How Badly Do You Want to See Everglades National Park?

Alligator in Road“How badly do you want to see the Everglades?” the guard asked as my husband and I pulled into Everglades National Park at Shark Valley, Florida. In his hand, the guard stared at my Sapphire Preferred VISA. His eyes traveled to my driver’s license and back to mine. He asked again, batting those baby browns at me: “How badly do you want to see the Everglades?” My immediate thought was: Hey, my husband is sitting RIGHT IN FRONT of you. Right here. I was speechless. What kind of question was that? Who do you think is driving this Mustang? Look! I have a wedding ring on my finger.

I pulled my mind from the gutter.

When the National Park gate guard asked us a third time, I knew his question wasn’t directly specifically at me, even though it was. You look too young, says he. That’s because, as he readily pointed out, if we waited another year, we could get a lifetime pass for the $80 I had offered to spend for a one year National Park Pass. Turning 62 has its privileges, which I will sooner discover next summer. Not now.

The best way to see Everglades National Park is by tram. That way you can stop to see the wildlife without all the critters screaming for cover and hiding. Those airboats at tourist Everglade spots look inviting and are fun to ride, but they make so much noise that they pretty much scare away any kind of critter for miles around.

ALLIGATORWe shot photos of many alligators, tons of alligators, white ibis, anhinga, blue heron and even a praying mantis. I discovered the Everglades is not a swamp. It is a river. The Everglades is not a river of grass; it is a river of sedges. It moves 1/4 of a mile per day. It is a river 40 to 60 miles wide and more than 125 miles long. We also learned that the fastest an alligator can run is between 11 and 14 MPH, so when people tell you an alligator can run as fast as a racehorse, that’s laughable. But it doesn’t mean an alligator won’t attack if you put yourself in the position to be chomped.

They are also not green. If you spot a green alligator, it’s because the alligator has given up and is rotting. It is letting algae cover its body. Alligators look a lot like a piece of tire rubber that flew off a 16-wheeler semi and landed by the side of the road. Black. Or even gray. But not green. In fact, it’s very difficult to tell the difference between a piece of tire and an alligator when you’re speeding along the highway. Just trust me on this one.

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