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Wow! What a great time we had. Spent four days in Big Cypress National
Preserve, and another three in the Everglades National Park..

We planned for this visit after we stopped here on our way to Key
West. After talking with a park services employee on our first visit we
knew we wanted to come back and experience the swamp walk and the canoe
trip.

We called and made our reservations two weeks out as advised, and
were assured we made the list. So.. off we went to head back up the
keys to Big Cypress. I had also wanted to stop at the Indian Casino
located at the corner where we turn to enter the Everglades.

We finally made it to Midway campground at 2pm after a late start
from Key West. Hooked up the trailer to the electricity, woo hoo!!, and
turned on the air conditioning. This was the first time we had
electricity that wasn’t from the generator since we left Midway on our
way down. I was pretty jazzed with being able to run the air. We then
took off to see the Indian Casino and Bingo. Well, for us it was a
bust. The best part was the $6.95 steak and lobster dinner. The place
was packed! The only slot machines open were the $5.00 ones or the
poker machines. We passed. When we checked on the Bingo, it didn’t
start again till 11pm. So we passed on that too. Guess we just aren’t
gamblers because we never did go back.

We took a drive on Loop Road on Friday. I saw more alligators than I
thought were in the entire state of Florida along the road. They were
just laying on the sides of the road sunning themselves. Lots of birds
we had never seen before were fishing in the ditches and ponds along
this road as well. After the drive and picture taking we just relaxed
for the afternoon.

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Saturday, we were scheduled for the canoe trip. Ray has never canoed
before and after capsizing the kayak last summer in Hawaii he was a bit
nervous about this trip with alligators and all in this river. The trip
was a four hour adventure with a National Park Ranger as a guide. We
saw lots of wildlife to include fish, birds, and of course more
alligators. Really enjoyed the nature talk from the Ranger and we both
learned a lot about the watershed and plants, animals of the
Everglades. Ray spent the first hour trying to paddle by sitting in the
bottom of the canoe. He finally got up on the seat.. but we still
managed to run into bushes and branches. We, I, made a command decision
that if/when we get kayaks it is going to be two singles.

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Sunday afternoon we took the “swamp walk” a walk through the
sawgrass. Wasn’t too long a walk, only about a mile, of course most of
it was through the mud and knee deep swamp water. We got a close view
of an abandoned alligator hole, and many Cypress trees and plants.
Again we learned more about the plant life and history of the
Everglades. Pretty cool, although I still have mud under my toenails!
Monday we packed up and moved to Long Pine campground.

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We took the long route, insert we got lost, and settled into the
Long Pine Key campground early afternoon. This means we are back to no
power = no air conditioning. The ranger told us about a night program
at Royal Palms but we passed and just stayed in for the night.

Tuesday we decided to drive all the way to the end of the road to
Flamingo area. There is a large picnic area right on the waters edge.
This area was hit pretty hard with Katrina. Then when Wilma blew a 8
foot saltwater surge inland the damage was done. This area has a lot of
sand, and saltwater damage to the grounds. The echo pond is now
saltwater and will never be the same. There use to be a restaurant and
a lodge, cabins and marina.. all were damaged. Word was that only the
marina would be restored. Really a shame. There was a campground out
there but was very dusty and open and not nearly as nice as Long Pine
Key Campground.

All along the way were these nature walk trails. Ray and I stopped
at all four of them! Didn’t see nearly the wildlife we had experienced
at Big Cypress. We were pretty disappointed. We still enjoyed the
experience. That evening there was a nature talk at the campground
amphitheater. Again this just awed us with all the department of
interior has done as is doing to preserve our land. Lots of pictures
and more information to absorb. We were advised to not miss the night
walk at Royal Palms, you know, the one we passed on previously.

Wednesday we prepared for out move northward. We visited Royal Palms
that morning and again saw LOTS of wildlife. This is the dry season
here and with the water drying up it causes the birds and alligators to
congregate in smaller areas. This was the best display of wildlife we
have seen. We took more nature pictures, and had a nice dinner.

After we applied lots of bug spray, we headed off to Royal Palm for
the Night Walk. WOW!! This had to be the highlight of our visit. The
guide, Lionel, was well informed and shared his love for nature and the
Everglades with us. We walked on down to the river along the boardwalk
and were greeted with a feeding frenzy among the alligators. Lionel
said he had never seen such a display. The alligators were swimming
about and herding in the fish. There was lots of jaw snapping and
splashing going on.

We all held our flashlights on the display that continued for
approximately 30 minutes. The walk continued when the settled down. We
then walked out to the end and were able to gaze at the night sky while
we were told about which stars where which. This was a nice end to a
great visit to the Everglades. We are really glad we took the extra
days here.

We are currently in Fort Pierce, FL. Have lots more pictures to share with anyone who wants to see them when we get home.

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