Posts Tagged With: fitness

Kayaking Adventures at Fort DeSoto (Day 2)

Day 2 of our kayaking adventures took us to Fort DeSoto – a 1,136 acre nature preserve on the southern tip of St. Petersburg. Mullet Key is the big island of the park and it’s shaped like a “V” – the eastern part dips into Tampa Bay while the western part of the park is in the Gulf of Mexico.

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I had read that Fort Desoto is great for kayaking and birding. There’s a canoe trail that’s just about 2.5 miles long or for the really ambitious paddlers (and something that’s on my kayaking bucket list), the trail around the perimeter of the island is 10 miles. We launched our kayaks at the apex and paddled due north on our way to North Beach.

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Mangroves lined the waterways

It was a beautiful day for kayaking! I like to hit the water early so as to avoid as many other people as possible. For most of the day, we were the only kayakers paddling Mullet Key Bayou.

This park is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail

This park is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. This pelican was sitting at the very top of a mangrove tree, soaking in the sun.

This trail was different than the day before at Weedon Island, in that the waterways were much wider here and there were fewer mangrove tunnels. But there was definitely more active wildlife at this park!

The one mangrove tunnel we found - full of crabs and oysters

The one mangrove tunnel we found – full of crabs and oysters

Mangroves

Mangroves

We had quite a ways to go to get from the launch to the top of Mullet Key and eventually to North Beach. We’d paddle for a while, rest in the sun, talk, eat lunch…. one time we were resting and we started to drift closer to shore. I noticed we were approaching what looked like a random patch of sea grass…until the “sea grass” started moving! The waves pushed us within 5 feet of the “sea grass” until we saw a big snout come up to the surface – it was a manatee! The manatee looked like it was larger than our kayaks but before we could whip out our cameras to snap a picture, it meandered away from us. Because manatees are a protected species under Florida law, it’s illegal to chase them and/or approach them unless they come to you. As painful as it was for us to let it swim away without a picture, we bid the beast adieu and went in search of more excitement.

Perfect weather

Perfect weather

We paddled up to the top of the key and as soon as we rounded the tip from mangrove waterway to open water, the wind picked up. We didn’t have to battle whitecaps but there was enough of a breeze and current that made for a long trek to North Beach. By the time we beached our kayaks on the sand, our arms felt like Jell-O.

The open water was a bit rough because of the light wind but the breeze was nice

The open water was a bit rough because of the light wind but the breeze was nice

The tip of Ft. DeSoto is an island (at high tide) but we must have timed it perfectly because we ditched our kayaks and walked around the island looking for shells. It was nice to stretch our legs for a while and explore in the sand during low tide.

In 2005, Fort DeSoto was named America's Best Beach!

In 2005, Fort DeSoto was named America’s Best Beach!

Looking for shells

Looking for shells

A freshly dead horseshoe crab we dragged onto the beach  - about the size of a dinner plate.

A freshly dead horseshoe crab we dragged onto the beach for a picture – about the size of a dinner plate.

Once we got back to our kayaks, we jumped back in the water and headed across the channel to Shell Key.

The southern tip of Shell Key is just a few hundred feet north of the tip of Ft. DeSoto, so it's easy to access by boat.

The southern tip of Shell Key is just a hundred feet or so north of the tip of Ft. DeSoto, so it’s easy to access by boat.

Once parked on Shell Key, we scoured the untouched beaches for more shells. The shells here were smaller than the ones on Ft. DeSoto but we found some very cool calcified coral tubes.

Both Fort DeSoto and Shell Key are great for shelling

Both Fort DeSoto and Shell Key are great for shelling

Sep and me on Shell Key - the water was really that blue!

Sep and me on Shell Key – the water was really that blue!

We walked the beach for a while and on our way back to our kayaks, I spotted something weird floating in the water. Getting closer for a better look, I realized it was a JELLYFISH!

Taking pictures of the jellyfish!

Taking pictures of the jellyfish!

Neither of us has ever seen a jellyfish in the wild before!

Yes, it IS alive!

