chapel. I had seen pictures of it from my cousin who graduated from the Academy many years ago. Through all of the fog and rain, you could see the spires on the top of the chapel. I would have liked to have blue sky behind it but that was not happening on this trip.

The architecture was amazing. Lots of clean lines. Due to the weather, there wasn’t a lot of people there so we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

Lots to look at through the fog.

Also lot of color. The trees were beautiful. The colored rocks were around the parking lot of the visitor’s center. The inside of the chapel was beautiful as well. More on that later….

 

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Staying the Same and Changing at the same time

From the parking lot at Circle B Bar Reserve. The reserve had only been open a few days since Hurricane Irma had hit when I made the trip over to walk the trails. It was closed for almost 6 weeks after the hurricane due to so much damage on the trails.  The most popular trail is still closed since part of the trail was washed out (they don’t want people wading in the swamp with the alligators, go figure!). The one thing I noticed immediately was the lack of leaves on most of the trees around the parking lot. The wind stripped them all away. The above trees were full of green leaves before Irma. It made parts of the park look like the dead of winter even though the weather had still been in the 80’s.

There was still a lot of moss in some of the trees as the sun was coming up over Heron Hideout Trail.

The big dead trees along Marsh Rabbit Run trail were still standing.

Looking across the marsh, I knew it was going to be a perfect morning out.

The trails had downed trees all long the way. It must have taken them a while to move all of those fallen trees off the trail.  The moss still covered the ones that were still standing.

People who come here often complain about the amount of people who now come to the park, especially after the video of the alligator crossing the trial.  It is a free public park after all. If you can get here early in the morning, it’s still a magical place. I like to walk the trails when it’s very quiet. As the big families are heading in right before lunch, I’m heading home for lunch so it works out.

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