Thursday, March 24, 2022

3/20 Midway Campground, Big Cypress Preserve, FL

First, some negatives to this campground:  There are no pools, activities, bingo games, or even showers.  There is a small convenience store maybe 20 miles away, but a big grocery store is 50 miles away and a gas station is 25 miles away, so you need to make sure you have everything you need when you come.  

On a positive note, where else in Florida can you sit in your RV and watch the local alligators in the pond across from you?  And at night, assuming most people keep their lights off, you can see the Milky Way and those "billions and billions" of stars.  There is also an art gallery about a mile down the road, and lots of things to do, assuming you are a bit adventurous.  Clyde Butcher's Gallery offers wading tours through the swamp, and you can ride an airboat or take your bike down to Shark Valley.  

I discovered this place 10 years ago after getting very frustrated at Collier-Seminole State Park near Naples.  Collier-Seminole was an older campground with horribly overgrown and difficult to get into sites.  Anyway, you might wonder why someone would want to camp so far from civilization, but that depends, of course, on how you define civilization.  

Midway Campground is on old Tamiami Trail and is located "midway" between Miami and Naples, FL.  


The campground consists of a paved circle around a pond, with sites on the outside of the loop.  All sites are paved and have electrical hookups for motorhomes and trailers.  It had rained earlier the day I arrived, so these were the residual puddles.  Most of the Everglades area is made up of a limestone base that was originally sea floor with a few inches of soil on top.  It does not drain very fast, but the limestone also means you can drive over it without sinking in. 

This is the view looking across the pond from my front window. 

Good idea not to feed the alligators!!  Even better idea NOT to walk at night without a flashlight, or take your small dog anywhere near the edge of the pond, even in daylight. 

My motorhome from the opposite side of the pond. 

This alligator was only about 3-4' long, so it was pretty young.

Tamiami Trail (aka Alligator Alley) was constructed out of the Big Cypress and Everglades in 1928 by using a lot of dynamite to break up the limestone in a long ditch.  The stone and resulting gravel was piled up to make the highway higher than the swamp water level.   In most places, the original ditch still exists and makes a good place for birds and alligators, turtles, and fish to live.  This is a section of it across the highway from Midway Campground.


The next few photos show the big fish living here, which are eaten by the resident alligators and birds.  You can see the limestone bottom. 

These are gar, not pike, as I had originally thought.  (Thanks for the correction, Sondra.)  They are about 2' long.  There were also some fatter but smaller fish and some that fed on the algae on rocks.

And a couple of the alligators hanging around the ditch.

Back across the highway to the campground. 

This large snake greeted me as I was hooking up the first day.  Not dangerous.

This guy decided to come out for a stroll one day, but everyone started taking his photos, so eventually he headed back to the pond.

This is a yawn, by the way, not a threatening growl!  I think he really just wanted to take a nap and not be bothered. 

Obviously, he had had enough of the photographers.

If you drive about three miles west, you will find the Oasis Visitor Center.  It has a nice boardwalk that is ALWAYS filled with alligators! 


The obvious reason for the alligators is all the fish. 


Some big alligators. 

 And the boardwalk.

Some pretty plants in the ditch. 

Hated to leave this beautiful place, but the mosquitos and hot, humid weather is getting to me, so I am making a U-turn and heading north to chillier places. 

Sunday, March 20, 2022

3/18 Shark Valley, Everglades, Bike Ride

This is one of the best bike rides in Florida.  Want to feel as if you are alone in the "River of Grass"?  This is a 16 mile paved road that is used by tour trams, hikers, and bikers.  I have ridden this roadway several times on my electric bike and hope to be able to do it again in the future.  

Only problem?  It would have been nicer on a day when the temps did not reach 90 degrees with 80% humidity.  Anyway, I knew I had to get there early because there are only three or fours spots big enough for tour buses or motorhomes.  I arrived 15 minutes before they opened!  The guy in the photo below is the tour bus driver going to make sure I have not pulled up too close.  I did pull up close because the ranger asked me to since a school bus would be arriving in a few minutes.  However, I knew the bus had a good four feet in front of it--close but doable.

The other reason for getting there early is beat all the people who are renting bikes!  I also like to start out on the eastern part of the loop because most people start out on the western part of the loop.  

I was all by myself on this part of the loop for the first hour!  Yea!

Just me, a few birds, and a handful of alligators. 

One interesting thing is that there are now fewer birds close to the loop.  The reason?  They have finally finished some of the water restoration projects that have reversed some of the draining and drying out of the whole southern part of Florida.  For example, Tamiami Trail, which is the road south of I-75 that crosses the Everglades and Big Cypress Preserve from Naples to Miami, used to block water flow.  Now parts of it have been raised so water can flow naturally underneath it.  They have also opened some gates that restricted natural water flow. 

So, now birds and animals can spread out more naturally and no longer congregate at some areas.  

In any case, this endangered wood stork is happy to have a lot more shallow water to find the crustaceans it eats. 


More of this lovely, empty bike trail and tram road.

One of a handful of alligators that were next to the road. 

After riding 7 miles, you can see the viewing tower in the distance. 

I did not stop at the tower because I have walked up the curving ramp several times, but below is the western part of the loop.  It is a lot straighter and has a sort of ditch or "borrow" pit along the entire length.  This means it usually attracts a lot of birds and alligators.

This is very pretty swamp lily.

A couple more alligators.

It was over 90 degrees today, so I was happy to get back in my motorhome and head back to my camp site. 

Saturday, March 19, 2022

3/13 Back at Myakka State Park Again

This is one of my favorite places, so I am back here for a few days before I head farther south to Midway campground in the Big Cypress Preserve.  I have been mostly lazy here as I recover from mosquito bites and get some cleaning done in my motorhome, but I did go out the last day I was here to take some photos, as I will not be back here for a couple of years.

And a vulture jam on the roadway.  This one was in no hurry to get off the pavement.


Nor were these guys. 

Headed out to the concession area and parked in the big lot.  What is weird is that there are some parking areas before you get here and all were packed.  I think they need a couple of signs showing people that there is much more parking available here at the edge of the lake.


This is looking towards the lake from the parking lot. 

There was a short path at the end of the parking lot that went to the area where they had recently removed an old dam.  Apparently, it was no longer needed and just made a lot of the Myakka Lake and Myakka River stagnant.

There are still barriers in place because they want to give the area time to recover from the de-construction.

Across the Myakka River were a bunch of black vultures and a bunch of alligators. 

This is where a spur of the river empties into the lake.  It is next to the concession stand and is used for the large airboat that takes you across and around the lake.

And the pretty road leaving the concession area.


There is always something to see from the bridge that crosses the Myakka River on the main road out of the park. 

You can always see alligators at Myakka.

It rained yesterday, so the resurrection fern on the trees was looking alive again.  During dry periods, it just looks like a lot of dead leaves.