Dianne here -This time Roger and I will write about our day-long adventure in Everglades National Park. After our 15-mile bike trip at the Shark Valley area of the park on Tuesday, on Thursday we drove to the southernmost tip of mainland Florida to hike the boardwalk trails in that area of Everglades National Park. We took the "boys" with us, even though dogs are not allowed on the trails, because we knew we'd be gone all day. They do fine in their crate for a few hours, but this would be far too long for that. We were gone almost 10 hours, and they were very good travelers, so it worked out just fine. All the hikes were very short, so we simply traded off dogs and took turns on the trails. Next year when we hike in the national parks out west, we'll have to find reliable doggy day care, because the trails will be much longer and we won't want to take turns if we're on a day-long excursion.
My first clue that this was to be an interesting day was the road sign for a panther crossing. I've never seen one of THOSE in the Midwest!!
Once again, the weather was beautiful. We must be living right. It was a record high for the area; sunny and mid-80s. Didn't see any mosquitos - reason enough to go to the Everglades only in winter!
Roger here... It took us about an hour to get from Ft. Lauderdale to the national park entrance near Homestead. Along the way we passed innumerable nurseries, aggregate rock businesses, and a large American Indian Casino. As we approached the park, we entered an agricultural area (tomatoes, strawberries, green beans, squash, eggplant) - acres and acres. At one point we actually drove through a rainbow as the irrigation system was throwing water across the road; luckily, the sun roof was closed.
Being from Indiana, my family has made many trips to Florida, especially during school spring breaks. Typically, we went to a beach, to Disney, or left on a cruise ship - all fun. But.... we had never visited the Everglades National Park. We preferred the western national parks with the mountains, geysers, and bears. We thought of the Everglades as a flat (it is), grassy (similar to Indiana), swampy place with mosquitoes (I hear there are in the summer) and snakes. It did not sound like fun when I was younger. I was wrong. The diversity of life, both animal and plant, is absolutely amazing. The alligators and large birds are everywhere. We have shown you that before. On this particular day, the boardwalk hikes brought us even closer to the animals.
I was surprised to see how unafraid they were of us. We walked within two feet of the anhingas sitting on the railings and they just "checked us out".
Alligators were either swimming in the water, or lounging by the paths. (The picture of the alligator in the path is significant. Dianne was taking a picture of a heron eating a fish and not paying attention. She did not notice the alligator until she almost stepped on it. Wow. She could have gotten a picture of a bird eating a fish AND an alligator eating her leg at the same time.)
Each trail that we took was different. During most of them, since I was alone (Dianne with the dogs), with the palms, the mangroves, the jungles, and the water, I imagined that I was listening to the theme of Jurassic Park.
We saw some amazing things. A couple of the highlights included a beautiful roseate spoonbill feeding in shallow water (unbelievable how pink it was),
and the tranquil views of the Gulf of Florida from Flamingo - the southernmost point of mainland Florida.
During the dog-watching times Dianne and I both met several interesting people, including a couple from the State of Washington who also had a dog and were taking turns on the hikes as we were, and an interesting couple from Italy.
Altogether, we both hiked on seven different trails. We exited the park before darkness. We were kind of tired. I knew that Dianne wanted to stop at one of the many produce stands that we saw on the way to the park. She was somewhat noncommital when I asked her if she wanted to stop at one of them. She finally agreed, and we stopped at the "Robert is Here!" stand (huge sign on the roof) for five hours (obviously an exaggeration).
Robert (I assume it was him) was giving out free tastings of the produce (the avocado was yummy). Several times I asked Dianne if we were done, and she said, "yes" followed by, "Oh, look at those!" We bought several things, including tomatoes, and discovered that Florida tomatoes in the winter taste like Indiana tomatoes in the summer - almost.
Dianne again - The "Robert is Here" stand has an interesting story behind it. In 1959 Robert was a young boy who had a small stand at this spot selling his dad's extra cucumbers. After standing there all day with no customers at all, his dad made a large handmade sign "Robert is here". With the help of the unusual sign, Robert sold out before noon the next day. Their family has expanded the business and obviously takes great pride in stocking unusual items. In addition to tangelos, grapefruit, fresh-picked spinach, tomatoes, and strawberries, I also bought a jar of tangerine marmalade. The grapefruit and tangelos are incredible. The grapefruit so sweet that no sugar is needed to eat them. If you want to check out their web site, it's www.robertishere.com
They do ship fruit, but I don't know if they take internet orders or not. But if you find yourself in this area, it's well worth a stop!