Instead of watching the Gators play football, we decided to go on a First Day Hike through gator habitat. These January 1st hikes have become a tradition since our first in 2012. This year’s destination: LaChua Trail.
We knew that a portion of the trail was closed earlier due to high water levels but decided to give it a try. Within minutes of stepping on the boardwalk we saw two water moccasins and only a short distance down the trail saw the first gator. It seemed intent on ushering us down the path as it cruised along matching our pace.
Barricades blocked the trail less than a mile from the start and a large gator served as sentinel to ensure no one crossed the barrier.
After a lunch stop we continued our hike at Payne’s Prairie State Park following the Cone’s Dike Trail. We encountered no reptiles in this area, and the only wildlife seen were birds, mostly sandhill cranes, flying over the prairie. However there was plenty of evidence of horses, bison, hogs and even a large cat along the muddy path.
The final mileage of the two walks measured just under five miles, not bad for a first day hike. And of course our First Day Hike wouldn’t have been complete without a little rain. Fortunately this year it didn’t start raining until we approached the parking lot, and it helped that the temperature was in the 70s.
Can’t wait for more hikes in 2016.
One of the adventures that both John and I included in our list of 14 in 14 was the Tamiami Triathlon, something we’d learned about last year on a trip to South Florida. It’s the perfect triathlon for us since it is not a competition and there is only minimal training required.
Participants can complete the paddling, hiking, and biking portions in one, two, or three days; and they can even be completed over the course of several weeks or months. The long President’s Day weekend seemed like the perfect time…not too hot…not too wet…not too buggy.
We saved what we expected to be the most difficult part of the triathlon for last. However, after slogging through the mud for five miles, biking fifteen miles on a flat, paved trail turned out to be the best part of the adventure.
There’s certainly no shortage of wildlife along the trail. Of course, the most famous residents of the Everglades, alligators, lined the path, but Shark Valley is actually a bird watcher’s paradise.
Three hours after climbing on the bikes we collected our prized Tamiami Triathlon bumper stickers. I’m glad it wasn’t a race so we could enjoy the Everglades, climb the lookout tower, and take lots of pictures. What a great adventure!
We even saw a mysterious reptile that not even the ranger could identify. What do you think? An immature alligator (about 5 feet long)? A crocodile? An exotic species? Leave a comment with your opinion.