Gators, Flowers and Bugs

Thursday March 31st 2022

The weather trend toward more humidity and warmer temperatures continued today. The early part of the day had a very strong south to southwest wind that kept the overall comfort level manageable. Later in the day the wind let up enough that the temperature flirted with ninety and was a bit uncomfortable.

I had a few errands to do in civilization today, so I made the fifty mile drive west into Naples Florida. It provides a good opportunity to stop at some of the trails and roadside stops along the way. On the way west I stopped at the main Big Cypress National Preserve Visitors Center on the west side of the preserve. Usually you can catch a manatee in the water behind the center, but today all I found was an alligator swimming in deep water.


On the way back I stopped at the Kirby Shorter Roadside Park. The cypress trees and plant life have shown a lot of change in the two weeks since my last visit. There is a lot more green on the trees and in the grass. A few more flowers have also appeared particularly in the water.

At both stops I didn’t see any of the big wading birds. Perhaps the wind was keeping them in more sheltered areas. I did see several turtles and some juvenile alligators at the Kirby Shorter Park. It was well worth the stop and walk out the boardwalk to the strand.

The campground is closer to full tonight than it was last night. It looks like there are only a couple of empty sites. Most of the sites are filled with travelers from states far away. There are two California license plates along with several Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ohio. Florida plates are in the minority tonight.

Shark Valley

Wednesday March 30th 2022

It was a very windy day out of the southeast. This is a warm weather direction and you could feel the change. The air was a little more humid than the last few. The temperature peaked in the high eighties.

Today I visited the Shark Valley unit of Everglades National Park. In March of 2019 I rode my bicycle around the entire fifteen mile tram trail at Shark Valley. Here’s a link to that blog entry: Everglade National Park Shark Valley Unit. My bike riding muscles aren’t up to that trip right now and the wind would have made it even more difficult. The best part of the tram road is the first few miles from the visitor’s center heading for the observation tower. I chose to hike the first couple of miles today. The alligators and birds were out in force. Here are some of the pictures I took.


Tuesday March 29th 2022

The temperature is climbing. Today was a little higher than normal in the upper eighties, but on the positive side it was less humid than normal for the end of April. Overall it was a very nice day.

I made the forty eight mile drive into the outskirts of Naples Florida today. My mission was two fold. First I needed a few groceries to add variety to my diet. Second I needed to pick up an Amazon locker delivery. Both tasks were a success. Even the newfangled way of getting into the Amazon locker worked. You used to scan a bar code Amazon sent in an email. Now you use a Bluetooth connection from the Amazon phone app to the locker and the door magically pops open.

The best part of the day was the stop at the Oasis visitors center on the way to town. The alligators and a few wading birds were all enjoying the sunshine and ignoring all the tourists pointing and commenting about their appearance. There were a few big gators that made the crocodiles I was seeing last week look like babies. I know the crocodiles are supposed to get bigger than the alligators, but not the ones I saw last week.

Back at the campground this evening there are actually a few empty sites. There seems to be a change in season going on. Of the four camp hosts sites, three were full yesterday and today there was only one campground host couple remaining. The campground can function without any hosts, but I am surprised things are changing now. It is hard to realize that Friday is April 1st.

My RV home across the pond with the sun setting in the background.

Travel Back to the Midway Campground

Monday March 28th 2022

Today was a good day to travel. The temperature stayed in the seventies while I got packed and ready to travel. The wind was also much calmer than the last couple of days.

I left my site right at the early 10AM checkout time. With no competition for the dump station, I took my time dumping and even flushing the tanks. It was about 10:20AM when I pulled out of the campground. I drove the thirty eight miles back to the park entrance at 50MPH, five miles below the speed limit. Killing time was the operative word for the day. I only had one hundred miles to travel and needed to give the site I was destine for to empty out.

My one stop was for gas in the Miami suburbs. The only station I could get in and out of easily was expensive. I paid $4.70 a gallon for gas. The average in the area is $4.20 and closer to $4.00 on the next leg of my journey. I didn’t fill the tank, but put in enough to give me options when I leave here on Saturday.

Site 9 at the Big Cypress Preserve Midway Campground.

I arrived at the Big Cypress Preserve Midway campground just before 1PM. The camp hosts were not around to check me in. The official check in time is 2PM. This is the same campground I stayed at on my way to the Everglades. I am on the same exact site for this stay, so I continued to my site and got setup. About 3PM I went back to the front of the campground and checked in.

