Saturday, March 9, 2013

Biking the Everglades with Road Scholar

This program began in Everglades City, Florida, with accommodations at the Captains Table Lodge.  Over the course of the week, we biked 79 miles, some on roads and some on trails.

The first day we biked several residential areas in Marco Island, enjoying the homes and landscaping. We also biked into the Marco Key community located on Horr's Island to see the relic of Mr. Horr's summer home.  He raised pineapples here and sold them at his Key West store.

Following lunch, we had a slideshow/history lesson of the Everglades City community by local historian and author, Marya Repko, after which we biked from Everglades City to the island of Chockoloskee to tour the Smallwood's store and museum. Out total mileage for the day was 25 miles.

On Tuesday, we bussed to the Fakahatchee Strand State Nature Preserve and biked Janes Scenic Drive and then the East Main Tram trail seen below, stopping at the "Fakahatchee Hilton," a privately owned cabin on 5 acres owned by a private party (called an "in-holding" since it is within public lands.) Click to enlarge photos.

After lunch, we went to Big Cypress Preserve where a married pair of National Park Service rangers led us on a nature tour, explaining three ecosystems, the freshwater marl prairie, the Cypress swamp, and a slash pineland habitat.

On day 3, we boarded the bus (or our own cars) and drove to our Best Western in Florida City, stopping first at Shark Valley (Everglades National Park) to bike the 15 mile loop trail, enjoying the abundant wildlife abounding there. Below is the observation tower about halfway around, from which you can see for miles into the national park and enjoy the gators sunning in the grass at the base of the tower. (Click on link above for more photos of Shark Valley and the gators and waterbirds.)

After lunch at the Miccosukee Restaurant and a thrilling ride on the tribe's airboat out to their replica village/island, we went to Clyde Butcher's Galery.  Clyde specializes in black and white photography and is renowned as the "Ansel Adams of the Everglades."  I bought one of his photo books and after he autographed the volume, I got this photo of us together...

We then continued our drive to the Best Western "Gateway to the Keys" in Florida City for our remaining two nights of the program.

On Thursday, we toured the Coe Visitor Center at Everglades National Park before biking out to the Nike Missile Base in the Everglades.  The ride entailed biking this lovely grass path and then a lightly used paved road...

During the Cold War and spurred by the Cuban Missile crisis, the USA built four missile bases to protect the area.  This base in the Everglades offers ranger-led tours of the facility, including a Nike missile as seen here...

Here's a video I made of the tour and presentation...

After a picnic lunch, we biked to and hiked the Pine Lands Nature Trail and later the Anhinga Trail, before returning to the motel.  As an added bonus, we made a brief stop at "Robert Is Here," probably the largest and most unique fruit stand you'll ever see, where many of us ordered their custom-made fruit smoothies and shakes.

Many thanks to our outstanding trip leader, Mary, and her husband, Larry, "the bike guy" who kept us all pedaling smoothly, and also to Amy from Big Momma's Bikes in Naples, Florida, our outfitter.

The next morning was our time to say goodbye to our new friends as we gathered one last time for this group photo.

Sitting on curb (l to r): Bev, Linda J., Nancy, Mary, Larry, Ken, Rita, and Noel
Row 2, kneeling: Dick, Janis, Julia, Ed, and Jim F.
Row 3: Penny, Carole, and Linda M.
Row 4: Reed, Bob, Jim M., Mary, and Charlie
Back row: Phil and Chuck

Additional photos can be viewed (and downloaded) here.

Here's a video summarizing all the activities we experienced during this program. To see the video's entire width on YouTube, click here

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