"Not all those who wander are lost" J.R.R. Tolkien

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Everglades

We decided, on a spur of the moment, to stop at the Everglades on our way out of the Keys Sunday morning.  I figured we would check out the visitor center, get a stamp in our National Parks Passport, the boys would complete a junior ranger program and we'd be on our way.  The first surprise was encountering our first panther crossing, which stunned me.

The center is actually a museum regarding the past, present and future of the Everglades complete with a short, informational movie.  The most important thing I learned is that the Everglades is not a swamp, which I had always assumed.  It is completely freshwater that is constantly moving through the Glades.  Then we discovered the Everglades is disappearing at an alarming rate and we all learned ways we can help, even from far away.  When we discovered there was a 1/2 mile walk through the Glades we knew we had to do it but figured we'd be lucky to see one alligator.  As we ventured out to the walk start point several park rangers came up to Donald and informed him that taking his service dog was his choice but that two days ago someone had a non-service dog in the park, illegal to begin with, and an alligator actually ate it!  Can you imagine the horror?  I have to admit though, as we walked, I would like to have seen an alligator chomp on one of the myriad birds or even each other!  Donald did the sensible thing and took a nap in the truck with Holly and Shakespeare, who was happy to not be alone anymore!

We saw about 50 alligators; I felt like one of those tourists I used to laugh at who have never seen antelope before.  They were so cool!  The informational movie told us that gators can run up to 30 mph for short bursts.  There were times at the beginning of the walk when we were on level ground with gators no more than 10 feet away.  Like this guy:

These next few photos are taken from a wooden boardwalk suspended, maybe, five or six feet above the alligators.  We were also pretty impressed with all the varied bird life and how they seem to live symbiotically with the gators.  When do they become lunch, is what I want to know?
Can you spot all the gators in here?

This guy seems a bit satisfied, if you ask me.

Having heard of sawgrass, I was pretty excited to see it and to carefully feel it.  Rubbing down the blade it just feels a bit rough but rubbing up the blade could actually cut you, the teeth are so sharp.  Sawgrass grows in what they call a prairie but there is water gently running through it at all times, making it vastly different from any prairie I've ever seen before.
They boys in front of the sawgrass prairie
And just a few of the birds:

A couple of turtles and an Anhinga, also called a snake bird due to its long neck

An Anhinga

And a few more gators:

Almost kind of cute, right?

As if going to see alligators in the Everglades wasn't cool enough, this morning when we awoke in our beautiful campground in West Palm Beach we got to watch the sunrise which was, as my youngest put it, "misty sherbet" colored.  Shortly before that, though, Donald called me outside to see what was gliding seamlessly through the lake, 25 yards from the RV.  It was 12 foot gator.  And I used to think deer in the front yard were pretty beautiful!  It's unbelievable the things we have seen on this adventure and every day I feel so blessed!

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