On Thursday, April 20th, we woke up at the ungodly hour of 3:00 a.m. to be on time to catch our 6:00 a.m. flight to Fort Myers via New York.  When we got to the airport in Syracuse, it was 45 degrees.  Our flight was uneventful, and we arrived at Fort Myers at 11:00 a.m. where it was 89.  An hour later we were on Sanibel Island.  
    The first thing we did was have breakfast/lunch, which was blueberry hot cakes with blueberry syrup.  I say, if you’re going to go off your diet while on vacation, start in a big way.  We then checked in at our cottage, hurriedly unpacked, got into our tropical clothes, and while Donna napped, I rushed down to the beach and dabbled my feet in the warm water.  What a luxurious feeling!  That evening, we had dinner and walked along the beach looking for shells.  Every day we looked for shells, walked the beach, and took in the sights and sounds of the ocean.
    On our last trip to Sanibel in 2000, we brought back an entire beach bag full of shells.  This time, we decided to be more selective.  How that turned out will be near the end of this story.  I took about half a dozen sunset beach photos each day.  On Friday, we had a late breakfast, came back, and walked the beach again until it got too hot.  The temperatures ranged from a low of 65 to a high of 93 every day.  We had clear skies and no rain the entire time we were there.  As we drove around the island, you could see that some trees had damage from Hurricane Charley, but everything looked pretty much back to normal.  
    Friday night, we went to a beach party at our complex and chatted with some of the other guests.  Again, I took more sunset beach pictures.  For the rest of the time we were there, it was like this: late breakfast, hanging out at our cottage, walking the beach, looking for shells, early dinner, walking the beach.  Not being great swimmers, we didn’t go too deep in the water, just along the beach.  The wave action would have made it unpleasant anyway.
    Saturday, we drove through J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.   Because we went in the late morning when most wildlife has hit the sack, we didn’t see any alligators.  We also saw a variety of waterbirds and a skinny Southern raccoon ran across the road in front of us.  The reason they’re so skinny is that they are more active than their Northern cousins.  Just a little ways from the exit, a gopher tortoise crossed our path and a number of us got out of our cars and snapped a flurry of pictures.  
     When we went shelling, I took my net and mesh bag.  Got some nice shells, and the number of them increased by Malthusian proportions.  On Monday, we took a little boat ride to Cayo Costa Island, which is one of the barrier islands to the north of Sanibel.  There you could really see what Hurricane Charley did.  A lot of the trees were stripped bare - it looked like a war zone. But the blue of the water was like the Caribbean and there was an area with driftwood that looked like a Salvador Dali painting. The sand was a brilliant white where it met the shoreline. We got a ton of shells there and increased our stash. We would end up having a full beach bag that was ripping at the seams and very bulky. So much for being selective.
    As we passed North Captiva Island, where Charley made landfall, you could see the sandbar that filled in after Charley cut the island in two.  On Cayo Costa, we were walking along the beach finding shells when to our surprise, three wild pigs came out to the beach, a momma and two babies, one was black and one was brown and they were very fuzzy. They were first brought here by the Spanish explorers and have been wild for a long time.  Because people feed them (which they shouldn’t do), the pigs are friendly.  
    On Monday night as we were returning to our cottage from watching the sunset, we saw a really big bird come swooping toward us.  It was an osprey, white, with a black facial and wingtip markings.  We thought he has coming at us, but instead he passed right overhead and grabbed a sandpiper.   That was weird because ospreys usually eat fish.  Obviously he was an opportunist.
    On Tuesday, after we got our photos developed (which will be the subject of a later email), we left Sanibel in the late afternoon and arrived at our home at 1:00 a.m. to find our cats and birds overwhelmingly happy to see us.  We highly recommend Sanibel Island as a calm, peaceful, beautiful place to vacation.  Our hearts will always be filled with happy memories of Sanibel.  


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