Monday morning dawned, and we headed out on an exciting adventure—canoeing a water trail at Nine Mile Pond! (No, the pond is not 9 miles. It is named that because it is located 9 miles from the location of an old visitor center.)
We rented our canoe, and set off. We made our way through mangrove trees and rushes for 2 hours—we even ate lunch on the canoe!
After dropping off our equipment, we stopped at Mahogany Hammock which is another boardwalk trail. This is not the kind of hammock in which you take a Sunday afternoon nap. This kind of hammock is where the trees overhang from above. And, on this trail the subtropical trees were interlaced with huge, years-old mahogany trees.
We headed back to the campsite for some much needed rest and relaxation. And, we enjoyed this gorgeous sunset view!
Tuesday morning we packed up and headed out of the Everglades. First, we stopped at the welcome center so Minnie Mouse could turn in her book, take her pledge, and receive her Junior Ranger badge.
We discovered from her book that the Everglades National Park is part of the South Florida Park Service which includes Biscayne National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. Because these three are so interconnected, they have arranged for kids to work from the same Junior Ranger activity book, receive a badge from each park, and then after doing that, receive a special patch. Since we were so close to each park, and don’t know when we might make it back this way, we decided we would stop at the other two as we made our way north.
First stop—Biscayne National Park. It is the largest marine park in the National Park Service. This means that to really see the park you have to take boat tours. However, Tuesday was VERY windy, so the boats weren’t running. We watched a film about the park and wandered around the visitor center. We did walk along the path outside for a bit, enjoying the view. Minnie Mouse took her pledge and received her badge from Biscayne. Later, we were talking with a sweet volunteer who was very impressed with Minnie Mouse’s vest (as were all of the rangers we encountered). She asked us to hold on a minute, and she ran to the back. When she came back out she had this very cool wooden Junior Ranger badge made special for 2016, the Centennial of the National Park Service. She said it is for those who have been actively working on Junior Ranger badges, and since Minnie Mouse has so many, she was deserving!
From Biscayne we headed west toward Big Cypress. We stopped at a visitor center and watched a film about this preserve. We found out it is the home to the Florida panther, a beautiful large cat that was near extinction. Due to a panther preserve and valiant efforts of rangers, the population is growing. This area is often referred to as the Western Everglades, and is just as important to the eco-system of south Florida as the Everglades themselves. It, too, is a beautiful area. After asking some questions and learning more about the park, Minnie Mouse took her pledge and received her badge. Apparently they are all out of patches right now, but they took our address and promised to send her one as soon as they are back in stock.
It was getting late in the day, so we decided to camp here in the park, at Monument Lake. Fantastic view!
I was surprised by the Everglades, Biscayne, and Big Cypress. I fell in love with them. There weren’t majestic mountains like we saw out west. They don’t have geysers or glaciers, and they aren’t home to as many large animals. In a way, the beauty here seems almost hidden. Here palm trees, mangroves, and mahogany trees co-exist. Small sparrows flit around, and large, elegant water birds glide over coastal prairies. Fresh water and salt water collide to create nurseries perfect for baby marine life to thrive. Here worlds collide, and create a little piece of perfection, at least to this Hoosier girl.
Now, on to Bradenton and good times with our friends! See you at the next stop!