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Our 2017 SummerTravels   Leave a comment

Eastern Canada, here we come!  Yes, this year, our summer travels will take us to eastern Canada to visit five Canadian provinces and then down south to the warmer temperatures of Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia, and then back up north towards home.  The hope is that when we leave Canada, we will have visited every province/territory with the exception of Nunavut.  Hope that happens.  I will add posts to the site as wi-fi permits.  Wish me luck with that!

You can click on 2017 Summer Travels to read all of the posts from this year.  Or, you can click on Tales from the Snail Shell to about our 2016 and 2017 travels.

Posted June 8, 2017 by turtleshell1 in Summer 2017

Walt Disney World Fall 2016 – Spring 2017   Leave a comment

Because the space on this blog site is filling up, I created another site to document our adventures in Walt Disney World and Florida starting in the Fall of 2016.  You can read about those adventures by clicking on this link that will take you to the site, Tales from the Turtle Shell – Disney.  You can also get to that site simply by clicking on the Fall 2016 – Spring 2017 link under the WALT DISNEY WORLD section below.

Our Summer 2016 Travels   Leave a comment

We have quite a trip planned for our Summer 2016 travels.  We bought a second RV, a 25 ft travel trailer, to accommodate smaller campgrounds found in many state and national parks.  And since I’ve used up much of the space on this blog site, I decided to create another blog site that will detail our journeys in the travel trailer.  You can get to the new blog site by clicking on Tales from the Snail Shell.  This new site currently only has posts on our 2016 travels, but I’ll be adding additional summer travels as the years progress, each with their own page.  If you clicked on Summer 2016 from the home page of Tales from the Turtle Shell, well, you’re already on the new site.  The Summer 2016 link will only detail our travels for this summer, but you know more travels are in the future.  🙂  Just stay tuned.  Tales from the Turtle Shell is our main blog site and we direct most folks to that site if they are interested in our travels.  I figured it was easier to keep the main site and link our travels as they occur.  I hope this isn’t too confusing.

Posted September 10, 2016 by turtleshell1 in Summer 2016

April 10 – May 1, 2016:  The Trek Home   Leave a comment

A lot can happen in three weeks, but this part of our trip involved mostly visiting family and we only took one photo, so this will be a recap.  We left John Pennenkamp Coral Reef State Park on Sunday, April 10, and drove to Lake Louisa State Park near Clermont, FL (and also near Disney World).  Along the way, we saw smoke coming from a number of directions along the route and finally were close enough to one of the fires to realize sugar cane fields were being burnt for harvest.  Neither one of us had experienced that before, so we thought that was kind of cool.  I guess we’re easily impressed.  Sugar cane is used in making rum, in case any one would like to know.  We learned that in our distillery tour in St Augustine.

We arrived at Lake Louisa State Park around 2:15 PM.  We’ve camped at Lake Louisa before and really enjoy the park.  The campground may be about 3 miles from the entrance, I don’t really know the exact mileage, but it always seems we drive quite a way before we reach it.  Of course, one has to drive kind of slow.  Anyway, we set up camp on site 15 and then visited EPCOT that evening.  We had originally planned on spending three days here, but because of some nasty weather in the Gulf, we ended up staying five days.  We visited a Disney park every day of our stay.  It was kind of like coming home.  When the weather cleared enough for us, we left Lake Louisa, on Friday, April 15, and headed to Georgia.  We spent the night in a Flying J and on Saturday, April 16, we set up camp at Old Federal Camground near Flowery Branch, GA.

Old Federal Campground lies on Lake Lanier.  This is another place where we’ve camped before, and as the photo below shows, it is really nice.  We were in site 39.  The campground is near family, which is why we were visiting here.  My husband’s father and brother/family live here.  We had a very nice visit and the continued our trek on Wednesday, April 20.

Site 39 at Old Federal Campground in Flowery Branch, GA

Site 39 at Old Federal Campground in Flowery Branch, GA

We drove towards Virginia Beach, VA, spending the night at a Pilot near Emporia, VA.  On Thursday, April 21, we set up camp at First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach, VA.  The older kids and grandkids live in the area, so again, this was a family visit.  It was a good and relaxing visit, a great time to catch up on things.

