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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Road Trip: Everglades City and Environs

Courthouse, Collier County
I was going to make you guess where the photo above was taken but then decided not to be so coy. It is the courthouse in Everglades City, Florida, and you'd never believe what-all goes on there. Besides trials, that is. Well, if you go in the side door--I think it's on the left, but my memory could have me turned around; it's been a while since our visit--you'll find a little library where the librarian, along with loaning out books, also sells fishing licenses. And what else? Seems there was some other thing you wouldn't expect, but I've forgotten now.

Serious commercial crabbing
When we visited Everglades City (and it might have been over a decade ago), there were already signs that the simple little town had been "discovered." Big, fancy new houses were going up, raised on tall piers in case of hurricanes. Our hostess got a bit frustrated with me for taking pictures of derelict boats and dumpsters and piles of old crab pots, but to me the working docks are the most interesting part of a waterfront--

Vultures on roof
--even when vultures rather than pelicans are gathering. There were many of both and other kinds of birds, as well. And more than birds!

These alligators are not lawn ornaments
One day we made a drive east on the Tamiami Trail to photographer Clyde Butcher's gallery, located on a small piece of high ground surrounded by the Everglades. David thought these alligators were sculptures. They were not. They were real. I was glad I had not tried to pet one.

Across the road
How many kinds of wildlife can you spot in the photo above?

 The Everglades has the fascination of time travel. It is a primeval world. The ferns and cypresses, strangler figs, strange and wonderful bird cries, reflections of light on dark waters, cypress knees (or knobs) and parasitic plants and bromeliads and more and more and more. It isn't hard to see why a photographer would find enough work for an entire lifetime here.

But it can be frightening and hostile, too, if you're unfamiliar with it, and there are no beaches in the Everglades. As is true along more of Florida's coastline than you might imagine, it's often necessary to go offshore in a boat to find a sandy picnic spot. 

Out past the mangrove islands...

...a sandy beach!
Look very closely at the beach, and in the distance you might spot two tiny figures. Those are the captain and first mate of the boat that took us to the beach, the same people who lodged us in town during our stay.

The sun was setting as we turned back toward land. It was another beautiful south Florida sunset, the end of another lovely day with friends.


Kathy said...

Hello, Pamela. Thank you for sharing this trip. Brought back a similar trip years ago between Miami and the West Coast of Florida. My brothers and I were just wee elementary kids. We stopped at Everglade City. As you can imagine, can't recall much about it. But we did do an Everglade tour. I like your picture of the mangroves. They are so intriguing. Except I always imagine snakes and alligators hiding there.

P. J. Grath said...

There ARE snakes and alligators, Kathy! But not so much out on the mangrove islands. It's a little less scary out there. But the 'glades have a magic and romance all their own.

I wonder what changes Everglades City has seen since we were there. Its permanent population is about the same as Northport's, and like Northport it is "not on the way to anywhere else." Also tourist-dependent. Lots of similarities. As our friend said to me, "You have a bigger grocery store, but we have a bigger hardware store." She might have said "better" instead of "bigger," but I am too loyal to Northport Ace Hardware to want to remember it that way.

Dawn said...

What a beautiful place. I've never been. Thanks for sharing. Love the mangrove island photo. Pretty! And a librarian who sells fishing licenses. Hmmm....would work.

P. J. Grath said...

The mangrove island is really the only picture here that rises above snapshot level, but it's fun to look back. Funny that I can't remember when we were there exactly. I do have more pictures, though, so I should sift through and see if there are enough for another post. Otherwise, we'll have to go back up the coast and/or into Georgia for more road trips of the past.

dmarks said...

"Reaching Saginaw the next day, they find Indians, French, English, Americans and mixed-blood residents, and de Tocqueville notes that, even in a settlement numbering only thirty souls"

Seems hardly worth the effort. I wonder if took him four days to hitchhike from Saginaw afterwards, to go to look for America?

P. J. Grath said...

Oh, that lovely rising melodic line on the words "Michigan seems like a dream to me now"! Alexis de Tocqueville looked for and found America from Washington and New York to the far reaches of the Old Northwest. From Saginaw he and his friend, Gustave Beaumont, journeyed by water to, I believe, Mackinac and the Straits. Would need to check the notebooks to be certain, but--worth the effort? That and so much more, with the written record he left us.

These comments belong on the subsequent post, "Essay Islands," in case anyone else is saying, "Huh?"

Gerry said...

I was working my way backwards, so d's comment made perfect sense to me . . .

I always enjoy your Florida posts, and probably said this before: I fell in love with Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings's Cross Creek when I was an adolescent and with Florida's Gulf Coast and the Everglades soon after that. I'm pretty sure all of the Florida I remember has disappeared as surely as the prairies.

P. J. Grath said...

Much of the coast and many of the islands have changed radically, choked up with big houses. The Everglades have fared better--always threatened, in many ways, but still there, thanks to fierce guardians. I'll have a few more photos from this same year (whatever year it was) coming up next week.