Friday, March 21, 2008

Naples, FL to Everglade City

Karen Hopper picked us up for a day of nature hikes and airboat rides. The first stop was at the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. The 1/2 mile boardwalk at the park offers an opportunity to see rare plants, bald cypress, and North America's largest strand of native royal palms, and the largest concentration and variety of epiphytic orchids, including 31 varieties of threatened and endangered species that bloom most extravagantly in the hot months. On the walk we saw numerous alligators (large and small), an eagle with babies in a nest, a red shoulder hawk, and many smaller bird species.

Joan, Ian and Karen on the boardwalk.

Photo of an alligator hiding in the water grass. You can see his eye.

Mother Eagle with her babies in the nest.

After the hike we drove into Everglades City. Aside from a chain gas station or two, this is perfect Old Florida. No high-rises mar the landscape at this western gateway to Everglades National Park, just off Tamiami Trail. We had lunch at the Rod and Gun Club. The striking, polished pecky cypress woodwork in this historic building dates from the 1920's, when wealthy hunters, anglers, and yachting parties from around the world came for the winter season. Fresh seafood dominates the menu which includes fried alligator.

Rod & Gun Club in Everglades City

Joan, Ian, Kevin and Karen.

After lunch we went to the Smallwood Store. It is an historic old indian trading post and museum. Then it was on to an airboat ride at Captain Doug's. We made a quick stop at Grimm's Stone Crab Inc. for the appetizers for tonight. Karen has invited us to come for dinner at her home in Pelican Bay.

Debbie, Karen, Kevin (back row), Ian and Joan (front row).

Captain Gary, our guide.

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