Monday, January 2, 2012

The Tamiami Trail--Miami to Ft. Meyers

I left Miami about 4 pm and headed across the Peninsula on the Tamiami Trail.  A number of people told me this was the best route in all of Florida to see wildlife.  As the sun went down I approached The Big Cypress Wildlife preserve and found a campsite for the night. I wanted daylight so I wouldn't miss anything.

The next morning I was up before the sun and quickly ate breakfast and took off.  I did not want to miss the morning flight of birds.   The Trail skims the top of the Everglades and approximately 1/3 of the way across it enters The Big Cypress wildlife preserve.

The road was only two lanes so there were very few places to pull off and take pictures but I took advantage of every chance I could to do so.  I learned from some fishermen I met at one of the pull out areas that the water was salty or brackish on the south side of the road and fresh water on the north side of the road. It was the road that kept the waters from mixing.  The fishermen had to use different bait depending on which side they were working and the fish were different too.  I wondered how that happened and was it planned that way.

The mangroves were growing on the brackish side and are fantastic for providing a breeding place for fish and birds.

There were few cars on the road when I started out so I was able to cruise along at about 20mph.  The entire length of the Tamiami Trail is about 80 miles.  In the end it took me two whole days to cross.  I tried to make it easy for people to pass me but I still felt like they were cussing me as they went by.

From the ranger at the campground I learned these huts--called Cheekies (I think) are made by the Seminole Indians that live in the area. There are whole villages with these roofs.

As the sun came up I began to see birds everywhere and one crane flew right across the windshield of the RV.  If I had been moving any faster I would have hit him.

I found a little place to pull off the road to get a better look at the little river that ran along the north side of the road.  As I stood on the bank I saw something move out into the stream.....

My heart was starting to pound about now.   He was definitely checking me out.

I let him get pretty close--After all, how many chances will I get to take pictures like these?

Whoops!  He was getting way too close!  And isn't that a hungry look in his one eye?  (I think he was missing the other eye-or maybe he winked at me).  I was back in the RV in seconds--and I checked to make sure Sigh Me was still with me.

Not another 1/4 mile down the road I spied another alligator--sunning himself on the bank.  I parked the  RV, jumped out and snapped the picture--then that gator turned and looked at me!  I almost knocked my head off getting back in the RV.

After that I just stayed in the RV and took the pictures through the open window. (I don't think gators can jump.) Before I reached Fort Myers I had counted 25 alligators--all huge!  And that was mostly while driving!  And all the time I was wishing someone was with me--I kept shouting, "Holy Cow! Sigh Me, Look at that one!" Sigh Me wasn't the least bit impressed.

I drove into Everglades City for lunch then on to a little town called Chokoloskee on the Gulf.  It was that little tiny community was the hot bed of drug smuggling during the 70's and 80's where boats and small seaplanes would arrive in the middle of the night.  Stories abound in the store above--tales of glory and gore in the days of yore.  Pirates or just aging hippies?  Anyway, a fun place to spend an hour.

Sometimes I really wish I could paint.

As I drove back through Everglade City I parked and walked on the bridge to see if I could spot any manatees.

The water wasn't that clear...The tannic acid that leaches out from the mangroves makes the water the color of a very strong tea.

The boats that ferry the tourists into the swamp for closeup views of the alligators (they should have traveled with me that morning) went whizzing under the bridge...I counted dozens of boats and they all had extra passengers riding in the bow.  Did someone train the birds?  Do those pelicans get paid in fish for riding on the boats?  Or do they just like going for a ride?

Anyway, every single boat had one or two birds on board to the sheer delight of the tourists.

Halcyon II--my little home.

As soon as I left the Tamiami Trail I wanted to go back.  It was absolutely fascinating--wild and accessible at the same time.  I also would love to get a picture of one of those cats--maybe next time.


  1. Another great blog, Toni. I read them all.
    If you would have watched more Swamp People on TV you wouldn't have let those gators get that close. They get 3-4 feet out of the water to get the bait.


  2. Thanks for letting me know. Now I hope I don't have nightmares.
    Happy New Year to your family. Lv, Toni