We spent a week in Virginia Beach, departing Thursday, April 28 and arrived at a Flying J in Catlettsburg, KY for the night.  The next day, we arrived at my husband’s cousin home in Hume, IL.  I’ve talked about Hume, IL before.  It’s a small town in eastern Illinois and it’s always nice to spend time there.  Very typical small town life.  It was a good way to end our travels for the moment.  We left Hume Sunday afternoon and returned to good of’ home by early evening.  Our Florida travels and the trek home were a real treat this year and both of us were glad we decided to do this trip.  But, it was also great to be home.

April 4 – 9, 2016: Florida Keys   1 comment

After seeing the crocodiles at the Flamingo Visitors Center in the Everglades, we packed up and traveled to Key Largo in the Florida Keys.  We had made reservations at John Pennenkamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo more than a year in advance of camping there.  The Keys are a popular spot during winter and early spring and the Keys were on our bucket list.  The campground isn’t large, but we managed to park our fifth wheel without any problems.  The campground was quiet and relaxing, but the state park itself was very busy.  People travel to this state park from miles around to enjoy the water activities available there which include swimming, snorkeling, canoeing, kayaking, scuba diving, and boat tours.  Boat tours will take visitors out to the reef to snorkel or scuba dive, or if one would rather stay dry, there are also glass-bottom boat tours.  The store to make reservations for all of these activities gets very busy by mid morning.  We walked around the park our first day there to get the lay of the land.

On Tuesday, April 5, we made reservations for the glass-bottom boat tour.  The tour started at 12:15 PM, but we were there early as usual.  We sat in a shaded area near the very busy beach, but managed to catch sight of a couple of visitors that weren’t expected.

This poor little guy was scared by all of the commotion at the beach. he climbed out from underneath the van and ran around the beach until he was able to scamper away

This poor little guy was frightened by all of the commotion at the beach. He climbed out from underneath the van, running here and there, until he was able to scamper away to cover. I believe I heard him breathe a sigh of relief once he felt safe again.

Shortly after spotting the racoon, we saw another visitor just trying to get a little sun.

This iguana was pretty large. He stayed on this rock for quite a while as he warmed up.

This iguana was pretty large. He stayed on this rock for quite a while as he warmed up.

My husband was able to get a close-up of the iguana. It looks like he's trying to hide behind the vegetation. I wonder if he realizes we can see him.

My husband was able to get a close-up of the iguana. It looks like he’s trying to hide behind the vegetation. I wonder if he realizes we can see him.

Eventually the hot sun did its trick and the iguana scampered away. The little pebbles were hot. It looks like he's lifting his foot from the beach because

Eventually the hot sun did its trick and the iguana scampered away. The little pebbles were hot. It looks like the iguana is trying to keep his foot off of those pebbles.

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This visitor was in the water and not at all unexpected. If you’re having difficulties seeing the fish, look at the center of the photo. The fish is long and skinny.

Finally, the time arrived for us to board the boat.  The tour would take us six miles out in the ocean.

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Look carefully to the right of the boat in this photo. We would go to the buoy furthest to the right. Fortunately, the ocean was relatively calm this day.

Soon, we reached the reef.  We were able to sit close to the windows at the bottom of the boat.  I know we would really have enjoyed snorkeling or scuba diving in this location, but seeing the reef from this perspective was still good.  The photos below were taken of the reef.

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The first of many blue fish.

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We thought the coral in this photo was really cool.

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Looks like this guy doesn’t want his photo taken.

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This blue fish has stripes!

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Yet another blue, but slightly different, fish. There are a couple of other fish swimming with him.

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This is the same fish, but with different yellow fish friends.

It took about 35 – 45 minutes for the boat ride to the reef and then we trolled around the reef for about another 30 minutes.  On the way back to the dock, we sat outside on top of the boat so we could see the landscape.

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There are mangrove forests in the Keys as well. This heron was right at home here.

