What comes to mind when you hear about the Evergaldes? Swamp, rainforest, alligators? The Everglades found in Southern Florida represent an ecosystem that is not found anywhere else on earth! In the wet season water from Lake Okeechobee leaves the lake and forms a slow moving river for 60 miles. This is called the River of Grass as it slowly makes it’s way through the tall saw grasses and marshes. Everglades National Park is one of the most endangered areas of our National Park system and one that I never thought I’d get a chance to explore!
The beauty and serenity here early in the morning was something that I was absolutely unprepared for. A three hour drive from where I was staying brought me to the park entrance just 25 minutes before sunrise. My destination was to be Pa-hay-okee trail. I read extensively about this location and knew that I had one chance no matter what the weather, so I was hoping for a beautiful sunrise. I was not disappointed in the least.
My excitement was building. I couldn’t wait to get to the trail. This trail overlooks the vastness of the ‘River of Grass’ This area is an absolute gem. I walked out to the boardwalk and around 3 times before I settled on where to setup. The semi-cool breeze felt good and I started to hear the calls of owls and other wildlife. The area was starting to allow me to ‘see’ in the pre-dawn light. I wasn’t sure if I would see any alligators here and I was too nervous to go off trail on the side of the road to find out. Instead I found some cypress trees along the wooden boardwalk rising above the saw grasses.
Sunrise was powerful as the rays of light lit up the sky and slowly brought the Everglades to life right before my eyes! I was in awe. The sun came up looking big on the horizon. My world opened. I could see clearly the openness. After the sun was up I turned around to see the amazing glow on the trees behind me. I also had one more location in mind which I made my way too as fast as I could, the Z-tree.
Some say the native Indians would bend cypress trees to find their way back home on the prairie. The Z-tree might be one of the only iconic things in the Everglades for landscape photographers, though I don’t think that is true at all. A small easily missed tree on the side of the road, but it sure was fascinating and I was super excited I found it.
If you go to the Everglades please be respectful of the wildlife and the ecosystem there. It’s one of our most fragile places on earth. Enjoy the area, but ‘pack in, pack out’ please. Try to leave it a little better than when you arrived. This place is a true gem that everyone can enjoy.