First scheduled stop is Shark Valley in the Everglades National Park but we managed to do a quick stop in Big Cypress as well. We hit the boardwalk and listened to the sounds of frogs and gators grunting and letting us know it was there. We walked a ways but the bugs became unbearable. I mean really unbearable, like smacking into your face at full speed unbearable! We turned around and high-tailed it out of there as fast as we could. We managed to see a few gators but the bugs truly ran us off. I had been told that the bugs would make you run in that area but I laughed it off. Boy, were they right.
Next up, on to Shark Valley! But wait, I see Clyde Butcher's Big Cypress Gallery! Say it isn't so... closed. It was early, I know, but I didn't plan on passing it just like that. I've admired his work since it was introduced to me back in high school and I would see it in person at all of the local art festivals when he participated. I did get to peek in the windows so that is something.
Okay, back to Shark Valley. We made it to the Everglades National Park! Whoo-hoo. It's kind of a personal mission to hit one of these as often as possible. This one has been next on the list since January.
Shark Valley is one of several visitor centers in the Everglades National Park but we picked it for the observation tower and bike ride. We had attempted to get bikes before setting out on this trip but it didn't happen so we rented them. There is a 15 mile round trip bike ride along a beautiful path where you can see alligators, bugs, birds and other animals along the way in their natural habitat. We did see plenty of gators and quite a few of these Eastern Lubber grasshoppers.
We biked mostly in a fine mist or drizzle but it was actually perfect. I can imagine how hot it would have been in the full sun on the pavement for 15 miles. The skies let loose for a few minutes when we were up on the observation tower.
Time to get on the road again and get to the Keys. More driving. Yeah. (Can you hear the sarcasm in my text?) I'm really not one who loves to drive so to take on this trek isn't really that normal for me but the adventure far outweighed the driving. Plus, we broke it down into manageable sections so there was always an adventure right ahead of us!
Driving to the Keys is one of those things that I think everyone should do at some point and a MUST if you live in Florida. My daughter had only been to Key West via cruise ship so I wanted her to see the beauty that is down there. If you just see Key West you are truly missing out. The bridges over large amounts of beautiful, blue water are breathtaking! Unfortunately today it is a little gloomy and overcast so the colors just aren't popping. Wait until tomorrow!!!
We decided to stay in Marathon which is right in the middle of the Keys. Driving through the Keys from Key Largo to Key West will take you approximately 4 hours. It's a one lane road for the most part but there is plenty to see. We made such great time that we decided to hit the Turtle Hospital a day early. We made it in time to go on the 4pm tour which was the last of the day and lucked out because they had spots for us! Yahoo! Our tour guide was excellent and so passionate about her job. We saw many, many turtles and even some baby hatchlings. Just look at those turtles! Who couldn't love them?!?!?
And yep, let's just keep going. Why not? Time to go see the 7 Mile Bridge and explore that area. Even got to do a look underneath in the exploring. It's just beautiful in the Keys and a great way to end Day 3.