Nov 24 – We visit Mission San Luis where Spaniards established a mission to convert native people to Christianity.  This mission also provided trade opportunities and a workforce to help support the outpost of St. Augustine.  The Spaniards lived in traditional homes, while the Apalachee people lived in round thatched houses.  The Apalachee council house was huge with room for up to 3000 people for gatherings and ceremonies.  Across a central plaza was the Spaniard’s capital buildings and Franciscan church.  The Spaniards and Apalachee co-existed for close to 50 years at this mission.

Nov 25 – We visit St Mark’s Wildlife Refuge near Tallahassee, which includes swamp, wetlands and the Gulf of Mexico.  On our 7-mile drive, we see lots of waterfowl, alligators, and a funny little armadillo foraging through the underbrush.  We also see monarch butterflies clustered in trees resting on their way to Mexico.

Nov 26-28 – Crystal Springs provides us with a fantastic adventure – snorkeling with the manatees.  These huge creatures (up to 1500 lb. and up to 15 feet long) come into the warm spring waters (75 degrees F) around King’s Bay when the weather is cold and the Gulf of Mexico cools.  Luckily we are the only two on the tour and get a custom snorkel excursion.  We see at least 20 manatees mostly resting and sleeping.  They need to surface at least every 10-20 minutes for air with their big wet noses.  They are protected so visitors must only passively watch.  We both experience these magnificent creatures up close as they swim underneath us just below the surface.  A thrilling experience!  

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