What is the most adventurous thing we could do with our 2-month old, we said to ourselves. Well, let’s do a whirlwind 8-day trip that will take us 70 miles into the Gulf of Mexico, deep into the heart of the Everglades, and across Biscayne Bay, involving 40 hours of driving, 3 national park tours, and 2 boat cruises. The trip of a lifetime, my husband said.
Surprisingly, it all worked out. Rachel was pleased with new squishy car toys, dipping her toes in the ocean, and lots of snuggles from her grandparents. She does not like 12 hour drives, but then, who does?
PART I: THE EVERGLADES
While staying with Greg’s parents in Pompano Beach, we all drove into the Everglades one day. Since the park is so big and we didn’t have a lot of time, we booked a half day tour with Everglades National Park Institute. This was a new experience for us! It was a driving tour, so we followed our guide, Richard, in our own vehicle and stopped to hike at a few points along the way. It turned out to be so helpful that we were with a naturalist who knew all about the birds and plants we saw! It was a very educational trip. #homeschooling
I noticed how comfortable Greg & I have become on the road with our little flock when Eva took a spill on the boardwalk just as we were leaving the very first stop on our tour. Greg picked her up and calmly headed for the van while I herded all the others along. I got everyone in the car while he quickly cleaned both of her scraped knees with an antiseptic wipe from our hiking backpack and found two bandaids. We were on the road in no time. I was proud of us for handling this one seamlessly!
Our most notable hike was the Anhinga trail. Apparently the vulture attacks out there are so deadly that cars in the parking lot have to be covered with tarps for protection! The trail is beautiful and it was an easy boardwalk for the kids. We also saw the NIKE missile site! (Our tour advertised exclusive access to this government site, although it looked to us like it’s open to the public.) And any trip to the Everglades wouldn’t be complete without an alligator experience. We walked RIGHT past one, with his mouth hanging open! Richard said there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. Unless you’re wearing red.
PART II: BISCAYNE
This National Park is almost entirely water. It protects Biscayne Bay and a string of islands (the northernmost Florida keys). We booked the “heritage” cruise with Biscayne National Park Institute, which took us in a wide loop around the bay and over to Boca Chita Key, where we had a quick swim & picnic lunch before heading back to the mainland. I say quick because we had to scramble to make it back before the boat left without us. And there may have been a few tense exchanges between Greg & I as we stuffed sandy feet into shoes and hastily folded our sticky picnic blanket, but that’s neither here nor there. Once we were serenely cruising across the bay, everyone relaxed and enjoyed the ride.
Boca Chita is a lovely little island, but I remember it most for the saltwater toilets we had to use. For some reason, saltwater produces the most horrible sulfurous smell. It was nasty! At least there were bathrooms, unlike the Dry Tortugas…
Above: a photograph series entitled “Approaching the Fumes of Sulfurous Sewage.”