Let’s take the long way home- New Port Richey’s Starkey Trail

New Port Richey Starkey Trail Off Road Biking NPR Nature Trail Park Field Wild RedFlorida trails are great and we frequent them often, but most are a little easy for these former PA mountain residents. We longed for rough winding terrain with unpredictable entry and exit points, and that’s when we discovered New Port Richey’s Starkey Trail with some of the most fun off-roading bike trails. Continue reading


Honeymoon Island, Dunedin- Beyond the crowd Part 2

Honeymoon Island Causeway HMI Dunedin Florida Gulf Coast Saltwater Fishing Palm Trees Beachside Drive Drawbridge Pelican Wild Red

Fishing and Sightseeing on the Causeway

Honeymoon Island wasn’t love at first sight as I explained in greater detail in Part 1, but since taking the time to explore it further we have found that it is one of our favorite spots, especially for fishing. Peak times and seasons will fill the little island with crowds and cars waiting in line to enter but with a bike and your favorite rods, none of that will matter. Afterall, a fisherman’s life is all about slowing down to enjoy a peaceful moment. Continue reading

How Hurricane Irma Found Us Unprepared- Learning from our mistakes (Free hurricane Prep Printable Included)

Last years hurricane season crept up on us when we least expected it. We spent the greater half of last year searching tirelessly for the perfect place at the perfect price in a neighborhood we desired. When the journey came to an end we were grateful and so ready to just feel at home in a place we had dreamed of for the 11 months prior.

Those days will always be imprinted on our memories because after working a full day we loaded all of our belongings into the moving truck with the help of two friends, cleaned out the “old” place, and drove off in the dark to our new home. How did it get so late? We even missed a special grand opening work event that evening but it was finally over. We were home.

That night we only pulled our mattresses off the truck and an unreasonable (by my account) amount of blankets. The next morning bright and early my husband and I unloaded the entire truck and put everything in the room it belonged to and then spent the next week working and slowly creating our spaces in our new home. Nights we were exhausted but every picture was framed and hung, every box unpacked, everything was in its place. Home finally felt complete and did it ever feel good.

Then the alert interrupted through our phones warning of Irma’s potential impact on our new neighborhood. We now lived in a flood zone with surge potential and needed to prepare. Going to the stores felt surreal as crowds of people swarmed grabbing anything they could and shelves were already zombie apocalypse empty. We bought just a few items, enough to get by, and got out of dodge.

Then the warnings got worse. We were advised and urged by family to seek safer shelter and so we did but not before securing all of our belongings. We took down every picture, raised the furniture, re-packed all of our items and packed our bags to head to our son’s new school for shelter.

Once we checked in they volunteers ushered us into a classroom they named a family room to set up camp with about 10 other families. This is where we spent the next 3 days as Irma bore down its path toward us.

Finally the night came where she was going to pass and we waited anxiously hoping and praying our home and neighborhood would be alright and that we could return home soon. 5 am hit and an announcement quietly got passed through the rooms that some roads were open and we made a rash decision to just go home.

We missed our home, longed to be off that floor away from the noise and couldn’t wait any longer to see if everything outside those walls stood as we left it. The drive home was terrifying and maybe we should have waited a bit longer but it just couldn’t be helped.

It was eerily dark out still and drizzling. We had to turn around and choose a different way to go at one point because of downed trees and this took us through the highway where we got an escort, sort of, of Hillsborough Police SUVs who drove side by side covering the expanse of the road. It was difficult to see and debris was everywhere and then a transformer blew only feet away blinding us at one point. Our fear grew the closer we got to home as we realized many roads were blocked due to flooding.

It felt like forever but we soon arrived in our neighborhood and saw branches, trees, and  a neighbor’s fences in the road. It was all minor and the weight began to lift as we rounded the corner and the saw our home, untouched as if it packed and went away for the storm as well.

The Lesson of what could have been-

Irma’s impact on our area was small in comparison to the damage they predicted but the lesson we learned hurt just as much. We realized how much worse this would’ve been. Our exhaustion and disconnection from the world during moving time was no excuse to ignore mother natures potential wrath. Every year in any state that has potential impact, hurricane season should be taken seriously, budgeted for, and planned for. Lesson learned.

This year’s hurricane predictions are for low impacts for the Gulf Coast and surrounding areas but as we are already witnessing Japan and Hawaii are on course for landfall. We can’t always avoid or predict disaster but we can show up prepared.

Have you had any experience with hurricanes? How do you prepare? Do you stay put or seek other accommodations?

Below is a free printable Hurricane Ready Checklist to help you keep on track with your hurricane season preparedness for this year and years to come. They can be punched and added to any planner and even laminated.

