For those not in the know about Junonia’s, I’ll make that clearer down post.
After leaving Gloria’s in Venice we made the little over an hour ride back south and across the causeway ($12 for our two vehicles) to Periwinkle Park, one of our perennial faves, with Rose focused on replenishing her shell collection, and hopefully adding some new and interesting things to it. After setting up camp we celebrated our arrival with a quick drive around the island and big fried chicken meal at The Pecking Order.
Our corner site at Periwinkle Park. Almost ideal.
We had asked for and been the spot we had during our visit in December, #227, which suited our space, privacy, and cat needs particularly well. One of the lessons learned is that what is good in one season might be awful in another, as we found out parked under a wonderful large ficus tree of a particular species that produces massive amounts of little purple squashable berries throughout the spring, and we were there for prime bombardment season.
This is about three days worth of droppings.
As for the shelling, it was pretty spectacular. We hear reports from people that were disappointed in their Sanibel shelling. We can only conclude that they went to the nearest beach and didn’t change things up by trying other parts of the island with a willingness to walk a ways; conditions change, and shelling on one area may be poor one day and great the next.
One of the shell mounds Rose found. A couple of feet deep in places.
The closest beach to our park has only occasionally been good, Light House Point is sometimes quite decent and frequently just so-so, but the miles in between Bowman’s Beach and the Sanibel-Captiva cut have been a reliable producer for Rose. I frequently drop her off at one end and pick her up hours later with her net bag weighted down with her haul.
Half way through our stay our friends from Sigsbee Rusty and Charito joined us; we had adjust our dates to assure we would have overlap with there stay. The four of us, or in pairs, had many great outings over the course of three days. Rose and Charito had a fantastic day of shelling from Bowman’s Beach, while Rusty and I did some geocaching, during which I finally cleared every physical cache on the island, some of which would have been particularly difficult without Rusty’s geosense.
We did a part driving, part walking tour of Ding Darling National Refuge, including sections Rose and I had missed during our previous tour. We were fortunate enough to see a mama gator and a handful of her recent brood in one of the canals of the estuary. Can’t recommend this place enough for those on the Island, and with an annual national park pass (or senior lifetime pass) you get in for free.
Another strong recommendation: the Sanibel Library. Lacking a cable internet connection, we rely on our Verizon cell data plan, which has gotten progressivly better over the years, but even their “Unlimited” plan has some built in restrictions, strangling download speed for each device once you reach 15 gigs. With these restrictions we have become local library hounds, frequenting them for the free wifi, but often running into unexpected benefits. We saw a birds of prey live demo, a concert by the local chapter of the Sweet Adelines, and a presentation on the solar eclipse (along with free viewing glasses), as a few examples.
The park does not allow dogs, and the few cats there are inside animals, so the local rabbits don’t have much in the way of self preservation training.
This year the Sanibel Library came through big time. Due to renovations their normal $10 annual membership fee was waived, and by signing up we not onl had access to books, DVDs, and a surprising assortment of other items, we were also able to check out passes to the island’s nationally renowned Shell Museum. During past visits we had just not been convinced that the $15 a head admission would be worth it. But with our library passes we were able to get in free, and the four of us thoroughly enjoyed it. By the way, the library also has passes to the museum and Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW).
In addition to return visits to The Pecking Order and the very affordable Island Pizza, we finally got around to trying what may be Sanibel’s most famous eatery, The Island Cow. It did not disappoint.
OK, lets get to that Junonia. In terms of Florida Gulf Coast shelling, the prize find is a Junonia. Its not the biggest or even the prettiest shell from the region, but it is the rarest. Thanks to our trip to the Shell Museum, we learned why it is so unusual to find them: they are not living near shore like nearly every local beach find, but rather lives 150 miles off shore in a couple of hundred feet of water. So to get to the beach, it has to be rolled a heck of a long way mostly up hill.
Honestly, I never expected that we find one; people have been coming to Sanibel for decades without even finding the broken remnants of one. Heck, I had already started planning to just buy one for Rose’s birthday: $50 bucks gets you a decent medium sized one. So: on our last full day in Sanibel, Rusty, Charito, Rose and I parked at the small public lot near the Sanibel-Captiva cut, and were walking and shelling along the shore, finding large mounds of shells to dig through.
This one had a lot of damage, and was not the Florida Horse Conch I kept, but it had a cool crab inside it, so photo.
We eventually passed a group of three people in chest deep water with mask and snorkels searching in the low visibility water, and successfully finding half a dozen large Florida Horse Conchs (a great find in and of itself.) Thus motivated I joined them, and in short order found my own Florida Horse Conch (our first.) This was, I though, the topper for the day.
We moved on down the beach, and I went back in thinking we might find another big conch. , and as I pushed along the bottom I saw it, the tell tale regularly spaced brown spots on the off white background rocking gently on the bottom. I snatched it, still only half believing that I had found one, and rushed out of the water shouting for Rose. It was undeniable, Junonias are quite distinctive and don’t have any particularly close imitators in this region. Besides, we took it on a victory tour which included the Shell Museum, our favorite local shell shop, and three of the other RV sites that showed signs of a serious sheller.
So there you have it, our highly successful and fun eight days in Sanibel before we start moving north in earnest. Next post: A short stop at Gloria’s again before nearly another week In Wekiwa Springs State Park north of Orlando.