Elizabeth A.S. Brooke

Crafting, traveling and everything in between.


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.

Lake Kissimmee State Park

One of the coolest places we visited in Florida was Lake Kissimmee State Park.

Well, actually, I probably think it’s cool because we saw two armadillos. I squealed when I saw the first one. Really. I did.

All photos by Christopher Brooke/Do not use photos or reprint them without permission.

And it’s not because armadillo is the mascot of the community college I attended. It was just so cute . . . well, sort of.

We walked along a trail at the park that was pretty much flooded. We tried to keep to the side of the trail as much as possible, but by the time we got back to the car, our feet were pretty much soaked.

This is the trail, not a creek. It was flooded from recent rains.

Most of the trail meanders through open grassland, perfect for birds and, obviously, armadillos.

Before looping back around, the trail follows along a section of the Everglades. We could hear air boats out on the water, although we couldn’t see them.

I know it’s hard to see, but the Everglades can bee seen in the back.

In the water we saw ducks and various herons and other water birds. No alligators though. I guess we weren’t close enough to view them.

The park also has campsites, playgrounds and picnic tables at the park, but we didn’t take advantage of any of them.

Trips ahead

In the coming weeks, Chris and I will head south for a pre-anniversary get away. Our anniversary isn’t until April 26, but we’re heading to Florida the end of this month. It should still be cool(er) in Florida then.

On our list of must dos: Everglades, Salvador Dali Museum and Butterfly World. None of those selections should be a surprise to anyone. We love state and national parks, I am a big Dali fan and we both love butterflies, although Chris is the one you’ll find chasing the winged beauties with a camera. I swear he has thousands of butterfly photos on our Mac.

A coworker also suggested the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford Houses in Fort Myers and the Ringling Museum in Sarasota. If we have time and make it out that way, we’ll investigate.

Chris also has two cousins in Florida we hope to visit. So far we haven’t heard back from them. One lives near Tampa and the other near Miami.

To make traveling easier, we’re going to stop in Savannah, Ga., on the way down and back. So far we haven’t made any plans for this city. We’re planning on getting lost and exploring all we can with the little time we’ll have to spend there.

Sidney, unfortunately, won’t get to come along. She’ll hang out with her grandparents in North Carolina. Hopefully she’ll get along with their new puppy and share her water bowl and food dish if the puppy wants to stick her snout in.

I plan to take plenty of pictures and will share some of our adventures with you. If anyone has any suggestions of places to check out, let me know by posting a comment below or sending an email here.