(NOTE: This was originally posted June 2007 on my personal website.)
Snoop recently bored of the office, and he asked Woodrow and I to take him gator hunting. So, off we headed to the Everglades! (Paul never took Snoop anyplace! He much prefers my stewardship over him...)
We stayed the night at the Ivey House, which is an old boarding house which I believe was originally used for workers building the Tamiami Trail back in the 1940s, or some such thing. Not knowing much about the Ivey House, we three were quite surprised to find that the beauty outside of the Ivey House belied the simplicity found within. We entered our humble shelter to find a single room perhaps 10 x 12 feet in size with a single bed, end table and wooden chair, and shutters that could be drawn over the window for privacy. No phone, no TV-- just a bed. Luckily, we had brought a laptop computer and DVD to watch, so we were set!
The place was really reminiscent of a hostel, and was being habitated by young kids sporting hiking backpacks. (NOTE: They do apparently have nicer digs available in the newer House built next door. We just decided to go the affordable route.)
We shared Men's and Women's bathrooms down the hall with the other guests, replete with shower stalls. The door on the Women's bathroom didn't even close tightly, so there wasn't much privacy for me. I have to say, though, that the simple accroutements of the lodging actually made our stay even more enjoyable. We got a kick out of the "quaintness" of it all, laughed, and both vowed we would love to do it again.
The next morning we rose early, to make sure that we had time for the free continental breakfast in the main dining room.
While in the everglades, we felt that we had to do an airboat tour (what everglades trip would be complete without it?) So, off to Speedy Johnson's Airboat Tours, which was conveniently located right next door to the Ivey House. We took a pretty crazy tour of the mangroves and sawgrass, and I was left with mixed feelings. I enjoyed the thrill of speeding around in a boat that barely skims the water, but was disturbed by the apparent disregard for the wildlife as we nearly ran over a mother duck and her baby, and narrowly missed plowing into a flock of small birds. We started off our tour with a manatee sighting, but the airboat captain was in such a hurry that Woodrow didn't even have time to get out his camera and get a picture of the manatee before we tore off again. However Woodrow did get these shots:
Snoop even got to captain the airboat for a time:
After the airboat tour, we headed to a state park not far away, where Snoop finally found his gator...
(There were actually probably a dozen or more gators around the area.)
After the state park, we stopped by the Skunk Ape Museum, dedicated to the local everglades equivalent of Bigfoot-- the "Skunk Ape". While there, we toured the little animal collection located on the premises. We were taken through the display by the museum owner, whose name I cannot remember, but he was quite an interesting character.
Our first stop was the juvenile gator that both Woodrow and I held. It felt exactly as I expected-- like holding a big python:
I was kinda annoyed that the guy bound the gators mouth with a rubberband, but then realized that the rubberband was pretty loose, and really just for the sake of appearance. He took it off when it came to be Woodrow's turn to hold the baby gator, and even got the little guy to open his mouth for the photo.
Then we ventured outside to the bird pens and cages where we had our hands full. There was the peacock who was displaying for his female...
...quite a few chickens banting around, and even some young chicks that would sneak through the fence to eat insects outside their pen.
There were also many caged birds like parakeets, cockatiels, greys, cockatoos and macaws. Woodrow got friendly with the cockatoos:
Unfortunately just minutes after this picture was taken, I took the cockatoo from Woodrow and the cockatoo took a disliking to Woodrow and flew at him and attacked him! Woody was left with a few pretty nasty bites. I got the cockatoo back, and it repeatedly flew after Woody to attack him. Not sure why, except that it is breeding season and it perhaps viewed Woodrow as a rival for my attentions?
I got a little friendly with the feathered ones myself.
This bird was a funny one. He had odd little quirks, and greeted me with a salute that he uses when he likes someone. He also liked to eat the caterpillars that he finds on the vine growing on his cage.
After the birds, we visited the resident gators. The largest was over 12 feet in length. I think that this guy was the smaller one, but even he was probably 8 foot.
We also found that down in the everglades there was an abundance of giant grasshoppers. You know, those ones that are about 3 inches long? You can't tell from this photo, but they were big fellas.
We even came across a group of about a dozen of them. We had to tip-toe around them to go see the emus.
This guy was so funny. He was fascinated by us, and seemed to expect that we were going to feed him.
So, after a full day of exploration and adventure, we had to bid "adieu" to the emu, and the gators, and birds, and grasshoppers and all, and head back home. Snoop wasn't happy to leave, but we promised that we will take him on more road trips in the future.
I don't know whether I want to visit the everglades in the summer, but I definitely recommend a winter/spring trip. Next time I'm taking an extra big purse to try and fit the emu in, and sneaking him home!