Monday, February 17, 2014

Big Cypress National Park, Florida

On Saturday, December 28th, we left the Tampa area and journeyed south to Big Cypress National Park.  (That day also happened to be our wedding anniversary!)

We stayed at the campground in the park, which allowed us to have electrical hook-up only, but no fresh water nor sewer.  So we weren’t able to do things which caused much disposal water, like wash dishes, take showers, do laundry, etc., and the only fresh water that we had was what we brought along with us in jugs.  (We didn’t realize that we wouldn’t have fresh water, so we didn’t arrive with our fresh water tanks pre-filled.)  Luckily, the campground did have a central hose for potable water, so we could refill our jugs as often as needed.  However, the campground bathroom had toilets only (no showers), and after our first night it was locked up due to sewage problems.  This meant that we didn’t have running water at all, no showers, and no toilets except the ones in the camper which we were flushing with jugs of water.  But hey, we managed!  It was only a few days, after all. (But I must admit, we were getting rather “ripe” by the end of our visit!)
Big Cypress is worth visiting.  It is a lesser-known national park, but it is a gem.  It is part of the headwater area of the Everglades, but while the Everglades are noted for its sweeping prairies of sawgrass, Big Cypress is noted for its huge cypress trees.  The entire area is swampy, so there is a lot of wildlife to be seen.  I can’t even count the number of alligators we saw!  They were everywhere!  There was even one located right outside our camper door about thirty feet away!  (“No, boys, you CAN’T go to the bath house after dark!  Just hold it until morning!”)  The area is also a haven for Florida panther, which is a protected species.  It is estimated that around 160 panthers live in the park.  We, however, never saw one.
We went to a visitor center when we first arrived and saw an orientation movie.  Then we set out on our own to experience the park.  We went to a ranger-led program about alligators where we learned that we weren’t in much danger of alligator attack because they are quite lazy and don’t want to work hard for their food, plus they eat only 15-20 times per year!  The boys worked on their junior ranger badges, and we went on an auto tour of the loop road through the park.  During this auto tour, we learned that the infamous Chicago gangster Al Capone used the area as one of his hang-outs.  It’s easy to see why, since the swamp forest is dense and the entire area is quite remote, even today.
The park is beautiful in a unique way.  It’s not a biosphere that exists in many parts of this country.  While not your quintessential picturesque nature scene, it captures beauty in its own unusual way.  (Even though the boys thought it looked like the Star Wars planet Dagobah!)