Monthly Archives: December 2013

Jumping Jellyfish & Peaceful Panthers on Jupiter Island

tim hunter on rocksWe headed north the other day for a family road trip. Uncle Andy was off to go marathon canoe training with a group of people on Jupiter Island so we all jumped in the car to tag along. After a MUCH too early start for some of us (up at 6:30 and out the door by 7:00) we all managed to wake up and get into the fun.

tim over beach rocks

After dropping Andy off we headed over to Blowing Rocks Preserve. It is a Nature Conservancy site that has a great reputation for successfully modelling full scale coastal habitat restoration. There is a coastal limestone ridge that runs along the beach that makes it a neat place to explore at both low and high tides. At low tide you can run along the beach and check out the structures from underneath. At high tide, they turn into blow holes with the surf pushing through them. We were aiming for the low tide experience but unfortunately it was a high wind day so the tide never went out as fully as anticipated. As always, we still managed to have fun – we ran along the beach avoiding the jellyfish and then ran along the tide trying not to get wet (some were more successful than others…).

We headed back into town to meet up with Andy and have a lunch picnic at the Jupiter Island Lighthouse. It is a really well maintained historic site. We had hoped to just walk up the stairs and check out the view but that’s not an option and we all voted that the tour price was a bit steep.

We decided to head west over to the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary and check out the animals. It is by donation only and a great place to spend a few hours on a sunny afternoon. The trails are easy to walk and the animals are well displayed. We found the above bee hive on the black bear trail (makes sense and all – bees… honey…). In addition to having animals for engagement and education, the sanctuary also does rescue and rehabilitation.

All of their animals come from rescues or seizures. They have 6 panthers and they were all seized from people that were trying to keep them as pets or for other purposes???

Christmas in Florida – all part of the adventure

opening stockings


We have all agreed that the holiday season does not seem quite as festive without the snow. Having said that, Tim and I are NOT missing the snow 🙂 Having a different Christmas this year is just one more piece of our 8 month adventure. The important part was that we were with family and friends – oh, and that Santa found us…

Hunter has been sleeping in every morning until 9:30 or 10:00, at which point in time we go and actually wake him up. With that in mind, we figured it would be safe to assume the pattern would be consistent for Christmas morning. With a house full of adults (Grandpa Bob, Grandma Liz, Aunt Shannon, Uncle Andy + Andy’s mom Otti), it was suggested that present opening start at 9:30. Hunter agreed and even asked me to come and wake him up at 9:15 so he could get his stuffies organized… Well – he ended up waking up at 4:30 and was so excited that he couldn’t go back to sleep. He was wide awake when Grandpa got up at 7:00 so he got hauled out for a bike ride to kill some time (this is when we round the firetrucks Christmas morning).

new bike from santa

Once we got the rest of the adults up and moving, we launched into PRESENTS… Santa came yet again this year and brought a new skate park/trick bike, some Star Wars action figures and some movies for the road. Hunter also pitched in and helped everyone else with their present opening.

Other fun gifts were the annual Hess Truck from Grandma & Grandpa and the pogo stick from Mom & Dad.

At home we have a tradition of going outside to play between presents and Christmas dinner. It stated with running the dogs and then evolved to just “playing”. Keeping with that theme, this year we went Gator Hunting in the everglades with Grandpa Bob and Uncle Andy. Referred to as “Gator Dynasty”, Hunter got in the spirit by dressing in some of his new camouflage wear and bringing his new binoculars from Santa.

searching for gators from shore


We paddled for two and a half hours and saw well over 20 alligators, ranging from 18 inches to 10 feet in size. The 10 foot ones are really LARGE – especially when they charge you from the bank and come much to close to your boat (referred to as the LEE screaming incident). I have a 5 foot gator-free comfort zone and there were a few times when this was violated. The scream came when a large alligator charged off the bank just as Bob & Andy’s went by. It dove into the water and came up to the surface, somewhat agitated, just to the left of me in the front of our boat. I screamed which caused Hunter to scream 🙂

Boxing day was family “cut down a tree” day to help work off all the turkey and sweets. Andy had a large tree in his front yard that needed to come down and it turned into a full family project to cut it down, cut it up and get it to the curb in time for the large hauler truck to come and pick it up.

