We left Key West around 10 a.m. Jason decided he would drive this leg of our trip but that didn't last long enough to get us off the keys. The traffic headed to Key West had increased considerably & people were driving crazy. We swapped drivers and within minutes I had to pull a quick maneuver in the ol' big wagon to avoid some knucklehead that darn near hit us! Yup, that's the traffic I had been warned about. We were lucky our trip in was so easy because the traffic on our way out was hairy.
It was smooth sailing once we hit Homestead on the mainland. If we had more time we would have explored the Homestead area too. It was right up our alley! I can't tell you how many nurseries we passed along that stretch. Dozens of retail centers and miles & miles of fields full of palms, shrubbery and florals. We'll go back to visit sometime. It looked like a landscapers dream.
Traffic was light but I continued to drive. It helped me stay focused on something other than my fears. I had mixed feelings about traveling through the Everglades. I had been looking forward to & dreading this leg of our journey since Michigan. I was curious to see the Everglades but my snake phobia had my brain working overtime. What if we broke down? I knew there was no way I would be able to walk for help or gas, not in "snake haven." Nor would I be able to wait in the car while Jason went for help. I've seen enough examples of snakes getting into vehicles. Driving helped to take my mind off my fears.
Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area
Entering the Everglades was not at all what I expected to see. I had pictured the kind of swampland found in the bayou. It was very flat & grassy with a waterway on the right and grasslands as far as the eye could see to the left. I knew it couldn't be all grasslands though because all of the swamp boat tours were on our left. We saw several people fishing the waterway and one big gator swimming. We drove for miles without a change of scenery. Some might find it a boring drive but we liked it. There was a beauty to this area that we had never seen before.
Big Cypress National Preserve
Half way through the Everglades we entered the Big Cypress National Preserve. Now that's the kind of swampland I had expected to see. We saw all kinds of neat birds along the channel and a lot of campground signs too which I could not wrap my head around. There is no way in the world this girl would campout in a swamp. Not a chance. It was beautiful though, lush, dark & mysterious. I love the look of Spanish moss hanging from the tree branches. Did you know? Spanish moss is not a moss at all. It's a bromeliad, a perennial herb related to the pineapple.
Big Cypress Gallery
Our first stop was the Big Cypress Gallery. We had no clue what we'd find inside but we were hoping to get a postcard from the Everglades to send to my Great Uncle Ed. I was flooding Uncle Ed's mailbox with postcards. He lives in a senior residence now & it's been on lockdown since Covid. I know he's itching to get out & about especially to his favorite fishing holes.
Turns out, the Big Cypress Gallery was a great stop. They had postcards, a gift shop and a beautiful gallery featuring fine art photography by Clyde Butcher. They also offer two walking swamp tours as well. A private eco tour and a photography tour. Jason was interested but there was no way I was donning a pair a waders to trudge through the swamp. I can't even walk through tall grass in my yard!
Going through our pictures for this blog post I came across one of Jason's that blew me away. When I complemented his marvelous shot & showed him the photo he busted out laughing. I should have known Jason's awesome 'gator shot was actually a photo of one of Clyde Butcher's awesome works. Butcher's award winning body of work includes nature shots, landscapes and stunning black & whites.
The Smallest Post Office in the U.S.
Ochopee, FL - The Everglades
I'm going a little out of order here. The Ochopee Post Office was our third stop, not our second. I'm doing this for you Mom. You will all see why in a minute.
Skunk Ape Headquarters
Our 2nd stop was Skunk Ape Headquarters. I actually whipped a U-turn when we passed this place. I couldn't resist being a cheesy tourist. Who doesn't want their photo taken with the elusive skunk ape? Skunk Ape Headquarters has a campground, gift shop & offers adventure tours. We decided to poke around the gift shop & that's when we discovered the reptile zoo. Normally, I would avoid something like that. My phobia runs deep. I don't like movies with snakes, toy snakes or sticks that look like snakes. But, we were having so much fun I decided to toughen up & at least try to go in. Their website says tours are $15 for adults but we were only charged $6 each. I'm not sure why, maybe because we were still in the off season?
Ok Mom and anyone else with snake phobias...
STOP READING HERE!
The rest of this post contains photos of snakes. Big, creepy snakes.
You've been warned.
At first glance I thought this was one long snake coiled up. Look closely (if you can!) One, two, three heads...Ack! There are three snakes in this coil.