Sunday, January 13, 2013

1/12 Everglades - Shark Valley Tram Tour

I got out and drove to Shark Valley today for a tram tour.  Not much of a visitor center, but I did buy one book and signed up for a tram tour along the 15 miles paved trail.  The "river of grass" looks like this, and there is indeed a very slow current with only about 6-12" of water in this dry season.  Water levels are a bit low because winter is the dry season, but that also means it is not as hot here as it would be in summer, nor is it as buggy.

And here is a bald cypress hammock:

About halfway down, there is a tower you cal walk up to view the entire area.  From it, I took some photos of the path full of people on this Saturday walking and biking on this gorgeous day with temps around 80 and clouds occasionally breaking up the sun.

We saw quite a few alligators on the trail.  The first is an 8" baby, and the rest are adults about 6-7' long.

And here is what I think is a common cooter turtle (box turtle family) sunning himself.

We saw a wood stork using his large beak to find food in the soft mud. Here he is with his beak in the mud and then after pulling it out.  I did not see if he found anything to eat.  Normally, these guys stand in clearer water, snapping their beaks shut when a fish comes along.

 Right next to the visitor center was a small heron that the ranger identified as a juvenile green heron.  He definitely had some green on his wing feathers, although it was more muted that it would be if he had been an adult.  This is the first green heron I have seen.

Here also is a little blue heron  staring at the water.  I think he had something in sight, but was interrupted by a loud splash nearby where I think an alligator had lunged at something. Whatever happened, there was a LOT of squawking by birds in the area.  Little blue herons are taller then green herons but much smaller than the great blue herons. They also have a more uniformly dark blue-grey color than great blue herons.

There were a lot of wildflowers, but the tram driver and guide were apparently only interested in animals, so it did not stop or even slow down.  I have been seeing this glades morning glory in several places and finally got this good photo of one.

It was a beautiful day for being out, and I even managed to get my motor home back into the narrow spot I am camped in without an incident.  This is an older campground built for much smaller trailers and tents, so spots are really a stretch for big rigs.  They need to remove some of the trees and cabbage palms that make it difficult to back in.  I had to get in between a tree and two palms, and then back farther in so my slides would have enough room.  Next campsite in the everglades will be more open and easier to park in.

Many older parks are rebuilding sites and/or removing some of the camping spots.  Noise levels are sometimes high when campers are so close together, and it becomes difficult for rangers, plus it can make for an unpleasant camping experience, even when you are in something with hard sides as I am.   

In fact, last week I got a survey from the Michigan DNR asking for recommendations on the reconstruction of Wilderness State Park Lakeside Campground.  That one was so cramped, I had to have help getting in and getting out.  Luckily, there were some volunteers who "spotted" for me.  In that campground, spots were so small trailer owners had parked a lot of their pickup trucks along the road, making it difficult to turn.  There were also so many campfires when I was there last June that I had to keep my windows closed and the AC on to control my asthma. 

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