In between all this fun, we have been playing in the pool and having fun with the local wildlife…

While we didn’t have snow, a big tree and hot chocolate this year, we still had family and cheer and never ending food and fun. Thanks to everyone for a memorable Christmas in South Florida!

Fire Trucks, Fire Trucks, Fire Trucks

fire truck fire hall 4

To say that Hunter is “into Firetrucks” is a significant understatement. Thanks to Tim having worked as a volunteer fireman for Mount Lorne Fire Department for 5 years, Hunter has experienced Fire Trucks in an intimate way. He has also extensively studied the Mighty Machines Fire Hall episode.

The Parkland, Florida Fire hall is right on our bike route so we have been checking it out on a daily basis. Some days the trucks are out and some days they are not. Hunter quickly noted exactly what kinds of trucks they have, the colours and features etc. We were puzzled with their colour – why were they green? On one of our daily bike rides we stopped in and chatted with a fireman and learned that the government doing the purchasing gets to pick the colour. Parkland is very focused on the aesthetics of the municipality and therefore all of their municipal vehicles are Green. From a fireman’s perspective, this is not great as you are not as noticeable and recognizable…

One day as Tim and I were returning from our morning walk we came across a whole host of emergency response vehicles for a small car accident. We went home and hauled Hunter out of bed to check it out – he was quite thrilled…

Christmas morning we were lucky to catch the Firemen pulling the truck out for their daily run through. They were fabulous with Hunter, letting him climb up into the firetruck and giving him a thorough tour and run-down on all the pieces of equipment. Even Grandpa Bob had fun!

Gumbo Limbo Nature Centre

hunter turtles


The Gumbo Limbo Nature Centre in Boca Raton is a wonderful stop for families. It’s a non-profit, with entry by donation, and is part turtle rescue sanctuary, part research facility with the Florida Atlantic University and part aquarium with wonderful sea tanks to check out.

We arrived in time to watch the feeding at the deep water tanks. It was fun to watch the frenzy of fish as they all grabbed for food and yet managed not to grab each other!

We also checked out the Sea Turtle Rehab centre and learned some neat facts about all the different kids of turtles!

turtle rescue


turtle rescue 2

They also have a short boardwalk trail through the mangroves, along with a 40 foot observation tower where you can see both the beach and the inland waterway.

family photo

If you paid attention on the boardwalk, you could find lots of little critters… You even got to see Gumbo Limbo, which are red barked mangrove trees.

Fort Lauderdale Museum of Discovery & Science

science centre entry


The Fort Lauderdale Museum of Discovery & Science was such a memorable experience from our visit last year that it was top of Hunter’s list for us to do again. Downtown Fort Lauderdale is about 30 minutes south of where we are staying so we headed out for our “day in town” on Wednesday, thinking it would be relatively quiet as other kids are still in school.

We pulled into the parking garage across the street just after opening and had to burst out laughing as we could see 6 school buses in front of the entry way and more pulling up. Turns out this is a great place for field trips just before school lets out for the holidays!

hunter flying wings


Hunter’s favourite area is the flight & space section. They have 6 flight simulator for different air craft and other activities that teach you about aerodynamics. The above photo is Hunter wearing airplane wings with the wind blowing at him so he can sense the different angles and impacts.

tim fighter jet


The museum has some other cool exhibits like the Florida Everglades simulator, a fun group of river otters, a section on emergency medicine & health that lets you try out robotic surgery and a section of other local snakes, spiders & alligators from Southern Florida. We spent 4 hours there and at least 50% of the time was up in the airplane simulators – boys and their toys 🙂

patio lunch

We made the most of being downtown and enjoyed a late patio lunch in the sunshine. Thinking about all the snow and cold at home and being grateful for the break…