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Stroll through Ancient Glades
Everglades National Park (USA)
Member Name: aefra
Everglades National Park (USA)
Date: 20/05/02, updated on 20/05/02 (150 review reads)
Advantages: Cheek by jowl with exotic wildlife
My brother in law and his wife are those fortunate "Snowbirds" who spend our winter in their home in Florida. When I joined them one January I was immediately enchanted with the apparent wealth of exotic wildlife around their home. Not just the little white egrets strutting purposefully along green verges or the brilliant red cardinal sitting in a nearby tree. I was in awe of the black and turkey vultures which moved away from me with a shuffle and a hop and the warning that a nearby strip of water could well hold an alligator.
What I was yet to find was that all these were but strays. That less than a day's drive south from Sun City Centre was the deep, quiet, mysterious and wondrous home of them all. Here ran a shallow, slowly drifting river 200 miles wide in which the saw grass stretched forever and mangroves stood on islands only a couple of feet high which held there own individual ecology just by being that short height above the swamp. The word "swamp" has always conjoured up a picture of darkness and mud. This was not so. Crystal clear and sparkling water beneath a blue sky bordered by the Atlantic on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other.
We had driven down Alligator Alley, the main highway to the Everglades, and eventually the Keys. Turning off this white freeway, we found ourselves on a more gentle blacktop. We saw air boats in the distance moving slowly though the the endless tall saw grass and said that we would like to take a trip on one. We were not to bother. Seeing a sign which read "Anhinga Trail", we stopped on a grassy verge and walked towards the trail. This was a board walk, just above the swamp and with handrails. Although there were other visitors, somehow the vast primeval scenery seemed uncluttered by them. Before we entered the trail I sat for a moment on a low wall. Looking down I met the eyes of my first alligator. The notice warning of fines if they were di
sturbed was unnecessary. To be this close to such a huge and truly awsome reptile took my breath away.
We then moved on to the boardwalk and started our walk. Although not particularly long, we took 2 hours to stroll and stop and gaze. Here the wildlife went about it's business undisturbed. The variety of birds was staggering in this wild haven. The large rather comical-looking black bird with white topped wings, for which the trail is named, allows it's wings to become waterlogged in order to dive for fish. The Anhinga were perched in the trees hanging their wings out to dry. Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons and dignified Wood Storks fished within a few yards of us. Beneath our feet gar,large primitive and many-toothed fish, drifted slowly through the clear water.
These and many other birds were impervious to the alligators which lay on nests of vegetation-almost benevolent looking in their stillness. Around us as far as the eye could see were hummocks of mangrove. The hummocks are only just above the water, yet this small height is enough to produce an ecology of it's own and different to that in the swamp itself. The mangrove is a pretty tree and, as it's name suggests, grows in groves. It is not at all like the dark pictures used to illustrate swamps in scary stories. It's seeds begin to grow while on the tree, then fall and drift with currents until they form new islands. These islands stretched to a very distant horizon.
Maybe because of the time of year we were not bothered by flying insects. I heard it said more than once that the summer is not the most comfortable time to visit Florida.
There are too many species living in this sub tropical paradise to mention here. I did not see a crocodile outside of a park, but they live alongside the alligators. Those I had seen made the alligators look pussy cats. Snakes abound of many types and colour and many are venomous, such as the smal
l brightly -coloured coral snake. Again I did not see any in the wild. Just as well as Mike, my brother-in-law, took a long time to recover from spotting a large brown snake under a bush outside his front door.
For those who wish to travel on the swamp itself, there are airboats. Although we felt we could not get any closer to the life of the swamp than we had, I should think an airboat could be an enjoyable way to see the sights.
Not far from the Everglades are alligator farms. Since these tend to sell alligator steaks, we gave them a miss. We had journeyed to watch them not eat them.
Typically of this region the rest areas were frequently found, spotlessly clean and had tables and seats for picnics. It still amazes me that someone must drive out regularly to these isolated areas to clean and tidy up.
The Everglades should not be missed if you are in Florida and have a car. Leave the touristy glitz behind for a while and slide quietly into this vast, unique area and breath for a moment alongside the wondrous life it contains.
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