The cell service isn’t very good here. During my stay ten days ago I had very limited Verizon service and no AT&T data service. This time around I don’t seem to have any Verizon service and I have limited AT&T data service for internet access. What’s different? I’m parked within 2 feet of my location ten days ago.

Last Full Day in Everglades National Park

Sunday March 27th 2022

My last full day in Everglades national park was another great weather day. The breeze out of the north kept the humidity in check and the temperature in the mid eighties. I was able to get in an extensive amount of walking today.

American Crocodile in the mangrove along the far side of the marina.

I have enjoyed my stay in the Flamingo area of Everglades National Park. It has a lot of trails and opportunities in a concentrated area along Florida Bay. There is also a lot of areas closed or abandon because of previous hurricanes and significant areas like the visitors center and lodge under reconstruction. That tends to make the atmosphere a little depressing.

An Egret with a red crown?

The volume of visitors in the area never comes close to filling all of the parking spaces in the area. During the week the visitor level is very low. The marina isn’t very active and the tent camping area is only partially full. The “B” and “C” tent camping loops have been abandon since one of the past hurricanes. The roads and sites are filled with weeds and the restrooms are abandoned. The trailer area I’m in averaged nine campers most nights. The road construction in this camping area is a valid excuse for the low numbers. The concessionaire has been actively discouraging and even canceling some reservations to make room for the road work.

The reasons for the low number of visitors in the rest of the Flamingo area are more complicated. The eastern area of the park, near Miami, is very busy. The parking lots at the Royal Palm area and the Long Pine Key area were close to full. Most of those people don’t travel the extra thirty plus miles to the Flamingo area. Does a low visitor count to the Flamingo area lower the priority on funding to complete the maintenance? Do the people stay away because of the low maintenance? What is the priority for maintenance and repair at this National Park?

The wildlife doesn’t care about the state of the national park. It is readily available for viewing. I’ve had fun wandering around taking pictures of birds and crocodiles. I will be back again, but it will not be a regular winter stop. It is at the end of a long road from civilization.

Tomorrow I’m reversing the route I took ten days ago to get here. I’m returning to the Midway campground in the Big Cypress National Preserve. Tomorrow’s complication is the early checkout time here. They want you off the site by 10AM.

A Slow and Uneventful Saturday

Saturday March 26th 2022

Today’s weather was close to perfect. The temperature got into the mid eighties under a bright sun. A nice breeze off the ocean kept things comfortable.

The bird blends in well with the dead tree branches.

My day was very routine. I took my time over my breakfast coffee this morning. Basically, I squandered the morning away. My first walk of the day didn’t start until about the noon hour. This walk to the marina and back with a few detours is over four miles. Since it is a weekend there are a lot more people in the park today. Places that were quiet during the week had people exploring or otherwise disturbing the quiet. Even the marina seemed to have a few boats tied up at the docks that were empty all week.

Before my second walk of the day I took time to prepare and eat lunch and complete a few tasks around my RV home. There seemed to be even more people in the camping and beach day use areas of the park just before sunset. The marina, however, was back to its empty state.

White Pelican

Friday March 25th 2022

It started to rain in the middle of the night. I had to scramble to get the windows closed, but went right back to sleep despite the noise on the roof. This morning it was a cloudy and dreary day. On the positive side, it was much cooler. There was a short period in the early afternoon that the sun was visible, but later in the day the clouds were back in force. After being humid and near 90 degrees yesterday, today was in the upper seventies.

Eco Pond

During the early afternoon break in the gloom, I took my first walk of the day. Today’s destination was a return to the Eco Pond trail. I’ve waked the half mile loop around Eco Pond several times during my stay. On all the previous walks I didn’t see any wildlife of interest in or around the pond. Today was the exception. Swimming out in the middle of the pond was a large white bird. With the help of the camera zoom, I was able to identify the bird as a White Pelican. These birds are one of the original snow birds. They are not year round residents of Florida like their Brown Pelican cousins. These birds migrate in from the north for the winter. They are much bigger than the brown variety and do not dive for fish from altitude. They are an impressive bird.

