Florida Day One. A Hike On The Old Ingraham Highway Trail In The Everglade.
After a late arrival Friday evening, I awoke early at my hotel in Florida City in southern Florida. I left my home in Northeastern Pennsylvania and was back in Florida to get some sun and again explore the Everglades and Keys. I have been vacationing here for a few years now . There are many blog posts from my past visits which can be found in the archives of my blog using the search tool. You will find many of my thoughts and observations there, and, I hope you would think, some cool photos. So for you new followers to my blog, I like to hike, travel and share the beautiful scenery, plants, flowers and critters I encounter. I decided to take my first hike this year on the Old Ingraham Highway Trail located in the Everglades National Park . I love the Everglades, it’s diversity and abundance of plant and animal life, it’s remoteness and it’s beauty. It is a “sea of grass” and there is no other place like it on this planet. So much beauty.
The planet Venus shone brilliantly in the morning twilight as I made the 15 minute 10 mile drive from my hotel to the Royal Palm Visitor Center. The trail begins just as you turn toward the old Nike Missile site . You can drive another 1 1/2 over an unpaved and rough road and park at Gate 113 which is what I did.
It was about twenty minutes before sunrise when I arrived. The skies were clear and it was a mild 65 degrees. As I left my car I was greeted by the loud cawing of a crow perched in a tree. It was apparently disturbed a hawk perched in another nearby tree. Here is a video of the crow cawing and hawk I uploaded to my YouTube channel. https://youtube.com/shorts/czZGC5Y_irI?feature=share
I began my hike in the morning twilight and waited for the sun to rise. The sounds of birds filled the air. Unfortunately I couldn’t find an unobstructed view of the sunrise, but it was still beautiful. There has never been a sunrise or sunset I didn’t like but they are especially beautiful in the Everglades.
As the sun rose the birds became more active especially the noisy catbirds. There were dozens fluttering along the trail and chattering to each other.
The trail Old Ingraham Highway follows the original highway opened in the 1920’s and closed in the 1940’s. There is still a lot of remains of the asphalt highway at the start of the trail.
The old highway is raised above the surrounding wetlands and marshes of the Everglades. A canal was created to supply the material.
Over the years vegetation has grown along the trail. Most of it is cocoplum plants. These plants produce an edible fruit.
The other dominant plant growing along the trail in the notorious poisonwood. All parts of this plant will produce a severe rash in humans. Many other trees also grew along the trail and there will be photos in the galleries I share.
There were also wild flowers growing along the trail. Field thistles were the most common and grew all along the trail.
roses of Plymouth also bloomed along the first part of the trail.
At the start of the trail there were a lot of cypress trees in the wetlands along the trail. And a few birds perched on their branches including this wood stork.
It appeared to turn and look at me as I walked past.
There were also dozens of these birds flying along the trails and perching in the cypress tree, the boat-tailed grackle. The males is black,
and I captured an image of it flying off of its perch.
and this one was ruffling her feathers in the morning sun.
Also perched in a cypress tree was this tri-colored heron.
The trail came to a hammock, a sort of hill in the mostly flat Everglades. Here hardwood trees grow and there are different species of wildlife.
As I approached I heard the piercing cries of a hawk and found this red-shouldered hawk perched high in a tree top.
It watched as I approached finally flying off to another tree,
where it continued to pierce the air with it’s loud cry as it looked over the vast expanse of the wetlands for a meal.
There were many different species of plants growing on the hammock, and flowers, including many blue dawn flowers,
and sweetscent or saltmarsh fleabane.
There were also a lot of spider webs spun here. And many were spun across the trail I must have walked face into a dozen of them on my six mile hike. This shows how little used this trail is. I may have been the first one hiking it in days.
On the other side of the hammock the Old Ingraham Highway narrows and is becoming overgrown with grasses.
It is surrounded by a marsh to the east.
Egret and herons could be seen in the distance on wetlands and this little blue heron flew overhead.
And saw a small flock of American coots swimming on the waters of the wetlands.
After about another mile the Old Ingraham Trail neared the old canal. There was a more lush growth of vegetations and I saw a lot more birds including a red-bellied woodpecker,
one of my old friends from the wetlands near my home in Northeastern Pennsylvania, a red winged blackbird. We have hundreds of them return every Spring.
and some warblers. This prairie warbler,
this palm warbler and
this common yellow throat. This little fellow almost got me in big trouble.
While photographing this bird I got close to the edge of the waters in the canal. Looking down I saw this pair of eyes looking up at me. Yep, it was an alligator.
It was a small one. I was glad to see it. I have seen many alligators at Shark Valley and the Anhinga Trail in the Everglades and many along the Florida highways They are used to humans. This fellow is in his own kingdom. I may have been the first human it ever saw. And I think I confirmed this on my walk back. I saw another, up on the trail. It saw me and dived into the canal. The alligators in the parks are unafraid of us. I like seeing these wild alligators. And seeing made me much more alert on my hike.
After my encounter with the alligator I continued on my hike. The sun warmed it up I also saw some more insects including a couple of dragonflies,
I haven’t been able to identify. But they sure are beautiful whatever their species is.
There were also now some pretty butterflies visiting the flowers growing along the trail including this white peacock butterfly,
gull fritillary butterfly. I am not a butterfly expert but relied on help from my friends in the North American Identification and Discussion Facebook page.
I also saw this lizard scurry up a tree along the trail here.
The trail came to another hammock. There is almost no evidence of the Old Ingraham Highway out here. It was here I decided to end my hike when I came to this large puddle of water that stretched some distance along the trail. Like last year. where I encountered this same puddle I was wearing new sneakers and wasn’t going to slog through it. I was at around 3 1/2 mile from the paved road. So I begin my long hike back.
I saw many of the same birds I shared on my walk back. Some clouds began to form,
obscuring the rising sun, and intense sub-tropical sun, and making for a comfortable finish to my hike.
Near the end of my hike, back in the area the cypress trees grow I saw a couple of new birds perched on the cypress trees. This double-breasted cormorant and
this white ibis.
A close relative of the cormorant the anhinga or snake bird also flew overhead.
When I got back to my SUV I discovered the American crow, I think the same one I saw earlier, was on the same branch of the same tree, still cawing as loud as it could. I wonder if he is the gatekeeper to the trail. Here is a link to a gallery where I display more photographs of the many birds I saw on my hike Ion the Old Ingraham Trail. Florida Day One. morning hike February 12 2022.
I am sorry this blog post got so long, but I saw so much, and there was even more I didn’t share. It was only last year that I learned about the Old Ingraham Highway Trail. This is only the third time I hiked on it. As were my first two hikes it was an amazing experience. So much to see and in such a remote and peaceful environment. I still love the lore popular trails in the park, and will visit them, but I think I will be doing a lot of hiking on this trail in my remaining year on this planet, And, I hope, sharing so much more of the beauty that I find there. Here is a link to a gallery where I display more photographs from my hike on the Old Ingraham Highway Trail. Florida Day One morning hike February 12, 2022.
All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child. —Marie Curie
Very much enjoying your blog and fantastic pics. Thanks Frank.