THE EVERGLADES, FLORIDA
I must say, that was quite an experience. I went to Shark Valley in the Everglades with not much in the way of expectations.
My Lifetime Senior pass got me right in and avoided a $30 (vehicle) or $15 (bicycle) fee.
The parking lot was pretty full but I found a space. Got my bike out and was ready to roll in a few minutes. I saw a park ranger and asked if I should ride the loop clockwise or counterclockwise. He said it was better to ride it counter-clockwise.
The trail is one vehicle width wide. Just large enough for the park’s tram tours to get by. There is a sign that cyclists must pull over from trams to pass. Since they were going clockwise, it was easy to see them. While I was on the trail there were two trams that came by. I dismounted, stood gingerly off the road always carefully watching my feet for any activity that may be lurking nearby. Both times the tram operator gave me a big thumbs up.
It was within the firsr quarter-mile that I saw my first gator – just relaxing just off the road to my right. Alligators could be and were anywhere. Left side or right side. Just riding along with my head on a swivel, there were gators on both sides.
And none were moving. They seemed completely disinterested in this cyclist. Perhaps adult humans were too big to attack, at least on land. In the water would be a different story but not going in there.
I passed a nest, if it was called that. A momma gator had perhaps 30 little ones with her. I wasn’t real sure that she might be aggressive. In fact, the National Park Service put out yellow tape near her nest so she was easy to find but at the same time let people know to keep their distance.
Most of the alligators I saw were in the first seven miles to Shark Valley and the observation deck. People could hike (walk) that far but the two most common ways were to take the tram or bike. As of this writing, the tram rates were $27 for adults and $14 for children. Bike rentals were $20.
Actually, the first three miles probably contained the most alligators. But this will vary depending on the season and water level. People willing to walk in for about two miles then turn around would have seen plenty.
I made the turn back at the observation deck. There were few travelers in this section although a park ranger came from the other direction. She was on a bike and not wearing a mask. All federal properties including national parks were under a mandatory mask requirement and only about the rangers wore them and probably 20% of the visitors. I suspect it was a requirement on the tram though.
But what fun. Just riding along and there’s an alligator. Or two. Or twenty. Definitely a bucket list trip. Try it. It’s fun!