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Shortly before we docked, this flock of birds flew over us.

We truly enjoyed this boat tour.  It was fun, relaxing, and interesting.  If anyone would ask our opinion, we would recommend the tour.  The following day, Wednesday, we decided to take it easy.  We hung around the park and did a little shopping.

Thursday, we drove to Key West.  We really only wanted to do a day trip to Key West, but certainly there were sights we wanted to see along the way.  There was another state park closer to Key West that we wanted to investigate.  We didn’t think that state park would handle an RV the size of ours, but after seeing it from the road, that may not be true.  The drive was cool.  I expected to drive along long bridges over open water, and there was some of that, but I was surprised at how much the road traveled over land.  Shows you my ignorance.

When we got to Key West, we decided to do a shuttle bus tour like the one we did in St Augustine.  The Key West tour was a little different from the one in St Augustine in that there were only a few stops.  The one in St Augustine had twenty-three.  We couldn’t get off and on the shuttle whenever we wanted as we did in St Augustine.  Needless to say, we preferred the St Augustine tour, but there was some fun stuff we saw in Key West.

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You can’t really see this in the photo, but this is the marker indicating Cuba is only 90 miles away. You just have to trust me on this one.

One thing on my husband’s bucket list was to go to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville.  I truly believed that might have been the main reason why he wanted to camp in the Keys in the first place.  So, when the opportunity presented itself, we took advantage of it.

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Yes, we made it! My husband could scratch that one off his list.

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Of course, we also had a margarita. We had hamburgers, too, but they weren’t ready yet when the photo was taken.

After eating, we walked around the town.  Key West certainly gets lots of visitors and some of them come from cruise ships.

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Makes you think of the Love Boat, doesn’t it?

Yes, there were boatloads of people, but we were surprised at seeing these local inhabitants.

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Chickens were walking, sometimes running, free on the streets. Actually, I like the colors of this one.

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Close to the end of our walk, we saw this momma hen and her baby chicks. They were so cute. It was one of those “ahhh” moments.

Key West was fun and it was touristy.  One of the common things that visitors do in Key West, besides having a margarita, is to watch the sun set.  We didn’t want to stay that late, so I can’t saw we did that.  Still, we’re glad we came here.

We snorkeled at John Pennenkamp State Park on Friday.  That was a hoot.  We hadn’t snorkeled in years and were a bit amazed to discover that our ability to float had improved so much over the years.  Unfortunately, our ability to dive and stay under water just wasn’t as good as it used to be.  It was wonderful exercise, nonetheless.  Thankfully, we got used to the water temperature quickly and enjoyed a couple of hours seeing the underwater sights, such as fish and jellyfish.

Saturday was chore day, at least for a while, and then we finished off the evening grilling food and enjoying some wine with our neighboring campers.  Sunday, we would start a slow trek back home.

 

 

 

March 29 – April 3, 2016: Everglades National Park   Leave a comment

Big Cypress National Preserve is adjacent to the Everglades, so we didn’t have far to travel on March 29.  We left Midway Campground at 9:30 AM and arrived at Flamingo Campground in Everglades National Park at 1:15 PM.  We drove east along Hwy 41 and then turned south on Hwy 997.  At Florida City, we turned west on Hwy 9336 which would take us to the national park.  We were visiting the Everglades towards the end of its tourist season, so the campground was fairly vacant.  Our site was in the T Loop.

Our site was the second from the top in the row where the letter "A" is seen.

A Google Earth view of the campground. Our site was the second from the top in the row where the letter “A” is seen.

As the map below demonstrates, the boundary for Everglades National Park extends beyond the land that forms the southern tip of Florida.  Florida Bay is a relatively shallow body of water (at least 800 square miles) that borders the Florida Keys to the east and comprises about a fourth of the total area of the park.

The National Park Service map of the Everglades. Flamingo Campground is

The National Park Service map of the Everglades. Flamingo Campground and Visitor Center are located at the southern end of the land that forms Florida.

