Monday, February 18, 2013

FLORIDA: THE EVERGLADES

Our main goal in going to Florida last month was to visit the Everglades, a huge area of subtropical wetlands in Southern Florida that is the third largest national park in the United States (behind Death Valley and Yellowstone).  I had a definite preconception of what the Everglades would look like, and while there were parts of the park that were what I expected, I was stunned by the variety and accessibility of this incredibly beautiful place.Almost immediately upon entering the park, we were greeted by a rather large alligator relaxing at the side of the road.  We saw him on four different occasions, and while he was in a slightly different place or position each time, we never actually saw him move, and he never responded to our presence.  Right there my first misconception was exposed.  I always thought alligators were aggressive and dangerous.  Every alligator we saw was pretty passive.  

A hundred yards or so down the road was another alligator almost totally submerged in a bit of water, and on the bank near her were twenty to thirty little baby alligators. It was quite the sight:
Here is Bob taking a picture of the babies.  Unfortunately, they scooted away pretty quickly as he approached.  The mother, who is floating in that pool, never moved:
At another place in the park we saw eight to ten large alligators sunning themselves on the bank:
They have quite the overbite:
There could be a violent story behind this picture of two alligators and a single white feather, but we didn't see it.  In fact, several wading birds seemed completely comfortable walking past these guys:
I was intrigued by the violin shape of alligators as they swim:
There were often alligators right next to the walkways, but other than warnings that there was a stiff fine for attempting to feed them, we never saw a "danger" sign posted or heard a lecture from a ranger about being careful.  I don't think they have a problem with aggressive gators.  Note the alligator in the grass behind Bob:

Besides the alligators. there was an amazing variety of birds, many of which did not seem to be afraid of us at all.  

We were especially intrigued by these black vultures:
Bob, as a lawyer, felt a special kinship with them:
Apparently, the vultures aren't the most popular birds in the park:
We also really liked these birds, called anhingas, which, like the vultures, were also quite fearless:
They were real show-offs:

This wood stork could have come right out of Aesop's fables:

Thanks to Bob, I know that this is a small blue heron:

. . . and this beautiful bird with its wispy tail is a great egret:

I think my favorite was the great blue heron, seen here during the day:
. . . and at night:
. . . in the water, and on land:

We saw many of these zebra longwing butterflies, which I've since learned are the Florida state butterfly:

On one of the trails, we ran across this turtle just after she had laid and buried a clutch of eggs:

The park has dozens of trails and walkways that allow visitors to see all kinds of environments. I think that was the most surprising thing about the Everglades--the number of distinctly different biomes: 



























One last thing worth noting is the food available just before entering the park.  This place, of course, caught Bob's eye and required a stop:

We enjoyed the food:

. . . and the unique ambience:


However, even better than the Gator Grill was Robert Is Here, a farm stand loaded with amazing fruits, vegetables, salsas, various bottled items . . .
. . . and the largest avocados I have ever seen:


However, the food highlight of our entire trip was this amazing, incredible, delectable, divine, fresh strawberry-key lime milkshake.  I must confess that I had more than one.
It is worth going back to Florida for.   

9 comments:

  1. You can go back for the milkshakes, I'll go back for the alligators. I loved the Anhinga Trail. Better than a zoo.

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    1. Hmmmm, considering John's comment below, what exactly do you mean by "I'll go back for the alligators"?

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    2. I love wild alligators. I'm happy to eat an occasional tidbit of farm raised alligator, but I'd much rather watch them than eat them.

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  2. Very interesting to so how docile those alligators seem. They must be well-fed. Speaking of well-fed, I'm willing to make the enormous sacrifice to go with you for that milkshake.

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  3. I think the alligators were docile because they were hoping you wouldn't notice them. Considering Uncle Bob's track record on wild game eating, I was suprised you saw any alligators.

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    1. Brilliant deduction, John! It's a good thing I didn't go out without Bob by my side, isn't it?

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  4. Wowsers. That's a lot of different things to take in, both now and on your trip. How long were you on this trail? Was it long--in terms of distance? I assume it was long in terms of time, because there were so many interesting things to photograph. Cool. Very cool.

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    1. This was actually four or five different trails, all representing a different kind of vegetation, and all in one big blog mash-up. I figured a blog on each trail might be a little much, but putting them all in one post was also a bit much!

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