Day 2 (part 1)– 12.27.11
|Osprey on a snag near its nest|
My first impression of the Everglades is that it seems to be at odds with the rest of the continental United States. Some areas, including our campsite, almost resemble the African savannah, with huge expanses ocean-like grassland interrupted by occasional trees. Other areas remind me of equatorial jungle dominated by lush shrubs, mangrove trees hung with Spanish moss, and exotic spiders (and less exotic mosquitos).
My first night in the Everglades was surprisingly comfortable. The grass covering most of our campsite is very dense and resilient, and resting on it feels like sleeping on a spring mattress. In the morning, camp soccer mom Ryan supplied us with bagels, peanut butter, and jelly for an elegant breakfast.
|Ranger Daniel Blankenship|
Around 9:00 we joined a park ranger who specializes in ornithology for a nature walk. In spite of the rising sun and rising temperature, the walk was a success. Within the first ten minutes, we encountered a huge variety of native birds (including a white ibis, a little blue heron, a yellow-throated warbler, several osprey, and a bald eagle), well-camouflaged anoles, and a pygmy rattlesnake. These snakes only grow to about 1.5 to 2 feet, but they are considered the park’s most dangerous snake. Their small size makes their rattles almost inaudible, and an unsuspecting tourist could easily step right next to one without even noticing it. Also, our guide pointed out an interesting succulent plant called saltwort. This plant is edible (but not particularly tasty) and named for its brackish, pickle-like flavor.