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Day 122-123 - Miami Everglades & Weather (Photo's Added)

We postponed the trip to Key West due to forecast for high winds, but decided to visit the Everglades rather then just sit in the Campground. Liked it so much, we stayed an extra day.

storm 55 °F

Logistics:

Miles Driven - 133 (RT)
Weather - Sunny & Warm on Tuesday, Cold and WINDY on Wednesday (but Sunny?)
Camped at Miami Everglades Campground for the most part, but we did stay at Flamingo CG in Everglades National Park last night (Tuesday night) - NO Internet Signal whatsoever (this is truely the end of the Continent!)

Musings:

We decided we both like touring much better than sitting around a campground...
We also definitely like beaches, tree's and grasslands (or Everglades) much better than blacktop, traffic, strip malls and condo's (Miami and Fort Lauderdale). But of course, we're part of the problem as we also need supplies that the malls provide and roads to travel on. Hmm...

Narrative:

Originally, I had planned to spend New Years here in Miami, then head south to Key West Jan 2nd and made reservations at a really nice RV park at Key West. However, while watching the weather forecast the last couple of days, it was clear a major cold front/winter storm was headed this way. I don't mind a little rain or cold weather, but wasn't looking forward to driving 135 miles over long bridges and little key's in a strong & gusting wind. So I called the Key West campground and postponed our reservation for two days, extended my reservation here for two days, and decided to hunker down until the storm passed.

However we were out of a few supplies and the weather Tuesday was still hot and sunny. I figured if the storm hit Tuesday afternoon and we had to drive home through rain & wind, we could handle it - just not 135 miles over the open ocean. So we decided to go shopping Tuesday then visit Everglades National Park, rather then just sit around the campground. (My son, Mike, had other plans for New Years so we had some free time on our hands, which we never seem to have trouble filling.)

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Off we went, had a blast, so just kept going. There are a couple of entrances to the park. Because our campground isn't that far from the south entrance, we took that one. It turns out that there is a 36 mile road that goes all the way across the Everglades to the south coast, a place called Flamingo (it used to have Flamingo's before hunters killed them all around 1900). We stopped at the visitors center at the entrance, went to the next stop or two, then just kept going all the way to Flamingo. They had plenty of open campsites (in contrast to what we'd heard about campgrounds in FL this time of year. Could have been the storm though) and only cost $8 with Mom's Golden Age passport - so we elected to just stay there for the night. In case you're like I am and have never heard of this place, a map might help:

Day_123_-_..es__Map.jpg

But to recap a bit, starting at the Coe Visitors Center, I saw a beautiful & striking butterfly. Of course, it was very difficult to get a sharp picture because he just wouldn't sit still, but this is clear enough that you can see what it looks like. This is a Zebra Longwing Butterfly (I found a sign later with a picture almost exactly like this - saved me untold hours trying to look it up!)

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At the visitors center we also learned that the best place to see wildlife is at the Royal Palms Hammock (aka Paradise Key), just a couple miles down the road. This is a slightly elevated area where tree's have a chance to take root and was one of the first area's preserved as a state park before Everglades National Park was established in 1947.

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There is a canal and pond in the area where fish tend to congregate in the dry seasons (Dec & Jan) when parts of the Everglades dry out some. Wildlife depend on this cycle and congregate here to take advantage of the dense fishing grounds. Even though there was a nasty winter storm forecast, there were many visitors to the Everglades NP, many speaking languages I couldn't quite identify. The Everglades is the only terrein of this type in the world, south Florida is some of the flattest land in the world and has enough water that the Shark River empties from Lake Okeechobee in a miles wide and inches deep slough. Of all the National Parks in the United States, only the Everglades NP has three major international designatations:

International Biosphere Reserve, World Heritage Site, and Wetland of International Importance

The wildlife here has gotten used to people it seems, as the birds and such pretty much ignored all the people. On the drive back, we stopped at Royal Palms again and Mom took the nature walk (you can tell which day it is by the way Mom is dressed), this is a Cormorant that just sat on the edge of the walk, didn't seem to care how close people got to it.

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The 1/2 mile nature walk at Royal Palms is actually named the Anhinga Trail, after the Anhinga birds that are quite common here. I'd never heard of them before (of course), they are related to Cormorants and have similar behavior in terms of diving for fish and then having to dry out their wings before they can fly again. Males are almost all black, but females have a lighter colored neck.

Day_123_-_..hinges2.jpgDay_122_-_..Anhinga.jpgDay_123_-_..nhinges.jpg

We also saw a turtle taking in some sun. It was surprising how the birds and turtle seemed to ignore the many alligators all around them. I guess there were so many fish, they figured the gaters weren't really hungry for anything but fish - or they were fooled by the big beasts sitting so still most of the time. There was a gator just a few feet further up the canal from this turtle.

