Walking ~ Days 224-228 The Day After Christmas

Our first Christmas without our daughters wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It wasn’t the best Christmas but it wasn’t awful. We called the girls on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Rich and I ate lobsters on Christmas Eve like we always do, taking comfort in traditions. My younger daughter in Denver did too but she was disappointed with the frozen tails, the only lobster she could find in the Rocky Mountains.

I think next year we may fly to Denver to spend a white Christmas together. But so much can happen in a year’s time. It certainly did this year. After spending our last Christmas in the house we lived in for over twenty years, where we moved after our wedding and raised our girls, the world turned upside down. In a good way. Change is good even when it’s sometimes a little scary and challenging.

You don’t have to scatter across the country to be alone at Christmas. It can happen right in the house you’ve lived in for years. Kids grow up, they move away, they marry, they spend the holidays with their in-laws. Elderly parents pass away. Time will inevitably move on and you best savor every day.

So that’s what we did on the day after Christmas 2013. We took a short drive to the Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray. It is a man-made sanctuary behind  the Palm Beach County Water Utilities, a reservoir of treated wastewater and an amazing oasis in the middle of overpopulated South Florida. Admission is free.

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When we first arrived, there was no parking available. We bought sandwiches at Tsunami Subs for a picnic. We drove into the Water Utilities parking lot to see if we could park there and walk over to the park. The signs all said Private. Keep Out but we found a spot by the water tanks and ate our sandwiches anyway. Cameras were scattered around the parking lot. We laughed about the security guys watching us eating lunch in our car, wondering why we were picnicking in such a strange spot.

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When we finished lunch, Rich wanted to leave. I insisted we try another spin through the parking lot. We were both glad we did.

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The first spot we came upon along the 3/4 mile long boardwalk was a nesting area for blue herons. Sentinels guarded the females sitting on their nests.

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Various bird songs filled the air.

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The boardwalk meandered through a man-made habitat that is one of the best examples I have ever seen of urban ecology in action.

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Ospreys, herons, egrets, anhingas, sandpipers, you name it, they all live here along with alligators, turtles, and frogs. 140 species of birds have been recorded here. Many people had binoculars and large cameras with zoom lenses. There were no alligator sightings that day.

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This guy was a real show off. He just flew right in and started posing for the camera.

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We saw what looked like a flamingo off in the distance but I couldn’t get close enough to get a good shot. I later found out it was a spoonbill.
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We watched an egret stealthily sneak up on his dinner, his long thin legs moving slowly and gingerly through the shallow water.
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The still water captured a beautiful reflection of this guy.
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We decided we need to return here often, in spring when the flowers are in bloom and early morning when the birdsong must be amazing.
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The park is way out west, on Jog Road, where we rarely go. We decided to take a drive to the end. The roads do end here. They reach the swamp, and you have to turn around. There are few highways that connect the east coast with the west. Alligator Alley is the most well-known.
We drove Atlantic Avenue, passing tree farms lined with varieties of palm trees and nurseries with flowers in full bloom. A group of Guatemalan farmworkers sat by the side of the road, waiting for a bus to take them home after a long day at work. The road ended with a vertical red sign and low bushy swamp trees. Beyond it the alligators roam. A public park entrance was to our left. Lots of guys were fishing, taking canoes with engines out through the swamp to catch we didn’t know what. Catfish is all that came to mind, but I’m probably wrong.
A few older men were flying little homemade planes at an airfield. The small stadium was empty, no spectators today. Kids rode dirt bikes through the trails and one man in his twenties did wheelies and tricks on his motorcycle. We passed an archery field. This was clearly a multi-use park.
We drove north, towards the sunset. The land is so flat here, you can see for miles. It was cloudy, the sunset wasn’t as dramatic as I imagined it could be on clear days. I’d love to be out here in a thunderstorm.
We finished the day at a car wash. the banyan tree I’ve been parking underneath has made a mess of my car. We survived our first Christmas alone. There wasn’t any snow and the girls were half a continent away but we shared Christmas dinner with some friends and look forward to new adventures in the coming year. Hope you had a great Christmas everyone.
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