Everglades National Park

The weatherman’s rain forecast turned out to be mistaken and we took full advantage of hot, partly cloudy day. Cali got a bit of grooming and loving attention to start her morning. She is doing much better after just a few days on her new meds. We sat out in the grove and ate oatmeal and hot beverages before closing Cali in her air conditioned house and heading down the road to Everglades National Park.

We passed through agricultural fields of various types of growing enterprises. Lots of tropical fruits. Groves of mangos, papaya, sugar cane and tomatoes stood out. This is also a well known area for orchid cultivation. There were lots of colorful roadside stands selling all kinds of fruits, vegetables, flowers and honey. We soon arrived at the Ernest Coe visitor center and as we were studying a map outside, we met a cool couple from Miami who were here visiting for the first time. Leo had recently retired and he along with his wife Ana have been out exploring new things on his Honda V-6 powered trike. We hit it off and had a long conversation before heading into the interpretative center and checking out the exhibits.

We learned just enough information to be dangerous then were ready to hit the swamplands. John, the docent at the front desk, highlighted a few of the areas to check out in the park. Since we have limited time with Cali waiting in the rig, he suggested hiking Anhinga Trail for the wildlife, Pa-hay-okee trail for the prairie habitat and Mahogany Hammock for a sample of wooded areas. The entry fee for the park is $30.00. But the most helpful hint John passed on to us was that being 62, I’m eligible for the senior pass. So not only do we get into the park today for $20.00, the pass is good for a year at all national parks in the country. That’s awesome because there is a portion at the northern edge of the Everglades that we want to drive through on the way north after our visit to the Keys.

John giving the inside scoop

My America the Beautiful senior pass. One the rare times being old has its advantages

Anhinga Trail was just a short drive inside the park. Not so much a trail per se but an asphalt sidewalk leading to a long series of boardwalks constructed to traverse about a mile of the wetlands. As soon as we stepped out of the car we were greeted by a number of gators lounging in a large “borrow” near the trailhead. We wandered around on the wooden walkways for an hour or so checking out tons of cool creatures and a wide variety of odd human specimens, mostly Euros and Chinese. It was a multi cultural boardwalk to be sure.

From there we sped along the sparsely populated park roads to the Pa-hay-okee overlook. This area is representative of how the majority of the wetland prairie looked before modern engineering and land transformation altered the area outside of the current boundaries of the refuge. We climbed a small observation deck and looked out over the grasslands. We didn’t linger too long before continuing on another ten miles or so to the Mahogany Hammock.

This hike took us through an area slightly more elevated than the major part of the glades. These areas that can remain dry longer become habitats loaded with trees and ferns of all types. The variety of bromeliads and air plants alone is awesome. We had to dodge a big cloud of ganja smoke as we passed a group of young adults from somewhere in Europe. I couldn’t quite place the accent – Dutch, Swedish? The small forest was beautiful and the shade was welcome. We saw a cool brown water snake in the shallow water surrounding the hammock as we were heading back to the car.

It was an exciting visit and we thoroughly enjoyed our time at the Everglades. We zig zagged back through the agricultural fields to get back to the campground. We stopped in at one of the big produce stands along the way to see what they had to offer. There were lots of tropical fruits and regular produce but all at exorbitant prices for the slew of tourists that were milling around in the aisles. While PJ wandered around the flower area, I ordered up a Cuban sandwich at the food stand. It was a colorful and lively scene.

Back at camp, we took Cali for a walk then took a short nap before stepping out in the cooler hours of the evening and tossing the frisbee around on the lawn. There are so few people near us that Cali gets away running free. After working up a sweat, we walked over and checked out the pool. The water was nice and we swam for a while until a mob of French speaking kids took over the pool and filled the jacuzzi. We had seen a grouping of maybe 15 tents across the big lawn at the back with three big vans. We are guessing this is some large scouting or school group from Canada. I took the water camera into the pool but hadn’t secured the hatch tightly allowing water to get inside. I dried it with a blow dryer and have it in a bag of rice overnight. Not too sure on this one, but we’ll see how it comes out in the morning. Mostly resting up after that getting prepped for Marathon Key tomorrow!