Hello friends! Remember me? I know, I know…it’s been a while since I’ve sat down to post on here, and for that I sincerely apologize. It’s crazy how busy life has been lately. So much has changed in the last few weeks! I’m getting back to a routine and things are starting to slow down with the end of the semester, and I anticipate many new adventures in the new year.
Last week I had a friend from Montana visit, and I wanted to show her all of the unique things that Florida has to offer. We hit the beautiful white beaches, fun streets of St. Petersburg, and of course, Everglades National Park.
For those of you who haven’t been to the Everglades, it’s different. By that I mean that it is not what you would typically think of when you think of a national park. Nestled in South Florida, the Everglades is 734mi of swamps, creeks, alligators, and beautiful landscape. From the Indian Reservations, to air boat rides, to even alligator farms, there is always something new to explore.
An iconic trail to the Everglades is Shark Valley, about 40 miles west of Miami. Don’t let the name fool you– there are no sharks in sight. Shark Valley is a geological depression in the Everglades that empties into the Shark River in the Ten Thousand Islands. A 15 mile round trip trail, visitors can bike, walk, or take a tram 7 miles to a huge fire lookout that presents an amazing panorama view of the Everglades. Ambitious, we set out with two bikes on a hot November morning with the goal to reach the lookout before a ton of tourists flocked the area around noon.
One thing we didn’t take into consideration was how hot it was going to be. Even in November, it was over 90 degrees the entire day. About 4 miles in, we decided to stop and take in the view. The runs along a small river, and we made friends with a ton of Egrets looking for lunch in the river. Not many people were biking or walking that day, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves.
If you’ve ever been to the Everglades, you can relate when I say there is something eerie about the swamp land. Alone on the trail, every so often we would here a rustle in the river grass. Wide-eyed, we would hop back on our bikes. Once we arrived at the tower, we stopped at a trail right before the tower. “You go first,” my friend said. Nervously, I stepped into the cold swamp water and onto the trail. The sounds of the swamp surrounded us, and I led the way to a small bridge where we stopped and soaked up the serene landscape and desolate trail. After a few moments, we continued on. I looked back at my friend as we were talking, and when I looked forward again I stepped into a HUGE spider web. As I looked up, a giant Banana Spider looked right at me. (Banana Spiders are terrifying, and grow to be almost 6 inches long)
Needless to say, I screamed and we made our way back to the main trail.
When we made it to the top of the fire lookout, we were impressed by the view. From the main trail, everything in the Everglades looks the same. But once you are up in the tower, everything looks different. You can identify where the different rivers flow, turtles swimming, and alligators wading on the shore.
After lunch, we started back on the other trail that is about 1 mile longer than the first one. Though it was hot, we still had fun taking in our surroundings. No matter what time of year you decide to do this trail, make sure you have a ton of water and food. As we got closer to the end of the trail we began to run out of water- and we were getting tired. Not the best match if you ask me.
Nonetheless, we made it to the one mile marker when we peddled past what looked like an alligator. We hadn’t seen one the entire time, and I wanted my Montana friend to see one at least once. As we backed up our bikes, we noticed that it was indeed an alligator! It started coming up from the river and towards us on the road. Peddling forward some, we made sure to be a good distance from the gator for safety reasons. As it crossed the road we were able to snap a selfie, and my Montana friend was elated.
Needless to say, the Everglades is a pretty magical place. It’s not like most national parks, but I think that is what makes it so mysterious. I love the history and secrets it harbors in the roots of the mangroves. But its something that you can’t even imagine from just reading my blog post- you have to see if for yourself!