Sunday, May 17, 2015

usbackroads destination--Highway 41, Big Cypress National Preserve

usbackroads destination--Highway 41, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Everglades City is on the edge of the Big Cypress National Preserve.  The Interstates in Florida are the only way to travel in urban areas.  Once you get to the end of concrete it is time to shift to the two lane roads to get a feel for the real Florida. Historically, I-75 was known as Alligator Alley.  I am not sure how you view an alligator at 80 mph so our recommendation is to take Highway 41 that crosses the Big Cypress National Preserve to see the gators.

On our trip it was hard to avoid them.  They were everywhere along the road. The best place to see the alligators is right next to the Visitor Center to the Big Cypress National Preserve.  Here is the link to the official National Park Service web site:

In winter, it looked like the Big Cypress area was the best chance of getting a campsite without a reservation.  We did go to Monument Lake Campground and it was a nice campground around a lake with not very many sites (28). Like all National Park Service campgrounds way overpriced!  Here is the link to campgrounds in the preserve:

The visitor center is the spot to look at gators.  However, this sign is not that assuring about the safety with two legged varmits. Really?  At a visitor center??

So you want to see gators up close and personal?   Well, the good news is they eat very little relatively speaking.  You can find out that information at the "unsafe" visitor center.

Lots of other birds, fish and wildlife next to the "unhungry" gators.

Once you leave the Big Cypress Preserve there are plenty of opportunities to make some noise.

For me the only buzzing I was interested in hearing was watching this guy fly around.  Your mileage may vary.

Big Cypress National Preserve is a huge area with lots to do and places to explore.  You might get stuck here simply because you found a vacant campsite.  There are much worse places than here to be stuck.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, Everglades City, Florida

Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park,  north of Everglades City, Florida.

The park first drew my attention since it appeared to be in the middle of somewhere on the map..  After almost a month in Florida, we were starting to forward to uncrowded places.  It is a short drive north of Everglades City so with only a morning to explore we headed north and hopefully off the beaten track.

It is a Florida State Park and not very far off the beaten track.  However, on TripAdvisor Leah found a inhospitable and dangerous environment without signs or even cell service!!

Leah's comments were:  "Today my parents and I took the drive down the scenic drive. It was really beautiful and cool, until, like other reviewers, we ended up lost in the middle of nowhere. What on the map looks like a developed area is really just a terrifying empty grid with absolutely no indication of how to escape. The roads are rough yes, but we were more concerned about getting out, to the point where we were really scared. There is little no cell service, the roads are rough, and again, there is absolutely no signage at the end of the scenic area. I will be writing to the National Parks Service about this. We really enjoyed the trip until we ended up in the middle of the development that never was without any indication of how to get out."

Leah missed the fact that it is a State Park and not a National Park.  More importantly, it was not the middle of nowhere, but the middle of somewhere.  Somewhere is a place where I am sure readers of this blog feel the most comfortable.

We did expect a typical Florida State Park experience so left without a map just the auto GPS.  It is REALLY hard to get lost in on the road system which despite the reviews in TripAdvisor were actually in pretty good shape.

There was also the additional attraction for folks from Wenatchee to go to a park named Fakahatchee.  Wenatchee was named after the Wenatchee Indians and the translation of the name into English. I wonder when Wenatchee was spelled for the first time. if there was not a Floridian helping with the spelling.

Here is the web page for the State Park:

It is worth reading.  We did note that the Park has a $3.00 entrance fee, but there was nobody to collect it while we were there.

As noted before, we spent a morning exploring and driving the state park.  It is 85,000 acres with a rich ecological history.  So more than our other click on the links for additional information.

Here are the roads.  Hard to get lost!  When dry they are perfect for bicycling.  I would take a bike before a car.  Be sure to pack water, food, and probably some bug repellant.

And this is some of the landscape.  An extensive ecological landscape instead of the more "intensive" landscapes found in the Rockies and Cascades.  Notice the lack of elevation change.  Click on the link for additional ecological information on this landscape:

We did find this display rather interesting.  No interpretation sign to explain its significance.  Out west a stack of rocks indicates a trail.  You just hike from rock stack to rock stack to stay on the trail.  Ok, so where are we hiking from here??

Driving the roads provided few opportunities for views once we left the Park headquarters area.  We did run into the Florida equivalent of the forest grouse.  A bird not noted for its intelligence.  However, they are tasty.  No word on the taste of these birds, but they sure acted like grouse even if they did not look it.

If you want more of an adventure click on this link:  

We did miss the one-half mile board walk that is inside the park.  Explore the links.  With 85,000 acres there is much, much more to explore than one short morning excursion that we could afford on our time budget.  We will be back to take stroll among the trails.  Plan on spending some time in this portion of  Florida where the Everglades and magic begins.

Just remember your in the middle of prepared for a lack of signs and NO CELL SERVICE!!! 

How did we survive for all those years!!