We awoke Monday in Collier-Seminole State Park to the sound of the garbage pickup. I think garbage men are like Santa Claus. The garbage is picked up everywhere early on Tuesday morning. This morning we feasted on blueberry pancakes.
After shooing away a 1½ inch horse fly from the door I jumped in and we were off. We stopped at the display of the walking dredge that built the Tamiami Trail across the bottom of Florida, through the mud in 1927-28.
We are driving along the Tamiami Trail through the Big Cypress National Preserve. The speed limit is 60 during the day and 45 at night, not because the elderly do not see well at night, but because of wildlife. We see a sign that says panther crossing and soon after 2 tan brown heaps at the side of the road. Not a deer. Not a bobcat. Not a dog. And on one I see round ears. The most common cause of death of Florida Panthers is being hit by a car.
Next to the road is the ditch created in the building of the road. The water is brackish. People who fish in it, and we see a number of fishing families, have to have a freshwater license if they catch a freshwater fish and a saltwater license if they catch a saltwater fish.
We see a so many vultures on a carcass that they look like huge black flies.
The Indian villages have thatched roof huts. Seminole and Miccosukee tribes still live here. It looks like they have centralized communal businesses; restaurant, Original Airboat, and a large ~8 story Casino for Bingo and Gaming.
This is a river of grass.
The Everglades is not a swamp like in Louisiana.
Someone in the highway department has a sense of humor. Rock Reef Pass elevation 3 feet.
We decide to head to Flamingo campground deep in the Everglades. No cell phone service and no internet.
Lots of wildlife, cattle egrets, white ibis and juvenile white ibis and a red shouldered hawk in flight.
And at dusk the mosquito. At the visitor center it says that the mosquito level is at enjoyable, the lowest level. Hysterical is the highest level. Few visitors come to the Everglades in high mosquito season. Which is the summer wet months, But the mosquito repellent tester companies come.
Today, Wednesday, is Jon's birthday. We ride the bikes down to the Visitor Center to see what is going on. They are not fully repaired from Katrina and Wilma in 2005. Sad.
We borrow a phone at the store and leave a happy birthday message for Jon. ATT phones work here, but not Verizon ones.
I use the word store loosely as they stock what are called snacks. Chips and more chips.
We visit the resident American Crocodile and then catch the Crocodile/Alligator ranger talk.
High on my agenda is wading in the Florida Bay. Shallow and not as warm as I thought, but being so shallow it is sensitive to the air temperature and it has just started to warm up down here.
Some sand but most of the shore is gray clay. I think you could make pretty good pots out of this clay.
The shadows are lengthening and my mosquito bites are itching. I need to shut this baby up. William prefers to stay out until they are starting to cover him then he brushes them off and comes inside. So he says as I kill tons after he comes in. That was the first night. The second night saw insects managed much better.
On the 17th Thursday Saint Patrick's Day we are up with the sunrise to make a birding hike. We identified a lot of birds out on the shoals of the bay. We watched white pelicans feed. They get in a circle on the water and kick up fish to eat. Then we walked into the parking lot where there were osprey nests in almost every tree with babies inside and flocks of red bellied woodpeckers. Nice.
We then hike out to the sewage treatment plant. The clean treated water attracts birds and we saw ducks and many wading birds. We are now birders.
We then did a self guided hike at Mahogany Hummock. One of the most beautiful tree islands in the park. Huge Mahogany trees, air plants, and the beginnings of spring flowers.
The island is in the river of grass that moves toward the Florida Bay at a rate of 100 feet a day (obviously during the wet season).
We ate lunch in the shade in the parking lot and then moved on to Pa-Hay-Okee, a short boardwalk to one of the highest points in the Everglades for another ranger led walk. We start in the dwarf Bald Cedar and continue onto a pavilion for some overall history of the park. As we are about to leave the pavilion some snake trackers come searching for an electronically tagged Burmese python. They wave their antenna around and say it is somewhere in the area. Our guide says those snakes have eaten most of the small mammals and even alligators. One alligator/snake encounter was won by the gator. He had ahold of the snake and it was wrapped around him. It was a 24 hour long struggle finally won by the gater when he drowned the snake.
When we arrive at our destination for the night, Long Pine Key Campground, I was looking forward to a hot shower. William braved a cold water shower last night, but I refused. I knew that the restrooms with solar had hot water so, so, so. But no! Three toilets and cold water in the sinks. I am going to croak. Since no one is around and the sites are quite private, William fixes me a plastic basin of cold water and I wash my hair and have a quick sponge off, mostly hidden by the RV. Ahh! William takes the hose to a faucet across the street and rinses off wearing/mostly wearing his swim trunks. It is hours before anyone comes by, and we are both refreshed and then grab a cold beer.
We try one more ranger talk. Mistake. Mostly boring talk about the use of fire in park management.
We snuggle down early in our cell free, internet free, electricity free campsite.