Intense Bike Ride Through The Florida Everglades
We visited the Florida Everglades National Park recently and taking advice from several friends, we planned on biking the 15 mile trek through Shark Valley. We were in for a real shock. When entering the Everglades, you can literally feel the ecosystem that surrounds you. From the mosquitos buzzing in your ear to the giant gators swimming in the marsh, each play an important role in keeping the Everglades healthy and self-sustaining.
We learned so much by stopping in the visitor center to hear about what role each animal or insect plays in the Everglades ecosystem. After hearing the story, we were ready to get out and experience it for ourselves.
Shark Valley, which is located at the north end of the park, has a 15 mile paved bike trail that goes through the Everglades. About half way through the trail there is an observation tower which provides spectacular views of the marshy land. So we grabbed a map, got our bikes all set and hit the trail. We definitely were not prepared for what we were about to do…
We hopped on the trail and there were quite a few people walking up and down the path. Shortly after starting our trip there was a small group of people gathered close to the channel that runs next to the bike path.
I slowed down to check out what they were looking at and saw it was a statue of an alligator. That’s pretty cool, I thought. They were really setting the mood right. Well after looking at it for a second or two, I noticed it was moving… That was no statue, that was a real gator and it was mere feet from where I was standing. Where my kids were standing!
No way I thought. They don’t allow that sort of thing in the US. They require fences and signs so there are no accidents. Well, they sure do allow that in the Everglades. I could have reached down and grabbed this gator’s tail, he was that close.
It was such a refreshing experience seeing these beautiful, yet frightening, creatures in their own habitat. They seemed so peaceful despite being so deadly. We continued on the bike ride and on the way to the lookout tower it was grueling ride. We were riding into a stiff wind which made it for a long journey. Along the way we saw several more gators each ranging in size from small to, what I considered, giant.
After finally making it to the look-out tower, the views we were promised did not disappoint. We had a 360-degree view of the Everglades complete with alligators, hawks and other beautiful birds. After taking in the view and resting our legs, we continued on the bike path back toward the visitor center. The way back was much easier now that we had a tailwind. We ended up seeing a small snake right on the path along with crossing a few flooded sections of the bike path where there was a giant alligator resting right on the side of the path. We were totally on his turf and had to peddle a bit faster!
I would definitely recommend this ride through the Everglades. You get a great feel for the park by immersing yourself in it. If biking isn’t your thing, they also offer tram rides on the bike trail as well. Either way, add this to your list when you visit the Everglades, you’ll love it!
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