Hurricane Ready Free Printable Checklist Hurricane Season Prep List Wild Red

Free Hurricane Ready Printable Checklist

We hope all stay safe this hurricane season, and that you never find yourself unprepared.

Thanks for reading,

Mandy Signature

Hurricane Irma 2017 Pinellas County HIllsborough County Florida Wild Red

Finding The Best You In The Crystal Clear waters Of Wall Springs Park Palm Harbor

Wall Springs Park Palm Harbor Pinellas Trail Water Boardwalk Fish Nature Family Florida Springs Wild RedIn nature you are able to think more clearly. Words get muddled easily when I try to write indoors but outdoors I fumble for my notebook and pen to jot down every beautiful thought that flows from the sights and sounds that surround me. Soothing yet revitalizing just as I imagine God intended it, nature grounds us, brings us back to whole and allows us to be a little wild in our explorations of our environments and ourselves.  Continue reading

Back to school wind down-The beginning of a successful year starts with what you’re doing now

Back to school wind down back to school success end of summer back to school countdown back to school routine wild redFirst days of anything are rough, especially all those first days back to school. As adults we often only look at the time our kids get off (with envy) instead of the drastic change in scheduling and routine they endure when it’s over.

There are a few easy ways we can soften the transition and set expectations for the coming year. A successful start is the foundation for a more meaningful and productive school year and we do best when we know what to expect and what is expected of us.

Continue reading

A Weekend of Rain Showers & Gator Watching- Lettuce Lake Park in Tampa

Lettuce Lake Park Hillsborogh Tampa Alligator gator wildlife Florida Lake Nature Trail Wild Red

Long weekend drives are fun; snacking in the car with antsy legs that are ready to explore. Anytime you plan a trip like this it has to be good to justify the time spent sitting. After-all not many like risking humidity styled hair and sudden rains to see, well, “just trees and dirt”.

Lettuce Lake Park Hillsborogh Tampa Alligator gator wildlife Florida boardwalk narrow trail Family ParkWild RedLettuce Lake Park is a large preserve nestled in Northern Tampa with open fields for playing, workout stations, trails, canoeing, and an observation tower. Judging by the crowd as we pulled in on our first visit this was the place to be, rain or shine.

I say ‘rain or shine’ because from the time we pulled in until the time we left, every cloud in the sky was conspiring to soak us something fierce, which kind of made the trip more fun.

People of all ages were coming and going through the trails and pavilions were full with those celebrating various special days despite the on again off again Florida summer rain squalls. It was a great family atmosphere on this particular Sunday afternoon, even if it took a few pauses to enjoy it all.

Lettuce Lake Park Hillsborogh Tampa Alligator gator wildlife Florida Lake Boardwalk Nature Trail Wild Red

Entry to the park is $2 per car (up to 8 people) and it’s easy to get lost finding which endLettuce Lake Park Hillsborogh Tampa Road Drive in Trees Wild Red of the trail to begin first while driving through. There is a small nature center on the park’s ground where you can grab a trail map and learn more about the area before you begin your visit.

The 240-acre property is home to various wildlife including a surprisingly large number of alligators all varying in sizes.

Almost all trails are boardwalk style or lifted away from the waters for added safety while traveling through on foot.

Don’t be shy to stop and stare, you may begin enjoy playing a game of spot the gator because after a minute or so you’ll see some that weren’t exactly “visible” at first glance.

Lettuce Lake Park Hillsborogh Tampa Alligator gator wildlife water Florida Wild RedLettuce Lake Park Hillsborogh Tampa Alligator gator wildlife nature trail water Florida Wild RedLettuce Lake Park Hillsborogh Tampa Alligator gator wildlife Florida Wild Red

The trails aren’t that long to venture but do offer a longer experience as you will want to stop often to see the flora and fauna over the boardwalk rails so plan time to linger and enjoy. The boardwalk gets slightly narrow at times and you’ll need to be mindful of other explorers passing through.

Lettuce Lake Park is a wonderful way to spend the day playing, picnicking and viewing wildlife in a raw untouched way.

Lettuce Lake Park Hillsborogh Tampa Alligator gator wildlife water Florida Storms Lake Cypress Trees Wild Red

We certainly enjoyed it even in the rain as we walked back to the car. If you’re vacationing or local and want a great way to view alligators safety plan your visit today.

Lettuce Lake Park

$2 entrance fee per car per 8 passengers

$5 Guided tours offered on the weekends

Spring/Summer Hours: 8am-7pm

6920 East Fletcher Avenue

Tampa, FL 33637

For more information please visit the Hillsborough County Lettuce Lake Park site.


Thanks for reading & enjoy exploring!

Mandy Signature