Elizabeth A.S. Brooke

Crafting, traveling and everything in between.


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Cypress Gardens, Monck’s Corner, S.C.

I mentioned Cypress Gardens in an earlier post. This was probably my most favorite place during our trip to Charleston, S.C. It’s hard to believe this is a Berkeley County Parks and Recreation park!

There are 3.5 miles of trails, boat rides, a butterfly house, the Swamparium and lots of wildlife.

We were able to get in a boat ride before the sky opened up and dumped buckets of rain. You can take a free, self-guided boat ride or wait for a park employee to take you on a tour (cost $5). We opted to go it alone. Here’s some of what we saw:

There were lots of lily pads.
Our boat.
This guy was resting close to the boat house. (Look to the left of the pillar.)
We had to paddle or float under two foot bridges.
We got within about six feet of this lazy gator. Close enough to scare him off the log. Oops!

It was amazing paddling around in the water, especially when we could get up close and personal with some alligators. There was a photography club there the same time we were, and one lady asked to snap some photos of us in the boat. We tried to hold the boat steady as she snapped some photos of us from the side of the pond.

A friend used to live near Charleston and told us how snakes are known to fall out of the trees into boats at the park. Aaaggghhh! Luckily, I think, we were in the area much too soon for a snake attack. We also only saw a few gators and they were lazily laying on logs or at the foot of cypresses and other trees.

After the boat ride, it started raining and we dashed into the butterfly house, where we hung out until the rain slowed down and we could make it back to the visitor center/gift shop and then the car.

In the butterfly house we saw:

Quail
The resident wood duck, The Prince. He rules the butterfly house and what he says goes.
Butterflies and flowers

Caterpillars
Cocoons, or chrysalis  

Most of the winged beauties were hanging out at the top of the building and we couldn’t see them that well.

David Davis, butterfly house director, talked with us about the plants, showed us the cocoon house and gave me some seeds for a Mexican flower vine that the butterflies love.

David Davis greets The Prince, who is sitting on top of the bee hive.

Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for kids. Sidney had to stay in the car while we explored the park, but pets are allowed November-February.

This park most definitely should be on your To-Do list if you’re ever in or near Charleston.

I really wanted to walk around the gardens, but the rain wasn’t going to let up so we drove on up the road to our next stop — Conagree National Park, near Columbia, S.C.


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Everglades, Miccosukee Reservation and Big Cypress, Fla.

For my final Florida post (it’s taken awhile, hasn’t it?) I saved the best for last. The Everglades! I was so happy to see a part of the park!

We went to the Shark Valley Visitor Center, Everglades National Park, near Miami. That’s the closest visitor center to Chris’ cousins’ house, who we visited the next day. (See my Bill Baggs Cape Florida post here.)

Word of caution … this is a very popular stop. We could not even find a parking spot inside the park. We had to park along U.S. 41 (which, by the way, Chris says runs to his hometown, Evansville, Ind.) and walk in.

And though it was just around lunch time (it took 5 hours to drive from Kissimmee to Miami), all bike rentals and spots on the tram were booked up for the afternoon. So we walked around a portion of the paved, 15 mile look.

No, we didn’t walk the whole 15 miles. There’s no way we could have done that, especially in the blazing heat. We just walked a ways around each side of the loop and along two paths that connect either side of the loop.

Walking along the paved road I felt like we were in a zoo. All the birds and gators were right along the path in pools of water. Interpretive signs explained that during the winter months (we were there in March) the wildlife hang out in the small pools of water. When the spring rains come, there’s more water and the animals move further out.

  All photos by E.A. Seagraves or Christopher Brooke
All rights reserved. Please do not use any photos without permission.

So it didn’t really feel like we were out in the wild. Which is okay. We were able to get a lot of photos of birds and gators, including this fella who was sunning himself right by the path:

Since it was cooler than 80 degrees, the gators weren’t moving around much. The need higher temps to move about and digest food. Lucky for us, I guess. 🙂

Here’s some more photos:

Next we took an air boat ride, courtesy of the Miccosukee Indian Village. The boats were stationed across the highway from the park’s entrance so we just walked across the road. Here’s a shot from the boat:

The tour guide took us into the middle of the grassy river to a former chickee, or home. We got out and walked around, checking out the open shelters were families ate and slept:

Chris and I later ate at a Miccosukee restaurant down the road where I tried fried frog legs. I don’t think it tasted like chicken as many people say. I thought it tasted like fish and was appropriately served with tartar sauce. Though they tasted okay, I don’t think frog legs are something I will order again. It’s too hard to get past the fact I’m eating a frog. Blegh!

We briefly visited the Big Cypress National Preserve, which is just a few miles west of Shark Valley. The visitor center was already closed so we watched some lazy alligators lounging in front of the center:

Then we headed down the road to take the driving tour — the 16 mile Turner River Road Loop Drive.

It took us 3 1/2 hours to complete the drive. The dirt road had been washed out by rain and had lots of large potholes in it. A park volunteer, collecting trash at the trail head, said the road was passable. And he was right, it was passable, but I felt like the car needed an alignment after the long, bumpy trip. 🙂

Here’s some photos:

I would love to go back to Big Cypress to check out more of the park. And, maybe, one day Chris and I will be able to make it down to the main visitor center of the Everglades — much, much further south in Florida.


Savannah National Wildlife Refuge

On our return trip stop in Savannah, we went to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge in Hardeeville, S.C.

There’s a 4-mile wildlife drive in this refuge and lots of birds and alligators can be seen in the water and shore.

It was a very cold day so the few alligators we saw weren’t very active.

Chris about missed this guy floating in the water./All photos by Christopher Brooke
Do not reprint or use without permission.

We did see lots of birds though.

Park rangers said we could get out and walk along the levees in the park, but we didn’t do that. We just stuck to the road and drove around taking photos of what wildlife we did see.

Oh, and fishing is allowed. Here’s a couple of men (way in the distance) braving the cold and pending rain:

The refuge is former rice fields that are now used as freshwater wetlands for wildlife. Driving around the refuge you can still see water control structures, which are used to control the water.

Although it was cold and windy, it was a nice refuge to visit.

You can reach the refuge from Savannah by driving north of U.S. 17 for 7 miles.