Monday, April 4, 2011

The Real Florida

Collier Seminole State Park to Monument Lake, Big Cypress National Park

This morning we woke up to a humid but lovely hardwood hammock full of life and sounding the arrival of the morning. We heard a variety of bird songs along with insects and the sounds of squirrels and other creatures running through the palmettos and treetops. We ate oatmeal for breakfast and packed up, headed out to Big Cypress National Park and Preserve. We didn't have far to go today so we set a leisurely pace. The Tamiami Trail on this section had a small but adequate shoulder without too much traffic. We followed a canal the whole way and saw an immense number of wading birds and alligators. I even ran over a dead alligator on accident and left a tire mark on his back! Oops! That's a first for me.

We pulled into the Monument Lake Campground in the late afternoon and found a very pleasant tent camping area with shade trees and no other campers. When we were standing at the check in kiosk I looked down the road and saw a large alligator summing himself next to a picnic table. He then proceeded to stand up and walk across that roadway right in front of us. It was really cool (probably how Yellowstone visitors feel when they see a bison walk next to their car for the first time)! I can't get over the thrill of seeing these ancient reptilians, who, as a species, are actually older than Florida itself. What I mean by that is alligators existed when most of Florida was still submerged under a shallow sea. They are masters of survival.

We were the only tent campers staying in the campground that evening and there were only four groups camping there that night. It was such a peaceful campground and definitely one of our favorites so far. Our night was filled with insects. As we ate our tasty burrito dinner, large clumsy junebugs collided with our headlamps. When we turned them off we looked out into the night and saw the lights of the fireflies. Its been so long since I've seen fireflies, it reminded me of being a little kid and catching them in jars to see their flickering, concentrated lights. After dinner I went to the bathroom to wash the dishes and centipedes were gathered around the lights from the building. Above me in the rain gutter it sounded like a raccoon was trapped and trying to tear the whole thing down (never did figure out what that was.) After washing the dishes I watched geckos catching bugs buzzing around the lights. I even caught a baby gecko and found they do have an amazing ability to stick to surfaces, like hands or walls. Then below me on the ground scuttled a huge roach-like insect with very large front legs. This creature was a solid four inches long by 1.5 inches wide. I think he could have eaten the baby gecko I was holding. After the food was all put away and raccoon-proofed we settled into our insect free tent and fell asleep in no time at all.


Campsite at Monument Lake

Palm hardwood hammock at Collier Seminole State Park

Looking up a palm tree

Smallest post office in use in the United States, it was converted from an irrigation pipe shed

alligator sunning himself at the picnic area

He decided to cross the road

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