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Cape Coral, Florida, United States

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Like Visiting Jurassic Park

Welcome to 6 Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

The Six Mile Cypress Slough (pronounced “slew”) is a 2,500 acre wetland in Fort Myers, Florida, that measures approximately 9 miles long and 1/3 mile wide. This ecosystem is a preserve and natural drainage way collecting runoff water from a 33 square mile watershed area. It is home to many varied species of plant and animal life. During the wet season (June-October) the floor of the slough is covered with 2 to 3 feet of water and provides a wet habitat. The dry season (November-May) is a different scenario with dry conditions fostering brownish scrub grasses and providing an alternative habitat. A must see if you are ever in the Cape Coral/Fort Myers area.  For information click here:
6 Mile Cypress Slough

A steamy, humid quiet morning greeted my arrival at 6 Mile Cypress Slough.  The early morning stillness along with the subtle beams of the morning sun was hypnotic as I made my way down through the parking area into the preserve on the boardwalk trail.  Instantly I was transformed from the asphalt parking area into a botanical wonderland complete with buzzing dragonflies and thick vegetation composed of red maple, slash pines, wax myrtle, cypress swamps and clusters of fern. I was looking for the sign:  Welcome to Jurassic Park!

I was alone the first to enter the slough that July morning.  Camera in hand and a day pack with a few water bottles I made my way to the first way point Alligator Lake home to blue herons, white ibises, and of course alligators .  It was as if I had left the 21st century behind me and transverse back in time. 
I was scanning the overgrowth and the slough floor for any movement- a bird, a reptile, perhaps even a possible sighting of the famed Florida Panther which had been spotted in this area a few months ago.  Small sounds greeted my auditory function - water dripping, a small rustling in the underbrush. Was there something there, lurking, eyeing me as I made my way down the boardwalk?

 Approaching the outdoor amphitheater at Alligator Lake I marveled at the scenery. The morning humidity creeping  into the still morning air had colored  the swamp with a mild haze.

Alligator Lake Sunrise 

Alligator Lake West Shore 

Alligator Lake 

Alligator Lake - Reflections

The 1.4 mile trail  continues on into the depths of the cypress swamp, the forest closes in around you. It becomes a dark place with the rustling of branches and dripping water conjures all sorts of imaginary apparitions.  . Looking  up, and you’ll  see the heavy forest canopy sunlight streaming through here and there.  
I arrived at the observation deck at Wood Duck Pond. Sitting on one of the benches I relished in hydrating with one of the cold water bottles as I observed the stillness of the pond looking for that elusive alligator.  Suddenly  movement on the water caught my eye and yes there he was as a remnant from those prehistoric times the American Alligator was swimming across the bond and into camera range.  A graceful animal with that tell tale armor plating and sleek body design.  Unchanged by evolution and at the top of the food chain I was now on his turf!

After my "gator encounter" I continued on the trail passing large sections of the cypress swamp and large areas of snap ferns.  Many times I turned and looked behind me to see if anyone or anything was on the boardwalk.  Could my gator friend find a way onto the board walk?  Can gators "stalk" you?  Again a run amok imagination was playing all sorts of tricks on me. The only "stalkers" were the occasional lizard and a large grasshopper.  

On to Otter Pond where I was rewarded with numerous ibises and turtles swimming in the pond.  Returning on the main trail there were beautiful venues of vegetation floating on the watery surface, reflections of the overhead canopy where on the water gave it a surreal appearance.  There were numerous growths of snap ferns overtaking the tall trees.  
Turtle sunning on Otter Pond

Reflections on the Slough

They sky and overhead canopy reflecting on the water 

Part reflection and part growth on the surface of the water

Invasion of the Snap Ferns  I called this one the Medusa! You have to admit a sauropod sloshing through the water would make this as a scene from Jurassic Park - the movie! 

