Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Big Cypress Preserve--February 23-28, 2011

Don't believe cell phone companies' ads--there is no signal strong enough in this area to make or hold a call from any company. We get great internet service with our air card because we hook it to an amp and external antenna. We wish cell phones still had jacks to hook to an external antenna!

From Long Pine Key we drove separately to Midway Campground in Big Cypress Preserve. We arrived about 11:30 a.m. and got the next to last campsite!Bob downloaded geocaches and off we went to explore the area. One of the caches was located at Clyde Butcher's Gallery. This is the swamp near his parking lot.We stopped at Oasis Visitor Center to get a map of the area. There was a boardwalk with lots of gators swimming near.

Our first major activity was to bike Shark Valley. It is technically in Everglades, but was only 15 miles from our campground.

To start, the trail was long and straight.At the 7 mile point (almost halfway) we locked our bikes and began the walk to the observation tower. A couple took our picture in front of this water filled area that was packed with gators.We proceeded on our way and climbed to the top of the observation deck.We had quite the view of the river of grass that is the Everglades.
As we looked back toward the trail we saw just how long and straight it is. For those of you who don't bike, there is a tram to take you around the area.As we walked around the campground that night I noticed a truck from South Carolina. The gentleman who helped us at Patrick had a truck just like it...from South Carolina. We looked at the motorhome it was next to it and out came Larry! Larry and Gail are from Greenville, South Carolina. They left Patrick and headed to Key West after we left for Everglades. They arrived at Midway the day after us.

The next day we were going to drive the scenic loop, but the road was closed due to bad conditions--huge holes!

We did stop at Tree Snail Hammock Trail and saw lots of tree snails (liguus). We saw one in Everglades NP, but here we saw lots and they were all white! The one in Everglades was black and white.Since the scenic loop wasn't passable we drove to Everglades City and Chokoloskee. Smallwood Store is a Florida Heritage site at the end of the road.Our next scenic drive was Jane's Scenic Trail in Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. Here we saw lots of gators!

This one was sunning next to the road.......and this one was in the road!We also saw lots of turtles along the way, but this one was moving from one side of the road to the other.Yes, we geocached as we drove and at Ochopee we found a cache at the smallest post office. Rumor has it that the building was originally an outhouse during construction of Tamiami Trail.There was also a cache at the entrance to Monument Lake Campground. It was a Seminole meeting place long ago.Larry wanted to try a kayak so he and Gail followed us to Halfway Creek Loop Canoe Trail
Saturday. Bob took him out and they paddled around for a few minutes. Then Bob and I hit the trail. We thought it was going to be about 7 miles, but according to our GPS it was a little over 9 miles! We enjoyed the mangrove forests as well as the lakes along the way.At one point an osprey grasping a fish flew over Bob's head.

Sunday our plan was to drive to Fire Prairie Trail and bike the 5 miles. A ranger told us it was a great trail. As we drove toward the trail head, the road was so rough we decided to turn around and make a new plan. In the new plan, we drove beyond Carnestown to Goodland. We stopped to check campsite availability at Collier Seminole State Park. There was a possibility we could get in on Monday so we had another plan!

Just beyond the state park on highway 92 is Goodland, Florida. Bob and I visited once before with my brother Walter. The Little Bar is still in operation. There is quite a story about the woodwork in the bar. Ask Bob or I about it some time.From Goodland we returned to our campsite via Cypress Bend Boardwalk in Picayune Strand State Preserve. We found 2 geocaches and walked the boardwalk.Monday, we broke camp and headed for Collier Seminole State Park hoping to get lucky with a site.