After setting up camp, we decided to drive the one roads that traverses the park to get a better feel for it.  Around the Flamingo Visitors Center, we spotted a number of birds.

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This is an action shot of an osprey taking flight.

I believe this might be a heron.

I believe this might be a heron.

This bird looks a little different, but it might be a heron as well.

This bird looks a little different, but it might be a heron as well.

Another action shot of a bird in flight.

Another action shot of birds in flight.

There was also an osprey nest in the Visitors Center parking lot.  We weren’t able to see the eggs or hatchlings (if the baby birds had indeed hatched), but the nest was being carefully monitored.  We were able to get some more photos of the nest later in our stay, so I’ll add those towards the end of this post.

One of the parents making sure no one or thing would get close to the babies.

One of the parents making sure no one or thing would get close to the babies.

The Flamingo Visitors Centers is located on the Florida Bay and the confluence of the Wilderness Waterway.  The Wilderness Waterway is a man made waterway that was created to reach Whitewater Bay and other inland lakes that comprise the Everglades.  Unfortunately, it was discovered after it was created, that this canal allowed the sea water to pollute the fresh water of the lakes, thus ruining the natural habitat of animal and plant life. To correct that problem, a dam, or plug as the locals call it, was built to separate the two waters.  Consequently, the fresh water lakes are recovering.  I don’t have a photo of the dam, but a dam is a dam.  In the Florida Bay side at the Visitors Center, we could see manatees.

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We were able to get better photos of manatees at Blue Springs State Park, but here is a manatee enjoying the comforts of the inlet at the Visitors Center.

We also got our first glimpse of an American crocodile.  The southern end of the Everglades is the northern tip of the American crocodile territory.  The crocodiles live in salt or brackish water, whereas alligators are fresh water creatures.

Our first glimpse of an American crocodile.

Our first glimpse of an American crocodile. The crocodile was spotted in the canal. The water here is more brackish than fresh.

On Wednesday, March 30, we explored the park a little further.  We started by driving to Mahogany Hammock, about 18 miles from the campground.  (The campground is 38 miles from the entrance of the Everglades.)   A hammock is a densely wooded area slightly elevated from the surrounding land.  The elevation can merely be a few inches higher, but in the Everglades, that is significant.  Mahogany Hammock is a half mile trail on a raised walkway that traverses through massive mahogany trees.

Here I am in the midst of the trees.

Here I am in the midst of the trees. I really didn’t need the walking stick for hiking since the trail was flat and wooden. But, you never can tell when you might need protection from a snake.

We also saw some delicate, beautiful flowers along the path as well.

We also saw some delicate, beautiful flowers along the path as well.

That afternoon, at low tide as recommended by locals, we took the Florida Bay boat tour.  At low tide, we would be able to see more of the wildlife.

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This dead tree provides a rest area for a number of the birds.

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A cool photo of birds in flight.

this lucky bird caught dinner. The fish wasn't so lucky.

This lucky bird caught dinner. The fish wasn’t so lucky.

The Florida Bay Tour was enjoyable, but we preferred the second boat tour that we took on April 1 better.  Before I talk about that boat tour, let’s get to the Anhinga Trail that we enjoyed on March 31.  The Anhinga Trail is located close to the entrance of the park at Royal Palm.  The trail is another elevated walkway that meanders through a fresh water habitat.  We really enjoyed this trail.  We saw alligators, fish, plenty of birds, and landscape that just looks like what one thinks the Everglades should look.  The photos below say it all.

A rather large alligator sunning itself.

A rather large alligator sunning itself.

A bird sunning itself.

A bird sunning itself.

A flower sunning itself.

A flower sunning itself.

Everglades National Park, the Sea of Grass.

Everglades National Park, the Sea of Grass.

One fish that has managed to survive so far in this lake.

One fish that has managed to survive so far in this lake.

Another alligator close (but below us) to the walkway.

Another alligator close (but below us) to the walkway.

A couple of turtles enjoying the day.

A couple of turtles enjoying the day.

I thought this bird was rather pretty, although I have no idea what kind of bird it is.