A Multitude of Plant Species 

A short walk from Otter Lake and back on the main trail I found my voyage to Jurassic Park coming to a conclusion.  I picked up the sound of footsteps and voices from individuals entering the park.  I was back to civilization.  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bratwurst and Beer with an American Hero

This issue of  Lightframe is dedicated to Don Irwin an American Hero.  Chance  places us at opportune moments in life.  Read on how our trip to Epcot turned into an opportune moment with an American Hero!

It was a hot July  morning at Epcot,
Viv and I had begun our journey at the French Pavilion in World Showcase earlier in the morning.  Our journey "around the world" continued to Japan and Morocco.  Lunchtime was just minutes away and we had made plans to have lunch at the German Pavilion feasting on the succulent bratwurst served there and quenching out thirst with some fine German beer.  It brought back memories of when we lived in Germany many years ago and we would look for those famous bratwurst stands in downtown Nuremberg.  We wanted to eat inside since it afforded us some cool air conditioned comfort and we could enjoy our feast.  Once inside noting that all tables were occupied I went in line and left Viv to pounce on a table once someone decided to leave.  As I stood in line a kind couple offered us to join them at their table. 

Geneva and Don
I picked up our delicious lunch and made my way to the table. I was introduced to Geneva and Don Irwin.  Geneva and Don hail from San Jose and were in Florida to participate at the 2013 National Veterans Wheelchair Games.  This years games were held in Tampa and they had decided to spend the day at Disneyworld as a follow up.  They plan each vacation year in conjunction with the games - supporting the many veterans including a family member who participates in these games.  Between bites of my bratwurst Vivian informs me that Don is a Pearl Harbor Veteran.  It was as if time stood still!  As an avid student of history I can recall almost every book I had read on Pearl Harbor, Midway and other Pacific War events; the personal accounts, the horrific events of the day and the subsequent result of a war in the Pacific that would entail thousands of young men and women  like Don to give the maximum sacrifice so that democracy would eventually proclaim victory. 

Don Irwin - An American Hero!

CV-6 USS Enterprise 1941
Don began telling his story.  On that fateful day in 1941, he was stationed on  USS Enterprise CV-6 the "Big E" one of the carriers that was stationed at Pearl Harbor.  By the grace of God, the carrier task force had been delayed by a storm in the Pacific so was not in port on that fateful December 7th morning.  An event that not doubt spared Don's life! The carriers were the main target of the Japanese fliers on that  morning.  Don recalls coming into Pearl Harbor late that night and leaving shortly thereafter to seek the  Japanese Fleet.  Don was 19 at the time.  Imagine yourself at 19 witnessing the carnage and devastation and knowing that life as you knew it would never be the same again,  After three years in the Navy, Don was now in for the  duration.  There was to be no going home for quite a while.

His time on the "Big E" placed him at the forefront of crucial  historical events.  On April 18th 1942 Don was on the USS Enterprise serving as flagship and escort to sister ship  USS Hornet.  From Hornet's deck brave pilots and crews were the "tip of the spear" delivering  the United States first response to the Empire of Japan.  Sixteen B25 bombers headed toward Japan to bomb Tokyo and other cities.  Also known as the Doolittle Raid, the action had repercussion on both sides of the Pacific.  Japan realized that it was still vulnerable from the onslaught of a Pacific Navy.  For the American people, after tragic losses at Pearl Harbor, the Philippines and Wake Island,  the raid raised American spirits and the message was that America was not down and out but fighting back.


USS Enterprise CV-6 En route to Midway 1942
The Doolittle Raid along with the Battle of the Coral Sea forced Japan to realize that a showdown with the Pacific Fleet was needed to seal victory in the Pacific. .  The result was the Battle of Midway - a plan by the Japanese Navy  to lure the remaining Pacific carrier task forces into a do or die battle.  With the help of naval intelligence, at Pearl Harbor, the plan was discovered and it was the "Big E" along with her sister ships the Yorktown and Hornet that were waiting in ambush for Yammato's fleet.  I listened transfixed as history became alive Don recalling the air strikes on the Japanese carriers as well as overcoming the numerous torpedo plane attacks on the Enterprise and escort ships. Again it was a time of carnage an death on a grand scale. All the books I had read on the subject did not compare to listening to this American Hero retell the events of that battle, the battle that turned the tide in the Pacific.  Japan lost four Class A carriers and would never again be an aggressor in the Pacific.  Still three long years would pass before victory was won.  Don saw action in the Solomon Islands all the way to Iwo Jima. 
US Enterprise CV-6 Battle of Midway 1942

