Florida Day Two: Everglades National Park. An Early Morning Hike In Shark Valley

Florida Day Two: Everglades National Park. An Early Morning Hike In Shark Valley

Florida Day2 Shark Valley (17 of 50)
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As usual, I was up early Thursday morning on my second day in Florida . I wanted start my  hike on the  Shark Valley trail in the Everglades National Park at sunrise. It would be a lot cooler, less crowded, and hopefully have more bird and wildlife activity than my hike the previous afternoon. After  I made some coffee in the Keurig   machine in my room  in the Miccosuckee Casino and Resort  I was driving on Route 41 toward Shark Valley.

Route 41 was built in the 1920’s through the middle of the “river of grass” that is the Everglades. It is flat and I hoped to stop and watch the sunrise on the way. However it was cloudy and I wasn’t able to watch or photograph the rising sun.

I arrived at Shark Valley and found the gate at the entrance closed. It didn’t open until 8;30 a.m.  I wasn’t going to wait until 8;30 a.m. so I parked along Route 41 and walked into the park.

I walked past the closed entrance.

Except for one park employee I saw, I think I was the only person at the  Visitor Center.

I walked passed the parked trams,

and onto  to the western Shark Valley Trail where I  was the only one on the trail.

It was quiet. I had expected to hear more birds in the morning,

I heard many frogs croaking in the canals. I would hear them all along  my five mile hike but I wasn’t able to see any. I did see this turtle peeking up from the water in the canal along the trail. I think it is a Florida painted red belly turtle.

As I continued on my hike I did hear, and see, a  limpkin calling in a treetop.

It flew to another tree and continued to call out,

until it decided to fly off . I would hear and see many more limpkins  on my hike.

I also saw another bird perched on a tree top, one I am familiar with , an eastern phoebe. I just saw the first ones returning to my home in Northeastern Pennsylvania last week.

It was peaceful walking on the trail without any other hikers, bikers and trams. I knew the alligators wouldn’t be active yet in the cooler morning air but I had hoped there would be more birds, reptile and amphibian activity in the along the canal.

I noticed a few more different plants and flowers on the trail including native common cotton bush,

and royal fern.

I also saw a sign and warning. along this tree.  I already knew this plant, poisonwood, which can cause severe skin inflammation if touched. 

The  only other birds I saw for the first mile of my hike was another eastern phoebe  perched in a tree,

and a few white-eyed vireos singing in the trees.  These beautiful birds were singing all along the trail.

The lush vegetation continued for about a mile,

  and then pm the east side of  the trail ended and the  the vast expanse of the “river of grass” could be seen. It was a pretty scene under the cumulus clouds that were forming.

This river begins near Orlando and empties into the Florida Bay. It is teaming with all sorts of wildlife, except on this morning.

As the temperature warmed the insect activity increased there were dozens of the Halloween pennant dragonflies fluttering and darting above the canal, some landing on the plants near the canal.

The many bull thistles also attracted many species of insects, including, if my iPhone insect app is correct  many eastern carpenter bees,

western honeybees,

southern carpenter bees,

and eastern lubber grasshoppers.

I continued my walk and, I heard the hoarse call of a bird I knew, I turned as saw this green heron looking at me.

It seemed like it tried to get my attention as I walked past and didn’t not mind me taking it’s photos as it stared at me.

And a little further on the trail I saw another bird that did not mind my presence, a purple gallinule.

These bird  waded in front of me,  feeding on flowers and leaves as if I wasn’t there.

They are beautiful birds.

I had hiked about 2 miles on the trail. It was about 8;45 a.m. when the first folks on bikes passed me on the trail. Up to  this point I had been alone on the trail.

They  were the first of many. I walked out about another  1/2 mile and began my hike back. A few more bikers passed me and many more would   drive past ,me  on my hike back. I continued to look for birds and other wildlife on my walk back and observe a few more flowers along the trail including  the colorful saltmarsh morning glories

and pretty pickerelweed. I am familiar with the pickerelweed flowers since it grows all along the shores of the lakes and ponds near my home in Northeastern Pennsylvania in the Summer.

I also saw this anhinga spreading it’s wings in the morning sunshine. It must have just dived for a fish and was drying it’s wings off. 

The are also know as snake birds because of their long necks.

I continued to see a parade of bikers on the trail, and after about a mile I saw the first hikers. They told me the alligators had appeared and one mother had a baby with here.

I was excited and walked briskly hoping to see and photograph the baby alligator which I was told was around the 1/2 mile  point on the trail.

I continued to see a lot more hikers and bikers  and,  the first alligator. You could tell it  had just came out of the water by their wet scales.

I saw few more alligators  but  was disappointed when I got to the 1/2 mile point and didn’t see any. Mommy alligator probably didn’t like to have her young one exposed to so many people. And there were now a lot of people, including families and groups on the trail.

I walked past the crowd seeing only a few more very familiar birds, a couple of great blue herons,

and a turkey vulture that flew overhead,

a tiny blue gray gnatcatcher,

and a noisy catbird. I see all of  these birds on my hikes in Pennsylvania in the  Summer.  Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos of the birds I saw on my hike on the Shark Valley Trail. Florida Day Two: Shark Valley Everglades birds March 21 2024.

As I neared the end of the Shark Valley Trail I followed the bobcat boardwalk to the eastern loop of the trail.

This is the first time I hiked on this side of the trail and followed it a short distance back to the Visitor Center, I stopped in the center to discuss other hiking options with one of the rangers and he gave me a few good suggestions,

I left the Visitor Center and finished my five mile hike, ‘seeing two more critters along the way  an alligator swimming in the canal,

this brown anole lizard enjoying the morning sun on a rock. I was hoping to see more alligators and birds on my hike but it still was a great  walk under the Florida sun and I am happy to share some of the beauty I saw here in my blog. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from  my  five mile hike on the Shark Valley Trail. Florida Day Two: Shark Valley Everglades  March 21 2024.

It was around 10:30 a.m. when I finished my hike.  I was hungry so on the drive ack to my hotel I stopped at the famous Cooperstown Airboat Everglades. 

I learned the  first airboat rides in the country started here 80 years ago..  The relatives of Mr. Cooper  relatives still manage this facility as part of Everglades National Park  There is  small restaurant and I had a cheese omelet with toast. . I left full of food and with a lot  knowledge about the history of airboats in the Everglades.  I returned to my hotel to rest up, check in with my office back, and edit some photos.   It was a great first morning in Florida and I was excited and looking forward  to  exploring  some more of the northern Everglades.  I love Florida and I love the Everglades.

 People need wild places. Whether or not we think we do, we do. We need to be able to taste grace and know once again that we desire it. We need to experience a landscape that is timeless, whose agenda moves at the pace of speciation and glaciers. To be surrounded by the singing, mating, howling commotion of other species, all of which love their lives as much as we do ours, and none of which could possibly care less about our economic status or our running day calendar. Wildness puts us in our place.” – Barbara Kingsolver

 

 

 

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