I thought this bird was rather pretty, although I have no idea what kind of bird it is.

Another pretty flower.

Another pretty flower.

An alligator enjoying an afternoon swim.

An alligator enjoying an afternoon swim.

Another bird sitting on top of a roof-covered rest area for us humans.

This bird is sitting on top of a roof-covered rest area for us humans.

A view from the walkway that shows the water and plant life.

A view from the walkway that shows the water and plant life.

A view of the walkway meandering through the quiet of the lake.

A view of the walkway meandering through the quiet of the lake.

An alligator among the trees.

An alligator among the trees.

It's the nesting season, as you can see from this photo of the bird sitting on one.

It’s the nesting season, as you can see from this photo of the bird sitting on one.

As we were walking back to the truck, we came along this little flower alongside the walkway.

As we were walking back to the truck, we came along this little flower alongside the walkway.

The Anhinga Trail is an easy, flat wooden trail that displays a plethora of wildlife.  There were plenty of visitors to the trail, but it was quiet and peaceful.  As I said, we enjoyed this trail very much, but we eventually went back to our RV.  Along the way, we passed this road sign that we had seen when entering the park.  It brought a smile to our faces and I hope it brings one to you.

We;ve seen plenty of elevation signs while traveling through the mountains, but this one is priceless. I think my ears popped.

We’ve seen plenty of elevation signs while traveling through the mountains, but this one is priceless. I think my ears popped.

April 1 saw us taking the Everglades Back Country Boat Tour.  The tour starts at the Flamingo Visitors Center and follows the man made canal to Whitewater Bay.  I should mention why the canal was created in the first place.  If you look at the National Park Service map of the Everglades, you can see a dotted line starting at the Flamingo Visitors Center traveling north and west up to the Gulf Coast Visitor Center.  Once the canal reaches Coot Bay, the trail is all natural.  Before the canal was built, park rangers would have to boat from the Flamingo Visitors Centers west around Cape Sable and then follow the water between the Cape and Shark River Island to get to Oyster Bay and Whitewater Bay if there was any kind of trouble.  The canal shortened that distance considerably.  If one wants to canoe or kayak the entire Wilderness Waterway, there are places to tent camp along the trail.  Personally, I don’t think that experience is for me anymore, but I can understand if people would find it a challenge.  On to the tour.

Before getting on board the boat, we were able to see another American crocodile.

Before getting on board the boat, we were able to see another American crocodile.

We had reservations for a morning boat tour and I would recommend doing that.  Wildlife seems to be a little more active earlier in the day.

I am about to board the boat.

I am about to board the boat.

This is part of the canal, the man made portion of the waterway.

This is part of the canal, the man made portion of the waterway.

Again, we saw wildlife alongside the banks.

A heron.

A heron.

Look carefully at the center of the photo and you will see a baby crocodile.

Look carefully at the center of the photo and you will see a baby crocodile.

Eventually, they grow into this. Yikes!

Eventually, they grow into this. Yikes!

We had been told about this deadly tree found in the Everglades, the Manchineel tree.  The tree contains toxins that are very harmful to humans.  The sap of the tree can cause skin irritation.  If you stand underneath the tree during rain, the skin can blister if it comes in contact with this liquid.  If one tries to burn this tree, the eyes can be injured from the smoke.  The tree also produces a fruit that resembles an apple.  If eaten, the fruit can cause severe gastrointestinal symptoms, bleeding, shock, and infection.  It is possible that ingestion can cause death, although no deaths have been reported in modern literature.  It’s enough to make one very wary of the tree.

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The Manchineel tree is the one that currently doesn’t have many leaves. We did not get close.

The boat tour continued up through Coots Bay and Whitewater Bay.  Boy, talk about being in the middle of nowhere!  Still, it was beautiful.  We enjoyed this boat tour every much, probably because we were able to see more wildlife than the Florida Bay tour.  At the end of this tour, we were both hungry, so we decided to stop at the cafe at the Visitors Center.

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Here’s a photo of me eating alligator. Tastes like chicken, perhaps not quite as tender.

