I’m visiting my parents in Florida this week for a dose of much-needed warmth and sun, and well before my arrival I made it clear that we should devote a day to exploring the nearby Everglades. This was for a few reasons:
1) Everglades National Park is just over an hour away from their house in Naples where they have now lived for several years, yet I’ve never been there. This is because at some point when everyone including some extended members of the family were in town I was not due to a mismatched spring break, so I fell into a vortex of “but we thought you’ve already been that time we all went!” This also became doubly problematic for me in recent years when my adviser always asked if I’ve been to the Everglades by way of small talk when I was off to visit my parents, and I had to keep admitting I hadn’t.
2) I love the culture and history one gets living in Europe, but it does leave one wishing for wide, open, uncultivated spaces, so these days when visiting the USA I seek them out with increasing fervor.
3) Perhaps most important, I did not have enough geeky hobbies in my life so I recently began collecting National Park cancellation stamps. (Why do just geocaching and dabble in science writing which you can do anywhere on the planet when you can collect locational stamps for a country you no longer reside in?) Not only would the trip provide an Everglades National Park stamp, we would also pass through Big Cypress National Preserve on the drive in so I could obtain two stamps on one trip! How could we not go?!
New stamps aside, it was actually a thoroughly enjoyable day trip. We went to a place within Everglades National Park known as Shark Valley where a 15 mile paved loop goes out to an observation tower, which one can either go on a guided tram tour or rent a bicycle for the journey. We went on the bicycle option, and while going on my single speed cruiser I realized why my adviser kept bringing up the Everglades- when you look out onto the “river of grass” only broken up by clumps of trees in the distance, it looks just like a Dutch national park does.
During the course of the bicycle ride we saw four dozen and 10 alligators- cited as such because it was easier to keep track of them all- and this does not count several dozen spied from the car while driving there! There really are so very many of them (especially in dry season where most animals are drawn to the few existing water holes), ranging from little baby alligators to great big ones longer than a person… all complete with a glimmer in their eye confirming how very evil they really are. I know I’m personifying, but I don’t think anyone looked at one of these and felt they were cute and cuddly…
Should you find yourself at some point in southern Florida, I encourage you to head out to the Everglades and confirm this for yourself. Thanks to my dad for letting me use some of his pictures!