Tuesday, January 20, 2015

EVERGLADES - Shark Valley

A couple posts ago I said we had the perfect day. This was it, too. 

Sterling went back to school at the beginning of January with a vengeance, so it might have only been a couple of weeks, but we needed some family time! This was SUCH a fun activity-we loved the bikes, the weather was divine, there were no bugs, all of the kids were amazing and so happy, the gators were out to be seen and I just feel like I could pick this for my Groundhog's Day! Sterling and I spent the first hour looking at each other and grinning and saying things like "This is the best day ever!"

We went to the Everglades and did a 15 mile bike loop in an area called Shark Valley. It's about thirty minutes from our house (there was no traffic, so it really only took that long!) and we chose to go there because they had bike rentals.  Also, it is free to get into national parks on national holidays, so MLK was the perfect day! We had heard from a LOT of people that the time to go to the Everglades is now, because in the summer it is just too hot and has too many mosquitoes and bugs. Since I could barely walk outside of our house this past summer, I can't really imagine. Oh wait, getting from our car to the beach at Bill Baggs State Park last summer is a very strong memory. I can imagine. So we really wanted to enjoy this in the winter. It was perfect. We did not see or feel a single mosquito and it was cool enough in the morning that I had in the kids in jackets! Felt almost cold! (Ya know, bordering low seventies is cold these days.)
Molly only cried right then (we hadn't started biking yet) and as soon as we got going she was an angel the rest of the time!
Our first gator sighting! We were pretty stoked. Got off the bikes, took a picture, showed the kids, etc. We did that for the next three or four...or seven, haha. Then we realized that we wouldn't even make it a mile at that rate, let alone 15 miles, haha.

At first I thought I should put Molly on my back, since I am used to carrying her that way, then Sterling reminded me that he bikes every day with his backpack that is twice Molly's weight. Good call, babe.
Another gator!
The Everglades. We watched a minute or two of a video at the visitors center on our way out and they said that most of the Everglades looks like this (all 10.5 million acres!) and that this is truly a wetland, not the mangrove trees that people imagine. Mangrove trees are true swamps, which are separate from wetlands. The Everglades is the only wetland in all of North America.  
Two gators!

I thought this was as close as I'd get to a gator, and I was pretty scared. This is where all the gators are that we have pictures of--right along the road, ready to snap you at any moment!!!! Later, we crossed a bridge that a gator was sitting on so we actually got SIGNIFICANTLY closer to one. But it was smaller. 
Great Blue Heron--we saw TONS of these. They are really gorgeous. It was fun to see all the birds and then go back to the visitors center afterwards and identify all of them. They are all HUGE (this one is probably as tall as my shoulder. At least.) and so different and crazy colors. It was awesome. 

This is when Sterling's chain came off and we stopped to fix it and a nice retired zoologist stopped to help. I gave him a wipe to get all the grease off at the end and said sorry that it smelled like baby and he said "I will use it proudly! I worked with all these supposedly tough guys and they would squirm at the thought of changing a diaper! I always wanted to laugh, because we worked with really gross things, so a diaper? I changed a lot of my sons diapers thirty-two years ago!" It was hilarious. He was very kind and we were very happy that he stopped to help!
If you look through the grass in the very center of the picture there is an anhinga. I don't know why I don't have a better picture since we saw them pretty much constantly, but we thought they were pretty sweet cause they hold their wings out when they are perched and their neck looks furry. Weird. I also didn't take a picture of the turkey vulture, which I should have, just because they were HUGE! If anyone is interested, we also saw a Louisiana Heron, Green Heron, Osprey, Purple Gallinule, Great Egret, and tons of other ones that we didn't end up identifying.
I told Ruthie to get really close so I could take a picture and she started walking right up. So then Sterling got really annoyed at me and made Ruth stop right there and gave her a lecture on not getting any closer to them. oops!

Can you see the one swimming out there? 
The one on the bridge we had to cross. 
At just about the halfway point (mile 7) there was a tower you could walk up to look out over everything. It was pretty sweet. Plus, it had flushing toilets--the visitors center didn't. Isn't that odd? Anyway, the lookout was really sweet. 
How many gators can you see? I can see five.

 There were lots of things to read, that mostly said every creature in South Florida depended on these wetlands.

I took this picture while biking! Skill, I know. We also had an awesome system going where Ruth would put some snacks in my hand and I'd pass them over to Will. Good times.

Aww, too sweet.
Poor Ruthie. We stopped at basically the last mile because Molly started to cry and I knew she just needed to be fed. But when we stopped to nurse her, Sterling's chain fell off again so I told Ruth to sit down and we could have some snacks. She took one step, biffed it, and got some nasty bloody knees. She walked like her pants were wet the rest of the time and it was pretty hilarious!  Up until that point (minus the one stop for the chain) we had not had one crying child or mishap at all! Yay for 14 perfect miles!

Ruth and Will got their Junior Ranger badges and I am so excited to get a collection started for them! We love National Parks!
It took almost three hours total. The shop didn't even charge us at all for Sterling's bike, because of the chain, so it ended up being super cheap, too! It's crazy that we live thirty minutes away from the Everglades. I told Sterling that it is just weird to me. I dreamed about going to all sorts of places, Boston, Niagara Falls, Bannff, the Redwoods, even Europe and New Zealand or Australia. But never Florida. And never the Everglades. But they are REALLY cool and Florida has some pretty sweet stuff. I'm glad we got to go!


kami said...

You mean mom! Telling your daughter to go closer to the alligator! And I've changed my mind, I don't want to go to the Everglades anymore, I want to go to a Mangrove Swamp--but drenched in mosquito repellant.

Kayli said...

Those alligators are SOOOOO freaky!!! I can't believe you were that close to them! They could bite your heads off!

Anonymous said...

HI! Just discovered your blog ... you're in my hometown! I'm so homesick. I've lived in Texas 14 years. Don't know if I'll ever get back :( Grew up near UM and miss it so. Nice to see photos from a mom's point of view. Have you been to the gardens/splash park at the former Parrot Jungle property on 57th Ave. and approx. 12oth St? Beautiful.

The Haws Family said...

We actually have! Pinecrest gardens, right? It is beautiful and we really loved it!

Aleesha Burke said...

Thank you for not getting eaten by an alligator! Looks awesome!