A Week in the Everglades

We left Tampa, headed for Key West… but we travel slowly! We wanted to spend some time in the Everglades. Our first stop was at a beautiful RV resort near Marcos Island. This is a good jumping off spot for the western Everglades; what little driving is possible in the western parts. The campground was fabulous! Clean, nice pool, huge library, flowers and birds. Too bad we only had 3 nights!

I’ve been fascinated with Epiphytes. Plants that get everything they need with sunlight, rain and air. We saw lots of them in Peru, and I was amazed. Here we see lots of them too, without having to go all the way to Peru!

I guess Orchids are not really Epiphytes, but they seem to share some characteristics. They often send roots into the trees just for support. Others grow in the ground, but these “Tree Huggers” are fascinating.

Just north of the Everglades National Park is Big Cypress Natural Preserve, the first “Preserve” in our U.S. Park system. It is all part of the gigantic Slough (pronounced “Slew”) that covers most of South Florida. A Slough looks like just a big marsh, but is in fact a slowly moving body of water. In this case, it is not very deep, but hundreds of miles across and covering millions of acres.

This boardwalk is on the Marsh Trail, leading to an overlook. It is actually in the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. There are so many parks here, they fit together like puzzle pieces!

Turtle “Chillin”

A brilliant Cardinal making a terrific noise!

A colorful Grackle.

Immature Ibis.

Black Crowned Night Heron.

We saw this track through the grass, under the boardwalk. From the width of the track, how the grass was flattened, and huge “footprints”, I’m sure it was an alligator track. Pretty cool!

Speaking of Alligators, I can’t resist taking pictures of them. We did a driving trip on Loop Road, back in Big Cypress Preserve, and saw tons of ‘gators and enormous flocks of birds.

This is one of the ways I have always pictured the Everglades. Swampy, green, and teeming with wildlife.

There were far more Egrets than we could count, and lots of Black Vultures. They aren’t nearly as beautiful, so didn’t get their pictures taken as often.

Below right you see a tree being hugged by a “Strangler Vine.” They can surround a tree, and eventually get so big they hold the tree up even if it dies.

The Everglades hold far more than Birds and ‘Gators:

Some Roseate Spoonbills overhead.

I wanted a picture of these great little flowers, and then a butterfly came and posed for me!

A Mockingbird with his mouth full.

A Red-bellied Woodpecker

At the end of a road into the western Everglades, is Smallwood’s store. We drove down to see it, and were somewhat underwhelmed.

We drove to the southern tip of the Everglades park, to the “town” of Flamingo. We kayaked up the river for a ways in the heat and wind, and saw almost nothing of interest. The high point was as we got back to our car, there is a mother Crocodile who has made a nest near the edge of the boat ramp, and she posed for us.

Another Mockingbird.

And another Black Crowned Night Heron.

And parking made just for us!

Next week we get to Key West!!

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