I asked Don if he committed all of his exploits and experiences to paper.  He is planning on doing that.  I hope so because we need to tell the story again and again about these great heroes from the Greatest Generation.  Their youth was dedicated to service for their country, their youth was riddled with pain, death and struggle, their courage allowed them to "step up" and answer the call.  We owe so much to all these men and women who gave so much. We left Don and Geneva with a promise that we would spread the word about the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.  The next Wheelchair Games will be in Philadelphia August 12-17, 2014.  The torch has been passed by Don and his shipmates to a new generation of veterans who have answered the call.  Let's support them.  And remember that freedom is never free!  God Bless Don, Geneva and all of America's veterans!

If you'd like more information on the National Veterans Wheelchair Games Association and how you can help.  Here is the link:  National Veterans Wheelchair Games

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Retirement 1.1 - 365 Days of Saturdays!

After a long absence I am resurrecting my blog - Lighframe - It's been more than a year since I have posted - many events have come and gone since then.  The "Main Event" happened about a year ago when I made the conscious decision to take early retirement from my career at Novartis Pharmaceuticals.  After 22 years at Novartis, 31 cumulative in the industry I made the decision to retire on my terms.  It was a big step with many visits to financial planners at Fidelity, test driving our retirement budget and conducting numerous scenarios with income planners and financial calculators. All the numbers and experts said we could,  still writing your own paycheck every month from your own financial resources is a different world than "working for the man" with benefits and other perks. From now on we were on our own.  Like I said a big step and yet I had this feeling that it was the right move.  The culmination of meticulous planning had taken us to this point in time.  The birth of our granddaughter in March 2011 cemented my decision.  Zoey was going to get to know her "poppie" especially since she lived in Dallas and we were still in Massachusetts at the time.  So as of June 30, 2012 I was retired.  In July we packed our suitcases and other items in our Jeep Wrangler, now my personal vehicle since the company vehicle has gone back to Novartis and headed to Cape Coral FL where our new home purchased 18 months earlier was waiting for us.  The adventure begins.....

June 2012 - December 2012  The Beginning......

The Final Get Together!

A great retirement party from my friends and colleagues at Novartis at Legal Seafood in Natick, MA.
We had a great  time recalling memories and sharing most recent events.  Its like sitting through a bio of your life and you are watching all the film!

I was given this wonderful gift from the group - looking forward to a new future in a new place.  I had voiced that I was going to spend time with my photography and also embark on selling real estate part time to "keep me busy".  This caricature of me hit the nail on the head!  It hangs in my office with the fond memories that came with it from that evening.

Cape Coral - Welcome Home

In my zeal to get to our home I subjected my poor wife to riding in our "iron coffin" -now our only personal vehicle that we owned. the 1997 Jeep Wrangler with only one overnight! Tired and exhausted we pulled into our street.
Mind you we
had only been to our new home occasionally in the past 18 months.  Our exhaustion added to our confusion and we mistook our home twice coming down the street in the dark.  We  found ourselves in uncontrollable laughter amazing what your body does after being cooped up in a Jeep for 14 hours! We finally arrived at our home and exhausted we collapsed in our bed in the spare bedroom.  The rest of our household goods would arrive via truck the next day.  So here I was retired in a new place. The euphoria left in about 48 hours and I found myself pouring into the unpacking process with a fury. After multiple decades of being results oriented and living on schedules and deadlines I found myself executing the same at our new location.  Poor Viv - she was exposed to my "slave driving" eagerness to get our new place up and running and efficient within the next 72 hours!  After being called many choice names it was done a pile of flattened boxes and cartons lying out front waiting for the recycling truck to pick them up.  Now what do I do?  Needless to say that I had not shed that corporate mentality yet so I threw myself into a series of projects that had to be done today!  Because God knows tomorrow would be too late!  Why beats me but that's what felt good at the time!

