So let’s return to Sanibel Island, where for eight days in mid-December, we walked barefoot on the beach, played in the surf, and biked miles every day in sandals, shorts (Eric), and skirts (me).
Sanibel is lovely. We first visited the island about 12 years ago for a couple of days, and promised ourselves that we would return. And so we did, this time with our trailer in tow, staying right smack in the middle of town at Periwinkle Park. It is the only place to camp on Sanibel. Given the demographics of Sanibel (the average home price is $600,000—and that’s for a condominium) it’s amazing that this park exists at all.
About half of Periwinkle Park is an assortment of trailers/park models with permanent residents; the rest of the park is set aside for travelers. There’s also a large contingent of tropical birds (mostly rescues) that reside in the center of the park, with morning bird shows offered several times a week. It’s virtually impossible to get a site at Periwinkle Park from the last week in December until the first of April. But the middle of December is the perfect time to visit—there are few tourists, the beaches and town and bike paths are uncrowded, and the town is decked with zillions of lights and decorations for Christmas. It’s festive and fun.
The birding on Sanibel is fantastic—more than half of the island has been set aside as wildlife refuges, with Ding Darling refuge the best known and the largest. We had a great time biking to the refuge from Periwinkle Park (about 18 miles round trip) and kayaking in the refuge. The numbers of wading birds are astonishing—including roseate spoonbills, one of my favorites. Spending so much time observing the birds, we invariably notice something new—this time, we watched the snowy egrets dragging their bright golden feet through the water as they flew, and later found out that the egrets use their feet to lure fish to the surface.
The shelling on Sanibel is legendary, and we found ourselves irresistibly drawn to collecting shells on our daily beach walks. Collecting anything except photos and memories is not a habit to cultivate while living in a small trailer. Nonetheless, we are now traveling with a miniature shell collection. Fortunately, to help limit our collecting, many of the shells we found contained live critters, and those, of course, we promptly returned to the sea. (Although one afternoon after biking back to our trailer and spreading our loot out on the picnic table, one of the shells hiked itself up and started walking across the table—oops. We quickly took him back to the beach.)[portfolio_slideshow]