Thursday, February 21, 2013

Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park
Flamingo Campground
Feb 14-21, 2013

We left Hobe Sound for the 3.5 hour trip to Flamingo Campground in the Everglades National Park.  It was not a great travel day so we had packed a big bag of patience.  We had blinding rain, traffic, and an accident on the Florida Turnpike before we hit sunny skies and smooth sailing!  In Florida City, we stopped at “Robert is Here”, a local produce stand with every imaginable type of fruit and vegetable including some we had never heard of before!  We picked up some produce, skipped their infamous milkshakes and  got back on the road.  We were anxious to get to our destination.  We got to the front gate of Everglades National Park and drove another 38 miles until we got to Flamingo Campground!  It is a long, long drive!!

We were lucky enough to snag a site next to Gin and Syl and Bill and Nancy.  Yep - we were going to explore the Everglades together!  Between hiking, biking, canoeing, and attending educational programs given by different park rangers, we were going to have a busy week!

Everglades National Park is the first national park especially designated for it's ecosystem.  It's over 1.5 million acres and is the 3rd largest National Park in the lower 48 states.  It has been named an International Biosphere Reserve, World Heritage Site, and a Wetland of International Importance.  There are only two other locations in the world that are on all three lists!  

Eco Pond is very close to our campground.  Our first morning here, Dan and I pedaled over to the pond to see what we could see.

Glorious morning glories
And beautiful birds.....

We met up with Gin and Syl and pedaled around the marina.
Florida Bay
And saw this guy….
American Crocodile

Check out those nails!

and those teeth!!
We had a great first day in the Everglades.

Over the course of the next few days, we explored more of the Everglades.  Some by foot, some by car and some by bike!

White Pelicans eating breakfast

small crocodile
During one cool and windy day, we made our own car caravan and headed out to the Royal Palm section of the park and walked quite a few trails including the Anhinga and Gumbo Limbo Trails.  We also managed to snag a few geocaches while we were out and about!

Check out that eye!
Baby Anhingas

Night Heron
Alligator pile!!
Notice the buzzards.  They are all over the place and the park has signs up warning you that they will do damage to your vehicles.  Apparently some of the newer cars use fish oil as a product in the rubber (like on windshield wipers)  and this attracts the buzzards.  The park has bins of tarps that you can put over your car to help prevent damage.  ;-)
HUGE Mahagony tree

Beautiful Bromelids
 A great day was had by all!

We had also made plans to ride (in vehicles!) over to Shark Valley and ride the bike trail.  We set out around 10am and planned on making it to Shark Valley in time to eat a picnic lunch.  However, we ended up taking the not-so-direct scenic route and ended up eating lunch in the car!  ;-)  It was all good, though!

The bike ride was amazing! The weather was perfect!
Pedaling along!
Gators were everywhere!
The gators are so close to the bike path but they don't budge! 

Hmmmm..this would be close enough for me!

Syl checking a gator out
We pedaled about 7 ½ miles and stopped at the Observation Tower.  Bill volunteered to watch our bikes as he is not a fan of heights!  Thanks Bill!
View from the tower
Great scenery
What could they be looking at?

Alligator pile (look closely!)
We finished our bike ride and piled back in the cars.  Nancy and Bill were headed to the store and then back to the campground.  Gin, Syl, Dan and I were going to get dinner….MILKSHAKES! Long story short, we ran into Bill and Nancy out in the middle of nowhere about an hour after we left Shark Valley.  We had all once again taken the “scenic” way back.  We parted ways again and ended up back at the campground a few stops and many hours later.  But our bellies were full of cheeseburgers, milkshakes and Krispy Kreme donuts.  (Yeah - it was a great day!!)

One of the ranger programs that I really wanted to do was the Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail.  Bill, Nancy, Syl and I got up early one morning and headed out.  Now - why did I want to subject myself to paddling with gators once again?  Because I love to be on the water and don’t want my fears to prevent me from missing out on something neat!  :-)
Syl and Nancy
Nancy and Bill
Our guide, Ranger G was fantastic.  We paddled into the mangroves and got to hear a sound that I had never heard before.  The alligators were bellowing.  This is a rather loud, guttural sound that the males make to attract females.   Nancy said that she thought when I heard this sound that I would back paddle the canoe that Syl and I were in and head back to shore.  ;-)  Although I was very nervous and kept scanning left and right (you couldn’t see the gators at this point because the mangroves were so thick), I was not baling on this canoe trip!

Ranger G

Mangroves in the background
Taking pictures behind me!  Syl, Nancy and Bill

We paddled a bit more and even got a chance to see the crocodile that the rangers call “Croczilla"

You can’t tell by the pictures but this guy is HUGE.  I think that Ranger G said something like 14-16 feet long.  His girth is huge and Ranger G says that Croczilla eats small alligators!   I did back paddle some when we were in the open water and getting too close to the alligators and crocodiles for my comfort!  Syl was an amazing canoe partner and I’m glad that she was so patient with me.  Thanks friend!

On one of our last days together in the Everglades, Gin and Syl hosted an ice cream bar night!  It was sooooooooo good.  There were four different types of ice cream, miniature strawberry cupcakes, brownie squares, white cake, butterscotch sauce, chocolate sauce, pineapple topping, strawberry topping, chopped walnuts,  walnuts in syrup, pecans in syrup, sprinkles, maraschino cherries, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips, heath bar pieces, crushed oreos, sliced bananas, and whipped cream.  (Hope I got everything listed!!)

Our hostesses with the mostestess!
Gin making sure that we have everything!

Don't ever dare Gin!
So much fun!!

Bill was first in line...

Happy camper!
And another happy camper!

and another!

and another!
Not sure how I missed getting a picture of the bowls that Nancy and I had.  Guess I was too busy enjoying the ice cream.  :-)    We all had sugar highs that night but it was such a fun time!

Our week ended all too quickly and we bid “see you down the road” to our friends.  We know that we will see them soon!

Now we are back in Cedar Key until the end of April.  We’ve spent the past few days getting set back up and catching up with friends.  It’s going to be a busy couple of months filled with RV projects, craft projects, bike rides, boating and who knows what else we can get into!!

Life is good.


  1. You either got your camera fixed or bought a new one cuz these photos are fantastic! I felt like I was right there with you :) What a great time you had!
    Interesting about the buzzards and the car damage :(

  2. Great Post of a Great Time!! You really did a great job facing your fear of alligators on that canoe traip:o)) Enjoy your time at Cedar Key and we'll see you again down the road!!

  3. I sure don't blame you for wanting to get away from the Gators! Yum, that ice cream looks so good...great idea to have an buffet of ice cream!

  4. Love, Love the pictures, they are absolutly amazing! Can't believe how close you were to the gators. So glad you guys had such a great time!

  5. Great pictures of a wonderful time. Glad you are enjoying Mother Nature so much.
    Love to you both.

  6. Love keeping up with you this way. Your adventures are so fun!

  7. Whoa! Great pictures of a great week! Missed the internet there but sure did enjoy nature... and ice cream.