Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The 'Glades

I had to get the bike back to the shop by 4.30pm and I had no idea what might be in store for the day ahead.  So my plan was to ride most of the distance back to Naples and see how the time was going, then decide what Everglade related activities to engage in.  The ride out of the Keys was fun.  In many ways the area between Key Largo and Miami is the most beautiful.  The waters are an unreal shade of green-blue and fill numerous channels between the wooded islands and peninsulas.  On the way back I managed to find the road that skirts the urban areas back to Tamiami Trail.  I was really glad I did as I got to see another facet of Florida's countryside.  The road was lined with nurseries and orchards growing lemons, oranges, limes and a variety of other fruit that may have been mangos and similar that I'd never seen on the tree before.

I turned onto Tamiami Trail and made short work of the first 50 miles or so.  The road essentially forms a dam across the Everglades than prevents the natural flow of water.  Lake Okeechobee empties into the Everglades and instead of forming a single river channel the water meanders across the entire landscape as a swamp but is inexorably progressing towards the gulf.   Route 41 halts that progress.  To remedy the situation, they are converting an entire section of the road from a dirt mound to a causeway bridge so the water can flow underneath unimpeded.  This is a mammoth task which was bought home as I watch a truck arrive at the work site with a single massive concrete cross beam.  It had driven the 50 plus miles from Miami, but that was just a single component and hundreds like it would be needed to support the roadway.  The point is, the first third of the trail consists of a construction site on one side and a manmade canal on the other, which is basically the ditch left behind when they piled up the earth to put the road on. The you get the the Indian villages which use garish billboards to advertise airboat tours and alligator wrestling.  Finally you get to the Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve.  Right before Big Cypress is the Shark Valley Visitor Center.  I pulled over to see what was up but there was and admission fee and I didn't feel like messing with it.  I pull a quick U-turn and stop to check my phone when I realize there is an alligator sitting next to me in a drainage ditch.  Well, that was easy!  Check off 'alligator' on the wildlife spotting list.

I went a little further to the Oasis Visitor Center which serves Big Cypress.  It was kinda small but had a lot of good information about the wildlife and the off road trails you could drive through the 'Glades.  I considered checking one out, but wasn't sure how the rental shop would feel about me going offroad on their shiny Softail.  Plus the trails are rumored to be crawling with alligators than have become accustomed to humans baiting them, and didn't want them to think I was offering my feet as a snack.  Apparently it is quite dangerous to get out of your car.  On I went to Kirby Storter Roadside Park.  I had stopped there on the way down to put my earplugs in and had made a mental note to visit more thoroughly on the way back.  There is a very nice boardwalk out to an alligator hole.  By this point I had seen so many gators that it didn't hold quite the same attraction but I still wanted to check it out.  It's a great way to see the Everglades habitat up close.  The boardwalk goes through a stand of cypress trees, which all have air-plants and orchids growing off of them.  I had heard someone explaining that although people think of the everglades as a big swamp, there is a base of limestone right beneath the surface, and where the boardwalk crossed over grassland you could see patches of the white stone peeking through.

After enjoying a rest in a thatched shelter, I still had plenty of time to kill, and was beginning to get hungry for lunch, so I decided to hit the road and head towards Everglades City.  The city, if you can call it that, is just a few miles south of U.S. 41.  I was expecting something more substantial and had ridden through almost before I realised I had arrived.  I continued on to the end of the road, to the small village of Chokoloskee.  There wasn't a whole lot there either.   The only attraction was some historic local store.  I stuck my head in and could tell it wasn't worth the admission price, so retraced my tracks to EC.  Right on the southern edge of the city is the Gulf Coast Visitor Center, part of Everglades National Park.  I stuck me head it and the lady at the counter got straight to work on me, convincing me to go on a boat tour.  It turned out I had just enough time to fit in a tour of the Ten Thousand Islands.  The islands are comprised completely of mangrove trees.  The boat tour was so excellent I think I might have to dedicate an entire post to it.  See you next time!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, lots of blogging! Guess Kris wasn't the only one who was inspired to write! Sounds like a great trip, look forward to hearing more.