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Florida > Everglades > Check!
Thursday: December 25, 2014
Merry Christmas! After sending my fifty “Merry Christmas” texts, we packed up and shipped out again. This time our destination dropped us in the Everglades, the famous National Florida Everglades. We actually had a lot more fun that one would have thought in a million or so acres of swamp flooded with alligators. Oh did we see alligators, all right.
We stopped at the Shark Valley entrance of the park and rented a bike for an excursion to Shark Valley Tower. This is a must-do activity for anyone traveling to the Everglades. Overall, it was a 15-mile bike ride with a large observation tower half-way. On the way there, you are pretty much just with your party. Hubby and I ditched the crowd and went at our own pace. Of course that means stopping every two feet to take a picture of something because you know that’s how I am.
Scattered along our path were thirty-one alligators. 31!!! We saw so many and surprisingly they are not mean creatures. Of course they could eat your face off if you bother them, but if you don’t approach them, they really don’t want anything to do with you. We were feet between these giant reptiles and most didn’t even flinch. The alligator will just eat, sleep, and reproduce.
The best part of seeing alligators was seeing baby alligators. We saw one sunbathing but quickly fled into the water when we got nearer as they are lower on the food chain and are taught to be very protective until they grow full-size.
Once we arrived to the tower, we parked our bikes and went up a concrete spiraled pathway to overlook miles and miles of the Everglades. I made about one-hundred Lion King references by continuously repeating
“Everything the light touches is our Kingdom.”
I’m not joking. I couldn’t stop saying it, especially from our view once we reached the top. We marveled at the breath-taking views but then eventually had to go back down and finish the last leg of the bike ride. We packed a bag of chips and some waters in the bicycle baskets provided for our way back. When we arrived at the bike parking lot, we come to find our “closed” bag of chips, that were in fact buried under a hoodie, were staining the black asphalt of the road. The bag was completely ripped open and scattered. Turns out crows can see through articles of clothing and really like kettle-cooked salt and vinegar chips. Hubby began crushing every single chip on the ground so the crumbs were now sawdust because since we can’t have any, well neither can they!
There were nice birds though. The graceful and majestic great blue herons, snowy egrets, and the hairy white ibis. Watching them walk around and fly away in the wind was no sight you can reproduce unless you’re right there.
The other nature and wildlife besides the gators and birds were a sight to see indeed also. I saw a few turtles, some snakes, and this absolutely beautiful flower. This is the yellow thistle, cirsium horridulum. I had to shield some of the sunlight away so the lavender color of this wildflower could truly be absorbed from what I saw with my own eyes.
Our trek back was intensified greatly. We rode our bikes on a very windy day so getting there was no problem but biking opposite of the wind was a resistance like you would not believe. Plus we were then on the other side of the loop where the area could be compared to one-hundred thousand bristles of a brush, instead of marshy wetlands, thus not as many alligators as the first 7 miles. I did however see skeletons of some snakes and I saw one live snake.
We finally made it (felt like we weren’t going to because of the wind and hunger) but we felt so accomplished. After we put a little something in our belly, we headed to our campsite. Mind you, this area is completely shielded from cell reception so if you need to use your cell phone, good luck! It was the closest to real camping we had ever done. Just me, my husband, and the wilderness. It was bliss minus a slight hiccup in which we needed to research something about my car and had no service.
The campsite, the Flamingo, was about an hour into the park. You couldn’t just leave if you needed to go to the store. There was a small store and restaurant in the park a mile away but being that it was Christmas day, if you needed anything to start a fire around 6:00 PM, you were out of luck. We ate lukewarm raviolis but it was quite all right. The campsite was nothing special but I liked how far away we were from everyone else. We were on the edge so we were practically right up against the wilderness.
It took us a minute to even find our campsite because the visitor center closed thirty minutes prior to our arrival so we had no way to ask. We couldn’t look it up on our phones and we couldn’t call anyone. A very loud, kind visitor also needed help so she definitely banged on the door and got someone who gave us both answers. He wasn’t very happy, I’ll just say that. When we found it, we encountered an “are you for real? moment”.
The man running that side of the campground told us to circle the loop quickly then come back to tell him what site he wanted.
Upon coming back, he immediately asked us if we had a reservation with a large smile and we kind of looked at him as if he were joking. He replied with,
“I see so many people coming in and out of here in a day.”
However, we were just there five seconds ago and it was about to close, so there were only two or so cars coming in. He then said,
“I’m sorry. I should have remembered you by the beautiful woman you have with you.”
Meaning me! By the time we set our tent up and figured out we literally had nothing to do at 6:00 PM, we almost decided to go to sleep. We were exhausted, we had no wifi or cell reception, there was going to be no fire, it was dark, and well you can see where I’m going with this. We ended up hanging my half-dead tablet on the roof of the tent and started watching the only movie I have on there. Perks of Being a Wallflower it was that night. It eventually died maybe 25-minutes into the movie, so we got creative. I remembered I had my book and fetched flashlight meanwhile hubby played Pokemon on his DS, that would soon also die.
Eventually we fell asleep together to the sound of crickets which is one of my favorite things about camping. Then we woke up to the sound of crows, as if they were throwing a raging party at 6:00 AM, which is one of my least favorite things about camping. I had to pee since the night before but didn’t want to go to the bathroom alone (he was sleeping at this point). I felt like my bladder was going to burst by the time I woke up, so we finally went to the bathrooms because we had to shower anyway.
The mosquitoes are no joke in the Everglades. They are huge, vicious, and everywhere. Each one I smacked had blood caked into their abdomens thus leaking onto my ivory skin. hordes of mosquitoes in the shower, hordes of mosquitoes in the car, in the tent — everywhere! No lie, I had to drape a towel over my arms and keep moving outside the bathroom, waiting for hubby to finish in the shower so I could, since he had our toiletries bag. I didn’t think I would be there when he got out, as they were eating me alive. After racing through my cold shower, we packed up and headed to our next destination.