I’ve always wanted to see the Florida Everglades. Just the name conjured up images of lush jungle, low-hanging vines, large spiders, long snakes, lurking alligators, beautiful birds, and much more. I finally had an opportunity to visit the Everglades, with Nathaniel for the first day, and on my own (with Rowan) for another two days. To my surprise, much of the area I was in more closely resembled prairie than jungle. I know there are a variety of diverse habitats within the confines of Everglades National Park, in fact that amount of diversity is one of the unique features of the Everglades, but I had no idea how much of it consisted of grasslands. Wet grasslands, to be sure, but nonetheless, grasslands extending through miles of sawgrass prairie.
Nathaniel and I went on a boat tour of the Ten Thousand Islands area. The scenery was beautiful and the birds plentiful. From the boat we had several glimpses of manatees. We only saw their noses as they came up for air, but as I had never seen a manatee, I was pretty excited. Then some bottle-nosed dolphins joined us and started leaping and playing in the wake of the boat, an amazing sight.
After Nathaniel left, Rowan and I continued on our own, first exploring along the boardwalk at Big Cypress Bend in Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, where I lingered long, loving the feeling of being enclosed and hidden in depths of the swamp.
After extricating myself from the mystery of the swamp, we drove a few miles along the Janes Memorial Scenic Drive, where I saw many alligators, Egrets, and Herons and a great deal more swampland.
I headed to another swamp area to walk along the Kirby Storter boardwalk, where I saw an American Bittern, as well as several other birds and more swampland.
On my next day I explored along Wagon Wheel Rd and Turner River Rd, taking four hours to traverse about 15 miles, due to frequent stops (every few yards) to look at birds, alligators, and turtles.
After a late lunch and a brief nap, I head to the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge Marsh Trail. What a beautiful place!
After nightfall I returned to the Wagon Wheel Rd/ Turner River Rd drive to see what night creatures might be about. I saw a snake and a couple of frogs, but otherwise not much was stirring within my field of view. I did stop my car a few times, turn off the engine and headlights and step out to enjoy the absence of man-made noise and lights. The darkness was broken only by the moon and stars and numerous fireflies, and the only sounds were those of nature. I stood a while in silence, drinking in the peace and fullness of the night, then reluctantly got back in my car and returned to the bright lights and loud noises and incessant chatter of civilization.
On day three I too the tram tour at the Shark Valley Visitor Center, a very informative and enjoyable ride through the sawgrass prairie.