Yes, it IS alive!

Once we returned home, we found the jelly online and learned that it was Mushroom Cap Jellyfish and is harmless to humans. I must have taken 50 pictures of this thing – I was just so fascinated by it! Thankfully, as we began our trek back to the launch, the wind died way down. The water was calm, there were no waves and it made for easy paddling on our already sore arms.

Calm water

Calm water

On our way back to the mangroves, we found ourselves in the middle of a bunch of mullet (fish) jumping out of the water! There was so much splashing all around us as they leaped and skipped out of the water.

Resting for a picture

Resting for a picture

I think my tattoo does a pretty good job of representing me.

My tattoo

My tattoo: Adventure

We retraced our waves back through the mangroves and when we came out of the tunnel, we heard weird noises…

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… like water spraying…

Dorsal fin!

Dorsal fin!

It was dolphins! We heard them blowing water as they came up to the surface for air! September and I sat quietly in our kayaks, just floating, so we didn’t disturb them. We think there were 3-4 dolphins in this little cove. I think they could sense our excitement as we quietly took picture after picture of them because the more excited we were, the more they’d swim around our kayaks. One of the dolphins swam right UNDER my kayak and came up on the other side! It flicked its head and swam close enough to my boat that had I not been taking pictures and video, I could have touched it.

I did not zoom in this picture - the dolphin was really that close to me!

I did not zoom in this picture – the dolphin was really that close to me!

The dolphins played around our kayaks for probably 20 minutes. When we were entranced by one, another would pop up right behind us! It was absolutely incredible. People pay for that kind of experience and here we were, having a lovely day kayaking and nature-spotting when a group of wild dolphins thought it’d be fun to play with us. AWESOME!

Bye dolphins!

Bye dolphins!

Sep and I could hardly believe what we had just witnessed. We’re still in disbelief that we happened to be in the right place at the right time. The Florida wildlife continues to amaze us and this was, by far, the best kayaking experience we’ve ever had!

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Kayaking Adventures at Weedon Island Preserve (Day 1)

Last week, I decided it was time to get back on the water and go paddling. It has been months since our last kayaking trip and the 80-degree January weather is perfect for being outside. Marsha, our friend down the street, graciously loaned us her kayaks for two days while I mapped paddling routes that we’ve never explored before.

The first day, we were set to paddle Weedon Island – a marshy, mangrove-covered preserve on the west side of St. Petersburg (right on Tampa Bay). The kayak trail is 4 miles of loops, tunnels and swamps and we couldn’t wait to launch our boats!

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Weedon Island Preserve is in northwest St. Petersburg, right on Tampa Bay

There's a big map at the launch but it never occured to us to take a picture of it before we put in...

There’s a big map at the launch but it never occured to us to take a picture of it before we put in…

The trail is marked with these special signs. They’re especially helpful deep in the mangroves when it’s very easy to get turned around. However, in order for the signs to be effective, I’d have to look at them and make note of what markers we passed…

The trail loop is 4 miles long

The trail loop is 4 miles long

Being the excited, impulsive person I am, I failed to check the tide charts before launching our kayaks. We ran a couple of grounds, had to pull the kayaks over oyster beds and eventually, we had to turn around and do the paddling trail backward – finish to start.

Low tide made some of the trail impossible to pass

Low tide made some of the trail impossible to pass

It pays to pay attention to the tides

It pays to pay attention to the tides, I’ve learned

For Christmas, my parents bought me a new digital camera – one that’s waterproof and perfect for rugged adventures. Low tide was a great time to shoot pictures of the conchs and lightning whelks living in the sand.

Testing my new waterproof camera

Testing my new waterproof camera

The low tide also made for the easy stingray spotting! Unfortunately, they scoot away pretty quickly, so it was difficult to take good snaps. Plus, they seem to enjoy resting on the sand in the sun and we felt bad disturbing them.

