Today, we had a full day of the Everglades National Park. Of course, to make it up to the mainland in time to accomplish all that we had in mind, we had to leave Mote at o-dark thirty this morning. I’m sure most of the students didn’t realize until this morning that 5:00 comes twice a day!
The River of Grass
We made it to the Everglades by 7:30AM, in time for a quick breakfast and an even faster morning briefing before we headed out to the Anhinga Trail. This walk through the swampy land of the Everglades is a treasure trove of biological diversity. The trail is usually packed before sunrise with birders and photographers hoping to catch sight of that special species to round out a list. As we headed into the park, several alums of the class that were in Florida over Spring Break joined us.
The first sight of an alligator in the water sent the students to the rail, cameras snapping away.
You can just barely see the small alligator on the right, in the shadow of the trees.
As we moved further down the trail, we moved into the high grass area.
Lannis Smith and Chris Wardlaw walk down the wooden boardwalk above the Everglades.
At one point, we saw an anhinga eat a bowfin, a fish native to the Everglades. (Video by Professor Skean.)
Heather Nobert and Rachel Leads consult their field guide for help in identifying a small plant in the water.
Professor Skean uses the moment to lecture on some aspect of plant life in the Everglades to Heather Nobert, Ashley Tewiliger (in the purple), Sam Yackel, Brandon Walters and Dan Klarr.
Davide Zailo and Lacie Carter pose with an alligator in the background. By this point, the alligator count was in the teens and the novelty was starting to wear off.
Holly Grand and Ashli Wilson relax as the birds in the grass sing.
Chris Wardlaw, Dan Klarr, Sam Yackel and Ashley Tewiliger pose for a photo on an outcrop of the boardwalk.
At one point, as we were watching the alligators in the water below, hoping to see one eat a fish, we were interrupted by a strange noise. We quickly moved over to the wallow where there was a large concentration of alligators. (Make sure to turn up your volume to hear the alligators. If you have headphones, you might want to put them on so you can hear the students’ reactions a little better.)
Dr. Carrier loves the trail for the wildlife and photographic opportunities. A few of his favorite photos of the day follow. In the dry season (November to June), wildlife congregates around areas where water is relatively deep compared to the shallow sawgrass areas of the true Everglades. Many of these areas are established and maintained by alligators, hence the name “gator homes.” The Anhinga Trail is such as example, and huge numbers of gators were encountered all around the trails.
After the show was over, we moved on to the next trail, the Gumbo Limbo Trail. This trail is a walk through one of hammocks on site.
Professor Skean points out a magnificent specimen of poison ivy to Heather Nobert, Cynthia Hanson and Ashley Tewiliger. (Don’t worry, none of us touched!)
Lacie Carter touches the bark of the Gumbo Limbo tree. This tree is also known as the “tourist tree,” for it’s peeling bark – like several of us – and its red color.
After we finished at Everglades National Park, we loaded up in the vans and drove west through the park on the Tamiami Trail. We stopped at the levies to talk about water management in Southern Florida.
The large water locks are shown in the background as Ashley Tewiliger, Lacie Carter, Jordan Kus, Rachel Leads, Sam Yackel and Davide Zailo look over the canal.
We made it to Naples at about 5:30PM. When we pulled in with the vans a small white car stopped and the door opened. Out stepped Albion President Donna Randall! She said “Hi” to us and explained that she was down for meetings with alumni in S Florida. Neither of us had any idea she and the class would be staying in the same hotel. Today would have been an excellent day to purchase a lottery ticket for those so inclined. We had a leisurely evening, reviewing photos and getting caught up on sleep. Tomorrow we head to Corkscrew Wildlife Sanctuary in Immokalee.