Flat, flat, flat.
That’s Big Cypress National Preserve, the West Everglades. Big Cypress refers to the large parcel of land that is protecting the water in the Everglades, not the size of Cypress trees. The Preserve is situated on the Tamiami Trail, US 41, between Miami and Naples.
We went through Big Cypress on Christmas Day, the only day the Visitor Center is closed. So we went back the day after.
The Preserve has numerous canals and streams full of birds and alligators. In front of the Visitor Center, we watched a cormorant with a catfish in its mouth. The bird had caught a fish and couldn’t seem to be able to manage it and eat it. It was trying to protect its fish from other birds and alligators.
The small Visitor Center was crowded. We asked for a Junior Ranger book for Hannah, our granddaughter, and they had run out of the English language ones; they only had Spanish and Creole. The rangers were embarrassed. I asked the ranger to give Hannah some tasks which will qualify for her badge.
Hannah had to look for five things: Cypress tree, sawgrass. Bromeliad (airplants), insects and water. Water was easy; it was right outside the building.
We walked three miles on the Florida Trail, the trail that goes through the heart of the state and west to the Alabama border. But first I had to fill out a backcountry permit. If you walk more than a mile, you need a backcountry permit. At one point, we saw a brown carsonite sign with the GPS coordinates and the altitude – 28 ft. I don’t think my GPS could register 28 feet.
The land was so flat that any step that rose gave a completely different view. The land was a full of sawgrass, long, sharp grass, that inspired the phrase river of grass. See the picture above.
On the Florida Trail (orange blazes), we saw glades
lobelia, tiny white asters.
Two backpackers had just started on the trail. They called this area the Highlands. Then Hannah became a Junior Ranger at Big Cypress – a different experience than the Smokies.
On the various other stops, the birds were abundant: great blue herons, wood stork, cormorant, snowy egret, iguana, tri colored herons, black vulture, little blue egret, morehen, and cattle egret.
The preserve has commercial businesses, private communities, Indian reservations and hunting cabins and the smallest open post office in the U.S. See the picture on the left. Hunting is allowed in the Preserve.
The area became a preserve in 1974 to protect the waters of the Everglades. It enlarged the Everglades.