Renting the Lake Echo cabin in Odessa, Fla., was the perfect solution to my annual three-week spring training baseball photo assignment. The views are even more beautiful than the pictures, it's peaceful and serene, and when I returned from working each evening, I breathed a sigh of relief just pulling into the driveway. I've rented houses in prior years, but this ranks as my all time favorite place to stay. It was nearly equidistant, about 30 to 40 minutes drive from the Yankees stadium in Tampa, the Phillies in Clearwater, and the Blue Jays in Dunedin. It's near Honeymoon Island State Park, one of my favorite Florida haunts.
The cabin was larger, well-insulated and more substantial than I imagined, and was more interesting in it's construction and history. According to the owner, the late Florida Senator Claude Pepper and former Florida Governor Lawton Chiles used it as a fishing cabin. It was very well stocked with all the necessities of life--more like a bed and breakfast than a woodsy cabin, down to high-thread count sateen bed linens, fluffy towels and thoughtful and tasteful decor. If anything was missing, the owner provided it within 24 hours or less.
There was hot soup on the stove and freshly made brownies on the table for my arrival, and the refrigerator was stocked with my favorite foods. How lucky can a tenant be?
Being a birder, I thrilled to see a beautiful hawk land on a telephone pole outside the cabin with breakfast for it's mate the first morning and return like clockwork each day thereafter. The hawk announced it's presence by a distinctive call, so I never missed it's arrival. A beautiful pileated woodpecker visited one of the trees on the property once. There is a blueberry farm across the road and horse farms a few doors down the street. Spanish moss hangs from the trees surrounding the property.
Odessa is an oasis of old Florida in the midst of new development that has ignored the original land use, but the fact that the owner is dedicated to preserving her beautiful piece of property is a testament to her solid environmental convictions.
One very special highlight was attending a folk music concert because of the owner's renowned status in the Florida folk music community.
I highly recommend a stay at the Lake Echo cabin, as long as I can return next year and for many years after for my annual spring training assignment!