Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Everglades from the Ernest Coe entrance in South Florida

Jan. 13, 2016---THE EVERGLADES!!

Finally, we get to play tourist again---thanks to Josh going out of town and Angie suggesting we go to the Everglades.  To my surprise, even Ken went along.

Anyway, it was a beautiful day to head to the Everglades---about 65, dry but cloudy.   There are 4 entrances to the Everglades from South Florida, we went to the main one by the Ernest Coe Visitor's Center which is farthest South, near Homestead.  I had been there once back in about 2003 after Dad tried to drown himself on a cruise and we ended up in Fort Lauderdale for a few extra days, but we didn't do much in the park other than walk a bit of a boardwalk.  So it was time to get back there and see what else we could find.

The drive from Coral Springs to Homestead took about an hour.  It was all toll road, so the drive was easy---especially since I didn't drive.  Once we passed Miami, much of the views from the road were of farms.

 One of the first signs we saw as we entered the park!  Since Ken went, we didn't have to pay the $20 entrance fee.  He has the Old Age pass (forgot the official name for it).  
 We skipped the Ernest Coe center and went straight to the Royal Palm Visitor Center about 4 miles into the park.  It was established in 1916 and later became the nucleus for Everglades National Park.  We were surprised when we pulled into the parking lot and saw all the tarps on the cars.
 Then we saw the sign explaining why they are here.  Turns out the vultures like to eat the rubber around the windows and windshield wipers.

So we gave our car a trendy cover.
 Apparently there are 2 trails here: the Anhinga Trail and the Gumbo Limbo Trail.  The Anhinga Trail , world famous boardwalk trail, follows a man-made canal along the edge of Taylor Slough. Because the canal holds water year round, the Anhinga Trail is one of the best wildlife viewing areas in the park.  The Gumbo Limbo Trail passes through the jungle like environment of a subtropical hardwood hammock.  We walked the Anhinga Trail.   This happened to be the same spot Dad and I had gone to years ago.  There weren't a whole lot of animals out and about, but I enjoyed the flora, too.
Angie taking a picture of a bird.
The bird examining us.
another bird.
part of the boardwalk.
one of the 3 alligators we saw hidden away.
looking back at one of the viewing platforms.
another bird---ok, there were quite a few birds in the Everglades. (Purple Gallinule)
a vulture with a gray head instead of a red head.
even found this slithering creature.  He wasn't moving too fast.
another pretty bird.  I guess I should do some research and try to find out what all these birds are. (green Heron)
The one we saw near the beginning of our walk---it was still there.  (cormorant?)
Love this ones "hair-do". (anhinga)
and finally-----(great egret)
We saw some signs to a missile site, so we decided to go check it out.  At first we thought--neat, look at the folk art painting; wonder where they would put a missile.
 Then we realized that was just one of the buildings.  Even the dog kennel still stands.
 As we drove farther into the area, we came across this----Now I was impressed.  The Homestead-Miami Defense Area was established as a result of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and was the last fixed air defense missile system to remain in operation in the continental United States.  Fortunately, no missiles were ever fired from here.  The site had 22 buildings when it opened in 1964. It closed in 1979 and was turned over to the National Park Service.  Remaining structures include a missile assembly building, three missile shelters, barracks and a guard dog kennel, plus a restored Nike-Hercules missile is on display. We happened upon it at a time when it was open to the public.
 Although the buildings have been somewhat restored, they've left the integrity of the age of the site--complete with peeling lead based paint.
one of the barracks to the left, I believe, with another missile barn in the distance.
 Several of the buildings were these barracks.   I don't imagine it was very comfortable in there in the middle of summer!
 Peeking into a barracks bunker.
 The wild foliage trying to take back the land.
For not having any idea this was here, we're really glad we found it.  Coming from a military family and living during the Cuban Crisis, I found this really interesting.
Our next goal was to head to the end of the main park road to Flamingo where the Florida Bay starts.  As we drove the 30+ miles, we passed a lot of different landscapes within the park.  One section was full of these scrubby pines.
 Another section was full of these white skeleton trees.  From a distance they looked so soft.  Plus we saw many birds throughout the drive.
Not too far from Flamingo we passed this view from the road.  Immediately I made Ken stop. 
 Angie and I jumped out and took a bunch of pictures. 
 I was mesmerized by the "dance" these egrets were doing!  It should have been set to music.
 They would drag their toes in the water.
 Then duck their heads in the water for I presume a fish.
 Even an ahinga was enjoying the dance.
 toes in, beak ready!
 another bird watching from a distance
 time to dry off.
 another ahinga.
This one just thinking "whatever".
 back to the dance.  I think I could have watched them all day!
 I notice these guys have different colored beaks and feet.  Otherwise I would have thought they were the same kind of bird.
Eventually it was time to continue on to the Flamingo Visitors Center.  Note all the photographers on the 2nd level.  So we headed up there.  There was even a ranger up there engaging an interesting conversation about the different animals in the Everglades.
 Viewing over the bay from the 2nd level of the visitor's center.  Cool birds with the orange beaks.  Too bad they were so far away!
 Lots of white pelicans and ibises.
broader view of the bay.
 closer shoreline
Angie had heard there were crocodiles here and she was on the mission to see one.  This is one of the few areas where alligators and crocs live together.  The Ranger told Angie she saw one by the dam above the marina earlier that day, so we took off that way.  While we were in the marina, we came upon 4 or 5 manatees lounging around.  First time I've seen a manatee in the wild.
 The marina.  If it wasn't so late already, it would have been fun to take a canoe or kayak out.  Maybe next time.
another manatee coming up to breathe.
 The Ranger said the croc was on the other side of the dam.  While we were looking that way, lo and behold it made it's appearance.
 He was only out for about 3 minutes, then went back into hiding, but Angie got to see it. 
 Looking out towards the bay from the marina.
There were a few ospreys here, too.
 and brown pelicans.
 love the way he's standing on the hook and not flat footed.
 Another osprey.  There were a couple nests on site and one had some noisy chirpers in it.
 Heading back to the car.
We continued on a little farther to Eco Pond.
 Spotted this hawk in the trees.
 more foliage.
 not many animals---but we did encounter a lot of mosquitoes here!  This was the only place we were bothered by them.

 Did see this little guy---a snowy egret?

 more weird plant life
 Then we started heading back.  Forgot what this place was called but there wasn't much going on here.
 a couple more vultures.
 We came to another short walkway.  I think it was Mahogany Hammock Trail, so Angie and I walked it.
 We presume the railing was warped from the heat of summer, made it look interesting.
 lots of plant life here.
This was by far the most densely forested area we walked through today.  Did hear an owl, but he was hidden away.

 Lots of these red barked trees.
 a strangler tree. 
 heading back to the car.
 Ken got a kick out of the elevation signs. 
 So I assume these white trees are dwarf cypress trees. 
Figured we had about 2 hours drive time to get home, so we boogied out of there shortly before sunset (about 5:30 these days).  Did make one more stop along the way in Florida city at Robert is Here (a huge farmers market).  We stopped there on our way back from the keys in July.  Neat place.  Angie and I got smoothies and some fresh fruits.  It was as great a day as I had anticipated!  Love playing tourist where we live!

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