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Both of these rays were maybe 10-12 inches in diameter

Both of these rays were maybe 10-12 inches in diameter

We’re not avid birders but Weedon Island is a fantastic spot to see all kinds of native Florida birds. We spotted Roseate Spoonbills (they’re pink like flamingos with a platapus-looking bill), Great Blue Herons, Ibis, Egrets and many others that we had never seen before.

Spoonbill looking for shrimp

Spoonbill looking for shrimp

Heron stalking fish in the water

Heron stalking fish in the water

Because we didn’t have a map (nor did we take a picture of the map at the trailhead) and we were paddling the trail backwards, it was up to my [very good] innate sense of direction to get us on the trail and keep us from getting lost. While we were figuring out the numbered sign system, we stumbled upon a beautiful mangrove tunnel. The tunnel was so long and had such a relaxing current, it was like floating down a lazy river. We hardly had to paddle!

September riding the current in the mangrove tunnel

September riding the current in the mangrove tunnel

Mangrove tunnels are so quiet and relaxing and provide nice shade from the direct sun.

Mangrove tunnels are so quiet and relaxing and provide nice shade from the direct sun.

Once we made it through the mangrove tunnel, we finally figured out where we were and the numbered signs were easier to follow. (Before we realized we had turned around and were doing the trail backwards, it was so confusing to go from marker #3 to marker #37!) We decided to deviate from the trail a bit and check out Tampa Bay.

The Bay looks HUGE from the water level - boy did I feel small!

The Bay looks HUGE from the water level – boy did I feel small! That’s the city of Tampa in the background.

Back on the trail again, we spotted some more stingrays and various birds and oyster beds. The last part of the trail (which is really the first part of the trail, if you follow the markers in order) was our favorite – it was 1-2 miles of mangrove tunnels, one right after another!

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We were the only ones in the tunnel for a long time and while we floated through the scraggly branches, we heard little noises coming from the trees…

CRABS!

CRABS!

Mangrove Tree Crabs were everywhere! What we thought were just knots in the bark of the mangroves were really dozens of crabs climbing the plants’ roots. THOUSANDS of crabs scurried around us as we floated through the tunnels. And once we realized how many there were, it gave us the jitters. After a bit of research, we later learned that the crabs are primarily herbivores. Thank goodness.. because there were a ton of them and only 2 of us.

The winding tunnels were incredible

The winding tunnels were incredible

I floated through the various tunnels with my mouth agape the whole time – in awe that something so amazing was just a few minutes drive from our house! We eventually made it through the last of the tunnels and back to the beginning of the trail (for us, the end of the trail).

We made it back to marker #3, right where we turned around at low tide.

We made it back to marker #2/3, right where we turned around at low tide.

It was a successful kayaking adventure. I was still riding the high from the amazing mangrove tunnels, convinced that nothing else could top the experience we had just had. Little did I know, the next day would go down as one of our TOP kayaking adventures of all time…

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The Color Run – St. Petersburg

Saturday was the big day! September and I ran The Color Run 5K in downtown St. Petersburg here in Florida. There were THOUSANDS of people, all dressed in clean white shirts and ready to run.

Bright white shirts to start the race.

Bright white shirts to start the race.

There were so many people, they had to start different heats every 20 minutes.

There were so many people, they had to start different heats every 20 minutes.

In our “swag bags” (the bag you get when you sign up for the race that’s full of complimentary goodies), we had sweat bands, temporary tattoos, free t-shirts and our own, individual bags of colored powder to use at the finish line.

My personal pouch of turquoise color. It was very tempting to open it and throw it at the start... but I'm glad we waited...

My personal pouch of turquoise color. It was very tempting to open it and throw it at the start… but I’m glad we waited…

At every kilometer, volunteers threw colored powder onto runners. First up was pink! And thank goodness we both wore sunglasses – you can’t see anything through cloud of color!

All you could see was a cloud of pink dust - thank goodness we wore sunglasses!

September running through color #1 – PINK!

Next up…

K #2 was all BLUE!

K #2 was all BLUE!

The third kilometer in the race was ORANGE.

The volunteers just get covered in powder!

The volunteers just get covered in powder!

So much color and we weren't even finished!