As time progressed I realized that there is a tomorrow and everything does not have to be done today! I did attain my goal of obtaining my Florida Real Estate Licence.  A grueling 10 day course followed by a long exam.  Felt like being back in some training session but it felt good gave me a sense of accomplishment.

 Memo to those going into or considering retirement - Have A Plan!  Social plans are just as important as having a financial plan.  After all you don't just want to sit in front of a flat screen TV.  The programming is not that great and it will get old pretty fast.  Viv and I had a Social Plan committed that we were not just going to sit around and wait to die.  True that Florida has the nickname of God's Waiting Room due to the influx of the elderly especially during the "Snowbird Season."  And true if this was God's Waiting Room it a great place to wait.  However we planned on doing a lot more living!

 Explore what other interests you have besides work, what your passion is, what you really love, what you really want to accomplish  and have a plan to do it! Put it in writing!  

I made a vow in writing to devote more time to my physical well being, learn a new skill and to devote time to my photography.  I now have a brand new canvas to compose in a new area with striking possibilities.  I want to share these compositions with you via this blog.  I now have no excuse to keep this blog active so stay tuned you'll see a lot of SW Florida and other areas through my photographic journey.  

By the way after 365 days of Saturdays I have acclimated well.  I am happy and I am spending time with Viv as well as going off to Plano or Kansas City to visit our sons and their spouses and of course Zoey.  And yes I did learn a new skill - real estate sales - doing pretty well but committed to keeping it part time- a lot more other living to do! So Retirement 1.1 is in the bag and now we are going into 1.2!

Some Views of Livin' on the River! 

Morning on the Coolasahatchee River

Cape Coral and Fort Myers sit on opposite sides of the Coolashatchee River (it's a mouthful took me a while to effectively pronounce it!).  the name comes from the Calusa Native American tribes who populated the inland waterways in the area.  The Caloo in its short form flows down to the Gulf of Mexico not too far from the Cape and Fort Myers.  This is one of the first photos I took in the early morning.  Downtown Fort Myers sits to the left of the High Point Towers Condominium complex.

Another early morning view on the river looking East!  The Hancock Bridge is to the left.

High Point Towers - Luxury Condominium Complex on the shores of the Caloo! 

 The Fishing Pier in North Fort Myers.  This was an early morning composition the lone fisherman was trying his luck.  As soon as I put my camera and tripod away a pair of dolphins frolicked at the end of the dock.  By the time I retrieved my camera they were swimming out into the Caloo.  Isn't that the way it goes?

 Fort Myers is known as The City of Palms.  The Royal Palm is like the "King of the Palm Trees".  This was taken at Riverside Park on the Caloo.  There are hundreds of these palms throughout the park offering shade and very pleasing to the eye.

 The Hancock Bridge - connecting Cape Coral/North Fort Myers with the City of Fort Myers.
One of three bridges that connects Cape Coral with Fort Myers.  The other two are the Mid Point Bridge and the Cape Coral Bridge.

Strolling on the Caloo - The Cape Coral Yacht Club Beach on the shores of the river provides Cape Coral residents a place to enjoy sand, sun and surf.  Also handball courts, tennis courts, a marina  and beach pavilions are available.

Bird Meeting - What's the beach with out the usual puffins and gulls? Cape Coral yacht Club Beach

The Fishing Pier - located at Cape Coral Yacht Club Beach - great place to fish, hang out, grab some sun, watch the sunset and just enjoy the 350 plus days of sunshine found here at the Cape!

And speaking of sunsets.....these were taken at the Fishing Pier in February 2013.  It's great living on this side of Paradise!