Sunday, January 29, 2012

Big Cypress National Preserve & Everglades National Park.

It was an easy 115 miles drive from Punta Gorda to Midway Campground in Big Cypress National  Preserve. This big Cypress swamp is 2,400 square miles in subtropical Florida.  See  The RV campground is super for a public park. We have a 50 amp electric hookup. This is the only hookup at this campground. They only have electric hook ups here. There is a water fill to fill our 100 gallon water tank. There is a dump station so we can dump when we leave. All the roads and sites are paved. There are 26 RV sites and 6 tent sites. This is a great base to tour the Preserve and  the Everglades. There is a very nice welcome center coming from the west along RT41. This road is know as "Alligator Alley". We did see many gators along the way. We got parked after filling our water tank. We were anxious to start touring the area. We went to the Oasis visitors center to get some information. A very nice center. There is a deep water area in front of the center with many gators present.This is the dry season here and the gators seek out deeper water hole, or so we were  told by the Ranger on the boardwalk overlook. Armed with pamphlets we went back to the RV. The area is pitch black at night. It's made for seeing a super night sky. Haven't seen that many stars in a very long time. There were more then we could count, and I'm a pretty good counter.
   Monday morning we were up early. We were on our way to Shark Valley by 8:30, folks that's early for us. Funny thing is, there are no sharks in Shark Valley. But there are gators. It is a 15 mile loop road. Only traffic is a tram, other bikers and people on foot. We loaded our bikes the night before. Linda made us a super lunch of PB and J. Haven't had one of those for years. We also took plenty of water. Our Golden Age Pass got us into  Shark Valley  for free. The pass also got us camping at Midway for half price, $10.00 a night. We got a map, hard to get lossed on a loop road. We hit the blacktop at a deadly pace. That lasted about 5 minutes. Then we started to see wildlife right along the road. The guide tells you to stay 15 feet from the alligators. Well the road is maybe 12 feet wide. The gators are right along the road. Pretty hard to stay 15 feet distant. We saw many gators and a lot of wading birds, also some wild flowers. We had a very strong head wind and peddling got a little tough. Linda's hat blow off 3 times. There is no shade. It was a super 80 degrees.  By the time we got to the observation tower we were getting tired. The tower is the half way point, and the road turns back to the starting point. We stopped for lunch and a walk up the tower. We felt well rested and thought the wind would now be at our backs. Wrong. It was hitting us from the side and occasionally from our backs. A little better. At about mile 12 we were really getting tired. We stoped for a rest and walked our bikes a short distant. Then we mounted up and petal the rest of the way to the parking lot. The car never looked so good. But we did it. We got back to the RV and crashed for about an hour. Then after hot showers Linda made us dinner. What a great day. We will sleep good tonight thinking of tomorrows adventure.
    Tuesday we dove to Everglades City. We toured a small exhibit at the National Park. Then we got tickets for a boat tour of the 10,000 Islands of the National Park. It was another great day, about 80 degrees and sunny. A good day for a boat ride. This  bay is very shallow at low tide. Much of it is only 1-3 feet deep. There are many sand bars. It is a must to follow the navigation markers. We did see many different wading birds. The highlight of the tour was a pod of dolphins. 5 or 6 followed us for about 5 minutes. What a thrill. At first they were under the bow of the boat then moved to the rear to just the wake of the boat. I was so close I could almost touch them. I did get some videos of the pod. After the boat trip we toured The Smallwood Store. This is a Historic Ole Indian Trading Post and Museum.  See   .This is a must see if in the area. We spent several hours at the store. The highlight was the aurthor Rick Magers came into the store. He has many signed copies of his books in the store. We then had a nice late lunch at the Seafood Depot. This was a old train depot. We stopped at a few trails, but it was to late for a hike. It was almost dark by the time we got back to the RV.  Along the way to Everglades City we stoped at the smallest US Postoffice. Its about 8 feet X 8feet. see the photo's.
      Wednesday was a day of rest. We have been on the go for quite a while. We didn't do much, just relaxed. On Thursday we headed east for the main entrance of Everglades National Park. About five miles to the entrance we came to "Robert Is Here". A great fruit and vegetable stand. See the story here .   A great story. We were told about this place by several friends. They also have many fresh fruit milk shakes. We were told try the key lime shake. We did, and it was like eating a Key lime pie. We did purchase a papaya, fresh picked tomatoes, you could smell the freshness of them, sweet potato's, lemons, orangesand Linda's favorite, kumquats. If in the area this is a must stop place. Next we stopped at the main visitor center. Then thru the entrance for a short ride to the  Anhinga Trail. This is a half  mile boardwalk. We joined a Ranger walk and found out many interesting things about the glades. We came to one spot where there were about 20 alligators. They started to bellow. WOW this was great. The bellowing went on for at least a half hour. Some of the bellows were very loud. It must have been a territorial dispute as one gator lunge at another. Next we did the Gumbo Limbo Trail, another half mile loop trail. Next was the Pa-hy-okee overlook. A 1/4 mile boardwalk. Them if was off to the Mahogany Hammock, another half mile boardwalk. Then it was off to the Eco Pond. We did see many wading birds and ducks here. We also visited the two RV/tent campgrounds. We headed back to our RV with a stop at a Pizza Hut in Homestead along the way. It was a very long day from 8AM to about 9 PM. In all it was about 200 miles. If you go to you can find a lot of information about the park. We have 100's and 100's of photo's to go through. We will upload some of the better one's  when we get a  better wifi connection.
        On Saturday morning we headed west to the Big Cypress Bend and Fakahatchee Strand Preserve. It is a place to see some old growth cypress trees. It is an easy 3/4 mile boardwalk hike. There we saw some great birdlife and some baby alligators, about 8-10 inches with the mother standing guard not to far away.  Then we went to Goodland for the Mullet Festival.  After the festival we didn't know how close we were to Marco Island. So we drove the 8-10 miles to see the town. We drove around and then headed back to the RV. We stoped along the way for one more hike. It was an easy half mile board walk. We saw a lot of birds and a few gators. I promise we will uplaod pictures when we get  a better connection and go thru 100' of photo's.

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