Of Allligators and Anoles (Part One)
Part One - Everglades City!
Last weekend, ZMrK took me on a post-birthday trip to the Everglades!!!! We went 50% for warm weather and 50% for the herping ("herps" - reptiles and amphibians, as opposed to "herpes", which we have no interest in) to be done.
We had to take I-75, a/k/a "Alligator Alley" from Fort Lauderdale to Highway 29 to get to Everglades City. Here's a sampling of what we saw at a rest stop along the way:
Brown water snake -- non-venomous but will bite like a mo-fo if you pick it up!
Peninsula Cooter, doing some turtle yoga. This is a male -- you can tell by the claws. Male freshwater turtles always have really long claws (at least the non-snappers do; I don't know about snapping turtles).
Brown, or Cuban, anole. They are ALL OVER Florida. They vary in their coloration, and they're wicked fast.
Brown Anole standoff!!! We saw lots of bobbing heads and "pushups" on this trip. ZMrK did get the actual fight on film, but I haven't uploaded it to YouTube yet.
Now, for you avian lovers:
Ibises in flight. ZMrK was trying to get a picture of the group of them, and a motorboat started up in the boat dock nearby, which startled them. I think the resulting photo is gorgeous, and may have to get it printed and framed.
As we drove a little further down Alligator Alley, I of course kept a lookout for alligators. When I thought I saw one, I said, "I think I may have just seen an alligator. . . " Within minutes, we lost count of how many alligators we saw! It was getting to be mid-afternoon, and many of them were basking on the shore. What a great sight!
Driving down Highway 29 is a treat, because that is when I realized we are in the middle of the Everglades! There was almost nothing to see but nature, the whole way down, except for perhaps these:
I totally need one of those for our house. Maybe Ken doesn't look like a Florida Panther, but he does look a bit Bagheera-ish, right?
We reached out destination, Glades Haven Cozy Cabins in Everglades City, FL (pop. around 500). Everglades City is quite rural -- 2 gas stations, a Circle K, and a handful of restaurants and hotels/motels make up the commerce there. The water down there is brackish, so there were no gators in the canal behind the cabins, but there was some wildlife in and around the marina:
Brown pelican. Despite it being the State Bird of Louisiana, I never saw any around New Orleans.
There was about a half dozen of them hanging out by the marina. We approached very, very slowly, expecting them to take off once we got within 15 feet, but they obviously are very used to people. And felines.
This cat was very friendly, but we only saw him/her that one day. I'm sure s/he belonged to someone else staying there.
We explored a trash pile behind the general store on the other side of the marina. Yes, ZMrK was flipping stuff over, looking for snakes. Nothing but a bunch of brown anoles, and we got completely eaten by mosquitos to boot.
We explored on the other side of the cabins, and ZMrK made the first catch.
Brown anoles are hard to catch. As I said, they are really fast. They also get mighty pissed off about being caught.
I love this shot. He looks like the belligerant host of a talk show. He's got a little bit of skin shedding on his chin that looks like drool, and those hands look like skeleton hands.
ZMrK's attempt to hypnotize him. It didn't work. He let him go after that.
We walked around the area a little bit, but it was starting to get late and we were hungry, dammit! We decided to eat at the Seafood Depot, which I now know is the restaurant attached to the Captains Table Hotel (it really isn't so clear the way they're set up). The food there is pretty good -- they give you are basket with buttermilk biscuits that are garlicky (yum!!!!), and one of the available sides is sweet potato fries that are so heavenly!! And the pie!!! Wooo! We ate there 2 nights in a row, but the 2nd night the experience wasn't as good (and we didn't get pie).
After filling up on LOTS of dinner, we went back to our cabin, took showers, and watched TV on the little 13-incher up on a high shelf that had cable. The cabins were comfortable, and we slept pretty well. There was an intense 3 a.m. (or so, I really didn't check) thunderstorm, so we got to listen to thunder and heavy rain on the roof. One thing I miss about the South is the thunderstorms. I love the sound of a Southern thunderstorm, especially the ones that happen around 4 p.m. in the summer, and then the SMELL afterwards. Damn. I'm wistful.
Stay tuned for Part 2: Highway 41 and Shark Valley!