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There were several Egrets in the park, both Great Egrets and Snow Egrets, but I'm don't think I got any pictures of the Snow Egrets. They have black legs and bills as opposed to the Great Egrets which have yellow bills (and are larger of course). Notice the Alligator tail just to the right...

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One of the endangered species that also frequents the Anhinga Trail is the Wood Stork. This is the only Stork native to North America. It feeds by sticking it's beak into the muck to search for food. (I have some video I'll try to upload - a most unusual bird).

Day_122_-_..Stork_2.jpg

We also saw three different kinds of Heron's on this one walk, the Great Blue Heron, a Little Blue Heron, and a Tricolor Heron. The park also has Green Herons, which we didn't see and another that is much more rare (and I forgot the name - not surprising as over 300 different types of birds frequent the park, and I'm not a very good birder).

Day_122_-_..e_Heron1.jpgDay_123_-_..Heron_2.jpg
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Since there were many Cormorants as well as Anhinga's, we got a chance to learn how to tell the difference. These are Cormorants.

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And swimming or lounging around all of the birds and other animals were Alligators, lots of them. (If these aren't enough, I have more...)

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In spite of taking pictures of almost every alligator and bird I could find, we actually did make it back out to the road. Along the way, we saw lots of different types of scenery - the river of grass, yes, but also brush, forests and bald cedars. In these two shots notice how the Everglades looks just like grassland when viewed from across it, but if you get a little higher, you begin to see the water more.

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We finally made it to Flamingo about 5 PM and could have driven back to the RV park if we'd wanted - the storm still hadn't hit yet. However, when we found out the NP Campground at Flamingo had plenty of spaces open and only cost $16 ($8 with Mom's Golden Passport), we figured we'd just stay there and have more time to enjoy the Everglades NP in the morning.

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The storm did finally hit during the night. Some rain blew through briefly last night, but the cold front brought mostly WIND and cold. The temperature dropped over 25 F between yesterday and today (84 yesterday afternoon, 52 when we got up, high today of 60). The wind continued throughout the day, but other than making the cold seem a little colder, it wasn't a factor. We had to wear jackets & hats, but otherwise were able to enjoy the Everglades again today. It may have been cold, but we still had to check out the beach!

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There were vultures all over south Florida, but the Flamingo area seemed to have quite a few around the campground and beach, especially Black Vultures. These are a little smaller than Turkey Vultures and have black heads, instead of red heads. There was one spot that had both types of vultures walking around just a few feet apart.

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I may have passed by a couple of brown signs, but very few - I think we stopped at most of them today. At Mrazek Pond about 5 miles east of Flamingo we saw this Alligator at the edge of the pond. I had walked over to get a picture of an Egret on the other side of the pond and just noticed this guy not very far from me, with no obsticals to overcome if he'd wanted to chase me down (unlike the Anhinga Trail, which is a raised boardwalk - quite protected from angry Alligators). I guess I backed up in time since I'm still here writing about this! Just a little reminder that this is a National Park, not a Zoo.

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We'll probably hunker down tomorrow (Thursday) again, then head off to Key West Friday - wind or no wind.

ps - one little side note on the wind - it caught the RV door and blew it open a bit more roughly than usual Wednesday morning at the Flamingo campground, and the door fell apart! Turns out I've got some wood rot around the door also (not too surprising with such an old rig) and this was a breakdown just waiting to happen. I removed the screws, stuffed a bunch of matchsticks in the holes, the put the screws back in. This seems to be holding for now, but I think the screws went in a little too easily and am expecting more repairs down the road...

Posted by jl98584 19:18 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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Comments

We got back from OK at 7:30 tonight. I just finished dealing with 137 new e-mails. We had a great time with the family.

You didn't say much about Mike. I hope you did get time to do some things together and enjoy each other.

I went with 3 friends to the Everglades maybe 10 years ago, enjoyed it immensely. We stayed in Flamingo, too--rented a room. I almost walked into a large, sunning crocodile. Have fun.

by msj

Hi - nice to hear from you! I was a little concerned about everyone in OK after watching the weather reports, but sounds like everyone is OK.

Yes, had some good times with Mike. There are a few pictures up for the previous blog entry when we went to the zoo. Got one more to upload from last night.

The Flamingo lodge was badly damaged in the last couple of hurricanes and is closed while the govt. decide what to do (tear down, rebuild same general footprint, rebuild & expand). BEAUTIFUL PLACE however. Loved the isolation & wildlife.

by jl98584

Finally, you have an internet connection and aren't afraid to use it! ha ha. It shoudn't be to cold in the miami area for long. A predicted storm just hit here a few minutes ago. It was supposed to build up over the afternoon, but here it is at 6:15 pm. Hit with a vengence, though. It has been pretty rainy here today. A low Temp of 52 with a high of 60 sounds pretty warm to me...

by drque

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