Florida Everglades, January 2001
Jen and I spent some time camping in the Florida Everglades in late January. The warm air of South Florida was a welcome change from the chilly South Carolina winter. We drove down and stopped off at Alabama Jack's before entering the park at sundown on a Friday night.
At the Flamingo campground, we had set up camp and were settled down to read in the tent. No sooner had we done this than a sport ute towing a huge boat pulled up into a neighboring campsite. "This is a good spot, nice and quiet," said the driver as he stepped out. And that was the last of the quiet for two nights as four more of his friends arrived with another boat and promptly broke out a radio. They were close enough that several of their conversations carried over to us, hearing fishing stories about how they had ignored catch size and limit rules on numerous occasions.
Fortunately, the days were better. A bright sun and warm weather, though the persistent breeze was sort of cool. Our first day we rode our bikes around Flamingo and hiked the Christian Point trail through brackish scrub and mangroves. The next day we rented a canoe and paddled for several hours on the Nine Mile Pond canoe trail. It began in small ponds and open streams between the mangroves, then looping through very shallow zones, and finally back to the main pond. Along the way were mostly birds, with a few alligators sleeping on the banks of the deep ponds.
Even 50 miles away from the main part of civilization, the Super Bowl was on TV in the lodge bar. But it was packed so we ate upstairs in the restaurant and decided we really didn't care about that game anyway. Sunday and Monday night were spent in sweet silence since our weekend warrior neighbors had bailed.
Monday was spent mostly at camp, with a couple trips to the Eco Pond. Birders from all over the U.S. had flown in to find an accidental grassquit that had shown up from Cuba or elsewhere in the Caribbean. Jen and I spent some time looking for it, but had no luck. I wondered why someone would fly there from Seattle to see that bird, when if only they'd fly to the islands, they could probably find it easier there. Maybe the thrill is seeing the bird in the wrong place. At any rate, the bird life we did see at the Eco Pond made up for it. This manmade freshwater pond (from processed sewer water of all things) had birds everywhere: herons, egrets, gallinules, and all kinds of smaller ones.
I took a nice long bike ride on Monday, about 18 miles round trip, from the campground to West Lake and back. It was a pleasant ride on flat ground, and the traffic wasn't too bad, but the wind slowed my progress significantly.
Tuesday it was time to head home. Before leaving the park we stopped at the popular Anhinga Trail, loaded with wildlife. Then we hauled up the coast, making a stop in Jupiter to see the beautiful red lighthouse. It's high on an old Indian shell mound. Unfortunately, it's located on Coast Guard residential property and you have to stick with the tour guide, making it a little difficult to get just the right picture. Then we headed north. We planned to stop in Jacksonville for the night but then just decided to keep going and we got home late, but in one piece.
I love the Everglades! It was a good trip, and perfect weather. Water and wildlife all over the place. We'll bring our own kayaks for the next trip and paddle the overnight trails.