You never know what will come of your friendships with neighbors. In the fall of 2002, my husband, children and I moved into a home in Northern Virginia which backed up to a much older, Antietam, farm house with trellis anchored flowers growing up the white siding layered with generations of paint. For years we heard about her home in Captiva, Florida. Last year we travelled with her to St. Louis for the total eclipse, and this year we dared to ask if we could see her Captiva home.
In July, I spent a week exploring this property with my family, and enjoying the benefits of the Gulf to inlet sized property–a rarity these days in Captiva, as most of the lots have been broken into smaller parcels. We could fish, kayak or paddle board off the back dock, and as we did, had a Manatee and a Dolphin swim within an arm’s length of the dock. My son and niece were thrilled at the sighting, and so was I. In nearly thirty years of visiting Florida, I hadn’t taken the time to go see these trusting, docile creatures nearly decimated by boaters, pollution, and development.
If that wasn’t enough of a treat, we also were privileged to have a family of Osprey living on manmade, nesting pedestals high in the tree line. All day long we were witness to their pattern of eating on a shaded dead branch of a large laurel in the front, over the driveway, and then napping within the shade of the huge Banyan tree out back. We were also privy to their privy, if you will. They are fairly impressive in this activity, as well, if you think of it as a type of spitting contest. Couldn’t help but get a photo of this!
This was just the beginning of the intrinsic and natural beauty we witnessed while staying in the circa 1949 Florida style home, which had a certain Frank Lloyd Wright simple, humble, sensibility to its design. Thankfully, it wasn’t posh, but it was comfortable, practical, and nostalgic. Each bedroom had a private bath, as well as a screened common area and family room.
The pièce de résistance was a mature Banyan tree in the rear of the property, so large you could only really appreciate the size of its canopy from the water off the back. At night, lit by landscape lights, it was the centerpiece and visible from most all rooms. Had I not stubbed my toe badly on the first day, I would have climbed up to see what views might exist from high in its branches. Though, the giant Banana Spiders with equally large webs were an substantial deterrent to that climb. I’ve read they are relatively non-aggressive. No one ventured beyond the first level of branches.
Across the inlet off the dock on the rear of the property is Buck Key Preserve which is a kayaker’s dream with a sizable cove and at least one canal maintained by the Army Corp of Engineers. The cove was frequently used as safe harbor for small craft during several coastal storms through the years. There’s even an abandoned boat in there that ran aground during a storm and the owner just ended up living there for some period of time. You can still see his reclining chair. The canal is also safe harbor for many of the exotic birds that inhabit the area. It’s a great spot for photographers and bird watching, or a great place to escape the Sun for a while. Just down the road is another treasure for biking and bird watching. Ding Darling State Wildlife Refuge hosts many exotic species of birds including the Roseate Spoonbill. There was concern about Red Tide in the area during my visit, but we didn’t notice it near the house. On the beach we did notice a number of dead blow fish washing up and even a dead sea turtle. There was also word of a dead whale down the beach on Sanibel Island.
A Photographers Dream
From a photographers point of view it was overflowing with worthy material–as long as you brought your bug spray and can endure some heat. I got a rude welcome when I went out for my first sunrise on the dock and neglected to put some on. I didn’t make that mistake again, but suffered with the bites from that one morning for a while. I could have easily filled my days with just photographing the Osprey, but that would have meant I missed so many other shots. During any point of the day the light on the Banyan tree changed and highlighted different features.
I’ll be back in Captiva to enjoy the canals of Buck Key and the wildlife in and around it. This is one of those areas you visit and remember why we protect land from overdevelopment and certain animals threatened by development. On the beach, the nests of many sea turtles were marked for protection. These areas and these animals are priceless and deserve continued protections under the Endangered Species Act.
Periodically, I teach a travel photography class at the REI, Tysons Corner, VA. The class is free but space is limited, so please reserve your spot by going to the Classes and Events area of the REI website. Don’t have a date for the next class, but I will announce it here well in advance.
If you’re interested in the class, please do me a favor and follow me on Facebook or Instagram, @PawproMedia. Thanks so much!
In my next post, I’ll focus on a recent trip to the Alps and the Tour du Mont Blanc, a.k.a #TMB.