Shortly before Christmas, I finally had a chance to tour Everglades National Park.* It has been on my list of places to visit ever since I read an article in an issue of National Geographic magazine as a kid. Sunny skies and mid 70s temperatures were a welcome change from the dreary, gray, and cold weather of my Central Oregon Coast home.
Spanning 1.5 million acres, the park is the third largest in the Lower 48 (after Death Valley and Yellowstone). I spent the morning exploring the sawgrass prairie at Shark Valley (in the northern section of the park). Though it was the dry season, I was not disappointed. There were alligator moms protecting their broods, dozens of wading bird species (including the stunning Purple Gallinule – gasp!), turtles, and did I mention gators?
For the afternoon I zipped an hour south into the mangrove swamps along the Florida Bay coastline. I’m glad I made the drive down, the scenery was just that much different. The havoc wreaked by Hurricane Irma in 2017 was obvious – boardwalks were twisted out of shape and the damaged visitor center was still closed.
After all day exploring a tropical wilderness I was grateful to have had only one mosquito encounter! A colorful sunset wrapped up my first full day of exploring Southern Florida. Up next, Key West!