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Ochopee, FL – Big Cypress

I finally found a national park that has a campground with electricity. I have been shut out of all the national parks since this trip began because I have to have electric hookup for my work and our national parks are rather behind the times in this respect. State parks, however, have upgraded many of their parks. Unfortunately, state parks do not honor the 50% discount or free park entry  provided by Golden Eagle Senior passes or National Access passes for the handicapped unless you are a resident of that state.

So, here I am at Midway Campground in the Big Cypress National Preserve for only $10/night with my pass. No water or sewer hookups and no showers but they do provide a potable water station to fill up when you come in and a dump site on the way out. The pads are paved and level. They have nice picnic tables and covered tables nearby for tenters. The sites are in a circle around a small pond. There are no trees on the sites but that guarantees your satellite TV dish will work. It is very pretty and peaceful. You may have to walk over to the main road for cell phone reception. My aircard on its own does not work with the low signal here. However, once I hooked up the external antenna I picked up off Ebay while in Massachussettes, I managed to get 1 bar of Sprint EVDO which is enough to work with.

Midway campground

Warnings concerning camping in a wildlife preserve:

  1. Don’t go out at night or if you must, carry a good flashlight and look around before stepping out. There was an animal under my trailer tonight.
  2. Stay away from the water’s edge. Alligators are everywhere here.
  3. Bring lots of bug repellant. The mosquitos are HUGE here. They do bite right through light clothes. (Very few out right now though)
  4. Watch your driving speed. Limits are strictly enforced and you never know when a deer, panther, alligator, turtle, etc will decide to cross the road in front of you.
  5. Don’t leave any trash outside or anything shiny. The birds are very large and very aggressive. What the crows don’t go after, the buzzards will. Today new campers made that mistake and provided a nice picnic all day for the crows. It could just as easily have attracted a bear or panther.

Today I checked out the Oasis Visitor Center. Not much there but you can get a map of Big Cypress there, get a stamp in your National Parks Passport, and walk the boardwalk to see lots of alligators,fish, and birds in the water channel next to the road.

Later, I went to Shark Valley which enters into the upper Everglades. They have a wonderful and highly educational 2 hr. tram ride there as well as bike rentals if you prefer your own private tour and a unique tower that is eaily accessible and provides a panoramic view of the landscape. Our guide pointed out the different species and different habitats that make up the Everglades. Should you be stuck there in the dry season, look for light green willow trees. Those mark a solution hole which is a hole dug by an alligator in the dry season to provide enough water for him. There you will find water but be careful of the alligator. BTW, alligators fear humans due to our size and they only eat once a week to once every 6 months depending on the size of their last meal. Don’t count on them not defending their space anyway. In hard wood “hammocks” or tree islands, you will find dry ground along with other mammals and lots of mosquitos.

Shark Valley TramTowerNorthern EvergladesPond

While on the tram, we came across an alligator in a funny position with his head and tail raised. We got very lucky and got to hear an alligator roar. It was amazing when everyone realized what he was doing and suddenly fell dead silent. The bellow comes from deep within and is very loud like the roar of a lion. He may have been calling his mate or warning other alligators that this was his territory. They like 5 miles of territory for themselves.

There are plenty of walking trails in both the Everglades and Big Cypress. Some are paved, some have boardwalks. Most have benches. The trails are flat and easy.

This park provided the last notch on my belt for southern Florida national parks. I managed to hit all 3 plus the Florida Keys within a month. 🙂

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