Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Into the Everglades

Monday we headed south. It took us a couple of hours to get out of Palm City. First, we needed fuel. Then we needed to restock the larder, so we went to the nearby Publix. While we were there, Hannah caught up with us to say her goodbyes (Sandy and Anna had done so the night before since they had to get up early to go to work). Following that, we drove to a restaurant we knew of and had a hearty breakfast. So it was about two hours after we pulled out of the driveway that we got onto the Turnpike and turned south.

We don’t like freeways, but it was the most logical way to the Everglades. Traffic wasn’t too bad except around a couple of cities, such as Miami. We took the Turnpike to the end, where there was a sign directing us to the Everglades. When we stopped at the Information Center, we were told (incorrectly as it turned out) that the dump station at Flamingo (our destination) may not be open due to a recent storm; so we took her advice and dumped our tanks and filled our water at Long Pine Campground. When we got to the campground at Flamingo, we found that there were ample available spaces — unusual during the season.

In the evening, we took a walk in our shorts and T-shirts. As we passed the heavy vegetation at the edge of the campground we were descended on by hordes of mosquitos. We beat a hasty retreat to the Roadtrek where we spent some time killing the little buggers and leaving blood spots on the walls. Winter is the dry season, and usually light on mosquitos, but this has been an unusual year.

Next day, Tuesday, we had the whole day in the park. This time we dressed in long pants and long-sleeve shirts. We picked up our gear and drove to the main area. We basically spent the whole day there. We decided against taking a hike through the woods and just hung out by the bay, where thanks to a nice breeze there were fewer mosquitoes.

Florida Bay and Gumbo Limbo tree
The place is osprey central. There are nests and birds everywhere. There are other birds aplenty as well. While sitting in the café, enjoying a cold drink, Jean spotted a flock of birds swooping back and forth out in the bay. Shooting them with a long lens and examining the picture, we discovered that they were Skimmers working the sandbar.

We attended a talk on manatees and learned many interesting things about them; such as that they live in sea water but drink fresh water. In fact, during the walk after the talk we found four of them crowded into the marina. They were drinking the runoff from one of the piers that had just been washed down.

We also got a close look at a white morph of a great blue heron. And learned how to tell one from an egret.

Great Blue Heron, White Morph

Later, we also heard a talk about hurricanes and had a long talk with the ranger afterwards. She clued us in on where in the area we might spot some crocodiles (yes, Virginia, there are also crocodiles in Florida).  We managed to spot two. They look like floating sticks, but don’t get near them.

That, along with some ice cream, topped off our day. We headed back to the campground. It only takes a few minutes to get plugged up ready for the night. But I was swamped by mosquitos. Inside the rig we had a killing fest, then turned on the air conditioning (it was warmer away from the bay) and took naps.

Next day (Wednesday) it was time to head north. We were in no hurry to leave, so we got away about 11:05. On the way out we stopped at the pond where we saw a tree full of spoonbills last year. No such luck this year; but there was an alligator slowly swimming by. That was the only gator we saw in a month in Florida!

From here on out it is just clicking off the miles back to the farm. In a few days we will be back to everyday chores and planning our next summer trip to the Great River Road. Join us then.

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