Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Riding with the Reptiles or Up to Our A**es in Alligators

While visiting South Florida to attend the wedding of Phyllis's cousin, we had a truly unique cycling experience.  Rather than fight city traffic or ride on shore line bike paths that (except for palm trees) are not appreciably different from those here in Chicago, we headed west into the Everglades. 

The road known as 8th Street in Miami becomes the Tamiami Trail - also known as US 41.  (Yes, it is the continuation of our own Lake Shore Drive).  About 20 miles west of Miami is the Shark Valley entrance to the Everglades National Park.  At the end of the parking lot, a 15 mile paved loop trail heads into the heart of the park. Designed for motorized trams to take tourists into the interior of the park, the path is open for cyclists and hikers.

Getting up close and personal with nature

Within the first hundred yards of the trailhead, we saw our first alligator in the bayou that ran along the path.  Over the next several miles we saw literally hundreds of his (her?) cousins, along with turtles, all kinds of birds and a profusion of plants and wild flowers.  Around the halfway point is an observation tower that can be climbed to get a panoramic view of this unique environment. 

Observation tower
The return trip traverses a drier part of the park, but multiple culverts passed under the road.  One or more alligators were in residence in nearly every culvert, seemingly enjoying a beautiful day in the sun and wondering what all those crazy humans were doing. 

A view from the tower
For anyone looking for something to do in the area, I highly recommend this trip.  Don't have your bike?  No problem - rentals are available.

- Joe Dickstein

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