Few places truly embody what nonresidents envision when you mention Florida than the Everglades and The Everglades National Park, and I’ve finally been able to spend some time camping, hiking, and kayaking through the seemingly endless grasslands, the cypress forests, mangrove swamps, and marine grass flats of “The River of Grass.”
Head south through the city of Homestead, Florida that was nearly wiped out by Hurricane Andrew back in 1992, turn onto Highway 9336, and it won’t take long before you’re totally lost in a vast region of nothingness and limited cell signals. There isn’t a better place to get away from everything and experience natural Florida the way it was when inhabited by only the indigenous tribes. Just imagine what it was like for the original settlers, the Florida “Crackers,” when they carved their path across the state. There isn’t much to maintain your ties to civilization after stepping off the concrete ribbon leading from the entrance gate to the Flamingo campgrounds.
The wildlife variety is absolutely amazing and for the bird watchers among us, there can’t be a better location to view a more varied species list. Wood Stork, Osprey, Black Vulture, Turkey Buzzard, Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Ibis, Limpkin, Swallowtail Kite, all manner of hawks, and water birds abound in the skies, the swamps, and grass fields. Florida Panther, American Alligator, Crocodile, Whitetail Deer, Raccoon, Otter, Eastern Indigo Snake, and many others hide in plain sight, just off the trail’s edge, so watch your step. The fishing can be quite spectacular in both the fresh and saltwater sections of the park so be sure to take a couple rods rigged for everything from bass and bluegill to redfish and tarpon. The plant life including wild orchids is spectacular but much of it takes an adventurous heart to experience since you can’t see everything from a parking lot.
So take a trip south and experience what this state used to be like back in the days before computers, cell towers, high-rise hotels, and strip malls. Commune with nature for a while and enjoy the peace and quiet of Everglades National Park.
Brian “Beastman” Eastman