So much color and we weren’t even finished!

Kilometer #4 – YELLOW!

Approaching the yellow cloud...

Approaching the yellow cloud…

September running and taking video

September running and taking video

The last round of color was at the “finish festival”.

Made it to the finish!

Made it to the finish!

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When prompted, everyone open their color pouches and throws their colors in the air!

When prompted, everyone opened their color pouches and threws their colors in the air!

Crazy color!

Crazy color!

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We had such a fun time running this race! To see if there’s a Color Run coming to your city, click here!

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Awesome, Easy Smoothie Recipe

I’m on this new health kick and have been making lots of smoothies for breakfast and lunch. (Dropped 4 lbs in 1 week!) I’m not really a fan of recipes (too many directions – I don’t exactly follow directions) – I prefer to experiment in the kitchen. Smoothies are fun to play with because you can mix a bunch of fruits, veggies and dairy together and the creations are endless! My most recent concoction is absolutely DELICIOUS and was the result of portion-controlled experimentation. Packed with protein and antioxidants, this smoothie makes for a fresh breakfast and is great post-workout.

 

 

Recipe (throw all ingredients into the blender and liquify!):

  • 1 c. lite soy milk
  • 1/2 c. non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 c. blueberries (frozen)
  • 1/2 c. grapes (frozen OR thawed – I usually freeze them)
  • 1/2 c. cranberries (frozen OR thawed – I usually freeze them)
  • 1 Tbsp. Agave Nectar (optional – for a little sweetness)
  • A couple shakes of ground cinnamon

About the ingredients:

Soy milk – I’ve never been a fan of milk (despite my obsession with cheese), so I use soy milk. September’s also lactose-intolerant, so soy milk is a perfect alternative. Soy milk is a great source of protein and calcium without the possibility of hormones from regular cow’s milk.

Greek yogurt – TONS of protein, twice as much as regular yogurt! It has probiotics that are good for your gut, loads of potassium (good for muscles post-workout), and up to 20% of the daily recommended amount of calcium! Not to mention, it’s a perfect substitute for lots of other things in the kitchen.

Grapes, blueberries and cranberries – all are full of antioxidants that help prevent disease and slow aging. They’re heart-healthy, digestive-healthy, good for urinary tract health, and Vitamin C. In this smoothie recipe, they’re just the right fruits for a tangy, slightly sour morning burst.

Agave Nectar – this is a great, NATURAL substitute for sugar. It’s made from the same agave plants that tequila comes from (no wonder I love it so much!) and doesn’t have any preservatives.

Cinnamon – in this recipe, I add cinnamon for that extra spark. In addition to being delicious, it’s health benefits include stabilizing blood sugar, lowering bad cholesterol, anti-clotting effects, and is a good source of calcium, manganese, fiber and iron.

Enjoy!

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The Color Run – America’s Twist on India’s Holi Festival

On December 15, September and I will run a 5K race (3.1 miles) called The Color Run. Unlike many other races, The Color Run is about fun fitness with friends and family, not speed. It encourages people to be come out and be active through COLOR. At each kilometer of the race, volunteers douse racers with neon-colored powder. Participants wear white shirts at the starting line and by the end of the race, everyone looks like a tie dyed rainbow covered in yellow, orange, pink and blue ! (It makes for great pictures.)

Photo courtesy of The Color Run

Photo courtesy of The Color Run

Photo courtesy of The Color Run

In addition, if you’re familiar with Indian or Hindu culture, you may have heard of the Holi Festival or the Festival of Colours. This annual celebration in India commemorates the beginning of Spring and the defeat of evil. (While not an overly religious holiday in India, it does mark the death of the demoness, Holika, who was defeated and burned by Lord Vishnu. I.e.: good triumphing over evil.) The highlight of the Holi Festival, like The Color Run, is the brightly colored power thrown at people. There’s dancing, food, music and even a wickedly big bonfire.

Who would have thought that Festival of Colours half the world away would inspire a running event here in the states?! Very cool.

Even elephants participate in the Holi Festival!

Look familiar?

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