Apr 23, 2010
From the Anhinga Trail we got on the park’s main road and drove 34 miles southwest to Flamingo. Along the way elevations varied from 3 feet to 4 feet above sea level, and the ponds we passed changed from fresh water to brackish water. At Flamingo the park meets the sea. Elevation is zero and the water is salt.
A private concession runs boat tours out of the Flamingo marina, and we boarded one headed for the open water of Florida Bay. Florida Bay is the shallow body of blue-green water that covers the limestone shelf off the south end of the Florida peninsula. The hundreds of low islands that emerge from sea here are called ‘Keys’, and the most famous Keys are the ones that form a chain of islands running ninety miles out to the island of Key West. This is the country of Bogie and Bacall - of Ernest Hemingway and a railroad tycoon named Henry Flagler. Bogie, Hemingway and Flagler are all dead now - but the Keys and Bacall survive.
Our First Mate told stories that alternated between colorful bits of history, and the more sober sciences of geology, biology and zoology. It was an interesting trip.
Off Cape Sable we turned around and headed back to land. Key West may have the distinction of being the southernmost point in the United States, but it's on an island. Cape Sable is the southernmost point on the Continental United States - or the farthest south you can go without getting your feet wet.
Everglades National Park extends all the way out to Long Key, bringing almost all of Florida Bay within the park boundaries. A point of land on Cape Sable (called East Cape) is actually the southernmost point, and it's somewhere around here that the Atlantic Ocean on the east becomes the Gulf of Mexico to the west. It's doubtful if one in ten Floridians have ever come out here. If they had maybe they’d care more about the Everglades.
In the salt water environment around Flamingo lives a small population of rare American Crocodiles. They are green, they have narrow snouts and we didn’t see any. Like their cousin the American Alligator they sleep a lot - recharging their batteries in the mid-day sun. They are good hunters, with sharp claws, powerful tails and lots of scary teeth.
On the way back to camp we stopped at Nine Mile Pond so Austin and Kielyn could fish. Nine Mile Pond is fresh water and a resident alligator was patrolling the pond, so the fish were all in hiding. An hour later a large flock of vultures arrived and began eying the rubber on our motorhome. Vultures here have a reputation for damaging vehicles in their quest for rubber, so we decided to leave them to the alligator and the empty pond.
Back at camp we dined upon turkey burgers, which probably aren't all that different from vulture. It’s always a good day when you get to eat and not get eaten!
Saturday morning we returned to Parkland so Kielyn could go to a gymnastics training.