February 6 – 20
With just the trip out to the Everglades planned for that last day we had a little time to kill in the morning and just before leaving town, stopped in at Cream Parlor for coffee and a snack. It’s a cute place, decorated in a kitschy fashion and offering a varied menu of breakfast items, crepes, salads, sandwiches, and some other enticingly eclectic items.
Along with a big latté, we ordered the Holy Crepe with Ham and Swiss Cheese. We hung out at a big table with a view of the street and enjoyed the hearty nature of the style crepe we’ve ordered a number of times in Paris, with fond memories of consuming one with my sister Beverly at the base of Sacre Coeur, or waiting for the light show to begin at the Eiffel Tower.
From there we hit the road for the Everglades, arriving to find a long line up at the Ranger Station to enter, the parking lot crowded enough that they’d only let a car in when one departed. As we had pre-purchased our tram tickets for 1:00pm, we were concerned about making it in time but when Joanna checked with the Ranger in the booth, they assured her that they would make it work.
And sure enough, we got in and parked with enough time to check in and then wait a short time to board the tram. Our two-hour ride around the park would be fascinating and enlightening; I found that all of my preconceptions about the place were just plain wrong. Established in the 1930’s, It covers 1,508,976 acres with elevation that typically ranges from 0 to 8 feet above sea level, but a shell mound on the Gulf Coast rises 20 feet above sea level.
The third-largest national park in the contiguous United States after Death Valley and Yellowstone, UNESCO declared the Everglades & Dry Tortugas Biosphere Reserve in 1976 and listed the park as a World Heritage Site in 1979. Most national parks preserve unique geographic features; Everglades National Park was the first created to protect a fragile ecosystem.
During the first half of the ride the guide filled us in on the vital statistics of the park, its size, importance in the local and regional eco-system, the number and types of wildlife that live there. Of interest was the cycle it experiences in terms of water, all of the streams and ponds filling up during the rainy season and drying up the other part of the year.
At the midpoint we stopped at the Shark Valley Observation Tower, with its sweeping 360-degree views of the heart of the River of Grass. A classic example of Mission 66 architecture, which is sometimes called “modern parkitecture” it features large slabs of concrete, swirling ramps, flat roofs, and terraces supported by thin columns.
Implemented in 1956, Mission 66 was a 10-year program intended to dramatically improve and expand visitor services in national parks by 1966, in time for the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the National Park Service. On the way back to the Visitor Center, we spent quite a bit of time viewing Alligators (there is but one Crocodile in the park) and then hit the highlight of the day where we got to watch an Alligator work on the ingestion of a Burmese Python, a multi-day event.
The Phyton’s are an invasive species, native to South and Southeast Asia, and first sighted in the Florida Everglades in the 1970s, after irresponsible pet owners released them into the ecosystem. The subtropical environment, with its ideal temperatures and abundance of defenseless prey, helped their population explode. Today, the consequences are being felt, as they have eaten their way through much of the native wildlife, including raccoons, foxes, marsh rabbits, and birds.
Michael Kirkland, Invasive Animal Biologist at South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) states that they “have recorded a 99 percent reduction of fur-bearing animals… and are now preying on wading birds and even the occasional alligator. Pythons are the apex predator now — a large python and a large alligator, either one could win that battle. The alligator is about the only native animal down here that could possibly win.”
Thoroughly satisfied with our Everglades experience we returned to our Airbnb with thoughts of dinner. We will cover that adventure, and the last day of our trip in our next and final post for the Florida journey. Until then, keep on truckin’
Cream Parlor: https://creamparlor.wordpress.com/
Everglades National Park: https://www.nps.gov/ever/index.htm