Editor's note: Having recouped from their long summer trip retracing the Oregon National Historic Trail east to west and the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail west to east, our intrepid contributors, David and Kay Scott, this week headed south to Florida with plans to escape the cold. Here's what they found in Everglades National Park.
We are on our way to Key West, where the weather is more accommodating to those of us past middle age. In truth, Key West is a fun place for people of any age. Warm weather, a fun atmosphere, strange people, wild chickens roaming the streets, and the ghost of Ernest Hemingway looking over your shoulder all make for an enjoyable vacation.
On the drive south we stopped at Everglades National Park to visit Royal Palm, one of the most popular areas in this wonderful park. Royal Palm is about four miles from the park’s entrance station, which is two miles south of the main park road that ends at Flamingo.
Royal Palm’s long boardwalk and ½-mile guided nature trail offer visitors an opportunity to view much of the park’s wildlife, especially birds and alligators that are frequently found here in abundance. Great blue herons, Pie-billed grebes, and, especially, Anhingas frequent the Royal Palm area. Most seem fearless of humans and sit calmly as tourists stroll along the boardwalk.
Royal Palm has a small visitor center and bookstore (the main visitor center is just inside the park entrance) adjacent to the parking area. Rangers lead daily walks in the area with schedules posted in the visitor center. One consideration for those of you considering a visit to the Everglades and Royal Palm; vultures, a federally-protected species, linger around the Royal Palm visitor center waiting to feed on windshield wipers, sunroofs, and rubber strips around windshields.
We spent Thursday night in Florida City, which claims the title “Gateway to the Keys.” It is also the gateway to Everglades National Park. It was relatively cold -- 50 degrees, with a wind chill that made it feel like 49 degrees --in South Florida, but the weather is expected to improve over the weekend when temperatures are to climb to the 70s with sunny skies.