Day 226 – 4/13/21 Stand up Paddle boarding, Gator Park and Everglades National Park

We had a nice day doing a quick visit to Everglades National Park, and a nice morning session of stand up paddle boarding.

I had my usual morning routine, got some writing done, a few emails, got the kids up and going with school, then left to go on my SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard).  Carol was just up and took over with helping the kids from there. 

I wanted to go a different direction today with the board, but it was much windier than yesterday and it was going the opposite direction, plus the tide was higher than yesterday too, so I decided to just go the same route as before since I was familiar with it.  I paddled against the wind first, in the direction I did yesterday (left out of the beach).  It was windy, and I had to keep the cadence going to move, otherwise the wind would take me towards the trees, but it was not too hard.  As I made my way further out, there were a few spots where the current was stronger as well, and then I got to an area that was wider, and the wind and current were too strong to get in there, so I didn’t go beyond that, and decided to turn around and just paddle into the canals where all the houses and big boats are.  I had an awesome time today anyway.  It was nice to see much more water in there, so it didn’t feel like I’d hit the bottom if I fell.  It also looked like the water was clearer, and there were definitely more fish around this time.  I still saw the same amount of Jellyfish.  The canals were pretty cool, mainly because there are so many cool houses there.  One of the houses had a ton of Iguanas, big ones too. 

I had my iPhone on a water proof case, so I took some pictures this time.  I paddled around enough to round up about an hour and the canals were just enough time.  Great time.  I’m loving this and can’t wait to explore new areas.  I got back to the beach and went back to the trailer.  As I was going back I saw on my phone that Carol was having problems with the Internet connection, and Bia’s computer was not connecting to anything.  Crap!  That usually means Bia will be in a bad mood, she hates missing class.  First thing I did when I got back was check what was going on.  I connected my computer and tested a few things, and we had internet, but it was slow.  Bella was on the campground wifi, so she was good.  Bia’s computer was not picking that one up though.  I switched the SIM card on the hotspot for the ATT one, and it was back up and running, so Bia joined her class.  She was upset, so we talked to her and reaffirmed it was all ok, and that we would help her catch up as needed, and that she should not worry.  They had already let the teacher know we were having internet problems.  I looked later in the T-Mobile account, and what happened was that we ran out of high speed data on that card.  We used all of the 100GB on that card, so it switched to slow speeds, and the last day on that plan was today!  Tomorrow a new plan starts and high speed is back.  Dang.  Missed by a day.  But, we have more than one for that reason.  Carol said she thought of it, but was not sure if it was as easy as just switching, now she knows.

With the Internet problem resolved, I went outside to rinse the board and put it away for now.  Then I showered and got back to the computer.  I had a work call and our plan was to leave right after my call, or lunch, whichever ended later.  My call was 45 minutes, so as I got done,  got my things ready and went outside to get the grill going to make some chicken for lunch.  Carol was making the rest of lunch, rice and couscous.  When everything was ready, we all went outside to eat.  It was nice to eat there, and the weather was warm but not too hot, plus we have the shade of the trees here.  After lunch, we cleaned up quick, got all our stuff, the girls computers and school stuff, the hotspot, and were ready to go.  Bia had a class in the car, and also had a one on one with her teacher later, so we had to make sure she was available for those.

We left for Gator Park, and had a 75 minute drive there.  Bia did her class while we drove there.  It was an interesting drive as once we were out of the highway that goes to the keys, we were in the west side of Miami, and also Homestead.  There are lots of Tree Nurseries there, lots of small plantations and fruit trees and plant stores.  Gator Park is kind of in the middle of nowhere, at the top line of the Everglades Park, and works under the concession of the National Park Service.  It is basically an Air Boat ride, then a quick show with gators and a few other reptiles, and that’s it.  As soon as we arrived, it was time for Bia to join her teacher.  She ended up joining 10 minutes late as she needed to use the restroom, but it all worked fine.  There was a boat leaving while she was in class, but we stayed behind to wait.  While we waited, the girls had ice cream and Carol and I had some beer, so all was good :). When Bia was done, I put her computer in the truck and we got in line to join the next boat.