We spent the rest of our time going back to some of the places we had already seen.  Remember the osprey with a nest at Flamingo Visitors Center? A couple of days after first photographing the nest, we were able to see both parent birds there.

Here are the parents at their home.

Here are the parents at their home.

One of the parents looking down at us. Don't get too close. That beak looks like it could leave a mark.

One of the parents looking down at us. Don’t get too close. That beak looks like it could leave a mark.

Some parting shots and thoughts.

Our campsite. We didn't have too many problems with insects, although we had heard the mosquitoes were pretty bad in January.

Our campsite. We didn’t have too many problems with insects, although we had heard the mosquitoes were pretty bad in January.

On the day we departed, we stopped at Flamingo Visitors Centers one more time.  We were hoping to be lucky enough to see a crocodile before we left.  Little did we know.

One of the rangers pointed to a momma croc sitting on the dock laying eggs.

One of the rangers pointed to a momma croc sitting on the dock laying eggs.

Apparently, this crocodile laid her eggs in this spot last year.  Unfortunately, this isn’t a very good spot for the eggs.  Last year, birds watched as she laid her eggs and then helped themselves to a meal after she left.  We saw a bird near the nest as we were watching, so we’re not very hopeful.

We also saw a crocodile in the water near the dock.

We also saw a crocodile in the water near the dock.

Since crocodiles live in brackish or salt water, they can filter out the salt from the water for a drink.  However, when the opportunity presents itself, they do like a drink of fresh water.  When it rains at Flamingo Visitors Center, the rainfall will drip over the side, so guess what we saw?

The crocodile came up to the side of the dock hoping to grab some fresh water.

The crocodile came up to the side of the dock hoping to grab some fresh water.

Here's a better shot of the crocodile waiting to get some water.

Here’s a better shot of the crocodile waiting to get some water.

The day we did the Back Country Boat Tour, one of the workers was cleaning something and running water over the dock.  We saw another crocodile drinking water then.

We had a good time in the Everglades.  We spent six days in the Everglades and probably could have cut that down to four or five.  We were used to some of the national parks up north that have miles and miles of hiking trails and other things to see.  Yes, we could have gotten off the beaten path and hiked some trails where we might have encountered snakes and gators up close and personal.  We don’t find that quite so intriguing anymore.  We did see one snake, and only one, scurrying from the road in the campground to get to cover.  That was enough for me.  Still, we are very glad we finally made it to the Everglades.  It is a very unique place.

March 24 – 28, 2016: Big Cypress National Preserve   Leave a comment

We departed Chassahowitzka River Campground on Thursday, March 24, 2016 and drove south.  We were driving towards Big Cypress National Preserve, one of those places that we had wanted to visit for a while but just hadn’t gotten around to yet.  The drive was pretty easy; Florida is pretty flat after all.  Once we got on I-75, we followed it south around Tampa and Fort Meyers and then got off on Hwy 41 and drove east towards Big Cypress National Preserve.  There are a couple of campgrounds in the preserve.  We stayed at Midway Campground near Oasis Visitor Center.  This campground has a small lake in the middle with the campsites surrounding the lake.  According to the rumors, this lake was home to an alligator.  I’ll get to that later.  The sites have electric, but no sewer or water.  However, we could fill our fresh water tank with water inside the campground, so we were good.  Our first day at the campground was spent talking with some of the other RV’ers, enjoying some wine, and just generally having fun.

A Google Earth view of Midway Campground. We stayed in site #1.

A Google Earth view of Midway Campground. We stayed in site #1. In the photo, site 1 is the open space between the white building and an RV almost directly to the left of the “A” that you see on the lake. Hwy 41 is the road at the top of the photo.

On Friday, March 25, we wanted to explore the preserve some.  There’s one main road through the preserve, so we drove that road west towards Everglades City.  Everglades City has a number of airboat tours and that was another thing on our list we wanted to scratch off.  So, we drove there to reserve a ride scheduled for Saturday.

