On our last day in Florida together on Valentine’s Weekend, we visited Sanibel Island near Fort Myers, which was closer to the Southwest Florida International Airport where Derek would need to pick up his rental car for the week.
It was a long drive to Sanibel but it became exciting as we crossed the Sanibel Causeway onto the island. The causeway is a 3-mile bridge over the San Carlos Bay which seems as if you are driving up a roller coaster to heaven.
The traffic on Sanibel Island was pretty exhaustive with bumper to bumper vehicles entering and exiting on one main road directed by police. It would have been faster to bike to our destination, but we were already committed at this point. We finally made our way to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and found that it would be another one-way slow drive through the park to see the wildlife.
Instead, we opted to run our way through the refuge to get out of the car and get a first-hand look at nature. Our only problem was that we would be running from 11 am -12 pm at the heat of the day and had no water. So we bought a recyclable water bag (it was the only container sold at the gift shop) and filled it up at a drinking fountain before going on our way.
Starting at the entrance gate, we took the Indigo Trail for a 2 mile loop out to the main road to the overlook areas.
This proved to be an excellent choice because we finally got to see…an alligator!
This put us a little on edge as we continued on our run because there was not fencing on the trail preventing alligators from crawling out of the water and crossing our running path. I suppose this signage (below) should have put as at ease.
There were so many birds and creatures along the way that we stopped several times to take pictures (and water breaks)!
I was feeling a little light-headed in the heat so we let the birds be and ran back for a round trip just over 4 miles.
We got off the island and had pulled pork and brisket in downtown Fort Myers before saying our good-byes at the Fort Myers airport. I took the alligator alley (I-75) back to Fort Lauderdale where my plane departed Sunday evening before driving back from Chicago to Indiana late that night.
On a side note, always gas up completely before embarking on a two-hour drive through the Everglades. There are only scenic overlooks, no exits or gas stations, between Naples and Fort Lauderdale on that section. My tank hovered dangerously close to the gas line until I came across the wonderful Miccosukee Indian Reservation to fill my tank with another 50 miles still to go.
It was a difficult farewell for me but I could never have dreamed of being able to have a vacation with Derek like this in mid-February. South Florida is like being in a completely different world where big birds fly low overhead and warm air basks all day long. I’ll keep these happy memories with me and look onward and upward to the future.
Much love from Naples,
Ashley and Derek Jager