It might go without saying, but swamps aren’t the best place to explore with dogs, and most of southern Florida consists of wetlands as far as the eye can see, so this is going to be a short post.
We had a camping reservation at the Midway Campground in Big Cypress National Preserve, and a stop at the Big Cypress visitors’ center told us that we were only allowed to walk dogs at campgrounds and some dirt roads, so we did very little exploring in the preserve.
The road through Big Cypress cut through a landscape mixed with trees like palm and cypress as well as grassy wetlands that was broken only by small villages of the Miccosukee and Seminole Tribes. From what we could see from the main road, a number of buildings in these villages looked like traditional Seminole chickees (structures made from cypress logs with palmetto thatch roofs).
The campground was a small loop around a pond that was bordered by short trees with air plants in their branches. At least one alligator lived in the pond, so dogs were not allowed on the pond side of the road, and campers were discouraged from leaving dogs outside unattended. This made me nervous for Pippin, and I kept him under close watch and literally on a short leash during our stay.
Mosquitoes hadn’t been bothering us at all during the day, but we quickly learned to get inside the camper at dusk to avoid being eaten alive. (Although sometimes it was worth it to stay out to catch the sunset).
Our pre-bed dog walks are usually a chance to explore, but at this location it was just more loops around the campground – until I looked up. When I did, I saw the most stars I’ve seen in ages. Since Miami is only 50 miles away, we hadn’t expected such a dark night sky, but we were pleasantly surprised, and it was the highlight of this stop.
The next morning was New Year’s Eve, and we packed up and prepared to head to the Florida Keys with a stop at Everglades National Park on the way. As we approached the Everglades visitors’ center, we saw that the parking lot and overflow parking was full, so people were parking on the main road and walking in. If there were that many people there, we figured that we would be better skipping it for the day and trying again on our way back from the Keys.
When we did eventually revisit the Everglades, it was a little anticlimactic. George and I took turns walking the dogs in the parking lot and looking at the exhibits in the visitors’ center. We learned that like Big Cypress, there wasn’t anything we could do with the dogs besides drive down the main park road with them, which the volunteer at the desk described to me as “38 miles of nothing” if we didn’t stop and walk on the trails to specific overlooks or viewing areas. So we learned about the Everglades from the exhibits but didn’t get to explore.
Luckily, our time at the Florida Keys was full of scenery and new experiences, but I’ll save that for a post of its own.