A map provided by the National Park Service of Big Cypress National Preserve. Everglades City is

A map provided by the National Park Service of Big Cypress National Preserve. Everglades City can be seen just above the Gulf Coast Visitor Center on the left side of the map.

As an aside, we noticed a filling station on the corner of Hwy 41 and Hwy 29 that was selling diesel $1.20/gallon higher than the filling stations in Everglades City.  I can’t remember the name of that filling station, but if you need to fill-up, do so in Everglades City.

On the way back, we stopped at Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center.  That’s where we got the park map and some other information, but didn’t see any wildlife to mention.  We did see road signs along the way informing us of panther crossings.  Actually, we started seeing those signs while driving past Naples, but unfortunately, we never saw a single panther.  There are a couple of other stops along the road where wildlife, in particular alligators, can be seen.  The best one is Oasis Visitor Center.  A fresh water canal follows Hwy 41 and alongside that canal is an elevated wooden walkway.  This is a great spot to see alligators and I bet, we saw a dozen gators there sunning themselves.

Gator #1.

Gator #1.

Gator #2.

Gator #2.

And a photo of a couple of alligators sharing the same place.

And a photo of a couple of alligators sharing the same place. You can see a bit of the walkway on the right side of the photo.

We left the RV early Saturday morning for Everglades City and the airboat tour.  Our reservation was with “The Original Everglades City Airboat Tours”, but there are a number of similar tours all located in the same place.  We really enjoyed our tour and guide (Matt), so we can give this airboat tour our recommendation.  We were given headsets that allowed us to hear our guide above the sound of the boat.  Not all of the other tours do that.

The start of our tour towards the mangrove trees.

The start of our tour towards the mangrove trees. It looks awfully peaceful, doesn’t it?

Before we actually got to the mangrove trees, we were delighted to see some dolphins.  They popped up their heads a number of times before they swam off to do something else.  I guess they were able to satisfy their curiosity about us humans.

The dolphins were swimming in the harbor.

The dolphins were swimming in the harbor.

Mangrove trees grow in brackish or saline water.  They have an extensive root system that provides the foothold these trees need considering the effects of tides and the saline water.

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The roots can be readily seen in this photo. The guide told us that we would not be able to walk “on” the trees. There’s no solid ground on which we could stand.

Mangrove trees are prolific growers. The limbs will grow out over the water and then send new roots down into the water. If the roots can gain a foothold, the trees will spread out.  Eventually, what once was a canal will fill in with mangrove trees.  If the water current is strong and consistent enough, the new roots won’t be able to gain that foothold.  The waterway will then stay open on its own accord.

Mangrove trees are prolific growers. The limbs will grow out over the water and then send new roots down into the water. If the roots can gain a foothold, the trees will spread out.

If the water current isn’t strong enough to prevent the new roots from gaining a foothold, then men sometimes need to cut back the trees to keep the canals open for the airboat tours.

Our guide would drive reasonably fast in the appropriate spots to provide a little fun.  The kids on the boat with us particularly enjoyed that.  We did, too, but we also enjoyed the wildlife.

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We scared this bird into taking flight. I think this is a heron.

Some more birds enjoying the day.

Some more birds enjoying the day.

A racoon in the trees. Actually, this was a mama racoon and we saw 4 or so of her children. Yes, it was cute.

A racoon in the trees. Actually, this was a mama racoon and we saw 4 or so of her children. Yes, it was cute.

A closeup of the racoon.

A closeup of the racoon.

There were a couple of boats from the same company that took off at the same time for the ride.  We stopped at a quiet place and chatted for a bit.  That’s where we saw the racoons.  That’s also where the guide was kind enough to take a photo of us in the boat.

Here we are among the mangrove trees. We had a great time.

Here we are among the mangrove trees. We had a great time.

We made our way back to the harbor and what should we see but those dolphins again.  I guess they were still curious about us.

Dolphins are neat creatures. For those of you old enough to remember, I always think of "Flipper" when I see one.

Dolphins are neat creatures. For those of you old enough to remember, I always think of “Flipper” when I see one.

