Triathlon Time

Our definition of a triathlon just requires three activities: one on the bike, one on the water, and one on foot. It does not require training, competition, or a registration fee.

It February, we completed the Tamiami Triathlon in the Everglades. This month we completed what we call the OleMilltucknee.

For the first leg we biked from Ft. White to O’Leno State Park, a round trip distance of about 14 miles.

Next, we plunged into the cool waters of Ichetucknee Springs and snorkeled in the crystal clear water.

Finally, we hiked the 220 steps to the bottom of the sink at Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park.

The park ranger in the Everglades presented us with a bumper sticker for the completion of the Tamiami Triathlon, but since the OleMilltucknee isn’t sanctioned by the park service, I guess we’ll need to design our own award.

Crocodile Hunters

During the second of our 14 in 14 adventures, I photographed a mysterious reptile while completing the biking leg of the Tamiami Triathlon. In fact I posted the picture and asked for help in identifying the creature we thought resembled a five foot long crocodile.

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When we spoke to a ranger at the Shark Valley Visitor Center and shared the picture, she said Florida crocodiles can’t navigate to that area of the Everglades. Of course, I lost faith in her assessment when she suggested we saw an immature alligator. No, this was not a young alligator. Not only was the color wrong, its snout was much too pointed to be that of a gator.

Maybe we witnessed an exotic species. One we didn’t even know existed in the state.

Last Sunday, a young, man-eating, Nile crocodile was captured 5 miles from the site where we photographed what we thought was a crocodile. According to a report in the Miami Herald, the 5 1/2 foot Nile crocodile escaped from a south Florida facility several years ago and has been the subject of a search ever since.

  “They initially identified it as a caiman and then we took a look and said, er, it looks more like a croc to us,” Mazzotti said.

On Friday, the croc was confirmed as a Nile, which can grow up to 17 feet, three feet longer than Florida crocs, and three times heavier. They are also far more deadly, blamed for hundreds of fatal attacks annually in Africa. Caimans, native to Central and South America but also found in South Florida, are far smaller, averaging four to six feet.  -Miami Herald (click here for complete story with photographs)

It’s time to reassess the photo taken in February. Our original thought…a crocodile or maybe a caiman…sounds familiar. Are they sure only three Nile crocodiles escaped?

2 Down; 12 To Go

IMG_2886One 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.

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Tamiami Triathlon: Phase 2

Image 1After completing the first leg of the triathlon paddling across Chokoloskee Bay, we drove about 15 miles east on the Tamiami Trail to the Oasis Visitor Center in the Big Cypress National Preserve to begin a five mile swamp walk.

Notice, this is not called a hike, but a “swamp walk”. Participants are required to check in at the visitor center where you pick up a “government issued” walking stick if you don’t bring your own, something I thought ridiculous, but after the first half mile, I used it consistently.

The volunteer warned us the trail would be wet, checked to see that we were wearing the proper shoes, and explained that since the original loop trail was too difficult to traverse, it had been changed to an out an back path.

We left the visitor center and walked to the sign indicating this is not only the beginning of the swamp walk, but the southern most point on the Florida Trail.

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I was more than a little disappointed as we began walking on a neatly mowed lawn in the front of the visitor center and then one running parallel to a small airstrip, however about a half mile into the walk everything changed. No more mowed grass, no more wide path, but instead a 24″ path lined with sawgrass and alligator flag. Then another quarter mile and we hit the swamp we’d been promised.

After traveling a few hundred feet tiptoeing along the edge of the trail to avoid the mud, we hit an area that was not only muddy but covered by about 6″ of water. If completing the triathlon was our goal, slogging through the water would be required and that’s just what we did.

 

Unfortunately, the trail did not take us through an area with much variety in plant life, and since we started the walk a little after 2:00, it wasn’t prime time to view animals either – a couple of butterflies, the usual mosquitoes (though only few), and finally one deer as we approached the end of the walk.

I guess the point of the swamp walk was the swamp…the water…the mud…the challenge of pushing through an unsavory ecosystem.

Paddle – check.
Walk – check.

Only the bike remains!

Tamiami Triathlon: Stage 1

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The Tamiami Triathlon made this year’s 14 in 14 list and the first leg of the triathlon is complete. We arrived at the Everglades National Park visitor center in Everglades City shortly after 9:00 and by 10:15 we shoved off in a tandem kayak heading for Sandfly Island.

Paddling across Chokoloskee Bay was relatively easy since the wind was calm and the water flat and by starting at dead low tide, that meant we’d have the incoming tide assisting us on our return…good news.

John threw in a line as we approached the mangrove islands and brought in a lady fish and after about an hour of paddling, we’d reached our destination.

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We took a short walk exploring the island that had once been the home of Calusa’s and then later settlers that grew tomatoes on the island. We also met a couple of men who’d camped on Sandfly the previous night in what they described as an incredible lightning storm that ripped up one of their tents. How terrifying.

Time to paddle back across the bay and this time with the tide’s assistance, it only took about 45 minutes. We reached the shore. Stage 1 complete!

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