One of the great things about holiday weekends is that we put a little extra effort in to exploring Florida because our weekend isn’t so packed with “to do list” items. Sunday we loaded up our bikes and head out to the Everglades to ride a 15 mile loop called Shark Valley Road. The name does not reflect the wildlife that you will encounter, but instead is derived from the river that feeds this wetland area.
Be prepared to get up close and personal with the wildlife! We spotted over 25 alligators while biking and hiking. When I say spotted, I mean they were nearly on the biking path! Most of the alligators in these national parks are used to the constant flow of people, so as long as you leave them alone they will return the favor.
I didn’t mind riding past or stopping to take pictures, but the moment a tail flicked I screamed and pedaled for safety. Many folks choose to walk along the first portion of the path to take pictures. For the most part I think everyone is safe with these large animals if they use common sense, no poking, no prodding and no squatting next to it for photos!
Can you spot the alligator in the lily pads? This one was moving so I took the picture and skedaddled.
An observation tower at the half way point lends it self to amazing panoramic views of the surrounding Everglades. It truly allows you to feel just how out in nature you are! I loved this feeling and both David and I commented during the ride how much we were enjoying the silence. Even with people on the path it was so quiet and calm compared to the city.
Top left: Observation tower, view of the bike path from tower, David walking the path to the tower and hunting for gators.
Summer and Bugs: As you can see the trail is completely out in the open, so if you are going in the summer I recommend heading out early so as not to roast. I also wiped down with some all natural bug repellant before heading out, but the cooler temps made for fewer bugs. In the warmer months mosquitos are heavy and bug spray is a must.
Family friendly: If you are looking for a family trip, they have bikes for rent at the start or a tram tour if the active life isn’t what you have in mind for the day.
Necessities: Luckily for me, David is a more experienced biker and has taken control of my Hydrapak. He planned ahead by filling it and wearing it so I had water as needed…what? I remembered the camera and the shower pill! I knew after biking for a few hours we would want to clean up for the hour drive back and it turns out David also had a pit stop planned for food.
Food: On your way back to Miami we made a stop at the infamous The Pit BBQ. This has to be one of the first places in South Florida we have found with true barbecue. Not a single vegetable in sight, but if you are a fan of meat they made a mean shredded pork sandwich and smoked pork for a reasonable price.
And if you haven’t had enough wildlife on the weekends The Pit BBQ has pony rides and a petting zoo…if you count a goat, duck and rabbit as a zoo. David thought I could ride the ponies, so I had to get close enough to show him that little guy wasn’t even as tall as my bike! They are adorable, but I think a 33 inch inseam disqualifies me from all future pony rides.
Loved having my Oakley Mist jacket for the ride, as it was just light enough to break the wind without causing me to get hot in the sun!
Would you bike with gators? Where have you gone to enjoy nature lately?
I am grateful for a husband who enjoys the outdoors as much as I do and is willing to stop and take pictures with a gator a foot away just because his wife loves pictures!