Bella was a bit apprehensive about the boat tour.  She’s still a bit afraid of boats, and also of the wild life we would encounter, like the gators.  We got in the front of the boat, Bia was all the way on the side, then me, then Bella and then Carol.  There was a guy on the other side, so Carol was not at the edge of the boat, and Bella was smack in the middle.  We left soon and Bella was ok, she was gripping my arm pretty tight in the beginning.  The lady driving the air boat would stop the engine here and there to tell us about the plants, turtles and gators, as well as birds.  The first ten minutes were slow and we didn’t see much.  We got to an open area later, and then she said she’d be going fast, which she did.  That was fun.  That thing can zip through the water and plants pretty easily and fast.  It was super fun when she took turns too, sliding to the side.  Bella did not like that part at all.  We stopped in the middle of nowhere, to just appreciate the silence and magnitude of the everglades.  It’s pretty cool, and amazing.  We saw some more birds and started heading back. 

On the way back, we did get to see some gators, turtles, more plants, fish and birds.  It was very cool.  Bella was excited to see the gators.  Bia loved the whole thing.  At the end of the ride Bella said she liked it all but when the boat went fast.  After the boat tour, we went to the “show”, which was at a small arena with a few gators in the center.  The guy running it was funny and presented some cool facts about the gators and also presented a scorpion, a huge toad, and a baby alligator.  He collected the tickets with the scorpion in his hand, putting it really close to people’s heads, mine was one of them, it was inches away.  He said that particular scorpion had bigger claws than stinger, which means it was not going to sting you.  He got the big toad and had a lady kiss it too.  Oh, and he had a big white bird that Bella loved. 

The show was pretty cool and concluded our visit to gator park.  I looked up the trails at the Everglade Park itself and found one that looked very interesting, as the description said you can see a lot of wildlife from the path, and it was only 4 miles total, so we went there.  The drive from Gator Park to the trail was about an hour.  We were at the way top right of the park, and the trail was at the bottom right.  We drove through the Homestead entrance and went to Royal Palms area, to the Anhinga Trail.  The girls were not too excited to go, but we got them out anyway.  Right as we started walking towards the path, there was a larger pool of water and we could see lots of fish. 

The path was a wooded boardwalk, alongside and into the everglades and a stream of water.  The more we walked into it, the more fish and plants we saw, and we started seeing turtles, birds, lizards, and then gators.  Yay!  It was very cool to be that close to all of that. 

As we walked through the boardwalk, we would stop and observe fish and turtles.  At one point, Bella and Carol were behind checking something, and a loud noise came up, and it sounded like something was moving by the trees near them.  After they both screamed, Carol looked in the water and a gator had just eaten a fish, and was still there just under the boardwalk.  That was awesome!  I wish we could have seen it happen, but it was cool they were right there.  Bella was freaking out though and was afraid to be there.  I had to talk to her and make sure she knew they designed the boardwalk in a way that got us close, but safely.  The gator disappeared under water soon after. 

We kept walking, saw another cool bird walking on the leaves, hopping here and there, very cool.  Bia spotted another gator later, I got to film it a bit, and it disappeared under water as well.  I think we could spend hours there, just watching all the wild life do their thing.  It’s awesome and we get so close.  The sun was setting and everything looked pretty cool.  We started walking back and continued enjoying everything.  We spent just under an hour walking around.  We didn’t want to get home too late, so we drove around the park a bit, and then headed back.

Before we went home, we stopped at a pizza place which was about a mile from the campground.  It was called Tower of Pizza, and they have decent pizza, not great, but decent.  Good beer selection, a nice spot overall, very relaxing and chill. 

After our food comma from eating too much, we drove back.  And from there it was the normal bedtime routine.  I had to put the paddle board outside and locked it down again, and then we went to bed.

We had a great time checking out Everglades National Park and seeing lots of gators and other wildlife.

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