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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

Shakes and Trails

~Monday, January 25, 2021~

Day 225

Got an earlier start today, leaving our campsite by 10:30 a.m. with bikes in tow. And of course you can’t pass through Homestead without stopping by “Robert is Here” to purchase another fruit milkshake.

Come to think of it, you don’t need an excuse at all to stop for this delicious, healthy snack …...they are that good! Robert was there again….front and center, either telling his staff what to do, or telling his patrons how best to serve or eat his rare and exotic tropical fruits. He’s been doing this since 1959 from his humble beginnings as a young boy selling small boxes of fresh fruit on the very same corner that hundreds flock to today. Even if you don’t like fruit shakes, it’s still worth a stop to meet the man himself and check out his very large farm and fruit stand.

The drive was another long one today, as we wanted to bike the 15 mile tram trail through Shark Valley. There were quite a few cyclists either taking off or turning in their bike rentals. We are so thankful that we brought our bikes on this trip since we’ve really put them to good use these past 7 months. Before beginning the trail, we stopped at the visitor center (all outdoor) to hear a few park volunteers talk about the restoration of The Everglades. We did not realize that this valuable project, called the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan is working to mimic the historic natural flow of water. Currently, this is THE largest restoration project in the world. The early results are encouraging with the symbiotic relationship between animals and plants. It’s great to hear that huge efforts are underway before it’s too late.

The first portion of the tram trail is in a straight line flanked by small fresh water canals or grassy marshes. The flow of water that runs perpendicular to this particular trail is part of the broad Shark River Slough, one of two major drainages, with the other being the Taylor Slough.

These are the two major avenues for fresh-water flow in The Everglades. If the water got any higher, we’d be swimming with the alligators (slight exaggeration), so it would appear that park staff is doing a great job of managing the freshwater flow. The bike/walking path is quite wide…..enough for the tram to ride on, and enough to get out of a hungry alligator’s way. (kidding-sort of). These lazy looking creatures are more interested we think, in sunning themselves than us. And we must have spotted at least 20 today, some babies, a few teenagers, but mostly adults. The park advises visitors to keep at least 15 feet distance. But as we know, there are always people who don’t heed these warnings. As a matter of fact, Jeff saw one instance at the beginning of the ride today, where a mother with 3 youngsters in tow were getting a little too close, with one even petting its tail. Crazy, stupid!!! These are wild animals and completely unpredictable. It’s not like you’re at a petting zoo for goodness sakes!

We really enjoyed a leisurely cycling pace watching numerous alligators, birds, turtles, and fish. It’s really become quite interesting how just in a few days, we’ve become a little jaded over our excitement of seeing alligators, but never complacent. One of the turtles we spotted was pretty close to the trail and appeared to be digging a hole with its hind legs, for what reason we do not know. It seemed like a strange place to lay eggs since it was not an inconspicuous area, so maybe it was just trying to get to cooler dirt? When we finally made it to the observation tower, we parked our car to walk up to the top, though the steps leading to the very top were closed (likely too tight of a gathering spot during these pandemic times). The observation tower looked a little worse for wear, as they don’t seem to be maintaining it all that great. But the views were cool looking out over sloughs and marshes. There is an option to either take the same trail back, or continue on in a loop back to the parking lot which is what we opted for. This section is a bit more open and exposed to more marshy, less boggy areas. We still saw an alligator or two, but nothing like the other route.

We came back to “Robert is Here” to get a few more produce items for dinner. We always enjoy our early evening walks while the sun presents itself, so we can check out fellow RVer’s rigs and their toys. There are a lot of people with some form of watercraft which brings home the point….bringing our smaller kayaks would have been doable. At the time of figuring everything else out for the trip, we just thought it was too much to deal with. So now, we’re looking at inflatable kayaks. There are even kayaks that fold in the shape of an origami, that fit in a container the size of a small suitcase. Crazy invention! There is a couple that Jeff follows on Instagram (they have 450,000 followers!!) and have boondocked the ENTIRE 5 years of their trip in a little 13’ Scamp. Definitely a unique couple, which is why Jeff follows them. Anyway, they have an origami style kayak and love it. Something to think about.

Then came the campfire portion of the night. We have had these 2 bundles of firewood for over a week now and were really looking forward to finally putting them to use. When we purchased them the other night at the campground kiosk, we thought we struck gold with heavy hardwood. They were heavy because the wood was too wet, which was hard to tell through it’s tightly meshed packaging. We should know better in all our years of camping that a heavy bundle is likely from moisture, not expensive hardwood. what to watch out for. With Jeff being the man that takes his campfires very seriously, the annoyance factor was escalating in his attempts in getting it started. After 1-½ bottles of lighter fluid and one produce box later for kindling, he finally threw in the towel. 🥴😡

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