Part 12: Fakahatchee Strand and the Everglades


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The Trip

We headed south from Osprey to Everglade City and hooked up with fellow unimoggers Bill and Pam.  Bill has a ranch about 10 miles north of Everglade City, so the area is quite remote.  He also works as a guide at the Fakahatchee Strand preserve.  He wanted to show us the preserve area and take us into the swamp which sounded cool.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

After we met them, we decided to head into Everglade City (pop. 400) for some dinner.  We followed Bill and Pam in their 404 that has been converted to carry tourists on his swampwalk.  See for details.

We got to the restaurant, so I could not resist taking a photo of our 1300 next to the 404.

Pam and Bill.

We had a nice dinner right on the waterfront and then visited a local bar for some late night frivolity.  When we were done at the bar, we returned back to the ranch for the night.  Next morning, I spotted this cool stag horn fern next to the camper.

The tree that hosted the stag horn also had nice air plants.

In the patio area, I spotted this interesting male lizard.  They inflate the sac underneath their neck during mating season to attract females.

The sac was brightly colored.  The sac inflates when they breath out, so normally the sac is invisible.  It took many shots to get the lizard in focus while the sac was inflated.

We headed out to the Fakahatchee Strand in Bill's 404.  Along the way, we spotted these vultures in the trees.

The strand has both open areas and thick stands of cypress trees.  The open areas were the result of harvesting large amounts of cypress lumber during WWII.  The clear cut areas have become prairies that have 6-8 inches of water.

As we headed deeper into the swamp, we spotted our first gator of the day.  This one was quite big.

Since Bill is on the staff, he has access to restricted areas, so we unlocked the barrier and drove on.  The brush on the sides of the trail was very thick.  This trail was a "spur" left over from the logging operations in WWII.

Kathleen in the back of the 404.

Most of the water along the trail had these small bubbles and ripples.  This means the little fish that live there are actively eating the mosquito larvae.  Amazingly, because of this, the deep swamp was free of most mosquitoes.

More gators.  This was a big one too, and he was sleeping on the trail in the sun.  The noise of the mog approaching woke him up.

Another big gator along the trail.

More gators sleeping in the sun.

The brush in the swamp areas was very dense, nearly impassable.

Along the trail were several hunting camps that were still in use.  Since the area is now a preserve, hunting is banned, but folks still stay in the cabins from time to time.  They were rustic but serviceable.

The water in the swamp actually flows and was quite clear.  The bigger open areas had plenty of aquatic plants.

Dense, dense bushes.

A large cypress tree with the characteristic fluted trunk.

One of the many interesting air plants we passed.

We spotted several hawks, but they were very tough to shoot due to the dim light.  The birds open their beaks when it is hot to help them cool down.

Kathleen spotted this small gator on our way out of the swamp.  I tried to get closer for an unobstructed shot, but when I got close, he bolted like a shot.

One of the many varieties of orchids that are in the area.  This one was close to Bill's ranch.

Not an orchid, but still a very pretty flower.

After our trip into the Fakahatchee Strand swamp, we headed into Everglade City for an air boat ride.  Bill and Pam know EVERYBODY in town, so he hooked us up for a short 1/2 hour ride.

The passages were lined with dense mangrove trees that would make travel without a boat nearly impossible.  The trees effectively formed a wall at the water's edge.

Incoming.  Why is this gator coming at us with such a purpose?

Oh no!!  You aren't actually going to HAND FEED this beast are you?

Yes, he is.

Look at those teeth.

The fish was a free lunch.  For good or for bad, the guides feed the gators and the noise of the air boat brings them running.  If you were to fall overboard, you would become the free lunch.

Interesting and entertaining, but probably not all that smart.  Eventually, the guide will be called "Lefty".

On the way back to the air boat dock, we spotted this nice osprey.

On the return segment, several pelicans landed on the boat for hand-outs.

A brown pelican.  We could almost see ourselves in the reflection in his eye.  Almost, but not quite.

After the air boat ride, we went to the Rod and Gun Club for a nice lunch.  Outside, we spotted this old Chevy pickup.  My father had one just like this one.

When we finished lunch, we broke camp and headed out east again.  On US 41 east of Everglade City, we spotted this big gator crossing the road.  Initially, he was headed in the opposite direction, but when he heard the mog, he panicked, turned tail and headed back the way he came.  Note that he is nearly a full lane width long, so that would put him it about 10-12 feet.  We did not get out of the cab to confront him.

We had a great time in Fakahatchee and the 'glades.  There is much to see and it was very nice having a guide that knew the area.  Many thanks to Pam and Bill for hosting us.  When we were done in Everglade City, we headed east to Homestead, FL.  Our destination is still Key West.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2010, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.