I returned to my campsite via the area reserved for the Eco Rental tents. The tents are busy every night. I took advantage of the time between checkout and check in to get a closer look. They are rigid structures with screens and canvas on all four sides. This allows the sea breeze to pass right through the tent. A big electric floor fan is also provided to help the circulation of air. Inside they have various sleeping configurations including bunk beds and double beds. There are no cooking or bath facilities in the tents. A restroom building is off to the side near a set of picnic tables and grills.

Eco tents along the side of Florida Bay.

My second walk of the day near sunset was very routine. I didn’t see anything new or remarkable. I’ve been here a week now, but there is usually something interesting to see.

Ever Watching

Along the Anhinga Trail

Thursday March 24th 2022

The weather is getting hot in south Florida. I had to run the AC last night to make it comfortable to sleep and will probably have to run it again tonight. Today’s daytime high was in the upper eighties with high humidity and a clear sky above my campsite. The breeze off the ocean kept things comfortable as long as you were shaded from the direct sun.

I drove back on the main park road to the east entrance to the national park. I went back to the Royal Palm area and walked the Anhinga trail again. The 0.8 mile paved and boardwalk lined trail has a heavy wildlife concentration. In addition to lots of Anhinga birds and Alligators there are turtles, egrets, herons and other random animals to see. This is a very popular place. The parking lot has cars from all over North America and there is a wide selection of languages from visitors to this country to overhear along the trail.

Wild Flowers



Back Country Boat Tour

Wednesday March 23rd 2022

My day began early so I could make another attempt at booking a Florida State Park stay for next winter. Much to my amazement I was successful. It was a different state park than the one I’ve been trying to book for the last two weeks, but it is a good park I’ve been to before. I will attempt to fill the two weeks at an Army Corp of Engineers park when the booking window opens in August or else I’ll reserve a commercial park somewhere in the state.

Tonight’s sunset.

The major activity for the day was a ninety minute boat tour into the Everglades back country. They use a relatively small pontoon boat for the task. There are only a total of six passengers with the captain. In my case the other five passengers were a family of five from a Spanish speaking country visiting the United States. The mom and dad spoke reasonable English, but the three kids under five years old barely communicated in any language. They were good kids. All they seemed to care about was the boat ride not the scenery.

The kids had it right. The scenery and wildlife on the tour were not that remarkable. The tour starts by heading north along the man made dredged canal. This is the area all of the American Crocodiles and manatees can usually be spotted. The boat captain tried to talk up all of the crocodiles that are along the canal, but only managed to find three on the journey. The ones that are out of the water are well back in the mangroves that line the banks. We didn’t see any manatee and only saw a couple of egrets.

The canal empties into a large body of salt water. The tour boat cut right across Coot Bay to a natural channel lined with more mangroves. We didn’t see any wildlife on this part of the trip. The natural channel empties into Whitewater Bay an even bigger body of water that is open directly to the Gulf of Mexico. The captain took the boat in a big loop in Whitewater Bay and returned to the marina the way we came. On the trip back through the canal we stopped to see the same crocodiles we saw on the way out.

I really don’t think I was the right audience for the Back Country Boat Tour. The fact that we didn’t see a lot of wildlife can’t be controlled, but I’ve seen mangroves in other areas with easier access. The wildlife around the marina is better than what I saw on the tour today. I got more entertainment watching the two of the little kids running around the boat. The third one only crawled.

This evening I walked back over to the marina area. I saw a crocodile and all kinds of osprey. It was better wildlife viewing than on the 90 minute tour. Here are some of the pictures I took on my walk to the marina.

A Windy Tuesday

Tuesday March 22nd 2022

Yesterday was windy. Today was WINDY. During the night the wind picked up and started to howl out of the east. It continued all day. The temperature peaked around eighty degrees, but the wind out of the east was brutal. It seemed to be much cooler.

Old Glory blowing the wind in front of the Flamingo Visitors Center.
Looking out into Florida B ay from the front of the Visitors Center build under reconstruction. The tour boat is returning to the marina in this picture.

I hung around my RV home most of the day. It was an opportunity get a few chores done between my morning and late afternoon walks. The wind made the walks difficult. Between having to hold onto my hat to keep it on my head and leaning into the wind to keep from getting blown away, it was tough walking. Taking pictures was also difficult. The difficulty keeping my hand steady on one end and the subject moving on the other end doesn’t make for sharp pictures. It is still better than a cold day with snow in the north.