After finishing the tour, which took about an hour and a half, we drove back towards Oasis Visitor Center.  When we were at Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center the previous day, one of the park rangers had described some of the vehicle trails we could take to further explore the park.  Along Hwy 41, west of Oasis Visitor Center, there is a road the turns to the south called Monroe Station.  This trail is about 30 – 40 miles of a mostly gravel road that eventually reconnects with Hwy 41.  We decided to drive this trail.

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There are shallow, fresh water canals on either side of the gravel road. And boy, one couldn’t help but see gators such as this one.

The gravel road had enough room for two lanes, one going each way, but that was about it.  Still, we had a great time driving along this road seeing the alligators and anything else that happened to show itself.

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Another gator in the grass. You can also see the shallow canal. The water was surprisingly clear.

This little squirrel happened to show itself along the road.

This little squirrel happened to show itself along the road.

In fact, he (or she?) decided we needed closer inspection. He, or she, came ran up the road to our truck.

In fact, he (or she?) decided we needed closer inspection. He (or she) ran up the road to our truck to speak to us. Unfortunately, neither my husband or I speak squirrel.

The water is very clear in Big Cypress as you can see from the photo below.  The land is so flat, that it’s hard to tell how much of Big Cypress is under water.  We could see the canals along the road, but everything after that gets lost in the trees and plants.  I certainly wouldn’t want to walk very far past the first 15 to 20 feet from the side of the road.

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We saw lots of gators along this trail. Most were pretty small, but this gator was fairly good sized.

A little further down the road, we saw this turtle sunning itself. I honestly don't know if gators like turtles this size or not.

A little further down the road, we saw this turtle sunning itself. I honestly don’t know if gators like turtles this size or not.

The last ten miles or so of the trail are asphalt and you just don’t see quite the wildlife that you do where the road is gravel.  Before the gravel road ended, we saw another fairly good-sized gator in the water.  I think we saw close to twenty gators total along this road.  At least half of them were small, but the others were big enough for me.  I know there are a lot of photos of gators, but they are really unique as far as I am concerned.  You just don’t see gators back home.

Another good shot of a friendly gator.

Another good shot of a friendly gator.

Sunday, March 27, was Easter.  We stayed close to the RV that day, enjoyed a yummy grilled meal and a bottle of wine.  There was a lot of pollen in the air and our sinuses were acting up.  It was a good day to stay inside an air-conditioned RV.

On Monday, we drove the Turner River Road.  This trail is close to Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center and goes north of Hwy 41.  You see mostly grassland, although I strongly suspect there is water and the associated wildlife in there somewhere.  We just didn’t see it and that didn’t surprise us.  The park ranger had mentioned that we would see more wildlife along the Monroe Station Road.  Still, it was an enjoyable trail to drive.

We would leave Big Cypress on Tuesday, but I have to say we truly enjoyed our time here.  We were thankful that the campground had electricity.  It was hot and humid, so air conditioning was very much appreciated.  We would walk around the campground following the road.  We didn’t tread very far from the asphalt.  I have to say we didn’t see any snakes, but strongly suspect they were somewhere close to us.  And that brings me back to the rumor of the gator that is supposed to live in the lake in the middle of the campground.  Did we see one?  Why, yes!  We could see the gator swimming in the lake from the windows in our fiver.  One night we had a campfire and sat near the shelter close to our site.  You can see that shelter in the Google Earth photo above, the first photo.  The shelters are the white squares inside the campground road, close to the lake.  The shelter we used was almost directly left of “Midway” in the photo.  Anyway, we were enjoying the campfire, chatting with other campers, when the gator swam up near the edge of the lake and just stayed there.  I suppose we should be happy the gator stayed there and didn’t want to venture any further up on the land.  But, we did get to the see the gator out of the water and on land on another day and I want to share that photo with you.

The gator is sunning itself on land (right side of photo). In the background to the left of the tree, across the lake, is our RV.

The gator is sunning itself on land (right side of photo). In the background to the left of the tree, across the lake, is our RV and truck. The gator appears to be smiling to me. Big Cypress will make you smile.